Imagine for a moment that all the money that flows through your life is a raging river.
Most people make the very most of it, spending every last penny and enjoying life to the maximum. They’re the people in the inflatable raft, thundering down the rapids screaming and laughing.
All too soon, of course, the ride comes to an end and the excitement runs out. And that’s assuming they don’t go over a waterfall first!
Building a strong financial footing is rather different. It’s like standing there in that water, motionless. You’re trying not to spend all your money; infact the less you can spend, the sooner your savings grow and the sooner you can establish a strong financial footing.
Here’s the problem; those people on the raft are having a lot more fun. Just standing there gets boring pretty quickly, especially when you watch your friends and family rafting past you each day.
Here’s what I mean: in many ways saving for the future is a passive act. It’s an act of not doing. Of landing that pay rise or your annual bonus and then… doing nothing, except stashing it away for the future.
The question is how you maintain this stoicism in the face of all the opportunities life throws at you. How do you prevent yourself from spending unnecessary money on account of boredom?
The Stage I’m In
As regular readers will know, when I first started this blog I was really suffering under a large pile of debt. It got so bad I honestly couldn’t even meet the minimum payments at one point.
I had to duck and dive in order to get things under control, and ever so slowly the debt got paid back. Now, I’m debt free.
Instead, my attention has turned to the future; on building up a nestegg that will stand me in good stead for the future.
Unlike the active process of paying off debt, I’ve recently started to find the process of saving for the future far more “passive”.
It feels like I’m treading water, just gently putting money aside each time I get paid. Apart from that, my financial life is under control, and I’m just waiting for those savings to hit the “magic number” I have in mind before I can take the next step in the game (likely starting my own business to increase my earnings).
Right now, though, it feels like I’m playing Monopoly, and just landed in “jail”. I’m watching all my friends throw the dice while I sit here twiddling my thumbs.
The question is what to do when you’re in this difficult “transition” phase, to keep yourself busy, and thus preventing you from undoing all your hard work?
Here’s the list I came up with recently, which I’m starting work on right now…
Start a Side Hustle
Possibly one of the most tempting solutions to keep yourself busy without spending unnecessary money is to start a side hustle; in my case a new blog.
Don’t get me wrong; you’ll spend at least a little money when starting a blog, but it really is a tiny drop in the ocean. Buy your domain and hosting, invest in a nice theme and off you go. Everything else can be bought in good time out of your blog income.
I’ve posted here in the past that I have started a new blog, and my monthly round-ups reveal how things are progressing (slowly and surely, at the present). But in truth I haven’t put in quite as much effort as I could. I’ve been breezing along, treating my site site as an enjoyable hobby, rather than a money-generating exercise.
So I’m doubling down. Right now as I write this its 6.53am, and I’m already at my computer working. Working hard to make a success of my new site and drive it forward at a faster pace.
Somehow I’ve found this new “fire” inside me, which is helping to keep my mind off spending money and on growing my new new side hustle. What’s more – it feels good to be fully engaged with something new and exciting!
Just yesterday I got through some sample logos I’ve outsourced and one of them in particular looks great!
Actively Plan for the Future
I’ve discussed in the past that right now I’m saving up – but I haven’t decided quite what for. In the next year or two there are a number of things I’d like to achieve. I’d like to buy a house, start a “real” business and take some time off to travel. But I haven’t quite decided where I want to travel to, what house I’d like to buy or what type of business appeals.
A second way to keep yourself busy without spending unnecessary money is therefore to start actively planning for the future.
To start going to franchise exhibitions to see what’s out there. To read books about starting a business. To find my old atlas, grab my dusty collection of Lonely Planet guides and start figuring out a plan of where I’d like to travel to.
These are all big decisions, so they deserve a lot of thought. And that planning is something that I can start now, yet will cost me nothing to do.
Even better, the more “real” and “concrete” my plans are, the easier it’s going to be to keep on the straight and narrow because I have actively visualized the end goal. And when I finally hit my savings goals, I’ll be fully prepared to light the blue touch paper and take action on the next chapter in my life.
Measure, Monitor & Track
Paying off debt was something of a juggling act for me, especially in the early days. Over time, as I cleared one debt after another I had ever more disposable income to apply to the remaining debts. It was quite an exciting time; sitting there with a pen and paper, figuring out the ideal route-map for debt free living.
A third option to keep yourself busy is to try and apply the same level of monitoring to your savings. Just just transfer money into savings each month; try to turn it into a game – into something more fun.
You’ll know that I’ve set myself the target this year of saving £10,000 on top of my normal savings (which is proving tougher than expected!) but I think I need to push things even more. To make forward-projections, tracks my progress on a weekly (rather than monthly) basis and really watch those financial changes happening.
This will keep me more “engaged” and help me to focus ever more on the eventual end goal.
Take Pleasure in the Simple Things
Lastly its important to appreciate that not every pleasure has to cost money. Sure, a lot of them do, but not all of them. While I might not be going white-water rafting any time soon, I can take my binoculars and admire the birds while standing in the river. I can take my camera and do some photography.
Right now the days are getting longer, and the temperature is rising. It;s the perfect time to get out of the house, to see friends and head off into the countryside (a major passion of mine). And hiking through the beautiful British countryside costs nothing.
Finding a few hobbies which cost next to nothing (or can even make you money) is a great way to keep yourself busy without detracting from your financial goals.
So that’s me, but what about you?
What are your tips for keeping yourself busy while growing your savings?