How to Start Developing the Habit of Saving

Welp. Missed that bus.

As of writing this I am 39.

Out of the age of youthfulness, I’d say.

Then again, my elders still call me a young man. It’s all relative.

I truly screwed the pooch with money earlier in life, establishing an asinine financial paradigm for myself.

Basically I bought what I wanted, when I wanted it, until my money was gone…

Then went into debt to buy more with no coherent plan to get myself even again.

Even worse, my desires were for relatively worthless material things, forgettable experiences, and self-destructive consumption.

I cannot technically go back and trade that wastefulness for smarts.

It blows my mind that I once lived that way, somehow justified it to myself, accepted that as my norm.

Against all reason, I presumed that THAT lifestyle was a seaworthy vessel capable of voyaging onward to the actualization of my dreams.

Ha!

When you can look back on your past in utter befuddlement of your former absurdities to the point of no longer relating to your old ways of thinking and being anymore…

Well, it probably means your journey to expanded competency is well underway.

While my heart wonders what it would be like to have a do-over, learning the value of money, saving, and strong work ethic at a younger age, I take solace in the hope that when I am 60, I will not have to reflect back with the same concerns about the preceding twenty years.

The habit of saving

I’ve made a non-negotiable arrangement with myself to save, at minimum, 10% of all income.

That goes for payments for services rendered, gifts, or money I found on the ground (when you walk frequently in urban areas, this happens more than you might think).

Every single time any bit money flows into my life, 10% is saved, and often much more than that.

So cloudy my perception of healthy finances used to be, that I once had a tough go of understanding what the purpose of saving money even is.

Building savings has multiple benefits. Surely more benefits than I know of.

But here are the benefits of a habit of saving that I’ve worked out so far:

1. Saved money can be used on opportunities to generate even more money

If you’re coming from places similar to where I’ve been in life, that may seem abstract.

My whole life, I heard people going on about putting their money to work for themselves, their families, their futures.

But I had a hard time figuring out what that looked like in action, because I didn’t develop the mental schemas for finances.

I am still working on understanding and practicing investing.

Investing means much more than just the stock market.

When you use your money to grow your life or wealth in any way, that is investment.

When you use your money to get more money, that’s a path toward financial self-sufficiency.

Opportunities you may have ignored before will reveal themselves and become accessible, when you have money saved up.

When you have money saved, you’ll want to be vigilant in ascertaining the credibility and potential returns of those opportunities.

If you have yet to establish a track record of successfully navigating such opportunities, it will behoove you to do due diligence in research and seeking counsel.

But don’t just randomly ask your friends for advice, unless those friends are in positions worth emulating.

Pursue those with characteristics and outcomes that you strive to possess yourself.

If you ask someone who is broke for advice on building wealth, where do you expect that to lead?

The irony here, is that I am not monetarily wealthy yet (by most definitions).

But as with age, that’s relative.

If you are developed financially to the point where saving comes naturally already, and these words here seem useless to you, then you’re the one who should be giving me advice.

This post is for people who don’t know how to save a dime.

Or who can save a little, but then fritter it away impulsively.

I am not, as of writing these words, financially self-sufficient.

But I am building a paradigm for financial self-sufficiency. Laying the foundation. And seeing results and feeling hope I’ve never seen or felt before.

So if you could go for a shot of hope after a lifetime of learned despair with finances, you’re the exact one these words are for.

Educate yourself at every opportunity.

But be patient with your process if your brain melts on you after taking in too much too soon.

Rest. Absorb. Go back to what you know until you’re ready to keep pressing on to exciting new horizons.

2. Emergencies

Shit happens. When it does, and money is required quickly, the unprepared go into debt or burden others with desperate plights for charity.

The self-sufficient take care of it.

Which route do you figure feels the best for you, and the people in your life?

We all need to ask for help sometimes.

But there is always an emotional toll to that, sometimes forever unspoken.

And there’s an emotional high in being self-sufficient of one’s own resources.

Especially for those who are reforming after a life of over-depending on other people’s resources.

3. IT FEELS GOOD

Watch the number go up. Sometimes slowly. Sometimes quickly. Ever consistently.

Better than Facebook notifications. Worth more too.

If you do not have a savings account and cannot (or will not) get one through a conventional financial institution, you still have options.

You could start a business account on PayPal.

They’ll send you a card that works just like a debit card. So you can use PayPal as a checking account, in a way.

If you don’t think you have a business, maybe it’s time to get creative. If there is any value you provide other people (and there is), then your life is a business. You’re an entrepreneur and you didn’t even know it.

If all you can do right now to save 10% is put money in a sock, start there.

If you need to build better credit history to be eligible for accounts with financial institutions, consider a secured credit card with Open Sky.

You give them a refundable $200 deposit, which becomes your credit limit. So you’re basically borrowing money from yourself.

The advantage of that is that they report to the three major credit bureaus.

My Open Sky account raised my credit score by nearly 100 points in about four months.

Please only do this if you’re prepared for the responsibility of only using a credit card strategically and wisely.

Which means, only use the card when you already have the money to pay the bill. No exceptions.

Don’t get yourself deeper into the poop when your goal is to get out of the poop.

But I swear. If you commit to saving 10% of all income.

And you watch your numbers go up.

You’ll smile. If not on your face, then in your heart.

4. Prove yourself wrong

If being a trainwreck with money is a part of your identity, this is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf (and life) with finances.

It feels amazing to be wrong sometimes.

Re-wiring ourselves to transcend past stupidity can be exhausting.

Be gentle but assertive with yourself.

Be reasonable and meet yourself where you’re at, but cut the excuses for staying stuck.

Anyone can save 10% of their money.

No one that does this, regrets it.

Plenty of people that don’t do this, regret it.

What do you have to lose, other than the stench of poverty?

Originally published at https://andrewlhicks.com on August 25, 2020.

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