I have never been much of a saver. When we were young, my two siblings and I would occasionally collect an allowance for doing chores and helping out around the house. It was a method for my parents to get small amounts of money in our hands at a young age in hopes of establishing healthy spending and saving habits. The method was good, but I was a slow learner.
I almost always had my eye on a toy or set of Legos (I was big into Legos and Beanie Babies when I was really young). If I got $10, it was usually enough to get me one Beanie Baby and maybe a small Lego set, like a racecar. I rarely gave a second thought to saving any of the money I had. Easy come easy go.
That trend continued into my middle school and high school years when I worked various jobs. There was always something to buy: a tank of gas, a new part for my car, going to dinner with some buddies or a girlfriend at the time. I’d get a paycheck, and spend it all before getting the next one. I have never been a good saver.
Back in the spring of 2017, I was recently engaged and getting ready for my new life to begin in July when I would marry my best friend. It was exciting, but also scary. I was under-prepared to be a strong leader financially, I didn’t know what I was doing. I had a bunch of credit card debt and a large car payment, and I was spending the rest of what I made on eating out and other frivolous activities.
As I’ve shared before, getting married was the financial wake-up call that I needed. We got things turned around, have paid off all of our credit card debt, all of my student loan debt, and we’ve been working feverishly to defeat Jos’ student loan debt. In my last post, I shared that we are now working toward a down payment for our first house. This is a shift in our usual strategy of budgeting, then dumping any left over money onto debt repayment. Now instead, we are making standard payments on the loans, and then saving every penny beyond that toward that first down payment of ours.
In very little time, we’ve already got over $3,000 saved. It is by FAR the most money I’ve ever had saved in my life (excluding retirement plans, as I don’t count these as traditional savings). It is crazy to think how long it took for me to save just a few thousand dollars. 28, going on 29, and I was finally able to do it.
What are the biggest takeaways from this small victory? Well, there is obvious pride in reaching a goal. There is also a new sense of security, knowing that if something bigger happened, we have cash in the bank and wouldn’t need to turn to a credit card to make ends meet for a larger bill or purchase. For me, it is a glimpse into what is possible. It’s really the first time that I haven’t been in a paycheck to paycheck situation in my entire life. If we both lost our jobs tomorrow, we would be okay for at least a month or two. Before that? The cash reserves would have quickly dried up and I would have been forced to pull out the cursed credit card.
For those of you that are natural savers, good on you! You’ve mastered a great life skill that I’ve only recently experienced for myself. If you are like me and have never found saving to be worth it, or if you haven’t found the motivation to save, give it a shot! If you’ve never saved $100, do that. Seriously! Save a Benjamin. Once you’ve done that, try saving $500. Then $1,000.
As the savings grow, I am for the first time envisioning a host of benefits. Less stress at work, since you aren’t 100% dependent on every dollar that you are expecting in your next check. Savings will allow us to breathe easier when a larger unexpected expense comes up. It will enable to us to step from one financial life stage into the next one eventually (homeownership!). There is a lot to look forward to.