By Guest Blogger Amanda Steinberg
When I was a kid, being raised by a single mom, money was tight. But I always believed that when I crossed a certain income threshold the money stress would evaporate. I’d be free of the need to be frugal. I’d be able to buy whatever I wanted or needed.
One of the great, ongoing revelations of my adult life is that, for most people, myself included, that is not true. Despite having an excellent income – one year’s earning usually surpassing the last – my husband and I still have financial stress and need to make mindful money decisions. After making these spending cuts and mindful decisions pertaining to money, I’ve come to a great realization. A parallel discovery actually…
I’m a Weight Watchers master. In 2003, I was 5’8? and 160 pounds — not exactly ideal for a 25-year-old single girl living in Manhattan. I spent three (!) years on Weight Watchers, and for two years, failed repeatedly. I obsessed over every drop of salad dressing and kernel of popcorn only to learn at my weekly meeting weigh-in that I’d gained half a pound. I quit multiple times, but would return months later with new resolve. Finally, in my third year, something clicked. I dropped 30 pounds in just six months.
To this day – and two babies later—I can still lose weight when I want to by altering certain habits. That parallel discovery? I can use the same rules to shave pounds off of my spending:
|What I learned from Weight Watchers:
|How I’ve applied it to my money habits:
|On Weight Watchers, you’re allotted a daily number of “points” (like calories). When you run out of points for a day, you have to resort to zero-point foods like carrots, or risk not losing weight.
|Determine after fixed expenses (rent, phone, etc) how much spare cash you have per day. Plan for days when you know you’ll exceed your daily budget (night out at the movies) and spend less on other days.
|Plan your meals every morning. Before you even make your breakfast, visualize each meal so that you don’t break for a cheese steak out of convenience.
|Plan your spending every morning. Today, I need to: meet Cristina for coffee, pick up dry-cleaning, buy a gift for baby-shower. Ask, can I make it work inside of my daily allotment? Adjust accordingly.
|If you trip going down the stairs, get up and keep walking. Don’t throw yourself down the rest of the stairs. (This metaphor got me through many tough days on Weight Watchers)
|If you spend more than you budgeted, don’t burn your budget and go on spending. Acknowledge that you fell off the wagon, get back on, and proceed.
|When eating out, order two appetizers, not an appetizer and an entree. Two appetizers are generally more than enough food to qualify as a healthy meal.
|When eating out, order two appetizers. Save 30% on your meal!
|Don’t totally deprive yourself, or you’ll binge.
|Don’t deny yourself small, frivolous gifts, as long as you buy them consciously.
I’ve learned that, for me, diets of any form work better when I can track progress in my head. That’s why I like simple rules I can repeat daily. If a system is too complicated to track, it’s not a good system.
To top off the diet, I’ve also come to a few personal realizations and a list of “I thought I coulds” which might be your AHA moment as well…
- I thought I’d be able to afford a few new outfits every season.
Despite all the “save more” cheering that we do here on DailyWorth, oh how I’d love to drop $500 every quarter on a few wardrobe refreshers. Truth is, that money belongs elsewhere if we’re going to stick to our goal and save 20% of our take-home pay.
- I’d enjoy regular, womanly pampering.
Haircut and color, mani/pedis, waxing – I assumed these were a basic right of being female. These days as we look for more ways to cut, so that we can truly max out our retirement, I’ve said goodbye to mani/pedis (doing them to myself while watching Modern Family isn’t so bad), and am toying with DIY hair color touch-ups. Got any product recommendations or tips? I’m all hair, I mean, ears.
- I’d have a weekly cleaning lady.
Had one. Loved her. Can’t afford it right now.
Truth is, it’s painful to cross those old daydreams off my list. But I take pride in the new realities: smarter spending, steadier savings and a sense of control.
Amanda Steinberg started DailyWorth.com as a way to give women key insights into building real net worth. DailyWorth stands out as the go-to source about personal finance for smart, ambitious women. Since its inception in January 2009, DailyWorth has garnered 55,000+ subscribers and a stream of media appearances, including New York Times, Forbes, USA Today, and a recent 2-page spread in Cosmopolitan magazine. A graduate of Columbia University, Steinberg also runs a Web consultancy called Soapbxx, and contributes to ForbesWoman.com. Amanda lives in Philadelphia with her husband, two children, and her iPhone.
Financial Confession: I confess that in 2006 my husband and I bought slightly more house than we should have. Yes, on paper we can “afford it” and we had no trouble qualifying for the mortgage. In retrospect, we could and should have bought a house 1/3 of its size. Ah, hindsight is indeed 20-20.
What is YOUR financial confession? Have you come to any realizations about your own spending after reading this? Do you have poor spending habits? Are you a saver? Do you allow yourself to splurge every now and then, guilt-free? Are you even afraid to talk about money? Most women hate speaking about money, but let’s bring these important skeletons out of the closet.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend, my American friends. Slow down, and enjoy.