How I Saved $4000 in Three Months

August 20, 2018

I know, I know the title smells a little like click bait and in fairness it is a little misleading but keep reading.  Today I want to share a few things that I have done to limit my debt and free up my cash.  My husband and I are very similar when it comes to finances.  We earn a good income, we keep our overhead low, our debt limited and we REALLY enjoy all of life's extras like eating out, planning getaways, vacations and surprising one another on special occasions or just because.  Our debt consists of the normal, everyday debt home mortgage and student loans.  Then we have our monthly cost of living expenses which include property taxes, food, utilities, oil, cellphone plans, insurance (home/car/life) etc.  We both love to shop, I mean I love ALL things fashion, duh and he is a total gamer and electronic junkie.  Before we purchased our new car, we had two cars, both paid off for in full.  Last winter we talked about getting a new car to replace my Mazda.  We didn't put a deadline on it but we thought it made sense to do it in the summer when he was off from work and had the time to research and haggle to get me the perfect car.  Around May my husband knew the car we would get and how much he wanted his payments to be.  So that meant he ALSO figured out how much the down payment needed to be.  It was crunch time.  I will say we did it pretty easily because of some of the habits I am going to share with you in this post.

1) Limit your Credit Card Use to One Primary Card

You may or may not believe this but I only have two credit cards and my debit card.  My primary card is the Amazon Prime Visa and I use this to make ALL purchases throughout the month; food, gas, coffee runs (I will talk about that later), home stuff, clothes, entertainment and eating out,  simply put all purchases outside of mortgage, utilities, insurance etc.  Typically, if I haven't been shopping like a lunatic or eating out every weekend I could have a $400-$600 balance at the end of the month.  If I haven't been smart with my money or had an emergency purchase (think new tires or an unexpected home owner expense) it could be $800-$1000 balance.  I keep it under a $1000 and I pay it off at the end of the month, I don't go above that amount because that is a trap.  If I go above $1000 chances are I won't be able to pay off the full amount and with interest I will be trapped in the credit card cycle.

The second card is an AMEX card which I never use, it has had a $0 balance for the last 2 and a half years.  I have it in case of an emergency.  Full disclosure,  recently I opened a Victoria Secret's store credit card, now I don't think having store credit is a good idea.  The interest rates are ridiculous but they give you crazy discounts to get you to open an account.  I opened it to reap the new card member perks and paid off what I brought within the month.  It is still open but I rarely ever use it.

Finally I mentioned my debit card.  Once upon a time I used my debit card to make all of my purchases but the transaction fees can add up.  Using my prime card that I pay off in full every month allows me to rack up in points that I can use towards purchases on amazon which what can't we buy on amazon?!?

2) Take a Break from Eating Out

I feel, especially in the social media age, we eat out ALL THE TIME! Starting with our morning coffee runs, smoothies, lunches, brunches, after work drinks, dinner with the squad..I mean the list goes on and on! Do you have any idea how much money you are literally throwing out the window?  I don't mean to shame you, because once upon a time, that was me..and if I am honest I fall back into those habits from time to time.  Listen there is nothing wrong with a treat once a week or something like that..but lets be honest, its easy, lazy and a real waste of money!

Last fall I made a change in my spending habits and the first thing to go were those morning Dunkin Donut runs and those $10-$15 daily lunches!  I talked all about this in last year's post, How I saved money and found happiness now at the time that I wrote the post I had just completed a month of no shopping and replaced the "thrill" of shopping with the thrill of nourishing my body with home cooked meals. I have carried this mindset of nourishing my body with delicious home cooked meals for nearly a year now.  It has made me more attuned to my body and its needs which lead me to vegetarianism this past April.  You can find all my posts on why I started a meatless challenge here and how you can start here and how I felt after a month here.  My journey is all there for the world to see and it started with my no shopping for a month challenge.  Spoiler Alert, I am headed into my 5th month of being a vegetarian and I have never felt better and that is the TRUTH!

The takeaway, Cook at home. Save money (and calories).

3) Take a Break from Shopping!

Ok, I don't mean to yell at you here and I am sorry if it is coming off that way.  But as I mentioned above, last year I went an entire month without shopping. Cold turkey! I brought NADA! I did the no shopping challenge for one main reason, my 18 year old son was having a hard time managing his money.  He was working full time as a lifeguard his first summer out of high school and managed to save $0 money even though he had no financial responsibilities! He blew all his money on eating out, ubers/ubereats and shopping, it was actually pretty insane.  I had a heart to heart with him and upon reflection I knew I was being a hypocrite.  I had packages delivered to the house at least every other day and here I was preaching the value of saving money.  At the end of the conversation I offered him my word that we would be in it together, no shopping for the entire month and see where we were at at the end of that month financially.  Well, for me, the rest is history.  I have been practicing the "no-shopping" challenge routinely ever since and it doesn't even phase me anymore.  Actually, July was a no-shopping month, heading into August the need to shop was barely there.  I have purchased a few pieces for my fall wardrobe but mostly thrifted and on sale.  I would stop calling it a challenge but what is the fun in that?  I have more than enough "things" and those things never brought me happiness. As soon as something got delivered the small high I would get when I opened it and tried it on would quickly fade away until I was waiting for the next thing to be delivered.  It is a sad cycle.  

4) Netflix and Chill

This is a bonus tip.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with living your best life and hitting up those instagram worthy locations BUT there is also nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of your labor in your home.  My husband and I work so hard for what we have.  We have tons and tons of entertainment at home; games, movies, cable and online entertainment subscriptions, I mean its nuts.  I talked a little bit about this on instagram earlier this summer, about the importance of doing what makes you happy.  When Michael and I first started dating seriously we were on the run every.single.weekend and sometimes weekdays too!  It was madness, but its what you do when you are a new couple merging family and friends together.  You accept every invitation, and you host a lot of events.  It was fun.  I love our friends, they are everything to us but now that we have established ourselves and our circles the need is not as intense.  We have enjoyed a very low-key summer.  We have taken the time to enjoy the things we love to do, hiking, biking and exploring nature as a couple and family. We have taken care of our home.  We have had friends over for dinner, or a game night, we have accepted some invitations to parties and the occasional drink but we have really protected our downtime and our alone time.  Obviously we have gotten older in the last 7 years and our responsibilities have grown at work and so we understand the value of time off and its importance to our overall mental health.  Recharging on the weekend instead of rushing from event to event is valued in our home.  Not only do we feel better but our bank accounts have been pretty happy too!

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So there you have it, how I managed to save $4000 in three months!  At the start I told you the title  dosen't tell the whole story, I have been working up to this for months but I promise you self-awareness is key.  You have to be able to sit yourself down and look at where your money goes and make a conscious decision to curb that spending.  It takes sacrifice, it means not having immediate gratification but the reward of working towards being credit card debt free is so worth it!  

What are some tips that have helped you save money?  What are some goals you would like to work towards achieving in the next few months?  A dream vacation? A new car? 

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Until next time..💋


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