I like to read Ramit Sethi's blog I Will Teach You To Be Rich, which offers more practical and accessible financial tips than many finance blogs out there. One of the things I've learned from his blog this year is that there are two main approaches to saving more money:
(1) Cut back expenses (obviously)
(2) Make more money (not as obvious)
So in keeping with the above approaches, I have formulated the following plan for increasing my savings in 2009:
(1) Cut back expenses so that I can save half of the money that I earn
My plan is to automatically put half of each paycheck into my savings account, and then live on the other half by decreasing my spending. If I end up needing to dip into savings as a last resort, I will do so conservatively, but will make it my top priority to keep that money in savings. If everything goes well, I should enter law school with about 9 or 10 grand in savings, which will definitely come in handy when I no longer have an income.
I remember what it was like back when I made $300 per month and spent half of that on rent and the other half on utilities, food, and fun. It's not always easy to stretch money out like that, but when it has to be done, it can be done. I won't be in quite as tight of a financial situation next year, because I do make a decent wage at my current job, and even putting half of that away will leave me with more than $300 per month to live on, so once I adjust my spending level and become a more conservative consumer, I'm sure I won't feel too high and dry.
Ian's income also contributes to our combined expenses, but for the most part we try to keep our finances separate while sharing expenses evenly. I am attempting to burden his pocketbook as little as possible with my law school endeavors. This is my dream, and I have chosen to shoulder the majority of the burden.
(2) Make more money by selling stuff that I own
I have already gotten started on this by selling a bunch of my old books, particularly most of my LSAT study guides, which happily still retain much of their value. So far I have recovered about $200, and have already deposited that money directly into savings. Next I will attack my CD and DVD collection, although I'm not sure there is much to get rid of there, and then I will move on to some more substantial items.
I plan to sell a set of china that we have but never use. We have two separate sets, and one just sits in a box in the closet. I don't anticipate ever using this other set, and it would be overly burdensome to schlep it across the country with us anyway. I'm not quite sure how to unload a set of china, but I'll figure it out.
I am also contemplating selling my Ibanez acoustic-electric guitar, but am still undecided on the matter. I am more of an acoustically-inclined musician, but this is a very fine sounding guitar with excellent play on the neck, and part of me wants to keep it in case I ever do decide to experiment with more electric sounds. I'm on the fence, but if I do end up selling it, I anticipate recovering about $400.
I'm sure in digging through our closets I will find much more stuff that I can get rid of, if not sell, and that will decrease our load when we end up moving, which should in turn help save some money.
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