Monday, January 16, 2012

Mid-Month Money Manifesto - Month 1

Greetings and Happy Monday from Chicago!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend - mine was fabulous and it's not really over with as I have today off since it's a holiday here in the states.  I'm waiting until I am home to do a recap post, so that will come with time (after my surgery most likely!).

Today I am kicking off a monthly feature:  Mid-Month Money Manifesto.  As I said in my 2012 goals post, one of my goals for 2012 is to save more.  For me, in order to achieve a goal, I need to hold myself accountable and revisit that goal on a regular basis.  So this monthly blog post is my opportunity to do that.

The definition of manifesto is:  a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.  Pretty much the perfect word to use in my alliterative post theme title (here I go again with the alliterations).  It seems like many of us have financial goals, so hopefully these posts will be helpful to you and we can all learn from each other!

When you are trying to make changes in your life, I think it's good to start off by focusing on what is currently working well for you.  Here are some of the changes I've made in the past that will help me achieve my financial goals:

1.  401k.  10% of my paycheck goes into my 401k at work.  It's a pre-tax contribution, and it's a contribution that I don't really 'feel' because I've always contributed to a 401k since I started with my employer - I just try to bump up my contribution by 1% each year.

2.  Pay yourself first.  If you read any books about financial management, the authors often stress the importance of paying yourself first.  My 401k contribution is one way of paying myself first, but I also have an automatic deposit set up so that $100 of every paycheck goes into my ING savings account.  I am a BIG fan of ING.  Their interest rates tend to be higher than brick-and-mortar banks, and it takes about 3-4 business days to transfer funds out of the savings account - which keeps you from making impulse purchases.  The $100/paycheck is a bare minimum that gets saved each month.  I keep an eye on my checking account balance and when it gets to a certain point, I transfer funds to the ING account. But lately, I have not been transferring funds over, which means I am spending more than I should, hence the saving goal.

3.  Latte Friday.  For awhile there, I was drinking a large latte almost every weekday!  That is like $5/day, which equals about $1300/year.  Yikes!  Those little, daily expenses add up so fast, so 2 years ago, I enacted Latte Friday.  Now I make coffee at home and bring it to work in a thermos and treat myself to a latte on Fridays.  I definitely appreciate that latte a whole lot more than I did when I was having them every day. 

4.   Packed Lunches.  Since I work downtown and am surrounded by restaurants and take-away places, it's so tempting to eat out.  But a lunch out averages around $7 at most places, and that adds up fast.  So this fall I have really tried to only eat out once a week.  I struggle with this from time to time because it requires planning and preparation on the weekend, and many of my co-workers eat out every. single. day.  

So that is what is currently working for me.  I know I have lots of areas of opportunity for tightening the belt on spending, but at least I've got a somewhat solid foundation to build upon.

What are some changes you've made to improve your financial situation? 


Charbelle said...

It's hard to save, especially when you have so many great places around you all the time!!!
I like the healthy choice steamer bowls for lunch, then I add fresh fruit or something else and I feel full.

Leigh said...

I posted last week about it, but we are doing a no eating out for the month of February to see if we can save money. I am interested to see if we can actually do it!

Stephany said...

I think I've gotten better about my finances lately, but I am SO BAD at saving money! I made a goal to save 5% of every paycheck but I think having it automatically deposited would be better than me doing it on my end. Because... then I make up a zillion excuses on why I can't. Heh.

One month this year, I want to do a no-spend month where I don't spend any extra money on anything other than bills & groceries & gas. I think it would be a "fun" little experiment!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Like you, I have a certain percent of my paycheck (I think 8%, though I might take your lead and increase to 9% after my pay raise next month) automatically deposited into my 401K. You're so right - it's way better when you never see it in the first place.

I stopped eating lunch out years ago (working at home 3days/week helps on that front) and Sweets and I are trying to be better about getting delivery dinners.

I'd like to deposit $$ each month into savings, but I need to pay down debt first. So ... I just paid off one credit card over the weekend (yay!). One more to go.

Becky said...

I love this new series - thanks for being so open about this - money can be such a taboo subject and I appreciate it when I see someone taking the stigma out of that.

P.S. I dare you to say "Mid-Month Money Manifesto" five times fast.

Amber said...

Becky's comment made me LOL!

This is a great new post series. I am also trying to be better with money this year. I relied on my credit card for too many things - especially towards the end of last year - and I don't want to get in the habit of that. Which is why my credit card is currently in a drawer and I'm working on living off cash for a few months! I think paying yourself first is key. Literally the minute I deposit my paycheque I log onto online banking and move money into my various savings account. I do this before there is even enough time to be tempted to spend it and that helps a lot. The thing is I tend to spend my savings a lot quicker than I can build it up (which is what happened in 2011 with all the trips I took) so I need to work on building it back up again for awhile!

Abby said...

That is unreal how much a simple latte adds up!!! Wow!

I'm sure this goal is fun for you, since you get a high off of balancing numbers. I know Ryan gets a high off of this. He loves playing with color-coded excel spreadsheet

My money saver so far this year is that I am working like > 60 hours/week right now. So I don't have time to spend money! I rarely grocery shop even. :)

Looking forward to your chicago recap! I bet it's been nice to get away!

Lauren @ Sassy Molassy said...

Looking forward to reading your weekend recap as I know you had fun with the girls. I want to get better about saving monthly as well. And for now I think it will work because there are several things coming up (small trips, items, events, stuff) that need to be paid for. It's easier for me when I know what I'm saving for, for some reason. I like the sound of that ING account.

I try to make my lunch every day and occasionally eat out - maybe once a month. I guess I just say to myself "I'd rather spend that $5-10 on dinner or toward a new shirt" than on lunch. But I think as long as it's a treat, it makes it something you get to work toward.

Raquelita said...

It sounds like you are doing pretty well with the saving, but I applaud you for trying to save more and for using alliteration while you're doing it. As you know, last year I was on a shopping ban -- basically I used the money that I would have spent on clothes to mostly fund a couple of trips and several races that otherwise would have come out of my savings. I try to bring my lunch most days and we usually only go out to eat or have take-out once a week. Right now I don't save as much as I would like to, but I'm fairly frugal. I could definitely be better about somethings - not buying any books or music, but I also want to enjoy some little luxuries. I just hope that someday in the near future my spouse also has a full-time job. Then I feel like I would be able to pay down my student loans more quickly and save more.

Marlys said...

That was a great post! I know that all of us could find ways to cut spending and I applaud you for your goal setting! That frugal Scotch blood runs deep!

Caroline said...

Cooking my own food, especially lunches, is huge for saving money. I've also been meaning to start up an ING savings account, since my sister raves about hers!

Charise said...

I am all about the ING accounts w/ direct deposit - I have multiple accounts so I can see what I've earmarked for emergency savings, house projects, vacation/fun fund, etc. It's so much easier when the money automatically goes there each pay check - no temptation to do something else with it first!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Weird, this one came up in my Reader but when I clicked on it, it said the post was gone. Then I came back today and voila! It's good that you are trying to save a little; it looks like you are on the right track.

When I was 18 and I had just gotten my first "real" job (I had been working in the family business before that) a coworker and friend told me to put AT LEAST as much as the company would match towards your 401k. At the time this was dollar for dollar up to 6%. And if you have enough, put more, he said. I put 10 - 15% and it has helped me a lot! And I never even missed it.

I also abide by the latte theory. Coffee is an easy and cheap way to save money! I also try not to eat out, since that is at least 10 dollars a meal, and usually more!

Are you Scottish?

Mandy said...

Getting finances in order are a goal of mine. I've got a certain percentage going into my 401K and have been paying down debt. Saving is happening a little at a time but not as much as I like.

Nora said...

Sticking to the list! This is a big one for me, but when I go to Target to do my grocery shopping I make sure to stick to the list as closely as possible.

And on top of that, I do one big grocery trip and one small a month; nothing in between. If we don't have it, we don't have it. It's cut down on wasting food, encouraged us to eat what we have and be creative about it and etc. I'm kind of loving it!

Oh, and I send Knight with leftovers or stuff to make sandwiches with at his desk so that he's not tempted to go out to eat every day; once a week is fine but everyday adds up!

Jeanie said...

I bring my lunch, too, and have breakfast at home instead of stopping somewhere bad for me -- and expensive. I always put money in an account at the beginning of the month (I do the retirement plan thing). Although, this is more than savings -- it's also the Paris or home reno fund! But that way, it won't go on credit or loan. I also have what I call Gypsy's health care spending account, and I put in money to that monthly, too, so his vet bills and medical supplies don't hit me like a whammy. Sometimes at the end of the month he has more than I do!

Shoshanah said...

My fiances suck, and I pretty much save no money. Of course I am putting a ton of money towards my student loans, which eventually will pay off. But as for little things, I haven't gone to starbucks in forever, and I think I only had 1 gingerbread latte all season. I also haven't bought a book in several months, or at least that's what it feels like, so there's another plus spending wise.