I am not about to tell anyone that their lack of status as a home owner is because they have Netflix. I know better.
However, I have learned that there are ways in which we do make less than optimal decisions around our finances. Everyone does it. Whether it’s stress shopping, overspending on gifts, or even just buying junk food, we do it. After a year without a stable income, I’m having to relearn how to avoid those things as a form of self-care, so here you are: steps to building a savings when you have little or no money.
First, there has to be enough money to cover the bills. If you don’t have that, you can’t save up. That’s probably not your fault either. Housing, utilities, and food are rather essential for living. If you can’t cover those, or if you’re struggling and forever behind on one or more payments, then this post isn’t really for you. I will suggest calling the different utilities and finding out if they can change your due date. Some places can, and maybe you can prevent late fees by getting payday and due date to match up better.
Now, if you have enough to cover the bills, look at what the difference in income is. How much is left after you’ve handled basic living expenses? It’s probably more than you expected there to be.
Look back over the last four months. How have you spent that money?
I’ll be honest about my spending. I’ve hired dog walkers on days when I could have managed it. I’ve bought stuff in a game I play. I’ve ordered meals to be delivered when I had food here. The reason for saving not increasing is pretty obvious in my case.
So look at yours, figure out where the money is going.
Next up, you’re looking at making a long-term change, so don’t decide to go all austerity practice on yourself. You don’t have to cut out all the things at one time. Pick ONE that you can cut out.
My first cut was the dog walks. They’re expensive, I need the exercise, and aside from very rare exceptions now, I am physically capable of walking my dog.
Each time I want to hire a walker for the dog, I move that money into savings. Every time I save up $100, I pay off the credit card that much.
The game I play is a serious source of relaxation and social interaction. I’ve allowed myself one in-game purchase of $10/mo. If I want a $50 pack, I’ll have to save for it.
Whatever you cut, look at the amount you save in one month. Continue with that cut for two months. Then cut out or cut back another area where you waste money.
Using the savings to build a cushion for yourself is important, especially in times like this. It may not be exciting, but it is a form of self-care. And, if you end up not needing it right away, the day will come when you can use some of that savings to do something really nice.