I’ll admit it…as someone who tries to be creative, I often find myself looking for the most extravagant way to handle any money management issue. Then I can hear the voice of my mother in my ear:
The simplest solutions are often the most effective.
Isn’t that true? I can’t believe that the secrets to managing money are often the ones right in front of me… while I’m busy creating chaos and complexity.
I’ll share my hack for spending less money in a moment, but overall, it’s amazing just how many areas of our financial lives are managed by the very simple solutions that are right in front of us.
A good friend who’s a financial writer pointed this out to me at a networking meeting last week. She said, “Miata, I spend all this time writing about budgets and how to cut expenses… but it all boils down to one equation.” I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about until she told me:
The simple solution: Spend less than you make.
While that may seem TOO simple at first, it really is the heart of everything we do, isn’t it? Take out a pen and paper. Figure out how much is coming in. Cut expenses until they’re lower. Save the difference. Try to increase income more and spend less so your savings becomes bigger.
She’s right on: Budgets are a simple device that can be really, really powerful.
We were applying for life insurance with a good friend who happens to be a life insurance agent. He asked us, “How much money do you have in savings?”
Initially I thought, “Why is he asking that? We’re just trying to buy life insurance!” Then I realized that the role of insurance is simple and the way to save money on insurance is simpler yet:
The simple solution: Cover with insurance whatever your cash cushion can’t handle.
I love a great insurance agent, because some have a knack for making us feel like we need a master’s degree (or higher) to understand how everything works. But break down insurance, and it’s not terribly complicated: only use insurance for those things you can’t cover yourself (or that would be more cost-effective to use someone else’s money to cover).
I’ve found that insurances are far easier to understand after I changed the lens to “cover what I can’t….”
One of the most common questions people have when they start working with Abundance Bound is, “How do I keep all of these investments straight? There are so many to choose from? It must have taken you years to learn them all!!!” While I have been a saver for some time and therefore might have a deeper understanding than many, the key to learning about investments, as with everything above, comes down to one idea:
The simple solution: Figure out the return that will give you enough money to turn your savings into retirement…and then focus on those investments.
Okay, if you aren’t saving much, the return you’re looking for might be a little too aggressive, but let’s talk about risk for a moment. Those of us in the creative community know one rule well that the rest of the world is just latching on to: you have to create your own future. Nobody is going to make you the star… you have to reach out and grab it. Even then, we know how fickle life can be. We know that we STILL might not make it.
That’s why the concept of risk should be so easy for us. As artists, we’re used to taking risks, putting our art before others and baring our soul. It’s not different with investing. Figure out how much risk you need to take to reach your goal and invest in things that will take you where you want to go. If the risk is so high that you have actually crossed the line from investing to gambling. find ways to save more money so you don’t have to risk so much.
That’s why I tell people that while investing can be difficult, learning the basics is easier than you’d imagine! Everything is about your approach.
My Biggest Money Saving Hack
That brings me to today’s focus, which is how to spend less money. Just like the solutions above for insurance, investing and budgets, this will sound simple… and it is. However, if I ask how many people are actually doing what I’m about to suggest… the answer may be completely different
But as my mom said, simplicity is often best. Complexity makes it difficult for us to follow through.
So enough stalling… how do we spend less money?
Make less money available.
I’ve found that if I carry $10 in my wallet, it’s gone by the time I arrive home. Why? Because when I have cash available, it’s the first solution my brain thinks about with regard to any problem. If I have $10, my brain’s favorite solution will cost somewhere in the $9.85 range.
True? Of course.
While I understand the importance of a credit card, how often have you had an emergency big enough that you really needed to use it? Not often. Therefore, if you must, carry only a credit card that you DO NOT give yourself permission to use. Carry zero cash. You’ll be amazed to discover that very often the only reason we end up “needing” money – is because we happen to be carrying it!
People don’t think that this solution works, and then are surprised to find that their savings accounts begin to automatically fill up because the dollars stay at home instead of heading out to the mall with you. Money available equals money spent.
Basic Common Sense Is Often Uncommon
Watch the person at a register ahead of you in line at the grocery store. How much cash do they have in their wallet? When I look, I see lots of cash. Too much. Then I hear about the average person and their inability to save, and I realize that it isn’t knowledge that’s the problem… it’s latching on to simple solutions.
Carry less cash isn’t the only idea I’ve presented today… there’s a far bigger one and you know it already! Often the best solution is the most straightforward.