I remember as a youth in high school my mom invested $100 in a mutual fund account with Franklin Templeton. I don’t remember for sure, but it was some sort of growth or income fund. I believe she gave it to me as a present when I was 16 years old. I would get statements in the mail regularly telling me that the value of that account was going up or down. Over a couple years it went up about thirty percent. It was a strange feeling having money sitting in an account that in my mind, wasn’t doing anything. What I really meant, is that I wanted to spend it.
Starting at 16 years old, I worked a fast food job and had been doing so for now two years. I had spent everything I earned. I may have had a savings account because the bank suggested I do that, but I’m sure I didn’t have very much of anything in there. And so, when I was around 18 years old, I liquidated the account. I remember there was about $127 in that account, and I’m sure I spent it shortly after. That phrase about money “burning a hole in my pocket” was very true for me. I didn’t see the benefit of keeping a savings (or investment) account and leaving it alone and not touching it. I had way too much I wanted to get, and I would just get another check in a week or two so I could save later.
Struggles with Saving Money
My struggle was that I wanted stuff and didn’t see the benefit to having money if I couldn’t buy something with it. Of course there are many reasons that someone could struggle saving money. As a young kid, I just wanted to spend everything and acquire stuff. Besides that, having money was new for me and making over $150 a week was a lot at that age and I could get a lot of things.
This was my first issue as a teen/young adult and it’s a tough one at any age really. I bought my first computer at age 17/18 with my nice fast food job and it was a fast computer (for a short while). I was thrilled to have made such a major purchase, but then found out a few months later, my model had become outdated and now wasn’t as good as other computers that could be bought for less money. Within a couple years, mine was worthless and I was spending more money getting something faster and better. I didn’t need a new computer, but the allure of playing newer, better games was too much and if I wanted those games, I had to invest in another machine to keep up.
That was back in 1996, but today it’s a cell phone, or a tablet, or a video game system, or a smart TV, and on and on. There is so much that is advertised to us on TV or social media to cause us to want to keep buying things. If it isn’t something like an electronic device, we see ads for new cars all the time with people that look so happy riding in the car we don’t have. To make it worse, we might even see a friend of family member with that new item which we don’t have. Our amazing gadget that was once shiny and new is now old and faded, scratched, or dinged. The draw to have something shiny and new again is very hard to resist.
This is another tough one. If I don’t like something, and want a replacement, I can very quickly find someone to loan me the the money to buy it now. If I want a new gadget to replace my old one, I can charge it on my credit card or get a new charge account from the store. If a newer car was the item of the day, I can get a car loan with no money down and have it now. If the car is brand new, they might not even charge my interest. If I was even more ambitious, I could get a home with almost no money down and low payments for 30 years.
I know this because I’ve done every one of these things and it’s easy to do. There really isn’t any point in saving money to buy something I want because I can get it right NOW. All I have to do is fit the payment into my budget and I’m all set. Now if I wanted to save, I’m stuck because I have to pay back money for my purchase before I could actually do any saving.
Creating a manageable budget can be a challenge and not doing so can make it very difficult to save money. If more money is spent each month than what is brought in, you would be creating debt each month, making it mathematically impossible to save anything. Typically savings will have to be intentionally worked into a budget and even given it’s own category to make it happen. It will also likely involve sacrificing something else in the budget to make things balance. Math is only the first part of the budget. The implementation is even tougher. When the plan is in place, and the numbers are on paper, you still have to follow through spending only a certain amount and that can be a challenge in itself.
This is one hurdle to saving that doesn’t usually have anything to do with materialism. Sometimes a budget can show that income is just too low and prevents any opportunity to savings money. This one can be harder to identify as it is an easy excuse to say one cannot save because they don’t make enough money. I used this excuse for years. Here is how it worked in my mind.
As a young married with a couple kids, I had no budget in place. I saw credit cards soaring and I told myself if I had more income, I would be able to get on top of the rising debt. It made sense. Life was becoming expensive with growing children and I assumed we needed more money. While this may have been partly true, my income went up 55% over a six year period working that one job. During that time, our expenses went up equally. Some of this was due to inflation and a growing family, but the reality was that I didn’t help by finding new things to spend the extra money on.
Now, setting that aside, there can be some cases, where there is simply not enough money to make things work. This is where one has to decide if they are going to work harder and longer, or consider a different occupation or self-employment. These are all longer topics than time permits here, but things to consider if every other option has been exhausted to balance the budget and find room for savings.
So Is It Possible to Save Money?
So the answer to the question is yes, it is possible to save money at any point. That being said, it is also a challenge and requires discipline and hard work. But the reward is great when there is an emergency fund in place that has money saved to cover the unexpected. That reward is found in peace of mind knowing that if something goes wrong, there is a financial buffer to help deal with a problem. The stress of living paycheck to paycheck is lessened greatly and more and more as savings increases.
Seeing a savings account and having something to handle a minor emergency also brings a sense of accomplishment, and we all could use some encouragement and the feeling that we have succeeded at something.