These days, I like to ask myself the question, “What are you saving for?” Six months ago I would have said that I was saving to purchase a home. Whoever I was talking with would inevitably reply with a smirk that that was a pretty lofty goal for a twenty-something. I’d usually just smile and laugh nervously and change the subject, all the while thinking to myself that maybe they were right and I was getting in over my head. Was I really just the stupid kid who couldn’t get her act together? Would dwelling on my less than responsible past turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy of my future?
Fast forward to the present, and I’m happy and comfortable in my own home. Now that I’m here, I can in retrospect see that all of my doubts about my abilities to save were really just projections from others around me.
There was pressure from marketers, jealousy from peers and the lure of excess and credit cards. Nevertheless, I worked a second job and tried to forgo anything that wasn’t a necessity. I cut out buying coffee, clothes and handbags, previously some of my biggest vices. It took years to change my habits from a spender to a saver. The best thing I did to make it easier was to take small steps.
To start, ignore what the financial planners tell you: its never too early or too late to save. There is no magic number that must be achieved in order to validate saving. I found that starting out with two simple things made the transition into a frugal lifestyle much easier.
I started saving my change. True, I didn’t buy a house on change alone, but just being able to see the money accumulating in front of me was a great motivator to save more.
Once I had that down, I set up an automated savings plan. I had $50 a month automatically deducted from my checking and sent to a savings account. Once I had those two habits in place, everything else came naturally.
These days, saving is almost like breathing, although money doesn’t buy happiness, there is a certain peace of mind that comes with it. Right now, I’m working to eliminate my car loan, which feels like another pretty lofty goal. I”ll never let anyone tell me, though, that I can’t do it, because of my past habits or based what my income is.
Saving is not a competitive sport, but more like a long climb up Mt. Everest. Its not easy to get to the top, and maybe I never will, but once you get high enough, you can’t even hear the naysayers at the bottom anymore.
So, what are you saving for?