“A 2016 survey from the Federal Reserve found that 47% of Americans could not afford a $400 emergency, meaning that nearly half of all respondents would have to either borrow the money, sell something to come up with the cash, or not pay the expense at all.” – Alyssa Davis, Hello Workwell
We Promised a Follow-Up
If you think way back to when it wasn’t so cold, and summer was just beginning to leave us, you may have read something about a 20-something entertaining the thought of budgeting. If you didn’t read something along those lines, here it is. If you did, welcome to the follow-up.
So if you remember correctly, we had a four-step plan for saving:
Kick the excuses out the door.
Write it all down.
Save $3 a day.
Get an app.
Simple, easy, effective and actionable steps to reach an achievable goal: save more. It wasn’t even about saving more as much as it was about saving something, anything. So the question of the hour is, did I do it? Did I save?
Yes! Yes, I did!
The Nitty Gritty
I think back to September. I was young, full of hope, ready to save all my money. Was it all smooth saving from there? Not quite. The magic has entirely worn off. However, my Starbucks trips have significantly dropped. My nights out on the town have been less “I’ll buy a round for the bar” and more “I’ll take a $3 happy hour special”. My “treat yourself” mentality has begun to shift.
This is not to say that everything has come up roses since I’ve started saving. All of my financial woes have certainly not disappeared. The difference is that now I’m aware. I know where my money is going and I adjust where necessary. I haven’t completely cut out all my bad habits. I’ll still spend way too much on fancy dinners every now and again; I’ll still take an Uber when it’s too cold instead of huffing it on the subway. I’ll still buy a bus ticket to see my friend for her “totally unnecessary that I be there” holiday party.
The difference is that I’ve had money for the emergencies that have come up over the last two months, like a new car battery, a tow truck for said car, and an unexpected ER visit (make that two). I’ve had money to pay back late bills. I’ve had money to begin to catch myself up.
How much have I saved since my first exposé?
From September 20th to December 11th, I have saved $449.47 with my Qapital app. Will that all immediately go to pay off emergency bills this month? Yes. It will. But is that money that I would have had to pay those bills without saving? Absolutely not.
Here are my major takeaways.
Writing down your spending sucks. It’s not fun to look every week at what you’ve spent and budget for the next. It invites self-loathing. Try not to fall off the wagon. On weeks when I didn’t write down what I spent, I bought so much more than on the weeks that I did. Mindfulness is key. Awareness is vital.
Don’t look at the app. When I saw how much I was saving, I would feel it was okay to spend more (strange logic). I would also, perhaps subconsciously, add that amount as part of what I had in my bank account. That is not useful. By not looking at the app, the savings automatically deducted without the temptation to drain the savings account.
A good support system is everything. When people lift you up and encourage you to reach a goal, you have an easier time doing it. Science. Having friends suggest going out for pizza instead of three-course meals or suggesting free shows to see, instead of continually blowing money on paid events made such a difference in my saving.
Don’t deprive yourself. In the beginning, I cut cold turkey, canceled on so many plans, and refused to spend anything. After about two weeks of that, my spending increased more than before. When I realized what was happening, I knew I needed to save in moderation. It doesn’t need to be all or nothing. I can still enjoy a matcha latte every once in a while, just not every single day for $5+.
I can do better. These past few months forced me to really look at my finances and see how much I was bringing in. It’s okay to recognize that what you’re doing financially just isn’t working and get a new job or find a side hustle. My main source of income goes to bills, whatever is left goes to savings, and my new side hustle money is what I get to treat myself with. Yay!
Think you can start saving from zero too? Take the challenge with me by tagging your Instagram stories and posts about how you're saving money in your everyday life with #savewell and our tag @helloworkwell for an Instagram story feature.