Learning to Save Means Fixing My Spending!

In my Money Fix quest to buy a house by December, I’ve started putting J.D. Roth’s great advice into practice.

I currently have one savings account for the house and one for emergencies. I’d like to add two more: one for gifts and vacations and one “life happens” account—for unexpected costs that aren’t true emergencies.

That means that I’ve been redesigning my whole budget—which is requiring me to overhaul my spending.

Many readers commented that they didn’t think I was ready to buy because I was struggling to save in my first few months. I had a hard time for a few reasons:

I moved into an apartment after the house I was renting went into foreclosure, and the rental deposits were costly.

I needed dental work and car repairs, which ended up costing far more than I expected.

I wasn’t spending wisely—if I wanted something, I just bought it.

Buying the house seemed so far down the road that I didn’t make saving a priority. But I never dipped into my savings and I did manage to put away some extra cash.

One change that’s been really helpful was switching to Mint.com to track my finances. Mint allows me to track my spending in categories, like gas, eating out, and groceries. Plus I can set spending caps for each category. I’m a visual person, so I like that Mint shows my spending with graphs—I can actually see how much progress I’ve made.

Mint has shown me that I really need to cut down my grocery expenses. I’m now looking for cheaper ways to get the foods I love (anyone have any couponing suggestions?), and buying only what I need instead of whatever looks good.

Last week I also had an experience that showed me I could no longer just track my expenses offline. Someone halfway across the country made a fraudulent credit card that matched mine.

Fortunately, my credit-card company caught them, and notified me before any charges could clear. But if they hadn’t caught them so soon, I wouldn’t have noticed anything strange until I got my monthly statement. I realized I need to check my credit card charges online as well.

I’m grateful to DailyWorth’s readers for their support and suggestions. Two in particular that I found really helpful:

Looking into buying a HUD home. HUD covers 3–3.5% of closing costs, so I’m going to use the HUD home search to look for affordable houses.

Saving the difference between my rent and mortgage. Not only is it good practice for paying my actual mortgage, but it’s another way I can push myself to spend less and save more.

When I finally do buy my house I will always remember that J.D. Roth and the Money Fix helped me to get there.

Drill down. What spending tricks have boosted your savings?  

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