You got money! Seriously, you have more money than you think. One of my goals for this year is to visit at least three countries, I want to hit that milli rock just like Quinta in each of them too. The first thing people ask me is how I expect to pay for it. I always felt like I didn’t have any money to travel, like I needed a part-time job in order to afford a real vacation. I took a long hard look at my finances and found out that I honestly had more money than I thought. Here are some of the things I did in order to meet my goals without having to get a part time job. (Please note that everyone’s financial situation is different some of the tips may not be applicable to you)
Where is your money going?
This may be a pain but you have to do it. Take a look at your bank statements and credit card activity lists and really analyze where your money is going. Make a list of all your expenses. Start with the expenses that are typically the same amount every month such as rent, insurance, phone and utilities. Go through this list and see how you can save, consider that there will be some items that can’t be changed such as rent. For each item do the following things.
· Ask yourself if you really NEED the service (ask twice), electricity is usually a nonnegotiable but to each his own. When I did this exercise I ended up canceling all my product related subscription service such as Ipsy bag and other subscriptions for hair products. I had a collection of unusable products through these services so there was really no need to continue using them (for now, you can always subscribe again later).
· Once you determine to keep an expense the next step is to see if there are opportunities to save. The company may have savings that they don’t advertise or you can switch to a competitor. I did this with my sprint and progressive (car insurance) accounts. I called sprint to report a customer service issue and while I was on the phone the rep saw that I could be saving on my bill. I was able to lower my phone bill by $30. Doesn’t sound like much but that’s an extra $360 a year, which is enough to cover my plane ticket to Martinique or Costa Rica. I was also able to save by switching from Progressive to Geico for my car insurance, that 15 minute phone call really worked. I was able to save $200 a month by switching! That’s an extra $2400 a year! When it comes to your car insurance I recommend calling to review your savings once a year or when you have new major life events (gradations, purchased a home etc). Two years ago I was able to save on my car loan by refinancing with a credit union, I got a lower APR and lower monthly payment, so consider this for some of the loans you have and don't let a low credit score prevent you from even making a call.
Always question the things you pay for and remember that there is no harm in calling and asking for a discount, the worst thing that can happen is that you will pay the same thing you’ve been paying.
What about your variable expenses?
Variable expenses are things that you spend money on monthly that carry different prices each time. Do you really need those shoes? If you are anything like me then your bank statement includes items that you really didn’t need or even really wanted. This can be the Starbucks coffee, drinks at that new bar or groceries that you didn’t even eat. This may be the area where you can see the most savings but also the hardest to reduce because it involves making some lifestyle changes. One change I made was in going out. Instead of getting a cocktail I opted for wine or beer (which is usually cheaper). When I go out to a club I sometimes drink at home (remember pre-gaming in college, do not drink and drive tho) before going to the club. I also stopped eating out as much. Even the slightest change can easily result in savings of over $1000 a year.
The most important thing is to be realistic and to stay goal focus. Figure out exactly what you need in order to realize your goal and make lifestyle changes based on that. I have two apps that I use to help me stay on task as I work on my finances, Digit and Mint. The Mint App tracks your spending and sends you reports where you can see what categories you spend the most on (I promise it will humble you), I usually spend the most on food, thus why I am more aware of that now. Digit is an automatic saving app that moves small amounts of money from your checking account into the app, you are free to withdraw at any time or pause the savings if something comes up.
Making these changes can allow you to keep some of your hard earned money which you can use to travel, pay off debt or do whatever without having to get another job. Have you made any of these changes with your finances yet? Were you able to get some savings? Let me know in the box below!