I wrote a book called Go from Stressed to Strong to help others do the same, go from feeling stressed to feeling strong, confident, and powerful.  I focus on physical strength through nutrition, sleep, and fitness. I also focus on inner-strength through meaningful self-care which includes making mindful changes in patterns of thoughts and behaviors that do not contribute to your wellbeing.

Part of self-care includes financial strength.

Oftentimes, money and finances can be a huge factor in people’s mental health and stress levels.  It can even affect relationships and daily choices.  Money and finances can sometimes be a taboo topic that is difficult to talk about.  Unfortunately, it is something that needs to be openly discussed, especially if you have joint finances with someone: the house needs a new roof, your kid wants to join soccer and basketball programs, you want braces to fix your teeth that you’ve been insecure about for years, or you want to plan an epic vacation you deserve.  Discussing finances can make your relationship grow stronger, and can bring a new strength to your partnership.

It is also important to have strong financial practices if you are financially independent.

Healthy money saving habits can sometimes force you to focus on needs vs. wants.  You don’t NEED everything in your life to line up perfectly in order to start saving money for the things you WANT.

Here are some tips to help you change your mindset and habits in order to save money and have a stronger, healthier, relationship with your finances.

  1. Pay off your debts. Some great advice I’ve received is to start with the smallest debts and work your way up to the larger ones.  Having fewer bills each month can help your mental health when it comes to finances.
  2. Cut out alcohol. Recently, I wrote about how ‘Lifestyle Sobriety is Cool’.  Eliminating alcohol from your monthly spending can save you a ton of money.  Ordering water when you go out is far cheaper (usually free!) compared to drinking alcohol.  It’s also expensive to have alcohol at home.
  3. Evaluate your food bills. If you swap out restaurants for eating at home, you will likely see an increase in how much money you have left at the end of each month.  You can also evaluate how much you are spending at the grocery store.  It is easy to be tempted by the bags of chips and the packages of cookies, and even those impulse buys of candies or magazines at check-out when you walk up and down the aisle.  If you make and stick to a list of only the essentials, it can help you avoid blowing up your monthly budget.  You should make your grocery list based on your meal plan for the week.  Since COVID-19 began, there are many options to order groceries online, further eliminating the temptations of over-spending at the store. Stick to your list.
  4. Evaluate your monthly subscriptions. There are certain recurring payments that are worth evaluating.  Luxury indulgences like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Gym Memberships, etc. can all add up.  You should do a cost analysis to really see how often you are using these services and if it’s worth it to continue paying for them.  You can also consider sharing streaming services with family or friends.  Split the cost or share log-ins for the services that allow you to do so.
  5. Pay attention to the products you buy. Are generic medicines an option for you?  What about the store brand of foods?  A less expensive toilet paper or paper towel?  Oftentimes, we stick with brand loyalty out of habit or marketing successes.  If you make some small switches to which brand of product you are buying, you may see some savings each month.
  6. Call your insurance providers. Plenty of people start the new year by doing policy evaluations with their insurance companies.  Check out your home owner’s/renter’s insurance, car insurance, health insurance, and other policies you have.  Sometimes switching companies or making slight changes to your existing policies can save you money while still getting you the coverage you need.  You can also do this with things like your cell phone bill and plan.
  7. Reduce your energy output. You can easily save on your electric bill by making some small adjustments at home.  Take shorter showers, install dimmer switches, use LED lightbulbs, and unplug chargers when you aren’t using them.
  8. Make some swaps! Try becoming a member of your local library instead of buying books or movies.  Plenty of libraries even have current audiobooks or digital copies.  Make your coffee at home instead of going to the shop.  I’m a big fan of supporting local businesses so this one is tough – you can always buy a bag of coffee beans from your favorite local shop and brew it at home.  Attempt some DIY projects for home repairs.  Sometimes a simple Google search can help you find materials you need for an affordable price.  YouTube can also teach you a ton.  Enjoy a staycation instead of jetting off somewhere – being a tourist in your own town or city can help save you thousands when compared to that big trip you were planning to take.
  9. Consider selling some of your things. If you don’t want to have a garage sale or yard sale given the pandemic, there are some really great sites where you can sell things online.  You’d probably be surprised by how much stuff you have around that you simply don’t need.  I know my husband and I have more coffee mugs than we could ever use in a week for just the two of us.  I’ve collected so many vases over the years from floral deliveries, and I never use more than 1 or 2 at a time.  Try consigning your clothes, and alternatively, consider buying gently used clothes. I LOVE finding unique pieces that I would never spend full-price on in the store.
  10. Challenge yourself! Make it fun.  Take either one week or one month and plan to not buy any nonessential items.  Truly forcing yourself to take inventory of what you NEED vs. WANT can help you form great financial habits going forward.

It’s also easy to take extra “bonus” money and use it for only fun things.  Tax refunds, bonuses, selling stock, inheritance, or however you come into extra money… A great money saving tip is to simply use this money for something practical or for savings.  It may not be as glamorous or what you share on social media, but if it helps you sleep better at night, and that’s what you need to focus on.

Sometimes the most challenging part of saving money or changing your habits can be the beginning.  There are several apps available to help you keep track of your savings and spending to give you some extra guidance on ways to cut back or highlight where you are doing a perfect job!

Another great way to think about things is to be sure to write down your financial goals, both short-term (1-3 years) and long term (4 years +).  Some of these short-term goals can be things like: having an emergency savings fund, a vacation, a down payment on a car, paying down some debt, etc.  Long-term goals tend to be more like: a down payment on a house, saving for your child(ren)’s education, retirement, etc.

As I said before, money can be very taboo and sensitive to talk about.  What is most important is to be sure you are making the best decisions for yourself and/or your family.  Comparing yourself to others just won’t work when it comes to money.  You never know how people got their money or what is important to them for spending their money on.  Plenty of people who post their vacation photos had to save for that vacation for years.  Some people are only able to afford those luxury goods because they lost their grandparents or parents, or dare I say, maxed out their credit card.  The details of money are rarely shared and it is critical that you only focus on yourself.

This thought of not comparing yourself to others touches upon what I will be talking about next week.  SPOILER ALERT: Next week’s article will be about How to Overcome Social Media’s Alienation. If you have any questions you want answered or suggestions you think would be helpful to others, please submit them to me at Hello@LaurieAWatkins.com.