January 11, 2012

be good at making less.

Okay, so they say that no one really likes talking about money. I guess it makes people squirrely and awkward. But I don't really mind it! I think it's because I look at the financial world as a big game that you have to beat - and I like to think that I'm relatively good at it. It's less awkward to talk about when you feel like you're winning the game.

So how are you even supposed to remotely win with this economy? Isn't everyone unemployed and/or in debt up to their eyeballs?

Well... possibly. I know that might be the situation of many people, but here are some tips for everyone that will help.

I think that it really depends on your expectations for life. If you aspire to be driving your Mercedes when you pull into your three-car garage at your beautiful five bedroom home, then yeah, this might be difficult. But ask yourself - Where do my values lie? What's most important? I think it's most important to play well and try to win the game.

I found myself in the extremely blessed situation to have a large-total-gift-from-God scholarship that covered the majority of my tuition expenses. I know it's not the norm, but I was able to pay off my remaining loan debt with money from savings and experience a level of true financial freedom. Sallie's not hanging over my head, and I understand that this is really only by the grace of God.

But how much do I make now? Here's a hint: It's less than you do. 30k? Lower. Yep. And people gripe about that, but here's more personal dirt: my salary supports two people right now. Yikes. I've heard people making more than me complain that they need a second job to get by. Well if you want to shop at that rate, then yes, yes you do. I know that I don't have loan debt, but I also don't split rent with a roommate or two or three. Or live at home with my parents. It kind of evens out that way.

So how's it done? Why am I not on food stamps or on the streets?! I'll share some things that help us do more than just get by.

1. Minimalism pays off big time. My husband and I don't have a ton of stuff, but the stuff we have we really like. How much stuff around your house doesn't get used? Want to know what we've made by selling stuff in the last six months alone?

Craigslist: about $1,225 (and hopefully another $250 sale tonight)
Half.com (books on Ebay): $155

Yeah. Tell me about it. Pretty dang sweet.

2. Thrifty is nifty. I spent $26 at my favorite thrift store after Christmas and got a sweater, a long sleeve shirt, an AMAZING leather messenger bag, and these pants.

{via J.Crew}
I got these J.Crew pants (in pink) for $6.99. $6.99! I felt like such a champ. These are $80 pants and they still had the tags on them when I bought them! Thrifting isn't gross, it's about finding the right places and being picky. You can get some pretty unique pieces and spend merely pennies. I get the most compliments on the clothes I get secondhand - probably because they haven't been seen a ton before! Not only is thrifting totally inexpensive, but it's a greener way to consume - buying secondhand uses fewer resources and keeps waste out of landfills. Love the planet, love your wallet.

3. Get creative. If you're a reader, you may know that we just dog-sat over the holidays as a local wealthy family was traveling. We absolutely fell in love with this pup and it was heart-wrenching to give him back. So two weeks spent with this wonderful pooch that was hardly any work for us and lots of snuggling - $400 in the bank. It helps that I work at a college so I have resources at my fingertips where people post jobs like this, but it's time to start thinking outside the box! There's more money to be made than just the 9 to 5.

4. Mint to the rescue! Mint.com is a fabulous resource. It's a money managing website that is totally safe, makes a lot of sense, and looks like it was designed by Steve Jobs. It's beautiful, not at all scary. You can set established budgets (like the ever-humbling coffee shop budget), set savings goals, and look at tons of charts and graphs to map your spend. It definitely helps you obey the adage to "spend less than you make."

5. Yes, you can still eat out. Enter Restaurant.com. The day after Christmas, we got four $25 gift cards to different area restaurants on this site for just $6. And with that, we also got a $25 gift card to Restaurant.com, to be used for buying more mega-cheap gift cards later. That's $100 worth of food, and $25 towards more of that - for $6. Mhmm, you can still live a normal life and eat out.

6. Prioritize giving. Even when it's hard, Christians are called to be cheerful givers. If this applies to you, this means giving your (minimum) 10% to your regular church body or to ministries to support God's kingdom here on Earth - with a smile on your face and in your heart. If this doesn't apply to you, then it's still good to be a giver. It helps keep perspective about what's important in life. I've been supporting the same darling little girl in Ethiopia through Compassion International since 2005, and we've written many letters and built a relationship. It's so wild to watch her grow and know that a lot of it is due to my prayers and financial support. And if you're still not convinced - well, it's a good deed and a tax write off. Find ways to give to others.

7. Set goals and actually do them. This might sound cheesy, but it's true. How frequently do people say, "oh, I would love to travel some day!" Okay... then why don't you? Pick where you'd like to go, estimate how much it would cost, cut back on some unnecessary Starbucks spending and start re-channeling that money into a specific savings account for your trip. It might take some time, but watch the savings grow and get excited.

It's all just a big game of what stays and what goes, and you can beat the system if you're disciplined.
Now I'll leave you with some words of wisdom...

"Cannot people realize how large an income is thrift?" - Cicero
"I am always amazed to see just how many things there are that I don't need." - Socrates

Preach it, bros. Can't mess with those two.
Want more ways to save? Check out this book!

What are your money-saving tips? I'm obviously always eager to hear of new ways to save :)


    where do you go?! i'd love to hear about some of your favorite places!

    1. ooooh, girl. well savers is always the go-to for everything, right off the bat. and second glance in rockport has a lot of cute kitchenware/dishes and things - i haven't looked much at their clothes. and buffalo exchange is in somerville but it's consignment so their clothes are fantastic. there are actually some places in gloucester that i've yet to explore!

    2. like savers alot, but it's so hit or miss. :(
      i'm gonna have to grab a friend and go explore those places you talked about! thanks for the tips. :)


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