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Voluntary Simplicity Step 2: Making Your Money Work For You

Making Your Money Work For You 

What does this mean? In a nutshell, it means taking what you have monetarily and getting the most out of it. Almost everyone reading this post either currently works or is retired from working. Those same people have or are working for a financial goal. Typically the goal is to pay the mortgage, household expenses, some entertainment, a vehicle, gas for the vehicle, savings for retirement, etc. Additional financial goals may include paying off debt, putting yourself or a child through college, and/or becoming financially independent.

When you are working for a monetary goal, you want the money you’ve worked so hard to earn working toward that same goal. Spending money mindlessly does not help to achieve that goal. If you don’t know what you’re spending your money on your money is not able to successfully do its job. You need a plan for your money. The biggest motivation for me personally, is to get more control over our life. If you can get a hold of your financial life you can better determine where you’re going and how you’ll get there.

Have you ever thought of taking a job because the salary is hard to resist, regardless of whether or not it will make you happy? Have you ever been in miserable in a job but can’t financially afford to leave? Do you get upset that it takes two paychecks to make ends meet? It’s time to re-evaluate your earnings and spending. This isn’t about deprivation but rather spending wisely and making every dollar count. Spend with purpose.

How many times do you get to the end of the week and wonder where all of your money was spent? One dollar here for coffee, five dollars there for a magazine, five dollars for a fast food lunch, three “quick” trips to the grocery store where you purchase what you need and then some and so on. It’s very easy to mindlessly spend money particularly with the convenience of debit cards.

Another very difficult question to ask yourself is, how much money have I earned in my working years and what have I got to show for it? Has my money worked effectively for me? Of course you can still spend frivolously but assign a number to what that will look like. If you make a budget too rigid chances are you won’t stick to it. Don’t let another week go by where you aren’t sure where all your money was spent.

So what should your money do? In step one of Voluntary Simplicity I wrote about starting with tracking your spending so you can determine where your money is being spent. I also suggested using the envelope method for budgeting your money. You want to establish a budget that works for you with these things in mind:

  • You need basic necessities (i.e., mortgage/rent, water, heat, gas, food, etc.).
  • You need a budget for enjoyment (i.e., clothing, entertainment, coffee, etc.).
  • You should create an emergency fund that liquid and available if immediately needed.
  • Excess can go into an interest-bearing savings account.

Some examples of ways to spend less and save more include:

  • Make lunches at home to bring to work during the week.
  • Use coupons for grocery shopping and check the weekly sales flyers. **Be careful, however, to only use coupons for items you need and/or would typically buy. If you purchase something only because you’ve got a great coupon, that doesn’t mean it’s saving you money.**
  • Before running errands think of all the places you need to go to save gas and time.
  • Weekly or monthly grocery shopping. This helps your money work for you in 2 ways – 1. you are planning your shopping, therefore looking at flyers, bringing coupons and determining what your needs are and 2. the more times you stop at the grocery store, the more chances you’re purchasing mindlessly as well as wasting the gas and time to go.
  • Break the habit of no impulse purchases and think about each purchase (Do I need this? Do I want this? Do I love this?) prior to making it.
  • Eat at home and prepare food from scratch.
  • Start a garden and preserve your harvest for meals throughout the year.
  • Think of your purchases in a new way – how many hours of work does it take to purchase this? For example. If I want to buy a new pair of shoes that cost $65.00 and I make $15.00 an hour I have to work over four hours to pay for those shoes. Are they worth it? Another example is going out to dinner. If I make $15.00/hour and my husband and I go out to dinner and with tip it costs us $60.00, not only do I have to work four hours to pay for that dinner, but that’s also half of our weekly grocery budget spent on one meal. It makes a difference when you look at the big picture.

Savings, wherever you can find them, means you can put more money to work toward your short-term and long-term goals.  What are some of the ways you make your money work for you?

To read more about our farm, you can find us at Life At Cobble Hill Farm.