1) Use Cash
Guess what? Your debit card is the devil. Plain and simple. We all spend so much time slaving for dollars and yet we can’t stand the look of them. By using your debit card, you forfeit any tangible relationship with your money. The funny thing about actually holding cash is, you have a tendency to not want to spend it. As a result, you will notice that those trivial expenses (double doubles, lottery tickets, burgers) tend to disappear. Also, it’s almost impossible to “make it rain” with your TD Bank student debit card. (See example at left.)
2) Set Up An Emergency Fund
Put away a little money for emergencies. And no, an all inclusive vacation to Cancun is not an emergency, no matter how “last minute” it is. How much should you put away? Well, it all depends on your expenses. Financial expert Dave Ramsey recommends that you set aside enough money to live off of for three months. Sound unreasonable? It is for a lot of people, so at the very least set aside $500. Take it from me, an emergency fund is essential when your car breaks down and your paycheck is 12 days away. Emergency funds also ensure that you don’t take on more debt in the event of a crisis.
3) Buy in Bulk
Razor blades, socks, and deodorant are all things that you can benefit from buying in bulk. The initial cost of 47 sticks of Old Spice, or the 22 pound jar of peanut butter may seem more trouble than it’s worth, but you can generally save up to 20% on the things that you use every day. Costco, as well as a number of other online retailers, are available.
4) Track your spending
Whoever it was that first said “ignorance is bliss” was more than likely broke. As depressing as it sounds, tracking your spending is the only way to get a real grasp of your spending habits. This doesn’t mean that the fun has to stop. It’s important to know where your money actually goes every month! The people at www.mint.com will even do it for you! But prepare to be shocked by the monthly cost of those daily double-doubles.
5) Scrap the Credit Cards
Adam and Eve might as well have plucked a Mastercard from that fateful tree. Credit cards are convenient, accessible, and used way too often. I’ve spent enough time getting hammered by nearly 20% interest charges to have learned my lesson once and for all. Credit cards are good for two things: 1) enslaving mankind and 2) setting on fire. The second one can be the source of much enjoyment.
Looking to learn more about personal finance? Check these out:
“The Wealthy Barber Returns” by David Chilton (He’s from Waterloo, and is joining the Dragon’s Den next season!)
“The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley, and William D. Danko (Unleashing the secret to the Millionaire’s mind.)
Mint.com (An invaluable resource to anyone who has ever looked upwards at the daunting task of the annual budget.)