5 Ways to Save Money: The Tough Love Edition

It seems that everyone is looking for a way to save money these days.  With record unemployment, higher healthcare premiums, and tighter budgets, now is a time when most people need to save a little cash.  When we started on our debt free journey, we began looking for new ways to save.  What we found is that there are a plethora of ways to do just that; most of these are uber easy to implement.  However, it may require you to take a serious look in the mirror, but – be forwarned – you may not like what you see.

You can read hundreds of articles on the internet listing ways to save money.  The problem with most of them is that they don’t delve deep enough.  They only address the symptoms of the problem, not spending any time on taking care of the roots of those problems.  “Lower the interest rates on your credit cards” is a great idea.  Yet, why did you get into credit card debt in the first place?    “Pay off your debts, starting with the smallest/largest/most emotional balance” first. That’s  great advice too.  However, what made you live beyond your means in the first place?

Making lifelong changes means taking a long look at your own behavior.  What financial mistakes have you made and what have you learned from them?  Are you spending all of what you make?  Are you making small gains against your debt only to spend the surplus somewhere else?  If you are truly ready to make a permanent change in your financial behavior, it would greatly benefit you to consider these five steps.


5 Ways to Save Money: The Tough Love Edition


1.  Re-evaluate Your Needs and Wants

If you are currently facing financial hardship, it may be time for you to decide what you actually need.  You may like having cable tv, but that doesn’t mean that you actually need it.  You may enjoy eating at different restaurants each day during your lunch break, but you would be better off eating leftovers from home at your desk.  Take some time to find out what could be cut from your budget, and there is a good chance you will uncover a lot of money that doesn’t need to be spent.  Remember, as you whip yourself into better financial shape, you may be able to afford these wants again in the future.


2.  Learn to Tell Yourself “NO”

If you are experiencing money problems, chances are that it has been your own choices that have put you in your current financial position.  Becoming financially responsible and getting out of debt takes time and willpower.  If you cannot afford to pay cash for something you want, you can’t afford it.  Period.  If you want to get out of debt and stay out of debt, you have to learn that you can’t have every last thing that you want when you want it.

This is sometimes hard for people to accept.  Afterall, you work hard for a living, right?  Being serious about your financial goals means that you may have to ditch your feelings of entitlement.  It may be time for you to stop being an overgrown baby and learn to go without…for your own benefit.


3.  Quit Inflating Your Lifestyle

As you progress in your career, you will (hopefully) start making more money.  It can be very tempting to give into lifestyle inflation.  A bigger house and a fancy new car may be things that you desire.  However, becoming financially responsible means living below your means – not at your means.  If you are spending your entire income each month to maintain your lifestyle, then you cannot afford your lifestyle.

It is time for you to take a look at the bigger picture.  Everyone, including you, needs to have an emergency fund and be actively saving for retirement.  That may mean moving into a smaller house and driving older cars.  It may mean less shopping and more time relaxing at home.  Regardless of your particular situation, living at your means is a financial disaster waiting to happen.  You are only one layoff or sickness away from financial ruin.  Learn to live with – and be happy with – less.


4.  Quit Making Excuses

When discussing personal finance, I can always count on some people saying that it is impossible to keep a budget.  “I can’t get ahead because something always knocks me off course!”  I have heard it a thousand times.  While there may be some truth to this statement, feeling like you cannot stay on budget can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If it seems so hard, then why even try?

The truth is that you can stay on budget if you put some effort into it.  Creating a budget and sticking to it can be a reality for you if you do the work.  A good way to start is by building a begginer emergency fund so, when an unexpected expense occurs, you can pay for it without wrecking your budget.  Stop making excuses and start taking actions that will benefit you.


5.  Re-Evaluate Your Relationship

In committed relationships, it is important to be on the same financial page with your partner.  If one of you is a saver and the other is a spender, this can create huge problems.  How can you possibly get ahead if you are married to someone who spends all of your money?  No matter how good your intentions are, you cannot control another person.  This can be especially true if they are the bread winner and feel like they are entitled to buy anything and everything that they want.

If you are in a financially troubling relationship that shows no signs of being fixed, it may be time to break it off – particularly if you don’t have children together.  Staying with a financially irresponsible partner can mean struggling for the rest of your life.  Ask yourself, what kind of life do you really want to live?  And, is this relationship really worth it?


As you can see, making the decision to become financially responsible isn’t always pretty roses and balloons. It takes hard work and a willingness to be honest with yourself about your past failures.  Confronting and changing the root causes of your self-defeating financial behavior may be painful.  However uncomfortable it may be, it is the only way to truly break free from the chains of debt – and nothing feels better than financial freedom.


  1. I think #1 is important. What you want your life to be like and what is a true “need” vs a “want” and figuring out which “wants” have a higher priority is very important.

  2. Love this line – “Ask yourself, what kind of life do you really want to live? And, is this relationship really worth it?”

    This applies to so many areas beyond money.

  3. All valid points here as I believe when people spend more than they earn it’s for deeper cause then just “not getting it”. Most times people have underlying issues that drive them to spend, want more than others etc…. it’s important to recognize why and sort that out first. Once you understand why you are doing what you are doing you can work on slowly repairing the damage… the debt. Great post. Mr.CBB

  4. “Making lifelong changes means taking a long look at your own behavior.”
    I could not agree more Holly. Sure, maybe you could make some changes with out some serious introspection, but in general, those changes won’t stick because they’re not getting at the root cause. Without hitting the root cause you may as well be flapping in the breeze, because it will be as about as successful as that.
    Guess what, managing your finances does not happen over night…BUT the hard work in the beginning, along with a commitment, will reap many benefits. Thanks for the post!

  5. The 1st and 2nd points are really what did it for me. I had no real grasp of a “need” and a “want”. I thought I “needed” to eat out for every meal…lol.

    Learning to say “no” is the biggest challenge for most people. We’re our own biggest problem.

  6. I need to be better at telling myself “no”. It’s probably the biggest struggle I face as a financial blogger!

  7. I am a big fan of #3. Just because you start making more money doesn’t mean you need to start spending more. What you should do instead is add that extra money to a college or retirement fund.

  8. Telling yourself “no” can be particularly hard in the “heat of the moment” so to speak. This is why it is so important to plan for expenses. For those special wants that we all have, I always try to give it 30 days before buying. A lot of times the desire fades or becomes less important and I never spend the money. When I do spend the money, I know that it is something that I really want and not an impulse decision.

  9. Solid tips Holly. You really won’t make any long term progress with your finances if you don’t address all of these things. You have to develop the willpower to want to save wherever possible and not give in to all the temptations. I hope #5 isn’t a problem with me as my new girlfriend has some major debt. She has shown a strong willingness to change her habits though. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

  10. I used to think that people who were well off were just spoiled brats since they had nice things. It didn’t make any sense why someone would suddenly inflate their life style – until it happened to me. Needless to say it didn’t last and I am now learning how not to make the same mistakes in the future. Things don’t make us happy, people do and you’re absolutely on the spot about putting money towards emergency funds instead of buying bigger and more things.

  11. Successful personal finance is such a paradox. On one hand the basic principles are so simple and easy. On the other hand sticking to those principles can be so hard for people.

    It has to truly be a priority to get into good financial shape. If you go into it thinking you’d really like to improve your finances, but you want it to be easy, then you’re fooling yourself and you’ll end up disappointed.

  12. Definitely tired of the “excuses” you talk about! Shut up and do it already! If something comes up unexpectedly (we had a really bad month in June!), you just have to find other ways to make money that month or save that money some other way. Also, if you have an emergency fund, unexpected expenses are not even an issue! There’s no excuses…

  13. Love all these points. Just buckling down and doing it is the only way anything ever gets done. Money can be so overwhelming that people would rather avoid it than actually look in the mirror, but that’s just postponing the inevitable. As far as money and love goes, I think only in extreme, extreme cases should this keep you from the person you’re in love with. If they’re ruining your life because they can’t get away from the bar or casino every other Friday, that’s one thing. But if they have a bad credit score and are reluctant to hear your council? Give it time. And approach it lovingly.

  14. Excuses are always so entertaining!

    I love asking my community what their excuse is today? They can’t tell me, b/c they know it’s dumb.

    Good work on GRS! Did JD end up responding or someone else now that he’s no longer there?

    Best, Sam

  15. I find that one of the hardest things to do is trade off a bit of short term pain for long term gain. It’s easy to come up with excuses!

  16. I live in CA Bay Area where housing prices are out of control, and it makes me sad to see people who are tied to their jobs (and unhappy) because they invested in a house that was too tight for their budget! Your advice on being realistic is key!

  17. ClarkDoubleA23 says:

    I love this one, “Quit Inflating Your Lifestyle” this is so true to everyone, and I promise to keep this in my head everytime I can be better spender than the other. After saving in almost half a year, I think I got enough for a small investment, and I want your ideas about investing with binary options, I always read about this on feeds and traderush-review.com traderush broker review and I feel like I wanted to do it, I just want people to tell me am doing things right, I just wanted an extra income as I save. Do you think this is a good call?

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  20. Lifestyle inflation is a big one for me. I want to reward myself for having a better career, but sometimes I will do that too much.

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