How I Saved $10,000 in Six Months: Part III

My first semester of college I purchased a picture of a woman in a giant pumpkin costume off Ebay. Long story short, I was drunk and it was love at first sight. I knew I had to have it. My roommate and I were trying to be as thrifty as possible when it came to Halloween costumes, and this was my perfect solution. Why I wanted to dress like a pumpkin or even why I was drunkenly browsing Ebay at 3am one night is still a mystery to me. But you can only imagine my disappointment when I went to my mailbox and found a stock photo of a woman dressed like a pumpkin instead of my adorable, creative costume.

Fast forward to my senior year of college. I was extremely single and knew how to flirt my way into a free drink or two at my local watering hole. The result was me having a savings account with a few thousand dollars burning a hole in my pocket. So, another drunken night, another drunken impulse purchase. Except this time it was a 35 day backpacking trip across Europe.

I 100% do not regret either one of these decisions. They both made great stories. However, the decision making skills behind each were nonexistent. Being a post-grad doesn't leave as much wiggle room as college life. Your landlord doesn't accept love or tears as tender, he wants a signed check. I'm pretty sure Vectren wants an actual virgin sacrifice every month, but will accept 50% of your after-tax income until you can manage to find one. The consequences in your adult life are much harsher than those in your undergrad career. Try being evicted from your overpriced apartment, or worse, living in this humidity without air conditioning. 

Neither my $15 pumpkin picture of my much more expensive European vacation had any negative consequences...because I was in college. I can only imagine what my boss would say now if I had to explain that I booked a non-refundable, month-long vacation and needed the time off. I won't preach to you how the decisions you make now affect your future. But I will explain to you how they do have a financial impact.

How many times have you had the best intention to eat the lunch you packed for yourself but spent $10 on takeout instead? How often do you get antsy and plan a weekend away before checking your bank account to see if the funds are there? Do you ever put way too much in your online shopping cart without taking a second to think about if you really need 12 crop tops from Forever 21? While doing this every once in a while is totally fine, these events add up. A lunch here and there can be a couple hundred dollars a year, and you're too old for crop tops anyway.

Starting at a very young age, when my brother and I wanted anything, my mom had us start a list. We had Christmas lists, birthday lists, whatever. If you wanted it, you wrote it down. If you lost the list and couldn't remember what was on it, you probably didn't want it that bad anyway. Occasionally, we decided we didn't really want a certain toy or game that bad, and it would get crossed off the list.

I still do that to this day. There's a list in the notes section of my phone of items I want or trips I want to take. Anything from a book I see at Barnes & Noble to hiking the Appalachian trail. Not unlike my childhood, things get crossed off sometimes. The point being, don't make impulse decisions. Take a minute or a month and think about what you really want, you may change your mind. It's so much easier to change your mind on a purchase once you've thought it through and it's not lingering on your credit card bill just yet.

I know skipping your leftovers and grabbing lunch with your team sounds like a small impulse decision. And even one weekend away seems well-deserved. But keep your goals and your savings in mind. Would you rather have that $4 cup of coffee right now? Or would you rather have your dream vacation in a year?

Take a minute, or a month and think things through. Make a list of bigger purchase and decide if it's a necessity. Be logical about your smaller purchases, they can add up more than you realize. Every penny counts when you're trying to make the most of your paycheck.