Save or Spend?
The impulse to live for the present is perhaps always in conflict with the desire to save for the future for many when it comes to their finances. While there is nothing bad about living for the present and enjoying life as much as one could, no one can deny the importance of staying focused on saving money. After all one should be at least prepared for emergencies, if not being on track to retire someday. In fact, finance management continues to be one big reason why Americans are so stressed. According to a report from Bankrate.com, “only 39 percent of Americans have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency.” Worst still, a 2017 survey by GOBankingRates found that another 39 percent of Americans have nothing in their savings accounts.
These reports simply suggest that a large number of people are not financially prepared to protect their future against any kind of financial disasters. This, however, brings us back to the question we asked at the very beginning: Should we spend or should we save? The right answer is to strike a balance between these two desires.
Here are 4 tips to save for your future while enjoying your present:
1. Understand and Respect Your Cash Flow
This is perhaps the most important finance tip you need to follow throughout. Your financial future largely depends on how well you understand your household cash flow. What are your current spending patterns? What are your saving habits? Understanding these two factors will help you save for the future as well as give you the freedom to spend now. The question is: How to do it?
You can either do a monthly or a weekly review of your spending. While both works, our suggestion is to check in on your spending weekly as it is easier that way. For instance, when you see that you have overspent a week, you can easily live lean for the next week. However, if you have overspent a month, it is a lot harder to catch up.
Check for the areas where you are spending more than you originally planned. Are you eating out too frequently? Or perhaps you are spending too much on entertainment? Check for each and every aspect of your household budget and mark the areas where you are overspending.
The goal here is to spend less than you earn every month.
2. Wait before Your Buy
We are living in an age when impulse purchases are only normal, thanks to the online portals where you can buy almost anything with a mere click of a button. Sometimes they look really logical because of the apparent discounts these sites give. But it is important to buffer your impulse purchases to save yourself from the nagging feeling later on.
The solution is to wait 48 hours before spending your money. This is especially applicable to the big purchases like latest electronic gadgets, cars, or accessories etc. For example, you have probably seen the most beautiful pair of diamond studded gold earrings available for a discounted price and fear that the discount will be gone anytime. But before you give in to your impulse, wait for at least 48 hours.
Just a couple of month back I was approached by a salesperson from Gold Elements Cosmetics, who offered me 2 years supply for a certain amount, which was quite a big fat money. Initially, I was totally overwhelmed with their offer price, thinking it to be too good to be true. But then the tiny voice in my head asked me to wait and I told the salesperson that I will come back in a day or two. And when I read their reviews online, I was glad that I didn’t give in to my impulses back there.
The goal is to wait just for 48 hours and see if you still want it. Most of the time, it is a “want” rather than a “need” that lead us to impulse purchases. This helps us to become more mindful towards our spending habits.
3. Limit Your Monthly Bills
When you check in on your cash flow, you will see the areas where you have agreed to spend the money at the beginning of the month. This includes things like rent, loan and credit card bill payments, utilities, mobile bills, and membership payments. The next step is to point out areas where you can limit your monthly bills. For example, you can always cut out your cable connections if you already have services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, where you can watch your favorite movies and shows for a fraction of the cost of cable TV. Similarly, you can get rid of landlines if you use your mobile phone most of the times.
This practice will also help you get a clear picture of your financial liabilities so that you can make a better decision before making a big purchase. You can understand how the new purchase will affect your day-to-day spending (especially if it includes a recurring cost like an EMI) as well as your ability to save for the future.
The goal is to add the minimum amount to your liability list so that it doesn’t limit your their present and future spending choices.
4. Learn To Choose
You need to be clear about what you want, both in short and long-term. This will make your spending choices easier and wiser. Narrow your option, based on priorities and choose one that matters most to you and set a goal. For instance, you may need to decide whether you want to eat out and party more often or you want to travel the world. Once you discover what you want and that became the big yes, start saving for it.
The goal here is to learn to say no to less important temptations so that you can make your “big yes” a reality.
There are many ways to save money for the future while you enjoy your present. Find what works for you and start implementing them into your life slowly. You don’t have to radically change anything as improving your finance management skill cannot be done overnight. Be persistent and track your progress. The most important step, however, is to get started. So start planning your short-term, mid-term and long-term financial goals today and enjoy your life to the fullest.