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How To Save Money

by J. Money on Monday, June 16, 2014

how to save money

I was exchanging war stories with my boy Derek the other day, and at some point he mentioned how he’s always getting asked *how* to save money. And then we both laughed cuz it’s what everyone always wants to know as if there was a secret or something :) There’s not. People just don’t do it!

He then told me (sarcastically) that he’s going to say the following the next time he’s asked, which I just found hilarious:

“You want to know how to save money? Easy. Get rid of the “how to!””

In other words, JUST DO IT like Nike. You already know how, you just have to actually PULL THE TRIGGER. And no, of course it’s not fun or easy, unless you get off on that type of stuff ;) It IS, however, do-able. If you care enough to make it happen. You gotta get out there and fight for what you want, nothing’s handed to you!

If you truly don’t know how to actually save anything, then here. No more excuses!

6 Things You Could Do Right Now to Save Money

  • Pull out $5.00 from your wallet and put it in a box
  • Scour your car for loose change below/beneath the seats and put in same box
  • Walk into your HR department and increase your 401(k) contributions
  • Set up an automatic xfer from your checking to your savings account
  • Set up an automatic xfer from your checking to a Roth or Traditional IRA
  • Call up your credit card company and ask them to lower your interest rate. If they say no, ask for a manager. (If that manager says no, hang up, wait a few hours, and call back to get a different manager ;) I swear this works 75% of the time)

Either of those will take you between 5 seconds and 15 minutes to complete. If you need more or have more time/want a challenge, you can try these three too:

  • Try a “no spend” challenge for the rest of the month (can only use $$ for necessities)
  • Track your money for 30 days. You’ll start saving more just by doing that alone, believe me
  • Give your wallet/purse to your friend and tell them not to give it back until after the weekend
  • Try any of these other money challenges I’ve put together

If you type “how to save money” in Google, you’ll also find approximately 502,000,000 more results. That’s a lot of ways to save money!

Remember too that “saving” money by not spending it is great, but it STILL doesn’t count as savings until it’s banked. You can save $100 every day by not shopping or cutting back on groceries, or even by not spending $200,000 on a Bentley as my friend Paula puts it (hah!), but you gotta store it somewhere so it can accumulate or you’ll just spend it elsewhere. You’ve got to follow through completely for it to count.

(This is exactly my problem with those who pay someone else to do something for them cuz “their hourly rate is more.” This could be true, but unless you’re out there MAKING THAT MONEY while the hustler’s mowing your grass, you’re indeed losing* that $20 bucks)

This is how you truly save:

  1. Get the money
  2. Stash the money
  3. Don’t TOUCH the money!

scrooge mcduck money dive

——
*I’m all for saving *time* by paying someone else to do work for you, btw, it can definitely be a smart move, just don’t confuse it with saving MONEY. You can only stash one of them into a bank account.

Shout out again to Derek for letting me pass on his words of wisdom ;) He just became a new parent with his wife, Carrie, and is in the process of starting a new blog for all mothers doubting themselves while raising these cute nuggets: ImaGoodMom.com. I’m sure you other mothers can relate.


{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

1 simon June 16, 2014 at 6:53 am

Great article! I took the no spend challenge a few month ago and got great results! That allowed me to create several online businesses.

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2 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:22 am

Nice!! Double whammy right there.

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3 Paula / Afford Anything June 16, 2014 at 7:39 am

Thanks for the shout-out, J. Money! When people ask me how to save, I’m tempted to just say: “Spend less than you earn.” That answer is so simple that it almost sounds sarcastic or flippant when the words are coming out of my mouth … but it really is that simple!! What more is there to say? :-)

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4 Derek Olsen June 16, 2014 at 11:53 am

Paula-

I saved $196 Billion by not buying a space shuttle.

I’m rich! ;)

-Derek

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5 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:23 am

I just spent $15,000 to save $200 – I win!

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6 John C @ Action Economics June 16, 2014 at 7:50 am

Right on! Automating it is key, especially for people who feel like saving money is some big secret. Set up the automation ONCE, then just make sure you have money going into the bank account. Treating the “Savings Transfer Payment” the same way as a mortgage or a car note, by making it an automatic priority ensures proper long term savings, As you said; PULL THE TRIGGER!!

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7 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:28 am

“Just make sure you have money going into the bank account.”

That’s definitely key, yes :) And probably the hardest part for people to lock on to. But what a GREAT way to stay on top of your money, right? You learn to leave your money alone in those accounts, and not keep xfering/spending it everywhere, and the process works as smooth as butter. A great habit to get into!

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8 Shannon @ Financially Blonde June 16, 2014 at 8:03 am

I left a career investing people’s money to help them save money, because it is really the first and primary step to financial health and it sounds simple, but if it was, we would all be millionaires. But like you remind us, sometimes you just have to do it and whatever “trick” works for you, then you have to start it and stick with it. And if you are having a tough time, hire people like you and me to keep you motivated! ;-)

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9 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:30 am

My first money coaching client quit before we even got to our first call! Hah!

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10 John @ Wise Dollar June 16, 2014 at 8:09 am

Spot on J! We make it much too difficult on ourselves at times, when it really is pretty simple. I saw this all the time in my old day job and would get excuse after excuse, when so often it comes down to simply finding something that works for you and doing it.

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11 Cody @ Academy Success June 16, 2014 at 8:27 am

The more automated, the better.

Don’t touch the money is key. One of the ways I found that really helped me in the beginning was setting up systems so it was really hard to touch the money. A lot of people make the mistake of trying to save by just not spending and do nothing else. But what happens is they end up spending it on something else.

Savings has to be separated somehow and difficult to access to curb the temptation we all have to spend. Like right now I have a bag of cash in my attic next to my giant attic rats. No way I’m going up there :)

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12 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:30 am

Where do you live again? ;)

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13 Jon @ Money Smart Guides June 16, 2014 at 8:42 am

Saving money is easy – you just have to decide to actually do it. That is why I love automating things. I set up automatic transfers from my checking to savings account (and to my investment accounts) every time I get paid. I never have to think about how to save money because I AM saving money!

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14 Kathy June 16, 2014 at 8:56 am

One of the easiest things to do is save money if you really want to. It simply has to be a priority for you and if it isn’t, then you won’t save. A really simple thing to do that eventually adds up nicely is to dump your loose change into a jar or piggy bank at the end of each day. A couple of times a year I take the change to the bank. They run it through their coin counter and it usually adds up to nearly $200 each time. Put that in your savings account. Or take the $1 dollar bills out of your wallet, save them up until you get $50 or $100 and take them to the bank. Your son is right….there doesn’t need to be a “How To”.

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15 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:33 am

YES! It MUST be a priority or you’ll just never get around to doing it… As my friend Will likes to say, you have to ENJOY saving money!

http://firstquarterfinance.com/how-to-enjoy-saving-money/

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16 Brian@ Debt Discipline June 16, 2014 at 8:57 am

52-Week Money Challenge is another easy way to get started. Like others have said automating it is the way to go, this way you don’t have to think about it or second guess yourself.

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17 Addison @ Cashville Skyline June 16, 2014 at 9:05 am

I’ve never set up automatic transfers to save money because I REALLY enjoy the act of transferring it into my Vanguard account each money. I make the transfer as soon as I get paid and it almost feels like I’ve won some kind of game! Whatever works, right?

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18 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:36 am

I can get down with that :) Exactly why I pay down our mortgages manually actually. I A) Want to feel the endorphins going when I hit submit! and b) I want to feel the PAIN of sending all my money there at the same time. A good reminder to never spend so much on anything again!

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19 Katie Lake June 16, 2014 at 9:29 am

One of my saving secrets, in addition to transferring a set amount to my savings account each paycheck, is to go withdrawal $30 out in coins each payday. I unroll the coins and put them in one of those huge antique glass water jars. Oh, and I didnt get any of it in quarters until it was to heavy to lift. Also, all $1 bills get exchanged for coins and put in the jar too. And of course any coins I get as change go in as well. It becomes “unspendable” money. If I want to run by and grab a cheeseburger/sweet tea, I don’t have that money on hand. It certainly isn’t the fastest way but it is like hiding a few extra dollars from ourselves. My calculations say we should be around $800 in our jar but we won’t know until we eventually fill it up and tip it over.

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20 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:37 am

HAH! Nice!!! Would be annoying as hell to go digging around in there to pull out change to go buy some treats, haha… way to trick yourself! Love it :)

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21 Natalie @ Financegirl June 16, 2014 at 9:50 am

I really love the response “get rid of the ‘how to’!” It’s like anything really: just do it. People think there are secrets to losing weight, but all you need to do is eat healthy and exercise. Money is the same way. The principles are easy. Putting them into action is the hard part.

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22 Free To Pursue June 16, 2014 at 10:38 am

“Just DO it” huh? ;)

I totally agree. There’s no secret sauce, no hidden clue. It’s really that simple…and it’s a hard thing to realize because if it’s that simple, then one has to ask “Why wasn’t I doing it all along then?” It can be a tough pill to swallow but the sooner the better. Want a glass of water to help with that? Here ya go!

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23 Zee @ Work-To-Not-Work June 16, 2014 at 10:40 am

There really is no secret to saving. I find that most people get stuck on the whole “where do I invest it” part of things. They find that so confusing that they give up before they start. The truth is, they could invest in the absolute worst things ever but it would still be better than not starting at all.

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24 Zac @ MoneyJournal June 16, 2014 at 10:45 am

This is wild – I was just writing an article about this exact thing last night that’ll post ~11am central today. I think you might enjoy it – I’ll tag you when I send out the Tweet.

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25 Not Quite Sexy June 16, 2014 at 11:33 am

I think the same exact thing about exercising. People say they don’t know what to do. I say, just go to the gym and do things for 30 minutes. No matter what you do, it’ll be better than sitting on your couch.

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26 Free To Pursue June 16, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Right on point. You are likely right. Just doing something is always better than doing nothing. The only workout that’s a bad workout is the one you didn’t do.

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27 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:39 am

HAH! Love this…. And I read both of your articles Zac and Zee (yet another coincidence Z’s!). Enjoyed them both :)

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28 Free To Pursue June 16, 2014 at 10:40 am

Thanks for introducing us to Derek and Carrie too BTW.

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29 Derek Olsen June 16, 2014 at 11:57 am

Nice to meet you too!

-Derek (And Carrie)

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30 Zac @ MoneyJournal June 16, 2014 at 10:43 am

It almost seems like human nature to over-complicate things that are very simple. Losing weight is the same way. The secret? Eat less food. Get more exercise. We all know this, but billions upon billions of dollars are made each year by people selling their own routine or system for losing weight – all of which are doing two things: eating less food, getting more exercise.

It’s almost like you need to be a psychiatrist to give good money saving advice or fitness advice. The action is simple: It’s getting the motivation and willpower to execute that action which is the challenge.

It’s like you say, and I’ve even got an article on this same line coming out today: start simple. Just do it. Worry about the details later. For now, just start pumping money into your savings/investments. You can refine your approach later.

Great stuff, J Money!

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31 Not Quite Sexy June 16, 2014 at 11:42 am

Where is the like button? I made a similar, yet let eloquent comment above. This is so spot on.

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32 Zac @ Money Journal June 16, 2014 at 7:25 pm

*Like*

LoL :-)

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33 Big Guy Money June 16, 2014 at 10:50 am

Hey J,

My favorite part is “Don’t TOUCH the money.” We went through a period where we’d move money over to savings, only to go over our budget and end up pulling everything back out :(

That’s part of the reason we don’t keep a cushion in our checking account – I don’t trust that we won’t spend it.

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34 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:41 am

Yup! I call that the “checking account shuffle” – when you’re xfering money all over the place every month – it sucks. Though, unlike you the cushion in our checking is exactly what helps us to stop the shuffling! Haha… I don’t have a problem with spending more than needed (usually), but I do w/ figuring out exacts of what’s coming in and going out every month – something self-employment does not help with :)

But good for you for knowing yourself well – that’s an important key!

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35 Million Dollar Ninja June 16, 2014 at 11:11 am

You’re right… just do it! oh wait, is this a shoe commercial?

I get asked the same question and I give them a few examples, but I always end with “just don’t spend.” That seems to be the right answer. Don’t spend it, stash it, and watch it grow.

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36 Mel @ brokeGIRLrich June 16, 2014 at 11:11 am

Another pretty easy one is to call every provider you have a monthly bill with and ask for a lower rate. I did that with my internet and it dropped from $50 to $25 for 3 months and they gave me a $10 credit, so one of those months was only $15… and they seem to have forgotten to put it back to it’s regular rate the last two months… I probably won’t call them to give them a heads up on that ;o)

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37 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:42 am

HAH! Great idea for sure… In fact, I just included that in an article I started writing for someone over the weekend – works great with cable bills too!

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38 Kurt @ Money Counselor June 16, 2014 at 11:38 am

Great and simple point J. For some, saving money is truly a challenge. But for many, it’s a choice, and often a choice not made because they all want stuff instead! :-)

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39 Derek Olsen June 16, 2014 at 11:51 am

Yo J!

It’s your boy, Derek.

It’s a war zone out there. So, stay sexy.

-Derek

(Hi everyone!)

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40 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:42 am

Hi son :)

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41 Dave LaLonde June 16, 2014 at 1:17 pm

I love how every time you post something, whether it be the topic of finances or personal life, I can always hear your personality from it. But great points, especially the part about how saving money doesn’t count as savings until it’s banked. It’s easy for people to forget that one small detail.

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42 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:43 am

Best compliment all week! Thanks man, that really means a lot!

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43 Done by Forty June 16, 2014 at 3:23 pm

So flipping true. It’s not about tactics…it’s about behavior. All the really common problems in our life are solved by taking action (and, maybe to a larger degree, coming up with systems that make it easier to take good action and avoid bad ones).

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44 Financial Underdog June 16, 2014 at 4:28 pm

On a completely different note, I just have to say this.

We’ve all seen Scrooge McDuck jumping into a pool of money many times. But now that I think about it – wouldn’t it hurt like hell??? Seriously, you jump into a pool filled with scrap metal (gold and silver scrap metal but still). Especially if jumping from such height.

Argh, what a nerd I am…

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45 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:46 am

Oh, I’ve thought of this many a times over, you’re not alone. It helps me to feel I’m in much better straights than Mr. McDuck – “At least I’m not dead!” I shout at the screen every time I see him dive in ;) Everyone knows a true baller dives into dollar bills anyways. Much more soft and comfy!

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46 Kristin @ Brokepedia June 16, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Right on. I second (or third or fourth, etc.) the point about automating savings. I did this with my 401k at my first “real” job. Despite not making much, I never missed the money from my budget. And then when I moved on to my next job, I was surprised to find I had a pretty healthy amount to rollover. Very sexy!

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47 Ben L @ The Wealth Gospel June 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm

It’s not rocket science, but it feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it?

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48 Real Money June 16, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Great article, J.! Tracking my expenses on a simple Google spreadsheet was probably the fastest way to change my behaviors around money.

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49 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:47 am

There you go! Gotta use technology to our advantage – no doubt about it.

You should mark an entry for picking up “yahoo stock” and see if Google is watching ;)

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50 Christine @ The Pursuit of Green June 16, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Make it a priority and stick with it:P It’s amazing what people can do once they put their minds to it. I love manually putting money into my savings because I see it and do something to make it happen!

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51 Tonya@Budget and the Beach June 16, 2014 at 7:46 pm

I think it’s like anything else…like losing weight or getting in shape. Everyone has the info to make it happen, but people do little to follow through because of the emotional barriers. It’s good to find out what those might be and fix THAT! I’m speaking for myself of course too. :)

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52 Debt and the Girl June 16, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Yes, its amazing what you can accomplish when you try. I tell people that but they somehow still believe otherwise. Doing the little things is what is going to save you so much in the end.

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53 Julie @ Millennial Cents June 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm

I have all of my saving directly deposited into my 401k and a separate saving account. As long as it never hits my checking account all is good :-0 Saving money from my checking account is where the real challenge comes from

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54 J @ the expat investor June 17, 2014 at 1:29 am

Thanks for the great tip, I forgot when was the last time I called my credit card company to renegotiate my interest rate.

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55 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:48 am

Good! Do it!! Make an auto calendar item for it too, that way you won’t *have* to remember ;)

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56 LNLisa June 17, 2014 at 8:55 am

Saving money has always been really hard for me. I don’t even want to admit to the stupid problems that I have caused myself because I couldn’t manage to save money. I have tried the multiple bank trick, the cash envelope trick, and any other trick I could think of. None of those worked for me.

What has worked for me is 1. a budget that clearly lays out what every dollar is for, including the dollars in savings. Choosing not to spend $20 on going out to eat is a no brainer when that means that I will have $20 less to spend on my cruise. As I get better at my budget, I have thought more about retirement and future savings, but in the beginning, it was all about the cruise. And 2. We started off with a challenge of not going out to eat for six weeks. This really helped because it broke my going out to eat habit and it made saving money easier.

I think saving is about developing a mind-set. Reading blogs like this helps. Thanks for all you do!

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57 J. Money June 17, 2014 at 10:50 am

Awww great! And so good you’re learning more about what works for you and what doesn’t – that really is the hardest part, you’re right. I’m a big fan of “no spend” challenges – not only for eating out, but for ‘stuff’ in general, so glad to hear you’re rockin’ them as well.

Keep working at it! Once you get it down it’ll continue to help you for the rest of your life! :)

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58 Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life June 17, 2014 at 10:49 am

I feel the same way about people who ask me about getting in shape. It’s not a secret you just have to do it.

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59 Dividend Mantra June 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm

J. Money,

I think saving money is a lot like losing weight. There is no perfect system. Saving money simply requires spending less than you earn, much like losing weight simply requires eating less calories than you burn. But while these are theoretically simple concepts, they are much harder to actually execute in real life.

You just gotta pull the trigger…every single day. :)

Best wishes!

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60 Laura aka Mrs. Nickels June 17, 2014 at 8:08 pm

When my husband and I got serious about investing a large percentage of our income, we automated EVERYTHING. I have a love affair with Direct Deposit…now our companies split up our paychecks into 5 deposits…401k (max), Roth IRA (max), Bills Checking Account (Fixed), Spending Acct (Fixed), and the rest goes into our Taxable Brokerage Account (Variable aka “what’s left”).
The only variable is the last one going to our brokerage acct. That way, as we get pay raises, that’s where the ‘extra’ flows right into. By allowing our pay increases to go right to our brokerage account, this helps us avoid “lifestyle creep”.
And, we really don’t miss that 60% of our income that we put away. It’s been ushered into our various investment accounts before we’ve even had a chance to see it! I’m sure the HR folks were like “what are these people doing?” :-D

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61 Derek Olsen June 17, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Laura-

Wow. I love the variable “what’s left” account as a guard against “lifestyle creep.”

That kind of blew my mind. Very creative!

60% ?? Awesome!

-Derek

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62 J. Money June 18, 2014 at 11:00 pm

What he said! Incredible!

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63 Jason @ Phroogal June 18, 2014 at 4:54 am

I learned awhile back if you ever want to do something don’t say When I or How can I. Just say I have saved. When I do my seminars I tell employees to start with as little of $5. Don’t think about how you are going to get a high balance savings account. Just be happy that you have saved.

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64 J. Money June 18, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Indeed man, whatever it takes to get the pile started!

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65 EL June 18, 2014 at 10:15 am

I just saved 20 dollars clipping coupons, but I got 100 dollars worth of bad food for 80 bucks. I saved money right, Umm no you just wasted $80 to get crappy food, extreme couponers are insane. I have yet to see one couponer who got a coupon aka discount for veggies and meat. Plus they dont show them going to the bank with their savings.

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66 J. Money June 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm

HAH! They never show *anyone* going to the bank to stash that cash, extreme couponers or not… guess it’s just supposed to happen magically.

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67 Michelle June 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm

I have not done a “no spend” month challenge. That might be a great idea for next month!

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68 J. Money June 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Oh no? I highly recommend it :) Best thing I’ve probably ever done outside of pour in my $$ into retirement accounts. Really gets your mindset right and breaks the naughty spending habits!

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69 Crystal June 19, 2014 at 11:44 am

Our income has dropped pretty significantly over the last few months, so we are definitely cutting back. Not sure if it can be called “saving” though since we are technically just paying our bills and using the extra to cover the upcoming two trips that we had already booked, LOL. The only thing keeping me sane is knowing that we already fully funded our two Roth IRA’s for 2014. Otherwise, I would be hyper-ventilating now, hahaha.

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70 J. Money June 21, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I hear ya! Gotta keep on hustling too so we’ve got them all funded a year from now for 2015 too :) As long as those accounts are maxed out for the year, I’m pretty happy with myself… It has proven more challenge lately though, similar to your own situation. Gotta love self-employment!

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71 Christa@ObjectWealth.com June 23, 2014 at 6:03 pm

This may be one of my favorite articles of all time. It is just so simple. You want to know how to save, then just save! I loved this post so much I wrote a little follow up to it on my site- http://www.objectwealth.com/super-secret-formula-for-success/. Keep putting out awesome posts. You are so inspiring!

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72 J. Money June 24, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Awww, well thank! I’m so glad you liked it! So much to even write up your own post, that’s bad ass :) Going now to check it out… The title already intrigues me!

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73 Alain July 2, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Nice and clear. I continue screaming the same ideas all day long and people just pull out their list of excuses. The shift is not tactical, the shift has to be mental.

The silver lining is that the more that we continue repeating the same message the higher the probability that some one will listen.

My number one tip is: Get rid of your freaking car… I idolize automobiles. We all the new car sharing network, this dream is becoming closer to reality. If you do have a car. Why in earth do you need to spend a lot of money on it. A car is a tool, nothing more than that.

Thank you for letting me rant as well.

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74 J. Money July 2, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Haha…. well, I’ll have to disagree with you slightly here, but overall yes – people generally spend way more on their cars than they should. But I only mention that to them if I hear them complaining about having no money ;) Some people like cars as it makes them feel good (myself included) and are good about prioritizing their $$. So to those I say keep on going! It’s all about goals and aligning up your purchases to help meet them. Doesn’t matter to me how people reach them as long as they do.

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75 A Frugal Family's Journey July 6, 2014 at 12:59 am

Smart boy you got there J. Money…I guess the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree as they say. :) Sarcastic or not, he does have a point. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to explain how to save money. Start small and keep adding…the more the merrier. But the key, is to start! :)

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76 Tekeah Harris July 18, 2014 at 10:12 am

Amazing tips , very realistic look at saving
and Scrooge McDuck …Brills

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77 J. Money July 19, 2014 at 7:04 am

Brills! Haha… If that’s the new slang for “brilliant,” I’m totally stealing it.

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