4 Common Budgeting Mistakes
- No specific motivation
- Unrealistic spending estimates
- Overlooked expenses
- Too many restrictions
In the book, The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas Stanley and William Danko shared results of a study of single-digit millionaires, people with net worth of $1 to 10 million. In many cases, these wealthy people came from poor to middle class families. They worked, earned and saved to become millionaires.
Many of the millionaires in the study didn’t drive fancy cars; they bought reliable cars and kept them running for many years. They didn’t dress extravagantly; they purchased decent, non-designer clothing and were very comfortable. They lived in modest homes, not mansions. They bought only what they could afford and generally paid off their credit card balances every month.
These millionaires weren’t gifted with rich families and they didn’t win the lottery. Instead, they worked hard to preserve and add to their savings. While not everyone can become a millionaire, the lessons from the study show that saving money over time can help you achieve your financial goals. Here are a few ways to help you rethink how you save money.
Create a realistic budget and try to stay within it. Develop the motivation to ask, “Do I really need to spend this money now?” Remember that any money you don’t spend puts you that much closer to meeting your savings goals. Get started on creating a budget with three things in mind:
While credit cards, debit cards, ATMs and online services make transactions easier, they also remove barriers to spend. Unnecessary purchases are easy to make with the speed and prevalence of cashless payments, and impulse buying can be a big contributor to overspending a budget. To stay on budget, force yourself to wait a few days to see if you really need that handbag or new smartphone. If not, put this money toward savings.
To build savings, you don’t have to cut out all entertainment with a price tag, but you may need to develop an attitude of frugality in everyday activities. If you can get a similar experience for less money and make a habit of it, you’re making progress towards your savings goals. Here are a few examples:
Movies. In 2017, the average cost of a movie ticket nationwide was $8.97. For a family of 4, the cost is $35.88. Compare that to a streaming-only subscription that gives you unlimited streaming of movies and shows starting at $7.99 a month. Even if you only stream a single movie a month, you’re still spending less than a quarter you would spend at the theater, and that doesn’t even include the popcorn.
Books. If you’re an avid reader, you might want to reconsider all the books you’re buying with so many less expensive alternatives. Local library cards, in addition to checking out books and audio books, are usually free. If the local library doesn’t have enough of a selection, you can always rent books for less from online retailers, or you can subscribe to audiobook streaming services.
Coffee. While small food items like coffee may seem insignificant, smarter consumption can save you a lot of money in the long run. Specialty drinks like vanilla lattes are much more expensive than a regular cup of coffee or even brewing it at home. If coffee is your go-to drink, you may want to consider these alternatives – especially if you buy it a few times a week.
Any one of these choices alone may not seem like much, but added together, the daily savings can total thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars a year. As you go through your daily activities, develop the skills and willpower to determine a more frugal, yet satisfying alternative.
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1 “Expenditures on Children by Families, 2015,” Revised March 2017, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, United States Department of Agriculture.
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