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Money: What Steps I Have Taken to Save It

Sunday, November 16th, 2008



It is not about how much you earn, it is about how much you save. You cannot build wealth without saving money. Saving money is achieved by spending less money than you earn. Saving money is like trying to fill a bath tub with water, you will first have to patch up the leaks. Here are some of the steps I have taken to patching up the leaks.

1. Gained More Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is the ability to put off gratification now to gain gratification later. Self-discipline is what separates us from the animals. I mean, think about it, humans are the only species on this planet that is able to deny themselves what makes them happy at this very moment for greater happiness down the road. To maintain self-discipline think about the reason for “why” you are saving money. Is it to buy a house, put your kids through college or another reason? Sit down for a few minutes to come up with an answer to the question of “why.” Setting a goal is one thing, but I have always found the answer to “why” you want to accomplish that goal to be infinitely more powerful. While I have always had some self-discipline, it increased ten fold once I answered for myself the question of why. The answer to “why” should be strong enough that you can cling to it to keep you motivated. Even if you fail to maintain self-discipline keep trying and keep training your self-discipline. Like a muscle, the more you train your self-discipline the stronger it becomes.

2. Clear debt first
I would always recommend clearing out your debt first. Start with your highest interest rate accounts and work your way down. Devote all of your earnings to getting rid of your debt. Doing this helps you avoid compounding interest.

3. Taxes
For most people, their single largest expense is taxes. An American making around 100k a year pays 50% of it to the government in taxes. Anything you can do to minimize this expense means more money in your pocket. Of course I only advocate legal means to do this. The great thing is that in America we have so many government programs created to help us in this regard. Make sure to take advantage of as many available tax-deferring vehicles that fit your situation as possible.

Some of these include, but are not exclusive to Roth IRA, 401k, Traditional Roth, Medical flex-spending savings accounts and education savings accounts.

Also be sure you are taking advantage of any tax deferment available to you via your job or business. One advantage that being a video game developer is that it allows me to write off many of my entertainment expenses. These include computers, movies, game consoles, games and books. This can add up quickly so be sure to take advantage of this if you are able.

As always, before taking action please meet with a qualified tax consultant for the best way to take advantage of these or any other tax-deferring vehicles.

4. I quit drinking
Going out and drinking can add up quickly. I just cut it out completely. I even went so far as to cut out all caffeine and minimized my soda intake. This means that I not only save money by not going to bars and Starbucks, but I also save money anytime I eat out by only drinking water.

5. I work out at home instead of at a gym
This again comes back to self-discipline. The advantages of working out at home are that I can dress however I feel like and work out at any time.

6. Concentrate on what you need to live
Get away from the “keeping up with Jones’ mentality.” If you think about it, it is amazing how little you need to live. The cost of a quality life in the United States is low if you concentrate on only what you need. You do not need the fancy car or clothes to get by. Cut those extraneous expenses out and concentrate on getting a dependable car and home in a neighborhood with good schools to raise your children. Take Warren Buffet, one of the riches men in the world, who still drives himself around in a six year old Lincoln Town car and lives in a 5 bedroom stucco house he bought in 1958 for $31,000 as your role model instead of Michael Vick whose yachts and mansions are now repossessed as soon as the first difficulty arose. Again it is about how much you keep, not how much you make.

7. Got rid of my car
This may not be possible for most people. Living in Chicago, I have the advantage of being able to take the very convenient mass transit system exclusively to get anywhere I need to. While I do currently pay $75 for unlimited monthly uses of mass transit, owning a car is vastly more expensive. By not having to pay for car insurance, maintenance, registration, parking and fuel I am saving a hefty amount. If you can find a way to eliminate one of your cars, and are able to bike, walk or take mass transit to work, it can add up to huge annual savings.

8. Use credit cards
If you use your self-discipline to pay off your credit cards every month, then use your credit cards. I use credit cards for nearly every purchase I make. Doing this gives me a very accurate record at the end of each month of all my purchases and helps me keep track of my expenses. Credit cards also usually come with some great rewards. When you use credit cards, you will be building up your credit, while at the same time enjoy rewards like cash back, airline miles, etc… So use your credit cards and enjoy the rewards, but only if you pay them off every month.

9. Use the internet for savings
I frequent the message forums as well as the main pages of these websites to find deals: Slickdeals.net, cheapassgamer.com, dealmein.net

Just because it is a deal does not mean you should purchase something. Use these online deal sites to help you find bargains on what you need and not to fuel your impulse buys.

10. Know where to scrimp and know where not to
Do not take this saving mentality to extremes. You need to decide where you can save and where not to. Personally, I save where I can, but I will also spend on my education. My education is the most important thing to me and while I use smart ways to save in this regard also, I am more willing to splurge if I can become educated in the process.

I also hire help when I need it, especially in important positions like your CPA or lawyer. I do not know who first said this, but I have found it to be very true: “the most expensive advice is free advice.” A CPA that you have to pay a little more for who is willing to go the extra mile and take the time to explain tax codes to you and how to best maximize them can end up saving you a lot more money than a discount CPA who will treat you like a number.

For those of you interested, here are a few other related articles by me:
Bet On the US, I Am
8 Ways to Make Your Goal a Certainty
Why and How I Broke My Addiction to Caffeine

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