Knight Kiplinger once wrote that ‘the biggest barrier to becoming rich is living like you’re rich before you are.’ If anything, that’s even more true in 2014 than it was when he first wrote it back in 2006; with the recent recession still looming in the minds of the general public, it’s a very common perception that because interest rates are so weak it’s virtually pointless to save money.
And if you’re not saving money, there’s not much else you can do with it besides spend it. The issue has been compounded by the fact that it’s virtually impossible to turn on a TV, check your Twitter account or open Instagram without coming across a friend who’s eating out at the coolest new restaurant in town, or some celebrity stepping off their private jet for a holiday in Maui – plenty of people out there feel that they not only have to keep up with their neighbours, but the Kardashians too.
With all of that said, there are some simple things (not particularly glamorous or fun, mind you!) that you can do every month to drastically cut down on your outgoings and increase your likelihood of one day being rich.
First lesson? Don’t be afraid of brown bags. As well as asking for doggy bags (you paid $30 for that meal and you’re going to let the restaurant throw half of it out when you could be eating the rest of it tomorrow?) if you’re eating out, sack lunches are your best friend. The Huffington Post recently worked out that it’s easily possible to save over $1,500 a year by bringing your lunch to work with you. Grab a Thermos for coffee and you’re potentially looking at another $120 of savings each month.
Two pastimes that you might not expect from an A-lister like Hilary Swank, but that can definitely help you on your quest to save money, are clipping coupons (something that The Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence is also a fan of!) and buying in bulk. It goes without saying that buying non-perishables in bulk is a great way to cut down on costs – plenty of warehouses that stock discount goods, like Costco for example, are open to members of the public as well as business owners. And if you can’t buy it in bulk, you can probably find a coupon for it!
Do you really need that new car you’ve been eyeing up? As soon as you drive a car off the lot, its value takes a huge hit, and there’s no way to get that money back. If your car is still running fine, hold onto it! When you do start to feel the sting of replacing parts, having it serviced etc, think about buying a ‘nearly new’ car – cars that are only a year or two old may still be under warranty and sometimes even still have that new car smell! More importantly though, someone has already absorbed the cost of buying it new – that means you’re more likely to get a good deal.
Buying second hand doesn’t have to end with cars – eBay and Craigslist are great places to pick up everything from clothes to appliances that are pre-loved! If you can’t check out the goods in person, make sure you see plenty of pictures; you don’t want to get lumped with something that’s damaged or broken.
eBay has policies in place to help you get partial or full refunds if the pictures you’ve been supplied with aren’t an accurate representation of what you’ve bought or if you suspect that it’s counterfeit. One useful, if a little cynical, tip is to try searching for terms like ‘moving’ or ‘divorce’ – you’ll likely find people who are looking to make a quick sale and grab yourself some bargains!
Regardless of what people may tell you, it’s never a bad idea to save money – tons of people are able to retire early by saving 10-30% of their monthly income; even if interest rates are low, 2-3% on that figure is better than 2-3% of nothing! If you’re not planning to retire early, you could use the money to fund lavish vacations (though I probably shouldn’t be encouraging that in a post like this!), start your own business or invest in property.
It might surprise you to find out that Jay Leno is huge advocate of saving money – in 2004, it was reported that he spent only money he made from stand-up comedy and had yet to touch a dime of his salary from The Tonight Show.
Investing in property is a great way to diversify your assets, but it’s not as surefire as some people think; people often choose to invest in areas that are touted as ‘up and coming’, but never quite fulfil their potential. The value of those properties sometimes reaches a plateau or, even worse, starts to drop.
Take a leaf out of Warren Buffett’s book – he purchased a modest property in Omaha for $31,500, way back in 1958, that’s now worth almost $400,000. If you can find an area in which property values have been improving for some time, buy something and hang onto it – it’s likely that such growth will continue for a long time to come.
Saving for the future isn’t always fun, but hopefully you can see that there are ways to prepare for it while still enjoying the present! Who knows, when you’re a millionaire you might just look back fondly on that time spent clipping coupons and surfing eBay.