At first, I wanted to title this article, “The Story of Saving Money,” but then I realized that wasn’t quite accurate. Saving money is only the start of being a “saver.” Along with saving money, you save yourself worry, trouble, and stress. You can also save relationships and save time.
I don’t know if it’s the woman in me, but I’ve always been more of a spender than a saver. Part of my attitude probably has something to do with the fact that often when I do save, I end up having to spend the money right away on car repairs or other issues.
This year I wanted to try out Dave Ramsey’s savings plan and his every dollar app, because, as he says, I was finally “tired of being sick and tired.” Ramey’s plan begins with budgeting your monthly income to the last dollar and also reaching stepping stones he calls “baby steps.” The baby steps themselves are pretty simple, but it’s been the budgeting every dollar that’s given me some trouble. I’ve learned I’m someone who just likes to have a random amount of money not set aside for any particular use. On the one hand, that can be fine and good, on the other, the sum most often gets used for eating out or buying things I may want, but really don’t need–often, books.
Oh, let me tell you about books! I have bought so many books, thinking the story is going to be awesome and being terribly disappointed when the stories are duds. Using the library to borrow the books instead has been a struggle because I often don’t have time to read the books in the time I’ve checked them out. This can go the same for movies and even music. Often I wonder why I feel compelled to own these things, especially stories that I haven’t even read or seen yet. In using the every dollar app, I made myself really look over my books and saw that I had a whole stack of bought and borrowed books that I hadn’t even read yet.
I admit that like most, I’m not following Ramey’s savings plan to a T, but I am saving. Currently I am on baby step 2, paying off all consumer debt and plan to be done with that by the end of the year. As I watch my every dollar get spent, I’m become more and more conscious of impulse buys (Walgreens is a real trap for me for snacks, as is Kwik Trip). With elation, I realize that I have bought so many clothes over the past five years that I don’t need to buy anything in that regard for quite awhile. Instead of just buying things for my kitchen or office, I am planning out when to buy them and how to save the money. Because I now find Korean dramas more interesting than American ones, I gave up Netflix and watch on cheaper sites like Dramafever or Viki.
At first, this new mindfulness seemed like hard work. I’ve never had trouble paying bills or going over budget, especially as I’m single, but I never made a real effort to keep track of what I was spending on. Using every dollar was strange at first, because that generic lump sum of money was gone and I felt like I had no money. But I do now have money, just in a new category: savings. Part of this interesting financial planning stems from my desire to write more. I wanted to see if it was possible to work less, write more, and still have enough and even still save money. My dream, as most writers’ dream is that one day I can make a steady income from my writing, and I wanted to put more time and energy into striving to make that happen.
Only a couple of months in, I am already seeing the benefits of this lifestyle change. I am not as stressed and have plans if things go wrong. I am eating better and getting more sleep and exercise. Stores and their wares don’t compel me nearly as much and I am spending less without crying over it. My unread books are getting read. In the mornings I have more time to read the Bible, to cook breakfast, and to just enjoy the mornings. I am able to get out in the spring sunshine. I’ve written more in the past few weeks than I did all of last year and have been steadily working on revisions for TfD, season two as well as starting another story.
Along with thinking of saving and following Dave Ramsey, I’ve been watching some other savers on Youtube and they really have some creative ideas. It’s doubtful I will ever be as hardcore as them, but if you want to check out some fascinating perspectives on budgeting and saving money, try these channels: The Dave Ramsey Show, of course; his daughter’s channel, Rachel Cruze, who is very bubbly; Debt Free Dana, who has great tips on how families can save; Beat the Bush, an engineer who quit his job to be on Youtube; Stacey Flowers, also following the Ramey plan and shares great incites on finances but also personal stories that resonate; and, Prepper Princess, whose focus is on prepping and also saving for retirement.
Thinking about saving generally leads one to think about minimizing the stuff one owns and so, although I’d would never do it myself, I’ve been watching a lot of great stories on tiny houses. Many of the people who build and own them are artists and this is their work, some just want a change, and some really are trying to save and/or live minimally. The most upbeat channel I’ve found is Living Big in a Tiny House. The host, Bryce, visits tiny and unusually living spaces all over the world and finds the positive in even the strangest of designs. This could easily be a show on cable, but it’s on Youtube and it’s hard not to be infected with the enthusiasm these people have for mindful living.
The big statement that gets to me from Dave Ramsey is “the borrower is a slave to the lender,” which is a part or paraphrase of Proverbs 22:7: The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. (NIV). Being in debt isn’t a healthy thing, and I think I first really started to consider that fact when I read Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, which tells the story of a family living in a debtor’s prison and what it does to them. For the dad, even when he’s able to get financially free, it’s like he’s still in prison. Thank God we don’t have debtors prisons today, but in our society we borrow, and borrow, and borrow without even a thought. Even if our debt can’t legally be passed onto our children, doesn’t it do something to our soul to just die leaving a debt? Someone, even if it is a heartless banker, lost out money because we didn’t pay them back. Shouldn’t we be striving for more?