This was originally posted several months ago on Dumb Little Man.
Gaining financial independence won’t happen overnight, nor will it happen only by knowing how to cut costs. But those are great ways to start.
As many sports fans say, defense wins championships.
Playing great defense with your money is the best way to rack up small victories and quick wins in your quest to achieve financial security. It’s the first thing you should think of. Defense is where you learn what you truly need and hone your sense of discipline.
Some people might first think of trying to earn more money to keep more of it. That’s great–nothing wrong with making more!
I’m all for that, but defense comes first. Simply trying to bring in more money won’t make you rich if you don’t know how to use it.
If you can’t manage $500 well every month, you won’t manage $2,000 any better.
“The really good business manager doesn’t wake up in the morning and say ‘Today I am going to cut costs’ any more than he wakes up and decides to practice breathing.”
Think about what’s under your control. Choosing to play great defense is almost entirely up to you. It’s unlike getting a raise at your job, returns in the stock market or clients hiring you as a freelancer. These aren’t bad things, but they aren’t as much of a sure bet.
If you cut costs, you immediately keep that money. It’s a guaranteed win for you.
Think about how to cut costs and which areas you can do it. Here are a few quick suggestions from my own life.
1) The Gym
Do you use it? Is it worth your money?
For many gym members, it’s not worth the expense, especially if it’s more of an aspirational statement rather than part of an actual routine. I gave this up. I run almost every day, and it doesn’t cost me anything.
Drive the kind of car you need, not the newest or the biggest. Don’t get caught up in those TV ads with cars doing all sorts of rough-and-tumble things you would never actually do. What it does on a closed track with a professional driver is completely irrelevant to you. Don’t get taken in. You may not even need to own a car.
3) TV & Cable
Spending lots of time and money on TV is a good way to be less healthy and keep less of your money. The same is true of many entertainment choices.
4) Add 25%
Remember that everything you buy is bought with after-tax income, meaning that you should add 25% to account for your tax bracket. 25% is easy math, even if it’s not your bracket. Keeping this in mind can only help you cut spending.
Most things have some element of timing built into the price. Restaurants with happy hours or special deals, stores offering time-sensitive deals, vacation spots with off-season discounts…you get the idea. Use it to your advantage.
6) Lifestyle creep
Avoid it. Stay away from spending more on luxury goods, like high-end gadgets or designer clothing just because you can. That’s a good way to end up owing more than you own and spending more than you keep. It’s what you keep that will matter more.
7) Save more than 10%
No matter your income, you’ll likely thank yourself later in life for saving more now. Compound interest needs time to work in your favor, and you need to give it a push. It’s commonly recommended to save 10%, but I see this as insufficient in a world of longer lifetimes, potentially lengthier retirements and rising healthcare costs. Try to save more if you can.
8) Keep the network alive
This relates more to advancing in your career than it does saving money, but staying connected with people you’ve known in the past or work with now can only help you. Even if you don’t experience the benefits right now, continue building your relationships by helping those you can. Learning how to cut costs counts, but human capital pays dividends too.