A few years back, our finances felt completely hopeless and I hated it. My husband was bringing home around $1,600 a month after taxes, but it just wasn’t enough to cover our spending. Our credit cards were our saviors and the balances kept rising. He worked so hard but had nothing to show for it, aside from growing debt. What could I do?
Like many other people lacking wisdom in personal finance, I did an online search about getting out of debt and saving money. The results were typical: save 10% of your income, save $50 every month, spend less. A plethora of common sense was laid in front of me and it just made me feel worse. Each month our debt was growing, so how could I save 10% of nothing or $50 we didn’t have?
I experienced many emotions after that; I was sad, frustrated, angry, overwhelmed and I was ready to give up altogether. As the days went by, I started thinking about the main point of saving money. If one source says to save 10% of your income and another says to save $50 each month, the amount is irrelevant. I might not have been able to save a lot of money then, but I could spare a couple bucks. We were already spending too much, so what harm could come from increasing it a bit?
Those couple bucks were the foundation for what we have now. I opened an account with Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) and setup a weekly automatic transfer of 99 cents for every Friday. Sure it might have only started out with a couple bucks (actually $1.98) with each bi-weekly paycheck but that was enough to get us started.
Momentum slowly built and I was able to add in an additional weekly transfer for the same amount, then I increased it to $1.00 (which wasn’t noticeable at all), then I eventually made my way to 5 weekly transfers of $1.00 each. It might have only been $5.00 that we were saving each week, but it felt empowering.
Then other things came like cutting our expenses, stretching our money, budgeting, paying off debt, tracking spending and so forth. We never seemed to have to money to pay for our car insurance every 6 months, so I setup another transfer for $2.00 5 days per week—going straight into our Car Insurance sub-account at Capital One 360.
Now we don’t worry about not having the money to pay our car insurance, because it’s always there. If our rates ever change, I can adjust the amount we transfer to reflect the new amount.
Thanks to a little creativity, a passion was sparked in me for personal finance. Today, I have a personal finance blog, an emergency fund, no credit card debt and am trying to make better financial decisions each day. We even started making contributions to a 401IK, opened a Roth IRA and an investment account. Our net worth might not be much but as long as we keep doing what we can it will keep growing.
Everybody has to start somewhere; otherwise they will never start at all. Small changes over time can make a big difference, so if you’re not ready to make dramatic changes to your finances…at least start with baby steps.
The main point is that you are doing something (rather than nothing) to progress toward what you want. Making small changes might not get you there quickly, but they can motivate and inspire you to continue on your journey. It all adds up.