There are some days where it feels like Deprivation Overdrive. I’ve eaten an entire pack of M&Ms without thinking, bought myself a new coat and feel like I have to be ‘good’ for a very, very long time to make up for it. It’s not helpful, basically yo-yo dieting with everything from healthy eating through to personal finance. Slow and steady is always far more effective in the long term, and feeling broke, tight, deprived is only going to result in lashing out and spending all your hard-earned savings. So here’s how to start saving and still feel satiated.
Like a lot of thing worth having, great personal finance does involve some sacrifice. But it shouldn’t have to involve sacrificing things that are really important to you. Sit down and work out your goals. Being debt-free. Having an emergency fund. Going on that holiday to Malta you always dreamed of. For me, once I had thought of the things that really mattered, sacrificing a big night of drinking didn’t seem like such a big deal. Having exciting goals to work towards can make smaller changes easily bearable.
Becoming frugal doesn’t mean becoming a hermit. Surely, maintaining our most important relationships has a place somewhere among our financial goals. Learn to alter your life, not completely change it. Host dinner at your place, instead of at an expensive restaurant. Be honest about spending less on presents, and suggest spending the day together instead. Work out what non-essential items you could easily do without, and get rid of them. Rearranging your life around what you really want, including financial security, has a good chance of making your life fuller, not deprived.
Budget And Selectively Splurge
Like counting calories, budgeting- to me at least- allows me to arrange my life in a manner that empowers me. That might sound retrograde, but I want to stay healthy and financially solvent, and a budget allows me to do that. It allows me choice over where I dispose my money. If I follow my budget well and achieve my savings goals for the week or month, I have money left over to spend. Nice clothes, a dinner out with a friend, and none of the commensurate guilt. When budgeting, make sure you allow for your financial goals before other costs. An emergency fund will also keep you feeling financially secure and prepared.
Rigidity does no one any favours. If you were planning on being financially good for the next year, and then returning to old habits, then a slip-up would be problematic. But this is a lifetime of security you’re looking at. Spending more than you intended on a night out, ‘wasting’ money on a new CD, they’re all part of the picture of your own personal finance. Beating yourself up about it, promising to be ‘good’ or making severe cuts in another element of your life all suggest that your changes are temporary. Guilt shouldn’t be part of the equation. It’s a change in your life, not a brief aberration so take ‘bad’ with the ‘good’ and accept it all as part of dealing with your own finances. Staying flexible and relatively consistent is a powerful way of making long-lasting changes for the best.