Just buy it.
You know what I'm talking about. It's that camera you've been wanting so you can break into photography, that book or class on graphic design, that yarn you need to make the big blanket you've been saving a pattern for. Stop making excuses, and just buy it.
We all make excuses when it comes to investing in ourselves. We all have those things we always look up on Amazon, or Craigslist, or walking through the craft store, but we never buy. Someday, we think.
But the reality is that unless we make it a priority, "someday" will never come. Just like you will never have any more time than you have right now, you will never have any more money than you have right now. Sure, maybe in the future you may get a raise, or have a bigger salary, but if you haven't learned to prioritize investing in yourself with a little, you won't do it with a lot.
I am by no means encouraging you to be unwise with your money. If you don't have $1,000 right now to go out and buy a DSLR camera, don't go buy it...yet.
Intentional living is about baby steps. What small things can you do right now to make that investment in yourself a priority? Here are some ideas:
Skip the coffee.
Are you a big coffee drinker? According to Time, the average American spends $1,092 every year on coffee. Try skipping coffee 2-3 days a week (or better yet, make your coffee at home!) and instead, put the money you would have spent away. My typical drink at Starbucks costs $3.50, which, if I bought it 5 days a week, would average out to $910 a year. If I cut back to 2 days a week, I would spend only $364 in one year. The difference is $546.
Get a filtered water bottle.
We all buy bottled water. Many of us keep cases of bottled water in our homes. Why? It's convenient. But did you know that in 2012, Americans spent $11.8 billon on bottled water? Business Insider reported:
That $11.8 billion was spent on nearly 9.7 billion gallons of water, putting the average cost at $1.22/gallon. 64% of this amount, however, was spent on single- the 16.9oz/500 mL container mentioned above which can push costs up to $7.50/gallon. American Water Works Association showed that tap water costs only $0.004 a gallon, less than 1/300 the cost of bottled water.
$7.50 a gallon?! That's ridiculous. If you're someone who buys a lot of water bottles, try investing in a filtered water bottle instead. You can buy a 20oz. bottle online for less than $10, and one filter can filter up to 40 gallons of water before it needs to be replaced. Even if you drank 1 gallon each day, that amounts to less than $30 a year spent on filtered water.
Cut down on eating out.
This is a big one, especially for busy people. Not only is fast food convenient, but often it seems inexpensive as well. Those little drive-thru purchases can seriously add up, though! According to USA Today, Americans spend $117 billion on fast food each year, and according to the United States Healthful Food Council, the average adult buys something from a fast food restaurant almost 6 times a week, and we spend half our food budgets eating out. Try this instead:
Budget for groceries, plan your meals, schedule your shopping trips, and prepare ahead.
One of the biggest excuses we for eating out is the time it takes to shop for groceries and cook meals. But by being more intentional about your food habits, you not only can cut down on food expenses, but also reduce stress and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Here are some tips:
- Make sure you have money in your budget for groceries. Even if you're not great about budgeting in other areas, make sure you have a specific, consistent, and reasonable amount set aside for groceries.
- Plan your meals for a whole week, and if you can, work your way up to a month. I don't like to plan what I will eat for each day, because most likely, when it comes to that day, I will feel like eating something different. But having food for three meals each day for a whole week or month and having meal options to choose from will make it that much easier for you to resist the urge to eat out.
- Make time to shop. Schedule grocery shopping into your week just like anything else. Make sure you will have enough time and energy to complete all of your shopping in one trip, and eat before you go. Also, don't buy what you know you won't eat. It's easy to be ambitious in our desire to be healthy, but often, we end up with a fridge full of rotting kale and a belly full of fast food. Be reasonable. Maybe not everything you buy at the grocery store is the healthiest option, but in most cases, it's going to be healthier than that drive-thru run. Give yourself some grace and don't waste money on groceries you won't eat!
- Schedule a prep day or 1/2 day and prepare food for the whole week. Try preparing some freezer meals that can be cooked in the oven or slow cooker, or at least preparing all the ingredients for your meals (cutting veggies, etc.) ahead of time.
If you want to learn more about preparing meals ahead of time, this website has some great resources.
Put the money you save away and forget about it.
The ideas I mentioned above are completely useless if you don't set aside the money they help you save. If you skip coffee, take that $3.50 or $5.80 you didn't spend and put it somewhere. Transfer it to a savings account - preferably one that penalizes you for withdrawals - or if you prefer to work in cash, hide it away somewhere or buy a piggy bank you actually have to break to open (none of those cheater plugs at the bottom!). Then, forget about it. Don't touch it, don't count it. It's not an emergency fund for when you run out of money before payday. Print a picture of that thing you want to buy if you have to, and post it where you see it every day. Make it the background picture on your smartphone. Remind yourself daily that investing in yourself is worth making a priority.
I'll leave you with a quote:
Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most. - Augusta Kantra