Dear Mrs. Riches:
From the time I first earned my own money babysitting, and now into adulthood, I've struggled with saving money. It's just hard for me to put some of it aside when there's something right there in front of me that looks tempting or fun. I know I should be saving for a rainy day, but so far, I haven't had many of those. I always seem to have enough to get by. But now my fiancee is saying he's concerned about what kind of life we can have together if my spending habits stay the way they are. So I guess I need to reform and show him that I, too, can open a savings account.
-- Spend, Spend, Spend
Dear Spend, Spend, Spend:
Opening a savings account is a tiny first step, but an empty account won't prove much. To prove you're serious about learning to save, you'll actually have to sock some money away, and keep doing so until saving (gasp!) becomes a way of life. In other words, are you interested in doing this for show, or because you truly want to make a change?
I don't think it's unfair to say that right now, you don't seem like the ideal candidate for reform. Why not? Because your motivation is coming entirely from your fiancee. While his disapproval may curb your bad habits for a while, you're likely to return to them unless the motivation becomes more internal. To summon your inner saver, you'll need to begin to value what saving has to offer: peace of mind in case of emergency, the importance of practicing delayed gratification, and an increased ability to meet long-term goals, like retiring someday.
If those are a stretch, just start by getting money automatically debited from your checking account into savings before you take any out for bills or personal expenditures. It's amazing how quickly you can amass a nice chunk of savings just by paying yourself first. You'll need to keep your paws off of the money, of course, and let it continue to grow; that's where your newfound willpower will need to enter in.
You can also minimize your exposure to the things, places, and people who tempt you to spend, spend, spend.
- Instead of shopping for fun, take up a new hobby, one that sends you far away from the mall.
- Freeze your credit card in a chunk of ice, so that you can spend the time until it thaws assessing whether or not you truly need the purchase. Pay in cash otherwise, to remind yourself how much you're spending; it's amazing how much more $60 seems in bills than in plastic.
- Avoid fashion magazines or other ad-saturated media outlets that will entice you to get "must have" fashions or the latest, greatest thingamajig.
- Spend, spend, spend your quality time with your fiancee; you can save money while growing a relationship meant to last a lifetime.
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Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp, a.k.a. "Mrs. Riches," is a licensed professional counselor. She's married to Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter, and loves to spend, spend, spend her time with him.