Start Saving Strategy
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if money really did grow on trees? Unfortunately the money trees you buy at the garden store don’t produce dollar bills; in fact, it costs you to purchase them! Starting out after college can be a stressful time for finances.
The excitement of receiving a salaried wage often prompts new professionals to spend like a crazed teenager with an unlimited credit card in the mall. Too many new professionals find themselves with sparkling new big ticket items, but no money for groceries, and worse yet no “cushion” in case they become the latest victim of the revolving recession door.
These days, it’s imperative to save for a rainy day, because you never know when that day will come. Live according to your income by working with what you have, and not accumulating debt, and listen to your accountant - always put aside 10 percent of every paycheck, if you can!
Saving Tips for the Recent College Graduate
Set goals, make a budgetary plan, and stick to it.
Look at your living expenses and decide what the bare minimum is that you can live on contently. For example, if you are single and living by yourself, you are probably paying over $200 in “extras” such as cable connection, and a gym membership, on top of your rent and utilities. Even though watching Food Network at 7 p.m. to whet your appetite is nice, it’s not necessary, especially when cable alone runs an average of $75 for a monthly bill.
While having internet might be necessary, the cable is not, and that may be money better spent in your savings account collecting a monthly 5% interest. If you can’t part with cable, and you’re paying monthly for a gym membership, cut your financial losses by working out at home to fitness channels such as Fit TV, or better yet, invest in a few DVDs and work out in the comfort of your home.
Planning is key to reaching your financial goal. There is more mental comfort to living off of your savings, versus credit cards, during unfortunate transitional periods. Years of savings will also pay off when you do want to make large future purchases such as a house, or even starting a family of your own.
Think “eco” with your planning.
There is both an economical and ecological benefit to this strategy. For example, limiting the use of utilities is not only great for the environment but also increases significant savings on your utility bill. You can finally listen to your mother and start turning off lights, appliances and electronics when not in use. Save time and money by limiting your travel and correspond your errands with your daily work commute. And don’t be afraid to explore new travel arrangements including carpooling and public transportation to cut down on travel costs. When someone else is doing the driving, you save money and have time to read a book, relax, or catch up on work.
Limit your food expenses.
It is so easy to grab fast food during the course of a busy week, but do your budget and belly a favor by planning ahead with a weekly menu plan. Set a reasonable average weekly budget, and include snacks, healthy options (whole grains, legumes and vegetables), and indulgences such as spirits and dessert to avoid tempting weeknights out. Searching online for tasty recipes will help with planning.
You will be able to divide recipe items (such as chicken, fresh herbs, vegetables) up between meals. Preparing the meals ahead of time will also reduce the temptation of “grab and go,” especially for late nights at the office.
Once you are at the grocery store, you can also save money by using grocery coupons, buying the generic store brands, and signing up for a customer reward card for discounts. When eating out, be sure to look online for restaurant promotions such as “buy one entrée, get one free,” to help keep food costs down.
Limit the expense of possessions by living with less and buying only what you absolutely need.
The simplistic rule of thumb is quality over quantity. Let’s face it, we are living in a very disposable culture nowadays, and with trends coming and going quickly your money almost lasts longer then the skinny jeans craze. Start by having a basic wardrobe of well-fitting, quality constructed clothing.
Trendy items are always a fun splurge, but make your wardrobe expenses part of your overall budget to keep clothing costs down. It is also a good idea to think of clothing as an investment rather than a necessity. And don’t be afraid to check out resale and consignment stores where you can also sell and trade your own used clothes. There are many upscale consignment stores where well-crafted designer clothing and accessories can be purchased for a fraction of the original retail price.
After all, it’s more about how you wear, than what you wear. If you absolutely need to purchase this season’s saucy gladiator sandals, first search online for low pricing, and then check out inexpensive stores such as H&M or Charlotte Russe to keep spending down on such items that might not see another season.
Treat yourself now and then.
The worst thing you can do to your morale is deny yourself an occasional reward. You worked hard all week, stayed with the budgetary game plan – you deserve something! Consider this a “mini” goal, and add it in to your overall budget plan by keeping your rewards specific.
For example, it is easy to go down the slippery slope of rewards by treating yourself to dinner out with friends, buying a new pair of dark rinse jeans, and adding a few more selections to your wine collection all in one weekend. These rewards can easily pass the $200 mark within two days, and if this happens a few weekends in a row your savings suddenly takes a hit.
Use cautionary discipline and limit your “rewards,” or incorporate “fun money” into your budget and stick to it! This is a habit that will not only pay off down the road with savings and investments, but will also be a great lesson of discipline to teach future generations.
We should all benefit from lessons learned from the recession and remember that constraint is not a ten-letter word, but rather a front-forward way to live life. What’s your best recession lesson?
Sunny Shakula is a copywriter, seasoned freelance journalist, and marketing professional with 10 years of industry experience under her belt. She holds B.A.s in Journalism and English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as well as training in graphic and interior design. Today, Sunny focuses on eco-friendly life and money management advice; her passion for design and eco-commerce extends to her own business, inside, whose motto is "Re-Purpose with a Purpose." Her forthcoming book, Cheap.Fun.Delicious, dishes on everything from eco-friendly cocktails to DIY interior design.
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