5 Ways to Save Money: The Tough Love Edition

5 Ways to Save Money - picture of laughing couple sitting on the floor

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Everyone is looking to save money these days, and there are a plethora of ways to do just that. The great thing is that most of them are super easy to implement. However, they may require you to take a serious look in the mirror…and you may not like what you see. Don’t say we didn’t warn ya!

You can read hundreds of articles listing ways to save money. The problem is that most of them only address the symptoms of the problem without examining their roots.  Suggestions to lower interest rates on credit cards and paying off debt are great advice! We give it all the time. But you can’t get better if you don’t understand why you got into debt 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  ready to make a permanent change in your financial behavior, you need to consider these 5 steps.

1. Evaluate Your Needs and Wants

If you are currently facing financial hardship, it’s time for you to decide what you actually need. You may like having cable TV, but that doesn’t mean that you need it. You might enjoy spending your lunch break at a different restaurant each day, but you would be better off eating leftovers at your desk. Find out what could be cut from your budget, and do it. 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 can’t 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 can be hard 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. Avoid Lifestyle Inflation

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. Yet, 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 – and be happy – with less.

4. Quit Making Excuses

I can always count on some people saying that it is impossible to keep a budget. I’ve heard every excuse a thousand times – some of them valid, some of them not. Regardless, feeling like you can’t 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, it just takes a little effort. You can make your budget a reality if you do the work. Start by building a beginner emergency fund of $1,000. Then, 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.

If you are in a financially troubling relationship that shows no signs of being fixed, it may be time to for some in-depth counseling. If you aren’t married and don’t have children together, you’ve got to think about breaking it off. 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?

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’s the only way to truly break free from the chains of debt – and nothing feels better than financial freedom.

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  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.

    1. Oh yes, I totally agree. Lots of relationships are toxic financiall and otherwise.

  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!

    1. Yes, it doesn’t happen overnight….but if you never make any changes then it may never happen at all! Thanks for stopping by, John!

  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.

    1. C’mon LBee…say it with me now. “No.” You got it girl! 🙂

  6. 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.

    1. It’s hard to not give into lifestyle inflation!!!!!!!

  7. 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.

    1. That is a really good idea. Waiting 30 days should get rid of any impulse purchases!

  8. 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.

    1. All that matters is that she sees her debt as a problem and wants to squash it! Hopefully she will take it seriously!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. Luckily, it does get easier. For us, a frugal lifestyle is the “new normal”

  11. 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…

    1. That is exactly what a emergency fund is for, I think!

  12. 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.

    1. I guess it depends on ther person. If I was truly in love with someone then I suppose I would give it time and try to make it work!

  13. 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

    1. The story that they are posting is one that he said he might run a few weeks ago then I figured he got busy and forgot. So a person from Quinstreet emailed me a few days ago and asked if they could run it!

      1. Is JD gone, gone? I was under the impression he was just traveling.

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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?

  17. 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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