K.I.S.S. Most of us have heard the acronym. And most people translate it as Keep It Simple Stupid. But I don’t like calling people stupid (unless I’m behind the wheel and the driver ahead of me is being stupid), so I switch it up a little. I translate it to Keep It Stupid Simple. You know – concepts so simple that they sound absolutely stupid. You might roll your eyes at them, BUT THEY WORK!
In some of our Financial Fitness classes, I give tips and tricks to help with controlling spending. While people seem to think controlling spending is rocket science, it’s not. Most people just need to do it, and there are a few simple tricks to help. Like many of our clients, you may wonder if they really work. They are, after all, stupid simple. But I wouldn’t be spending my time writing this blog if they hadn’t already worked for people.
So, without further ado, here are real stories of stupid simple tricks that can help you control your spending.
Freeze Your Credit – More than one person has admitted to me they have used this. You have that credit card for building credit history and for emergencies, but you know you are going to be tempted. Well, put it in a container of water and put it in the freezer. Don’t worry; there is nothing mechanical in the card that you are going to hurt. If you really want, put it in a baggy and then in the water.
There are two benefits to this stupid simple trick. First, if someone breaks into your home, who’s going to think to grab the block of ice in your freezer? Credit card is safe. Second, if you are tempted to use the card, you have to sit and wait for it to thaw out before you can use it. That gives you time to think about it and decide if this really is that good of an idea. For at least one of my clients, it was time enough for her to put it right back into the freezer.
Accountability Buddy – While teaching a high school class, we talked about having an accountability buddy. They don’t have to know your budget or even what you are trying to accomplish other than sticking to a budget. You just have to know that they WILL be asking you how the budget is going. Just knowing someone is going to ask is often enough motivation to keep us in line.
Three students in this particular class realized how much they were spending going out to lunch each day. So, each morning they would find each other and ask, “Did you bring your lunch today?” They held each other accountable and had someone to eat with at school. By the end of the school year, they calculated they had saved hundreds of dollars between them just by asking “Did you bring a lunch today?”.
Prepaid Budgeting – One of our staff here really likes her Starbucks. But at $5 per cup, it can quickly eat (or drink) through a budget. So, her solution was to get a Starbucks gift card. At the beginning of the month, she would go to a Starbucks store and put her monthly budget amount on the gift card. For the rest of the month, she only used the gift card to pay for coffee. 20th of the month and the card is empty? No more coffee until she refilled the card on the first.
Also a way to save up if you don’t spend it all in a given month, be a little careful with this one. Losing a gift card is like losing cash. If it’s gone, it’s gone because it isn’t attached to an account like your debit card.
How Many Hours?!? – This one will take a little math. First, figure out how much you make per hour at your job. Make sure you figure the NET income, or how much you actually take home after taxes and other deductions. Keep that number in your head and every time you are tempted to spend, calculate how many hours you have to work to pay for that little splurge.
One of our clients was making $14 per hour gross, meaning after taxes they actually had $10.50 per hour available to spend. For them, a decent meal out for the family at Denny’s would cost $50, give or take a couple bucks, plus a tip. Looking at the math, that’s 5-6 hours of work to pay for the single meal. Over half a day’s work! How many hours is that Friday night of fun costing you?
Keep the Change – My dad likes to spend cash. He is notorious for coming home at the end of the week with a McDonald’s coffee cup full of the coins from the week. Why a McDonald’s cup? Apparently he likes their coffee. Growing up, however, there were at least a couple of family vacations that were paid for with the change he threw in his cup each week.
Just last week I had a client in who took out his cash allowance for the week. Similarly the change went in a cup and then, at the end of the week, any bills that were left in his wallet went into his stash. It may only be a few singles in a week, but he had saved up enough for a good chunk of his down payment on a new house. Who knew McDonald’s coffee cups could be so stupid simple effective.
There are other ideas out there, including more that we cover in our class. But if my blog gets too much longer, you’re going to get distracted and click away anyway. So that’s enough for now. Just remember, controlling spending does NOT have to be difficult. It can, in fact, be stupid simple if we just pick one little point to start with and grow from there.
If you are still challenged by your spending, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources can help you get started. Need a buddy? Yep, they can be that too (for clarification, a budget buddy – we are all busy on Friday nights). You can schedule an appointment online or call us at 605-330-2700. We can even provide counseling over the phone or internet. Not having to worry about locations and maps and navigation, even counseling from home can be almost stupid simple.
You just have to do it. But don’t be afraid to keep it stupid simple. It really can work.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net and pfhub.com, respectively