I started off the new year with the goal of saving $1,000 a month to invest for retirement. I won't lie: At first I felt the pinch. February was a little easier and, lo and behold, I found myself with extra money at the end of the month. Once March had passed, I realized I had saved even more cash, going $300 over my goal for that month. In April, I feel I'm poised to save even more than that.
So, what happened? Why is something I once found so challenging getting so much easier?
To begin, I should disclose that it's not all my doing. I'm dating a fellow who is quite generous and insists on feeding me tasty restaurant food at various intervals in the week. In a bit of cosmic irony, he refuses to allow me to pay one cent towards these costs, and I am actually starting to feel a teensy bit guilty. Moral: Be careful what you wish for. The upshot is that I still buy groceries but I am eating at home less often. Instead of $75 a week I am probably spending closer to $50. That still only accounts for about a third of my "bonus" savings, so where is the other money coming from?
I have a pretty simple theory: Just as spending begets spending, saving does the same. For instance, I stopped spending money on magazines and cable TV, which were always giving me ideas of things to buy - things I don't really need at all. I also think "saving" becomes a habit, just like anything else you do seriously for awhile. It is starting to feel comfy and warm and reassuring...like a beer you crack on your patio after a long week at work, except the beer is, uh, cold. (Yeah, you know where I'll be after 5pm. And yeah, I'll have one for you. Happy weekend.)
Initially, to get my spending under control, I was writing down everything I bought; now I've stopped obsessing over every cent. I don't dither over smaller purchases and I don't feel I'm stingy with myself or my friends. It's like I've cut out the unnecessary items to clear more way for...life.
Hey, minimalism can be a beautiful thing.