Everybody has their own little habits or rituals. Maybe you make it a point to buy 4D each time you see a car accident. Maybe you go for a massage in JB each time your wife is away. Maybe you treat your friends to a round of drinks every Friday.
Whatever it is that you do, turning something into a ritual makes it a no-brainer. You no longer have to waste time and mental energy making decisions. If you wear the same black shirt every Monday, you save the 10 minutes you would otherwise spend standing naked in front of your wardrobe looking for something that doesn’t stink to wear. The same goes for money-saving measures.
Here are four rituals that can get you used to cutting your budget.
1. Designate a few meat-free days per month
Some people I know avoid eating meat on the first and fifteenth days of each lunar month, not because they’re Buddhist, but because they think it’ll improve their luck. If people are willing to give up meat for a few days thanks to something a geomancer told them, you can do so too.
Designate a few months a day go to meat-free. Sure, you might hate the taste of anything green, and pictures of baby animals might make your stomach rumble. But a few days won’t kill you, and whether you cook at home or eat out, going vegetarian will shave a few dollars off your bill.
For instance, choosing three vegetable dishes rather than two vegetable and one meat dish will make a big difference to the price of your meal at a cai png stall. Even at restaurants, the vegetarian pasta is almost always cheaper than the meat options.
2. Spend nothing one weekend a month
Vowing to spend nothing each weekend is too much for most normal people who aren’t hermits and actually have friends they know in real life.
But designating one weekend a month during which to spend nothing is doable for most, especially when you can plan for it ahead of time by inviting people over to your place, finding free things to do in town or stocking up on stuff to do at home.
You can give yourself a bit of cash for your bus or train fare if you plan to head out, but pack some food at home instead of buying it since you’re not supposed to spend anything.
If you’re the sort who spends 80% of the money in your budget on weekends, you’ll save a lot by doing this exercise.
3. Buy Nothing Month
Shopaholics whose homes are cluttered with forgotten purchases can challenge themselves to spend an entire month buying nothing a few times a year (cue anguished screams). As the name suggestions, you avoid purchasing anything but food and absolutely necessary items in the designated months.
If you get an anxiety attack knowing you won’t be able to buy those shoes/that shirt until next month, this exercise will have the added benefit of signalling to you that you’re a shopping addict who should probably see a shrink.
Don’t think of Buy Nothing Month as a month of sadness and deprivation. You can always buy whatever it was that you were crying over the next month. The funny thing is that by the time the month is over you’ll have lost interest in most of the things you wanted to buy.
4. Reward yourself for attaining your financial goals
Let’s just be honest here–saving and investing money or achieving financial goals sound boring as hell. And the rewards of financial security, early retirement or personal freedom are often too distant or abstract to be much of a motivation, unlike a Chanel bag or Rolex watch you can see, touch, feel, lick, etc.
To encourage yourself to track your progress and keep going, reward yourself each time you pass a milestone. For instance, if your goal is to save up an emergency fund worth $10,000, when you achieve your aim, treat yourself to a meal at your favourite restaurant or to a massage.
Obviously, you have to be reasonable when you decide on your rewards. Don’t go and buy a car just because you’ve saved $10,000.
If you don’t want to spend too much money rewarding yourself, you don’t have to—take the day off from work, spend the weekend binge watching the TV series you downloaded but haven’t had the time to see or order a jug of Tiger at the kopitiam, whatever works for you.
Once you manage to gamify saving and investing, socking away that money instead of blowing it on Orchard Road becomes far less torturous.
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