Don’t Have Enough Money to do that…Think AGAIN.
Last year, 2016, was a good year. I traveled to Gatlinburg, Washington D.C., Florida, Sweden, Denmark, Canary Islands, and Cape Verde (Africa). Not only did I travel everywhere and often, but I managed to stay away from credit card debt, and save five figures. How is this possible on a modest income? Former Vice President Joe Biden once said, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” Budgeting has been the key to my success, and I’d love to share a few tips with you.
First and foremost, you have to cut the fat. Do I really need to spend $150 going out with the boys? Probably not. So let’s not party like 2Chainz tonight. Budgeting is all about managing your priorities. Do I want to buy $400 of clothes online this month, or spend that on a trip to Gatlinburg hiking in the mountains? So the next time your friend/significant other/family says “wanna go to …?” you can say yes rather than “I can’t afford it.” So figure out your goals for 2017. I am not the type of guy to write my goals out and budget them on a spreadsheet (nothing wrong with that), but once you have your list, start making conscience decisions in your budget.
Secondly, now that you know what’s important it’s time to figure out how to get there. Start looking at your budget not on a year to year basis, not on a month to month basis, not on a paycheck to paycheck basis, but on a day to day basis. Every decision you make counts. Keep it simple; should I bring my lunch today, or be lazy and finance America’s obesity by eating out at the local burger chain? Well let’s do the math: $100 at the grocery store will generally last a wise shopper like myself about 2 weeks. That averages to about $2.38/meal ($100 / (3 meals x 14 days)). Now let’s take the average cost of a fast food meal of $7 (and the math gets pretty straight forward from there; in two weeks you will spend $294 compared to my $100. All in all the little decisions we make add up quick.
When looking at the big picture budget we need to be real about our finances. Can I afford a $500-$700 car payment? Yes I can absolutely afford to make that payment each month, but that doesn’t mean I have to. I chose to drive a 2014 Jeep with a $275 monthly payment, and it has more than enough amenities for me. Just because you can “afford” doesn’t mean you have to push your budget to keep up with the Jones’. The same concept applies for mortgages. The point is my goal was to CHOOSE to live well within my means so that I can afford to live my life to the fullest.
The average cost to vacation to Disney World is about $1,250 per person for a five day trip. The average cost per person each day is $250. I did it for about $170 per person each day. When it comes to traveling there are a lot of areas you can save. It may seem simple, but most people don’t take advantage of taking the time for looking for deals when it comes to hotels, travel, etc. Search well out in advance, for example (depending on your situation) you should buy your plane tickets between 54 days from your day of departure (fortune.com). So do your research and find the best bang for your buck.
All in all, I wanted to live my life to the fullest in 2016 while avoiding any credit card debt, and still save 5 figures, and I did it. Now was I a budget freak? No. I just made conscience decisions to trim the fat out of my budget and spend that money else where. Find out your goals, and choose to make them happen. You’ll be surprised how far you can stretch a dollar if you try.