My number 1 goal in decorating our home is, quite frankly, to do it for dirt cheap. Other than our couch and a few accessories here and there, the house has been entirely put together with thrift store finds, estate sale treasures and DIY projects. I rarely, if ever, pay full price for anything. This is thanks in part to being raised in a household where money was always respected – Balancing checkbooks and keeping tabs on running bills/outgoing expenses was just part of the weekly routine. I’ve thankfully inherited that good sense in adulthood.
Ever since the wedding in April, John and I have been talking about where we see ourselves in the next ten years. Although kids aren’t in the IMMEDIATELY foreseeable future, it’s something we’d like to start planning and preparing for now as opposed to later. But aside from that, what we are REALLY looking forward to is a bigger house. We adore our home now, but it’s a little shy on expandable space. We’ve pretty much packed it up with stuff – Not to the point that it’s uncomfortable, but there’s not really any room to grow.
(Here are some dream houses for you and I to drool over…)
With that realization (and those fabulous dream homes swirling around in my head), we’ve decided to start actively saving for a down payment on house #2. Although some of you may already own your dream house, or maybe you aren’t quite ready to make the leap into home-ownership, we all need to save in some capacity. So I thought I’d share the secrets to our process. Everyone is different and certainly take these tips with a grain of salt, but maybe seeing our methods will jump start your own creative brainstorming.
TIP #1: Downsize
Personally, I need to actually SEE the changes to stay motivated. I knew that watching my savings creep up with a couple hundred bucks a month wasn’t going to excite me enough. In fact, the slow creep had a good chance of disappointing and overwhelming me – It’s going to take YEARS to get to where we need to be! So, I decided I needed to do something drastic. Something that would substantially (and visually) boost my finances. After some thought, I settled on selling my car.
While I loved the size of my Honda CRV, there were a couple of things that didn’t excite me – Like the gas mileage for instance. That and the very thing that I loved about the car (i.e. the size) was also a pretty big factor in my decision to downsize – All the ample space for big pieces of quality discount furniture from the thrift store was beginning to take its toll on my wallet too…
So my thought process was to sell the CRV and purchase a less expensive, smaller sedan that could give me better gas mileage. After chatting with my automobile-savvy husband, we narrowed it down to two options: a Honda Civic or a Nissan Altima. It took about a month and a half of searching (and finding someone to buy my CRV), but I finally got to bring home my new-to-me Altima last Friday. I love how it drives and I actually feel like I UPgraded.
The biggest bonus of all? Getting to put away a couple thousand dollars for what felt like no work at all. But please don’t feel like you need to go out and sell your car to make a bulk sum of money. Look around and see what you can sell to give your savings a super boost – It’s the perfect season for yard sales, after all…
Tip #2: An allowance
Although not “saving” in the literal sense, giving myself an allowance has helped curb my spending habits tremendously. The same principles behind an allowance given to you as a kid, can work now as an adult. There’s just something about buying treats (may it be a new dress or lamp, or really ANYTHING from a little store called Target…) with a plastic debit card that just doesn’t feel “real.” It’s a whole different story with cold hard cash.
Here’s the deal I’ve made with myself – Every time I get paid (which is every two weeks), I withdraw $80 from my checking account. That money is the ONLY money that I have for the next two weeks (until I get paid again) for fun stuff – Going out to dinner with friends, buying myself clothes, going to the thrift store…etc. Knowing that I only have about $40 a week to spend on myself has helped me to really THINK about what I want to buy. It prioritizes things and puts a huge value, beyond face, on the money itself.
For example, I saw these adorable little notebooks at Target and instantly coveted them something BAD – Does anyone else get a Kate Spade vibe?
They were cheap, at only $3.99 for three, but I only had about ten dollars left in my allowance and there were some other things I was planning on picking up that particular shopping trip. I decided to pass on them…But a couple weeks later, I STILL had them on my mind. So, after getting my allowance last Friday, I happily drove to Target and grabbed them for myself. See what I mean? This system gives me the chance to REALLY think about what I buy and weigh my need versus want.
Tip #3: Putting it away
This is the most straight-forward approach to saving there is. In addition to my lump savings from the car and the allowance that controls my spending, I make a point to put away as much as I can from every paycheck. Some months it’s more than others based on gas and groceries for the month, but I try to put all surplus away for the future.
If this type of hands-on saving isn’t for you, I would suggest setting up some kind of automatic plan with your bank. A set amount will be taken directly from your paycheck and placed into your bank account without you even having to see it. This will force teach you to budget with the remainder of your paycheck since it will be like the surplus was never even there – But, click over to your savings periodically to see it swell each month with no effort from you at all! Well, other than going to work and earning that paycheck…
Tip #4: Restraint
This is the hardest one of all. As mentioned last week, I have a bit of an online shopping problem…Not enough to admit myself into Shoppers Anonymous, but enough to know that I need to stop now or else that dream house is going to slip right through my fingers. I used to buy all sorts of things online – Things for the house, clothes, jewelry, etc. There was no stopping me it seemed, and my habit was giving our mailman a workout.
Now, whenever I get a peek at something online that I really want to splurge on (take our new bars stools for instance) I let myself cave…But there’s a strict limit to these rewards. Instead of a constant stream of boxes being delivered to our front door, I usually only allow myself one or two splurges a month. This one I am REALLY sticking to because my virtual shopping habit had become system critical…
Tip #5: DIY
And finally…Do-it-yourself. It’s a no-brainer that recreating expensive looks (ex. taking a thrift store lamp from ugly to beautiful with a fresh coat of paint) is going to save you money in the long run, but I’m also using that philosophy when it comes to the blog itself. Rather than shelling out hundreds of dollars on a professional theme and customizable program to amp up the look of DG-DIY, I am doing the work and designing on my own (with the help of InDesign and PhotoShop). Sometimes the hours I spend on DIYing a designer look for free is exhausting and overwhelming, but seeing my savings still intact makes it worth it.
(P.S. I’m now sharing the DIYed WordPress.com blog design with you! Click here for the details)
I think it takes a good balance of being smart about your money, but also allowing yourself to buy things that will put a smile on your face. I don’t want to be shackled to my money…I want to be responsible but, at the same time, fulfilled with the things I buy. I don’t have the secrets to saving, but I know what works for us and I am happy to report that our dream home will likely become a reality in the foreseeable future.
How do YOU save?