I have a rule; you aren't allowed to complain about something unless you are actively trying to fix the situation. This goes for relationships, financial situations, career choices, and even fitness goals. We all have that one friend who complains about how much weight she's gained since graduation but wouldn't be caught dead sweating in a gym. And everyone knows the guy in the cube over is forever complaining about not being financially stable but continues to spend his lunch break in the Burger King drive-thru. The point is, don't be the person complaining, be the person who is actively working to improve yourself.
I assume you have a list of things you aren't currently happy with about your life. You want to move out of your parents’ basement or even your hometown? You want to put a down payment on a car? You want to travel more? Guess what? All of these goals require you to have money. If you want it bad enough, and I definitely did, you'll need to make sacrifices and keep yourself on track to reach your goal.
Two years ago, I sat down with my budget spreadsheet and decided that I needed to save $10,000 over the next six months to be able to survive at least a month of funemployment and move across the country. You know how dieticians and trainers will always tell you to take your time and be patient to see results? They’ll advise you never to crash diet or make any extreme, unhealthy changes? This is the financial version of that. I could have been so much smarter and started managing my money better much sooner. But I didn’t, so here’s the crash diet version.
Step 1: Get Another Job
It sucks, I know. There’s no way you can save a shit ton of money by just lowering your expenses; you’ll need to increase your income as well. Most successful and wealthy people will tell you that they did not become rich by simply working one 9-5 job. They gained wealth from passive income, investment opportunities, and other forms of work.
There are 168 hours in a week. We'll assume you currently work 40 of them. This leaves you with 128 hours left. I pinky promise that you will not die if you sacrifice an extra 20 to build more income. If this seems completely unreasonable to you, we need to have a conversation about grit and complacency.
Yours truly chose to hit up Dick's Sporting Goods for a part-time job. Nothing good happens when your pride gets in the way. And I was definitely not above wearing that green lanyard for just above minimum wage. How bad could it be trying to sell overpriced workout gear on weekends? It was bad. Really bad. It's a special version of Hell being surrounded by high school students on a Friday night trying to figure out how they're going to get beer for after work. And it's all sorts of awkward trying to explain to acquaintances that wander in that yes, you do actually have a real job and are really using your degree, this is just for extra income. I was there at 8am every Saturday, in my yoga pants with my walkie-talkie, all ready to go. Was it awful? Yes. Was it worth it? I'm not totally sure. But I did it for 6 months. I was willing to sacrifice to reach my goal.
On top of that, I got ahold of people that I had previously worked for or with to see if they knew of any other opportunities for me. Don't ever be afraid to use your network, that's what they're there for. So, thanks to a previous boss, I was all set up to be his personal slave indefinitely. Kidding, thanks Gary. I made a few beer runs, ran some errands, took minutes for meetings, edited his writing, and helped him keep his sanity on a day-to-day basis. I was often greeted with an unfiltered wheat ale, a pile of receipts to reconcile, and hundreds of scattered thoughts to turn into a blog posting. I definitely recommend this type of income over any retail, but working 60 hour weeks isn't fun any way you spin it.
An unexpected side effect of working constantly was that I wasn't spending as much as I had in previous months. Instead of going to bars or out of town for the weekend, I was working. Not only was I building my income, I was also too busy to spend unnecessary money. I definitely don't recommend this long term for social reasons, but six months won't kill you.
Like any other goal, this will take sacrifice. If it were easy, anyone would do it. Six months will seem like no time if you reallllly want to save up for that month of backpacking across Europe, a down payment on your dream home, or maybe a head start on your retirement account.
Special thanks to Zack Mathis for reminding me that I'm good at money, not grammar.