Last night I had the opportunity to attend one of Society of Grown-Ups‘ pop-up classes in Cambridge. I’ve been to previous classes and they’re awesome — it’s an approachable way to learn and talk about some of the not-so-fun grown-up topics (like personal finances, fun!). The class I took last night was all about spending plans and better ways to budget to meet your needs and goals. I loved that the class was super interactive — since many of the attendees were other bloggers, we had a lot in common when it came to budgeting for our businesses, the perils of wanting to buy all of the things we see on Pinterest, and how living in an expensive city like Boston can impact our spending plans! I feverishly took notes on all of the advice that the instructor shared, as well as some of the great tips from the fellow attendees who shared what works for them (like apps they’ve used to track spending and ideas for saving in just about every way imaginable!). I thought it would be helpful to share a few of the tips that really resonated with me, in the hopes that they just might be helpful for you too: Be Mindful. Our instructor in the class described this as the “Target Dollar Bin Trap” — she was clearly speaking my language. She gave an example about how often buying little items feel like a fix to a craving, and those little items really start to add up. I’m so guilty of this when I’m walking into a store, and buying something totally unnecessary feels good in the moment – a bit of a rush – but afterwards I often regret how those purchases have added up. The advice some other attendees in the group gave was to walk away for a few minutes, or even put the item on hold and see if you still really want it at the end of your shopping trip or a few hours later.
Remove Triggers. This tip totally resonated with me too — we talked about the temptation of all of the sale-emails we get flooding our inboxes everyday, and how it easy it is to feel like you’re “saving” money when you find something on sale or with a discount code. But would you have bought the item in the first place if it hadn’t popped up in your inbox? I recently made it my personal mission to declutter my inbox and instead of deleting sales and marketing emails when they pop into my inbox, I’ve been taking the 5 extra seconds to open them up and hit unsubscribe. It’s been so helpful in cutting down on the overwhelming inbox clutter and has definitely helped me reduce a lot of impulse purchases.
Share Your Goals. This tip is true of not just budgeting and saving, but also of really any goal I’ve ever had. I always feel so much more accountable to my goals when I share them with someone, whether it’s my sister or my husband, a friend tackling a similar goal (the only way I’ve ever successfully dieted!), or here on the blog. In fact sharing things here on the blog always keeps me the MOST accountable! My husband and I set up a Mint account recently to help set some budgets for our spending and I’ve put some personal savings goals into the account. I like that he can see my goals in there, and I love checking to see how close that little green progress bar is getting to hitting my goal! Another tip our instructor shared was to name the savings accounts or goals so that you identify with where the money is going. It’s a lot easier to pull money out of an account when it’s called Savings XYZ versus “Maternity Leave Fund” because it feels like you’re taking the savings away from that very specific goal – such a smart tip!
Embrace Free! One of the more *fun* tips that the group shared was ideas for taking advantage of free things. Other attendees shouted out ideas about visiting local festivals in Boston, free museum nights, and lots of outdoor activities that don’t cost a dollar. I added in one freebie idea that we’ve just taken advantage of recently too. I’ve always spent a lot of money on books, usually impulse buys from Amazon as soon as someone tells me “oh you’ve got to read this” and I hit buy in a matter seconds. We recently went to our local library and got library cards to take out books and movies (my husband loves that he can download free books on his kindle!). It was such a simple little change but actually feels like it will save us a good chunk of change in the long-run.
Factor in Small Indulgences. This was probably one of the tips that made the whole thing feel like a very realistic approach to creating a spending plan that works: you have to have a buffer for some indulgences. It’s sort of like when you go on a diet that’s so restrictive, you set yourself up for failure from the beginning. The key our instructor gave us was to just be playful about it — if coffee is your indulgence, buy a $25 gift card at the beginning of each month to act as your coffee budget and then you know you can have your coffee-treat, but it’s going to come out of that specific allowance. I’ve been trying to do that recently with the cash in my wallet. I’ll take out a small amount of cash and use that for my buffer purchases, which helps me control impulse purchases and be more mindful about the indulgences that are worth it!
Note: This post is sponsored by Society of Grownups, a Brookline-based company offering classes, events, and financial advice to help navigate being a grownup and encourage conversations about money, happiness, adventure, and personal values. All opinions, images, and content are my own. If you’re interested in learning more, check out their classes here.