Having a solid financial plan will help you have a good life, but never lose sight of the fact that a financial plan is a pathway to take you somewhere else. It’s not a destinaton, it’s a way to improve the jouney.
One of the first questions that come to mind when trying to save is “How?”.
How can I save on my already tight budget?
How do I save without feeling restricted?
How much am I supposed to save?
The answers are in the question, budget, budget, and then budget. Savings are tricky. If we follow the 7 Steps to Financial Freedom, then savings beyond our initial $1,000 emergency fund is after we are debt free. This way of thinking can seem ridiculous to some, but if you are truly focused on freeing up money to live the life you really want, follow the steps!
Savings should take place IMMEDIATELY upon receiving income
Yep, this is the age old “Pay Yourself First” Mantra. Before you pull out the list of bills to pay, make sure you are saving what you need to for your life. Afterall, it isn’t how much you make, but how much you keep.
The typical rule of thumb is to pay yourself your hourly rate the first hour of each day. For reference, if you make $40,000 a year, that’s $3,333/month, and about $20/hour if you consider a 40 hour work week, for 4 weeks
$40,000 annual salary / 12 months = $3,333/month
$3,333 / 160 hours worked a month = $20/hour
Based on this calculation, you should pay yourself $20 every work day of the month. As a standard 20 work days a month, your monthly savings, based on a $40,000 annual salary, should be $400, or $4,800 a year. While these seems impossible at first, if you’re completely debt free, have a budget and a beefed up emergency fund, it’s totally doable.
Savings should not be in the same place as your spending money
The easiest way to save is to just open a savings account where you already bank. LIES! Don’t fall for this trick. It’s an easy start, but when something comes up, it’s even easier to transfer that money over.
Do yourself a favor and open up a savings account at a local credit union or separate banking institution where it is more difficult to transfer funds if and when things get tough.
In addition to a separate bank to house your savings, consider other savings methods that could benefit your financial plan in other ways. Options such as an employer-based savings plan outside of a 401k my work for you. Search your employers perk profiles to see what’s available. You may catch that opening a seperate bank account through your employer perks can have signup perks like FREE MONEY!!
Another option is Self-Lender. We’ve touched on this savings option before. As a recap, Self-Lender can help you save money while also improving your credit score, if that’s your thing. They offer a Credit Builder Account, which is an installment loan that enables people to build positive payment history, while they save money for a rainy day.
Loan? Yes I said loan, but the great thing about Self-Lender’s Credit Builder Account is that it doesn’t actually give you money, it only acts as if it does. You pay a monthly rate, as low as $25, and it reports your on time payments to the credit bureaus every month. At the end of your “loan”, they send you a check that includes your payments + interest. It’s dummy proof savings, and I am happy to be in my second Credit Builder Account with them. Get $10 when you sign up with my link.
Your savings is not your emergency fund
Pick your jaw off the floor, lol! It’s true. You shouldn’t house your savings and emergency fund in the same account or institution.
Your emergency fund is for emergencies, the things you haven’t accounted for. It is not for things that should be tied to a sinking fund. Remember, sinking funds are for planned expenses like medical expenses, vacations, housing repairs, car maintenance, etc. A true emergency is unforseen, and if you keep your budget at the forefront! An emergency is for things such as the loss of a job, becoming disabled, or helping loved ones in a true crisis.
Brianna, so eloquently, pointed out that the first build of our emergency fund should be $1,000. And after we are debt-free, we increase that buffer to 3-6 months worth of expenses.
So, by allocating your funds through a proper budget, and paying yourself first, it because a much easier task to beef up your savings. Afterall, if you aren’t dishing out every penny you make to debt ridden choices like a car note or other debt payments, you’ve got a bit to work with.
Be sure to check out our Quick Budget tool to see exactly how much in excess income you have after the necessities.
Hey World! This is my first guest blog post, so be nice to me! My name is Brianna, and I am a close friend and professional colleague to Eryn, the founder of Each.One.Money. I am an accounting professional, and soon to be a CPA. Over the recent years I have become more interested in personal finance, and have made some beneficial changes to the way I deal with money! This blog is all about helping one another succeed with money, right?! So, it is only appropriate that I share what has set me on my path to FINANCIAL FREEDOM with you all!
Have you ever heard of Dave Ramsey? You may or may not have heard of him, depending on where you are in your financial journey. Well, Dave has created what he calls the 7 Baby Steps for Financial Freedom. If you follow his baby steps (with little modification), I am confident that you will meet your goals, and probably quicker than you would if you didn’t follow the baby steps. Today I want to walk you through these seven simple steps that will change you and your family’s lives forever.
Let’s right jump in!
1. Maintain $1,000 Emergency Fund
So here’s the thing, once you start this plan, you will be throwing EVERY dollar you have to a specific purpose. But as we know, LIFE will continue to happen even while you are working the baby steps, so you will need to have a cushion for those unexpected life events. This $1,000 will cover things like unexpected car repairs or when the AC goes out in the house. You know those things that you just don’t see coming, but it must be handled either way. Start by saving $1,000 as your emergency fund as QUICKLY as you can! And by quickly I would suggest within 2 months OR LESS of starting the plan! To be successful in this game, you must be INTENTIONAL, so get to it! I actually was holding onto several thousands of dollars in my savings account when I started the Baby Steps. It was very difficult to take that money down to $1,000 in an instant, but I knew that if I was really going to do this and change my financial situation, then it must be done. So, if you also happen to have a nice cushion that you are holding on to, take it down to $1,000 TODAY, and throw the rest of it at Baby Step 2.
2. Debt Snowball
Everyone has their own interpretation of how the debt snowball should work. Dave says lists ALL of your debts smallest to largest and attack the smallest one first. This means exactly what it says, so it will require a little pre-work before getting started. Sit down and list everything that you owe, and start with the smallest one and pay it off. If you owe $27 on an old medical bill, pay it first; then move on to the next smallest debt. What you are doing here is building traction with your debt, or in other words: your SNOWBALL! Celebrate the small victories along the way because you are beginning to do what many won’t even acknowledge is a problem. A word of advice, DO NOT categorize your debt. Don’t lump all of your student loans and try to deal with it at the end. Let the chips fall where they may. If you have a total of 13 individual loans, then place EACH of those loans in the appropriate order within your debt snowball. My Baby Step 2 consisted of some credit card debt, a car loan, and student loans (of course). Does that sound a little like your own situation? Yay!! You are normal like practically everyone else in the world! But the difference between you and I, and the rest of the world… WE are working to change our lives, while there are many others who are comfortable with being “normal”.
Each.One.Money has a blog posted that explains how to budget each month. Budgeting is the #1 tool that you will to be successful with these baby steps.Every extra dollar that you have each month should be put towards whichever debt you are focusing on at that moment. It may seem daunting at first, but once you make progress you will be more motivated to keep going. This baby step may take between 15-18 months to complete, depending on your total debt balance and your income that you are working with. Don’t get discouraged, you got this!
3. Build a Fully Funded Emergency Fund for 3-6 months of expenses
After you have completed baby steps 1 and 2, you are now at baby step 3! Way to go! You did it! Great job!!! (Just a little encouragement for the journey traveled :) Now, you will want to build a fully funded emergency step that can cover 3-6 months of expenses. But guess what, you are not starting with a $0 balance! Remember that $1,000 in baby step 1? There you go, you already have a starting point and money saved. Your fully funded emergency fund balance is up to you. Look at your monthly expenses, and decide how much you will need to have saved to live on in the case of an emergency and your income temporarily stops. All of that extra money that you have been throwing at your debt will now be used to fully fund your emergency fund. Again, do this as QUICKLY as possible!
Side Note: Baby Steps 4, 5 and 6 should be worked simultaneously.
4. Maximize Retirement Investments: 15% of GROSS income in 4 types of funds:
Ok, so now the debt is GONE and you have a fully funded emergency fund. It is time to secure the bag for the future. Immediately upon finishing baby step 3, start putting 15% of your GROSS HOUSEHOLD income into retirement. You now have all of this “extra” money, what better way than to invest it into your future. Also, I said HOUSEHOLD income, so this does not mean 15% of your gross, and another 15% of your spouse’s gross income. I just needed to clear that up for ya’ll. Now Dave has 4 types of investment funds that he recommends. Sit down with your financial planner to get this set up, but be sure to use these four fund types.
a. Growth and Income Funds
c. Aggressive Growth
d. International (smallest percentage here)
5. Save for Kids’ College Fund
At this time, you are not only investing in your future, but investing for your children’s future as well. Start saving for college by using ESAs (Educational Saving Accounts) or state 529s. A 529 is a state plan that allows you to save for higher education. You will need to open separate accounts for each child that you are saving for. As of today, ESAs will allow you save up to $2,000 per year per child, until the child reaches age 18. Again, you financial planner should be able to get you set up with these saving accounts.
6. Pay off the Mortgage
We’re in the home stretch now guys! The moment that most people dream about; paying off their home! Every dollar that you can squeeze out of your monthly budget (oh, you forgot that you are STILL doing a budget huh?) should be thrown at the mortgage. You will be surprised how quickly an extra $50 or $100 will reduce your principal balance over time. You may even find yourself in a period where you can make a double mortgage payment in a month. At this point in your life, your mortgage is going to be your largest (and ONLY) debt, so getting that paid off in full just screams FINANCIAL FREEDOM! Can you hear it??? This is the goal, don’t stop until you get there! Listen my friend, YOU GOT THIS!!!
7. Build Wealth!
At last, we have arrived… Baby step 7! Let’s recap what we have done so far. You have paid off ALL of your debt, built a fully funded emergency fund, invested in your retirement CONSISTENTLY, saved for the kiddo’s college fund, and PAID OFF THE MORTGAGE!!!
Whoo hoo!!! You have done what many others only DREAM about! Dave likes to say, “Live like no one else, so later you can live and give like no one else.” From this point on, you have the freedom to live the life you and your family have always dreamed about. Continue to build your personal wealth, donate to charities, and give back to your community. Your tenacity will get you to this well-deserved milestone. Great job!
Ok guys, we have traveled through Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps to FINANCIAL FREEEDOM. If you need additional information on how to map out your plan, pick up Dave’s book Total Money Makeover. All of the baby steps are listed out and explained in greater detail. I would also recommend his podcast, The Dave Ramsey Show. There is great information, stories and testimonials there as well. Millions of Americans have followed the 7 Baby Steps, so you might as well get in on it too!
I hope this was helpful to you! Thanks for reading!
Cutting expenses can come from many different resources, such as eliminating habits like coffee or smoking. But not everyone has that problem. I hope these ideas will help you think through your budget and ways to cut the MISC category down a bit. Let’s dive right in!
1. Pack Your Lunch
Leftovers, sandwiches, soups, salads… the possibilities are endless and rewarding. On average, there are 260 work days in a year. Packing your lunch at least 4 days a week can save you close to $2,500 a year. When in doubt, keep non-perishables like canned soup or frozen meals in case you may forget your lunch.
2. Meal plan
Meal planning takes practice but can be a great budget saving tool. Planning a week’s worth of dinners for your family, you’re able to cut your grocery spending and eating out tremendously. It may also be a good habit to start dedicating stable meals into the weekly agenda, like Taco Tuesdays or Spaghetti Thursdays.
With meal planning there is no guess work in what dinner will be after a stressful day of work. It can improve your wallet and your health.
3. Stockpile when prices are good
This is probably more so for those who coupon faithfully. But even as a beginner, you can find deals and steals that will make you grab multiple. Stockpile while you can, while staying within budget!
4. Skip the bottled water
It’s a big waste. Invest in a water filter that can fit in your refrigerator or over your kitchen faucet. Two cases of water a month can cost up to $100 a year, and is better for our environment. Remember minor changes have a major impact to your budget.
5. Use Coupons
This takes time and a bit of strategy, but there are plenty of free and paid couponing classes. If you’d like to keep it simple, check out apps like Coupons.com, Ebates, and Ibotta to save or earn cash back from purchases. A win is a win!
These recipes can help you stay in budget with household items you may already have lying around. Check it out!
7. Thrift for Household Decor
Aside from reading, thrifting is probably one of my favorite pasttimes. I love decorating my home in various ways, but it can get expensive. Furniture, trinkets, wall art, and mirrors are bank busting purchases these days. Check out thrift stores and second hand shops in your area. You’d be surprised to see what you can find and refurbish. If you follow my personal IG, you’ll see my many ways of refurbishing furniture and other household items.
8. Shop Discount Stores
Deals aren’t always second hand. Shopping at places like Dollar Tree or 99 cent stores, you’ll quickly see the same name brand items for much less than your local Walmart. Discount stores are my go to for holiday and birthday party supplies. The thing I’ve notices is the nicer, name brand items are in nicer neighborhoods. So venture out and save money on some of your everyday products like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soaps, kitchen essentials, and school supplies. I try to make this a habit of shopping sales papers and discount stores FIRST! Try this next month and report back with your savings!
9. Cancel Your Gym Membership
While I understand health is a serious matter to most, there are other ways to stay in shape while cutting this expense. There are free workout classes you can attend in and around your city, Pinterest workout routines you can do at home, or simply trade this time for walking and running around your neighborhood. If you live in an apartment complex, you’ll more than likely have a free gym. You may also check if your employer offers gym reimbursements. Save those coins!
10. Use the Library
As an avid reader, this was probably one of the most difficult tasks. I get on tangents of fiction and self help and I feel like I need everything I read on my shelf in my own personal library. While on my debt-free journey, this category was one of the first to go. I realized that I was spending anywhere from $9 - $35 on one book. Yea… no. So, I decided to stop purchasing books and check them out at my local library. Turns out Houston has a whole network of libraries I can go to and check books out. And if the library nearest me doesn’t have it, they’ll send it.
The public library in your city or area is a great resource for reading and research. It is also home to amenities like print and career services. Get a free membership and utilize the system to free books. Free game: most libraries also take suggestions from readers. If your library does not have the book you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to ask.
11. Reduce Music Subscriptions
If you’re anything like me, you had several ways to listen to music. From Tidal to Apple Music, and beyond. I was no different. The problem here is the monthly subscription to all. While some services like Soundcloud have it’s freebies, most people subscribe to these streaming services for the many perks. Try to narrow this category to one music subscription. If you can eliminate all paid music subscriptions, then you’re probably a serial killer. I kid.
12. Cancel Cable
I’ve been cable free for 2 years now. Well, kind of. I swapped out my $180 monthly cable service (roughly $2,160 a year) and opted for a one-time tv service called an Amazon Firestick. What this does is allow you to watch many tv shows and movies for free with apps like Tubi, or subscribe to services like Netflix and Hulu. If you’re anything like me, you may have many of these paid services and only pay for one. Hahahaha, judge not! Anyways, currently I pay for the Netflix service at $14/month ($168/year) and piggy back off my sister’s Hulu.
No shame in my game AT ALL. Even in doing this, I see the same shows I watch regularly, just a day later, and about $2,000 cheaper. CATCH THAT!
If you’re lucky enough to know someone who pays a cable bill and isn’t willing to cut it off, ask for their login and download the app on your firestick. My mom refuses to part with cable, so I log into her Dish Anywhere and catch live tv and her DVR recordings.
Call me cheap, but saving $2,000 a year by not paying for cable is WIN! Plus, you can’t complain about not having money if you’re sitting in front of a TV not making any. *shrug*
13. Update Holiday Traditions
Let’s face it, holidays are expensive. Food, travel, lodging, gifts, and decorations can add up pretty quickly. Give your traditions a quick facelift! What’s interesting about holidays is that like most of our spending habits, there is a way to budget for these things. If you’re really interested in cutting expenses, check out a few ideas on saving for big holidays.
New Year’s Eve/Labor Day/Memorial Day/4th of July - host an in home celebration with close friends and family. This is sure to cut down on the $100 you could spend by attending the hottest party. Ask everyone to bring their favorite dish to cut even more costs on your end.
Valentine’s Day (avg. - What’s a better way to say ‘I love you’ than with a homecooked meal, and spruce it up with homemade chocolate covered treats
Easter - find free events for your kiddos to enjoy around town. There are plenty of people dishing out hundred of dollars in goodies, don’t be one of them!
Parental Celebrations (aka Mother’s Day & Father’s Day) - no matter what age you are, try to create handmade gifts for your parents. It’ll mean so much more to them, and your budget. Pinterest & YouTube have ton of great DIY gifts for any stage of creativity
Halloween - costumes and candy are usually the drivers here. Try to purchase costumes in off-season, make them, or Thrift your heart out. Be sure to check your closet for props/paint before running out to get more.
Thanksgiving - Try to purchase non-perishable items in advance to avoid the crowds and impromtu overspending. I’ve seen way too many people running to convenience stores and places like CVS and Walgreens for last minute items. Drinks and plastic wear can be expensive if you’re looking to skip the crowd near this holiday. Preparation is key.
Christmas - There are so many ways to cut costs this holiday season:
Don’t put up outside decor - it increases your electricity bill and you can only enjoy it if you’re outside. Thank you, next…
Artificial Tree vs Real Tree - duh, artificial. You’ll save on this expense from year to year and it’s a way easier cleanup
Decorations - Stores like AtHome have huge after holiday sales, and Christmas is the biggest of them all. Shop in the off season for the next big tree or a change in decor.
14. Try a Spending Freeze
This is my favorite thing to do each month. It’s a personal challenge to look ahead at my calendar for the next month and declare 5 days (at least) as no spend days. This may seem easy, but when you actually disect your spending habits, you may see that you spend more frivolously than you think.
According to GoBankingRate.com, only 35% of people have $1,000 saved up… and more than 34% don’t have a savings at all. NOTHING. NADA. ZILCH. That leaves less than half the population prepared for a real emergency.
The importance of saving comes from the unknown we live… LIFE. It happens. You get a flat, your roof leaks, you lose a job. Been there, saved for that! While you can’t predict these things, you can certainly prepare for them.
Having a savings goal isn’t as hard as it seems. It can be as simple as an empty water jug to catch your coins at the end of each day, or as “complex” as an interest bearing savings account, a ROTH or 401K.
Approximately 40% of people can't come up with a $500 emergency
Remember that $8,000,000,000.00 I made in college from doing hair? …. from that I saved a little over $10,000 before leaving college. I had no idea why or what I was saving for, but I did it anyway. And good thing I did! It is a tedious enough process trying to land a job after college. The whole “You need X amount of experience to land this entry level job” thing is dang near impossible! BUT, I was prepared anyways. I was smart enough to stay home a bit and continue to save before moving to a new, more expensive, city.
*breaks open piggy bank*
Now that we’ve diversified our income AND eliminated expenses through our super tight budget, we are ready to head down the road to recovery.
Speaking of recovery, let’s save for that! This fund is built to avoid the overuse of credit cards as a means for emergency expenses. Not variable expenses like funerals, because: life insurance. Nor is it a means to buy new tires after a blow out. These should be worked into the budget and have a fund of its own (more on this below).
The emergency fund is specifically designed for the unexpected, such as the loss of a job, medical, children, etc.
A good rule of thumb is to begin by saving $1,000 into an emergency fund. And as we get further on the path towards wealth, the emergency fund should grow larger (3-6 months of expenses).
A sinking fund is a sum of money that you set aside (usually by saving a bit each month) that's completely separate from your savings account or your emergency fund.
By setting the money aside before you use it, you will avoid using your emergency fund unnecessarily. Plus, you give yourself more negotiating power when it is time to purchase.
Story Time: Buying a Cash Car
This summer, my a/c went out in my truck. I live in Texas, so it was either repair it or buy a new car. My suv was a foreign car, so let’s not even talk about that repair bill. I bought a new car! And because I am on my debt-free journey, a car loan was out of the question. In a matter of 2 months, I saved $10,000. Yup. A tight, tight, tiiiiight budget! I ate cereal and noodles every day lol!
Anyways, I went to the dealership and negotiated my used 2015 Nissan Altima down to just under $9,000 plus a few repairs, oil changes, and more free junk I requested of them.
CASH IS KING … IF YOU HAVE TO BORROW FOR IT, YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT
When it comes to personal finances, a sinking fund is a great financial safety net. It keeps you out of debt, on budget, and on track for your financial goals.When you set up this type of savings account, you’ll need to decide how much should be allocated to the fund and divide it by the number of months it’ll take to save it.
For example, if you’d like to save $500 for next year’s holiday season, you’ll set aside $50 a month through October ($500/10 months).
Sinking funds can be used for any planned expense, like:
Housing Expenses (repairs, furniture replacement)
Transportation (new car, licensing, or maintenance)
They can also be used to fund expenses you’d rather pay annually or semi annually, like:
A great app to use for sinking funds is Digit. This app sweeps away small amounts from your bank account into savings without you having to think about it or even notice it. I’m talking chump change!
You can also easily set goals within a savings account using Simple. Open a free checking account with Simple, and set goals as digital budgeting envelopes and you can earn up to 2.02% APY!
Let’s face it, kids can get expensive. From the needs of babies to our wants of private school, Disney vacations, birthday parties, and college. Woooo that escalated quickly! Nonetheless, there’s no doubt that preparation helps to take the stress from the lifestyle we create for our children.
I came across a company called Littlefund that helps steamline finance goals for our little ones. The Littlefund is an innovative approach to use your spending power for good! In lieu of gifts, try creating a Littlefund for your village to contribute to. College, Disney Land… the possibilities are endless.
Remember during Good Credit Habits we discussed effortless savings that will improve your credit health. Keep Self Lender in mind when considering multi-beneficial savings. A credit builder account can help you establish credit history and save money in a safe, responsible way as a CD that is FDIC insured.
Take away: While saving seems impossible at times, incorporating your goals into your budget is a good place to start!
I know you’re all thinking, I’ve got a budget, now what!?
Here are a few ways to help manage yourself and stick to your budget:
First things first, make sure your budget is within reach at all times.
Review your budget daily! It is hard to ignore what is staring in your face.
Budget for emergencies, entertainment, and gifts. Yes, you can in fact budget for emergencies. Although your emergency fund should hold 3-6 months of your salary for the sake of losing your job. Sinking Funds are built in your budget for things like vacations, school clothes, car maintenance, and so on!
Schedule 5 “NO SPEND DAYS” before the month begins and stick to it!
Take inventory (groceries, Christmas lists, school, gifts). Before shopping for any of the mentioned, take inventory of what you already have at home. Create lists, with prices, to set a goal and stick to your budget.
Story time! I once had 4 bottles of mustard in my pantry simply because I kept THINKING I was down to one or completely out. Creating an inventory list help me to prepare for impromptu purchases and not rely on my imaginary shopping list… This also happens at the start of every school year… you know, grabbing boxes of crayons or folders, only to get home and find a plethora of both. UGH!
“If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready” - Someone Dope
Pack non-perishables, like canned soups, tuna snack packs, just in case you forget your lunch… because no, forgetting your lunch is not an excuse to go over budget or tap into your savings!
Complete a new budget every single month. Just like your utilities change monthly, so does life! There will be a birthday dinner, a vacation, or an emergency that arises… make sure you account for these things in advance.
Use the cash system: this ensures you’re only using the cash available for each category. When you’re out of cash, you’re out!
Freeze your credit cards. No literally, place them in a block of ice in the back of the freezer. If you are tempted to use them, you’ll have to think twice as hard if it is worth it.
Lastly, keep a change jar labeled “SPLURGE” for non-emergency emergencies… you know the I’m too tired, lazy, blah… bad day… I need french fries jar.
Thanks for joining me on this journey of wealth and money management! Stay tuned for related blog posts on how you can be the master of your finances, no matter where you are on your financial journey.
Too many people spend money they earned... to buy things they don't want... to impress people that they don't like. — Will Rogers
Each. One. Money is a collaborative blog about money. Our contributors work to keep topics about personal finance and wealth management simple and relatable.
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