When most of us think about getting the most out of our money, we think of “saving money,” but that’s not always the case. A better way to think about it is to think about the value of your purchase. In most cases, yes, saving money makes the most sense, but in some cases, spending more is not only alright but actually better.
Financial Literacy and Saving Money
First, let’s go over the basics. You can’t learn to spend your money wisely before you’ve learned the best ways to save money.
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The number one rule of financial literacy, almost no matter who you ask, is getting out of debt and staying out. Interest is a killer when it comes to finances, and any debt besides a mortgage is holding you back.
Paying off debt as soon as possible to save is one of the best ways to save lots of money, potentially saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Life is good at throwing us curveballs. Even the best-laid plans can go awry. Everyone should have an emergency fund that covers 4-6 of the expenses. It’s up to you if you wait to be out of debt or not to start the fund, but if it were up to me, I’d start saving up ASAP.
Needs vs. Wants
Many people confuse needs and want. Not the literal definition of them, but when it comes to assessing their lives, they label many of their wants as needs. The only real needs we have are food, water, shelter, and clothes. After that, it mostly wants.
Prioritize the spending in your life and cut out anything that isn’t necessary, like eating out or buying more clothes, at least until your finances are in order. If you can’t stop spending completely, you should at least cut back on spending for unnecessary purchases.
Set Specific Long Term and Short Term Financial Goals
Now that you have the drive to fix your finances, what exactly do you want to do? Creating specific long-term goals and short term goals will help you achieve better results. Set a specific amount of money as a savings goal, invest or put toward debt each month\year and you’ll be more likely to succeed.
Create a Budget and Track Your Spending
If you are trying to save money, creating a budget is a big help. Putting limits on different spending categories will help you cut your spending when necessary by making you think twice about each purchase. You’ll have to track your spending too. Budgets are no good if you don’t stick to them.
If you have no idea how much money you’ve spent or what you’ve spent it on, a budget isn’t saving you money. Tracking your budgeting can be as simple as putting everything into a spreadsheet or using one of the many apps or online tools available, like Personal Capital or You Need a Budget.
Be Patient and Save Up for Bigger Purchases
It can be tough to wait to make a big purchase as those tend to be the more exciting ones. Keep your finances in order by being patient and saving up money to cover the entire purchase.
By doing this, you can avoid new loans and debts. Saving up to buy a big-ticket item may give you enough time to think about if you want it as well.
Use Cash When You Can Get a Discount
Speaking of big purchases. Many times with certain services, using cash will get you a discount. Usually, this is the sales tax, so not an earth-shattering amount, but every bit helps.
Use Your Credit Cards Wisely
Not all services or goods will come with a cash discount. Using your credit card is an excellent way to get a discount in the form of cash-back rewards or points.
Make sure to keep an eye on this, as credit cards have high-interest rates, so you don’t want to carry debt from month to month. Make sure you can always pay it off in full.
Discuss Finances With Your Significant Other
As with any major facet of your life, if you have a significant other, you should discuss all financial matters with them. You don’t have to be on precisely the same page, but you should at least be reading the same book. Discuss any purchases and never buy on impulse.
Smart Spending: When Spending More Money Is Better
Now that we’ve covered smart saving, it’s time to talk about smart spending. Believe it or not, there are many times when you should try to get the lowest possible price tag as it could lead to an overall higher price in the end.
Remember, it’s all about the value of what you are spending your money on. Below are a few examples:
Home renovations are typically big and expensive endeavors. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do any project for as little as possible. When doing any big project, it’s best to get a few quotes. More than likely, the price that falls in the middle is the best.
You typically get what you pay for. When going with the lowest price, you’ll generally end up with shotty work you’re not happy with and potentially have to pay someone to redo.
Sale Items That You Already Buy
You might be thinking that buying on sale isn’t paying more, it’s paying less. You’d be correct, but where paying more comes into play is not buying just one of the items on sale.
If it’s something you typically buy anyway and it doesn’t expire, stock up at the lower price. It will cost you more now, but in the long run, you’ll be saving money.
Pay for High Quality
Like the home renovations, if you are looking to make a purchase and find an item and a much lower price, it’s probably poor quality. It will likely break and need to be replaced much quicker than the more expensive version of the same item. It’s better to buy once at a higher price than two or three times at a lower one.
While we’re at it, paying a few bucks to maintain your stuff is worth the investment for the same reason. With proper maintenance, you can extend the life of your purchase by years at a time, saving you in the long term.
One of the most important things you can invest in is yourself. If you’re not healthy, you’ll be missing out on being the best version of yourself which could cost you a lot of money if you’re not careful. Take the time to exercise, and if you need to, see a doctor.
Taking care of a minor health issue can be far cheaper and less intrusive than a major one, saving you time and money. Many of us will avoid doctors so we don’t have a medical bill to pay. This is how minor issues turn into big ones. Don’t cheap out on your health.
Sticking with health them and eating healthy is a big part of being healthy. More nutritious food can be a little more expensive, but a healthier one is worth it. You could lose weight, have more energy, and be ready to take on the world.
All of the benefits of eating better will lead to overall better health and fewer doctor visits, and avoiding other poor health conditions that could cost you in the end.
A good night’s sleep can’t be overestimated. Eating healthy will help you stay fit during the day, and a good night’s sleep will take care of the rest at night. Your body needs sleep to recharge, repair, and get ready for the next day.
If you’re sleeping on a cheap mattress, you’re only hurting yourself. You don’t need top-of-the-line, but make sure whatever you’re sleeping on lets you get well rested every night.
Hopefully, this is an expense you never need to use, but we need to be prepared for anything. When protecting yourself or your loved ones from any potential issues, you need to have good insurance. Don’t put it off if you’re young. That’s precisely when you should get insurance.
Your premium will be locked in at a lower price for the duration of the policy. If you already have insurance, make sure it’s enough for your current lifestyle.
Maybe you started a family when you opened your policy. You may need to up the coverage or take out another policy. This is not the place to get stingy. Make sure if something were to happen, money would be the least of the worries of your loved ones.
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Managing your money starts with smart saving, but smart spending is a big part of it too. If you want to live frugally, knowing where and when your money is most valuable is crucial. Knowing when money should be saved and when it’s better to spend money take time and patience, but you’ll get these good money habits down in no time.
The lower price isn’t always the best option, and you’ll need to be ready to spend more on what matters most. Spending more now can save you a lot of time, saving you a lot of money down the road. It’s all about long-term saving. It’s your money. Spend it wisely.
Jeff is a fan of all things finance. When he's not out there changing the world with his blog, you can find him on a run, a Mets game, or just playing around with his kids