One of the biggest reasons we moved out here was money. In Seattle we made a good amount of money but never had any, because so much of it went to rent and other bills. We make considerably less out here, but can use it more wisely. The cost of living is a lot cheaper. The support network is stronger. And obviously it helps when you downgrade from a centrally-located apartment to a refurbished shed.
But another reason we didn’t have money in Seattle was habits. We simply didn’t have good money saving habits. I would argue that it’s hard to develop a habit to save something you don’t have, but hindsight being perfect and all, I can see where we made errors: we had some discretionary income, but we used it on discretionary things. And so, being tired of not having a safety net, I made a decision in January to start putting money in savings.
I made a goal that seemed ambitious to me: have $1,000 in savings by next January. Then I found this thing called the 52 Week Savings Challenge on Pinterest. As you can see (if you click the link,) there are a lot of variations on it. I went with the one that seemed most low-stress to me, the one where you literally save $1 to begin with and move up weekly in incremental amounts.
But I found that having $1 in savings was a joke, and I wanted more in there. So I put $52 in instead and started moving backwards on the chart. And then I had some health problems and couldn’t work as much as I wanted. So I ended up with a smaller paycheck and put a smaller amount in, just picking numbers off the spreadsheet and depositing as I went along. And then when I got a little better and did a little better, I deposited a little more.
The trick, for me, was making sure I never let a week go by without depositing something. The amount was not as important to me as keeping the habit alive was. And it worked. We’re almost at April now and I’m pleased to say that I’m going to reach my goal of $1,000 in savings by June!
I’ve pretty much abandoned the numbers on the 52 Week Challenge in favor of saving aggressively instead. I can’t wait to hit that number, and hopefully even double it by next January. Having something to fall back on has eased our minds, especially in the days leading up to the next paycheck; but it’s also changed the way we look at our money, too. Gone is the urge to spend what we have, even though it would buy us a lot of stuff that we could use to finish the house. We’re playing the long game now, because the stakes are higher.
Our two big financial goals are to have a minimum of a year’s worth of living expenses in the bank, and to be debt-free. I never thought we’d be able to work on both of those at once, but we are (I’ll talk about our debt reduction strategy in a future post.) It’s all about forming those habits, though. If I hadn’t started with the 52 Week Challenge, I wouldn’t have formed a habit. I now look forward to putting money in the bank. That is such a stark contrast to who I was even six months ago that it’s crazy. But subtle habits can yield big results. I look at this as proof.