There are many small, yet meaningful changes you can make in your life that could potentially have a huge impact on your life. From changing your mindset, habits, expectations, and realizations of where you currently are, there is a lot of room for improvement in all of us.
Here are five ways that you can get started on that improvement today:
Increase your retirement contributions by 1%
This might sound like a big step because you’re used to having the same amount in your checks every time you get paid. Trust me, 1% is hard to miss, especially when it’s pre-tax dollars. Give it a shot for a paycheck, if it’s too big of a step you can always revert back to your old contribution the next pay period.
Automate your savings
I don’t mean setting up an automatic transfer every month either. I’m talking about letting something other than your brain decide when you can save money.
I thought that I was budgeting every dollar I could and had little extra money to save. Boy did Digit prove me wrong! The system takes all your incoming and outgoing money into account, compares it against what your checking balance is now and then calculates how much extra money you’ll be able to save. It could be $5, or it could be 80 cents. Trust me, allowing Digit to take your emotions out of the picture will help you realize that you certainly do have some money you could be saving, no matter how small the amount.
Make a game out of saving
This is a great tip I learned from my friend Jason over at Phroogal.com. He shares his rule about spending – if he is going to splurge and spend money, he finds the best deal possible. Then he takes the difference of what he saved and puts that money into his savings account. Let’s say he wanted a $150 item, and he finds it on sale for $100. He would take the remaining $50 and put it into his savings account.
There are three reasons this can be extremely beneficial. First, it might stop you from spending that extra money in the first place, once you realize how much it’s really going to “cost” you. Second, you’ll start building up that savings account much faster than you’d realize. Thirdly, you’ll start changing your mindset of “just getting away with spending” vs actually having to take the time to think about the purchase and how it will affect your finances.
Figure out how much you’re spending
Even if you just go to Mint.com, put in your accounts and let it show you how much you’re spending in each category. This is a great start.
I was shocked when Mint told me how much I was spending on food. It’s humbling to see how far off your “guesstimates” can be from the truth. I thought I was spending like $280 a month on food/drinks – nope – $520….for one person. I almost got sick when I saw that number. I won’t go back to that place again, but I’d probably still be there if I hadn’t had the courage to look.
Talk to people about your situation
It can be your spouse, family members, friends, a strange you’ll never see again, etc. You’ll be surprised at how much people open up and offer advice/support when you bring up the subject. You’ll find people who are in the same situation, have been there before and can offer help, or people who aren’t at that stage in their life yet to even want to worry about their future – all are okay. You’ll feel a lot better about your situation when you realize that others like you are going through similar things.
All of these ideas have the potential to make a stark change in your life, but most require a small effort. Success can start anywhere, but it takes effort.
What are some other ways you have changed or that could change the trajectory of your future in small ways?