We all have our guilty little spending pleasures. What is yours? Do you spend on a hobby of fishing or model trains or are you a collector of beer cans or stamps? A passion for anything can easily get in the way of your objective to eliminate debt or save more money. Quitting your passion cold turkey is impossible for most. If we can’t find a way to control our spending habits the draw to spend will always be tugging at us.
A few days ago I wrote a post which I included the chart on the right. When I shared the chart with my wife, she lit up with pride for her progress reigning in spending during these challenging times. She is proud and has every right to be for her efforts.
Last night the subject of some specific expenses rose and quickly turned into a debate about when is enough expense cutting enough? My wife was questioning if I believe that we will always have more to cut from our expenses. (I’ll answer this in another post.)
This had me thinking about ways to maintain motivation in the face of what appears to be the impossible.
For some there is excitement in budgeting. We enjoy numbers and slicing and dicing them in an effort to glean some undiscovered opportunity. My perception though is that few are interested or even willing to make any significant effort to establish and maintain a budget.
Another way to control your spending habits is to make a game out of saving. I take this idea from the world of business and incentives. If you have ever worked a job on commission or in a retail environment you’ve likely been exposed to some type of incentive.
For those that have not; have you ever had the clerk at McDonalds ask you if you want an apple pie, or the sales person at an electronics store suggest an extended warranty? These employees may have been offered an incentive to sell more of a particular product or service. As managers we turn these incentives into games, challenging an employee to improve their sales over previous performance.
Why not use the same concept, a savings game, to motivate yourself to save more? This would be a great game to start January 1st and use it as a New Year’s resolution for 2010!
Begin January 1st by adding all your checking and savings accounts together to determine your beginning balance. On January 31st add your total income for the month to your beginning balance. Lastly subtract from this number your month end savings and checking account balances. Your final figure is how much of your total income you spent in January.
OK, it’s not sounding like a game yet. Here is where it gets fun, do the same thing in February. At the end of February compare what you spent to your total expenses of January. If it was less, you win!
But where is the reward you ask? The reward is in the difference between February and January. You now have extra free cash flow to do with what you please.
My wife has found pleasure in redirecting the extra savings to pay down our mortgage, but you may want to spend it on your guilty spending pleasure.
At the very least I would advocate using a portion to apply toward debt or retirement savings but you deserve to use at least some of the savings to splurge!
I’m curious to know, what keeps you motivated to keep saving? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.