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Day One January Challenge – every dollar counts

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Photo of a flowering chestnut tree
Even great trees start from a small seed

Wow, what a year 2017 was!  So much change for me.  How did the year develop for you? And did you do what many people do, and make financial goals?  If so,  how do you intend to keep them? I would love to hear from you about your journey.

In November I focused on creating big cash savings. But this month, I have gone from the macro to the micro.

The theme for January is ‘every dollar counts’.

I have noticed from talking with people that there is a tendency to think that ‘if only’ I just earned more money, or ‘if only’ I didn’t have that urgent car repair issue, or ‘if only’ I didn’t have to pay such high rent then I could finally begin to save.  And then also there is the thought that such and such is ‘only a few dollars’ so that it doesn’t really matter.  I heard people say this a lot when I lived in Taiwan – the Australian Dollar was high at the time and local living was so cheap compared with Australia.  It was less than 50c to buy a cup of coffee at the 7-Eleven downstairs from my office, and only a few dollars to buy freshly baked bagels for breakfast.   A five-course meal at a five-star hotel cost around AUD$33 (those were the days!).

But my attitude has been, and always will be, that every dollar counts.  Every single dollar.

I was having a discussion with my good friend and blogger Evangeline from Nilbarcodefood about the power of little savings earlier in the year.  She said that it was paramount to get the structural things right, and then the little things didn’t matter so much. In her case, she and her husband own their apartment and so are rent free.  They also cycle a lot rather than drive, and she cooks some amazing meals from scratch.  These major savings enable them to do other things like save, invest and go on holidays.

I agree with her, but I also think the little things matter for several reasons.

  1. Most wealth creation is done steadily over a long period of time.  It is a cumulation of focus and effort, and it is the cumulative effort of the trickles and droplets becoming a ripple, becoming a stream and becoming an ocean.   As they say, watch the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.
  2. Saving money is about good habits.  If you don’t develop good savings habits now, even if you suddenly become a millionaire you won’t be able to save money.  Ever wondered why people who win millions in lotteries don’t tend to keep the money? There are a lot of complex reasons for this, but one of the major ones is that they never had a savings or investing mindset to begin with.  If all you do is spend, spend, spend then that is what you will always do no matter who much money comes into your life.
  3. The miracle of compound interest means that there are huge advantages to starting to save early and consistently.  Superannuation, in particular, is specially designed to maximise regular saving over a long period of time.  Investment is about time and money, and just like a big tree, it starts with something small.
  4. You develop value thinking and can make good choices on large ticket expenses when you understand that every little bit counts.  It is easy to think that you don’t need to negotiate on big items because in the scheme of things it doesn’t matter that much.  For example, Neil and I recently bought an investment property and I negotiated hard on the final $1,000 off the purchase price.  It is very tempting to think “oh, another thousand dollars or two doesn’t matter because the overall price is in the hundreds of thousands, and anyway it is a good deal and it is all tax deductible anyway”.  But I stopped and told myself that that extra thousand equates to 20 weeks of groceries for my kids and I. Or put in another way, it is nearly half a years’ worth of food and groceries.  Puts it into perspective, doesn’t it?
  5. You are more likely to identify structural problems in your budget when you focus on both the small and the big.  Every month I do an income/expenses report. Every month I look at the same set of figures. And occasionally, I look at things and they just make more sense.  Like why am I going without coffees/teas from the cafe at work while I am paying large amounts of money every month on credit card charges?  Or why am I paying $60 a month for an online subscription that I don’t read nearly as much as I should?  Or if my budget is so tight, why don’t I rent out a spare room?  These things seem obvious but oddly I find that I don’t recognise how the big things are staring me in the face until I see the small ones.

This month I have lots of ideas to help you maximise the little things to help make things great.  A key to all of this is good planning.  Wealthy people are organised.   Are you organised?

Today’s challenge is to start getting organised.  What is your financial goal for this year? How much do you want to save between now and this time next year?  Or by the end of the month?  Write it down.  Then think big and increase it to a number that feels scary yet still somehow achievable.  Put it up somewhere prominent, like on the mirror where you brush your teeth or next to your bed.  Look at that number and have faith that, dollar by dollar, you will get to it.  As for me, my goal is $1 million networth by NYE 2018/19, and my apartment paid off in full.

 

4 comments

  1. Interesting. I’m one of those people who doesn’t seem to worry much day to day. Maybe I’ll have to start considering every dollar as you suggest and see if it makes a difference.

    Best of luck on your massive goal!

    1. Thank you:) I don’t stress over each dollar so much as value it, if that makes sense. But I do find that the little things add up very quickly.

  2. I SO agree with this post.
    I think the importance of the little things is that they happen thousands of times more often than the big things. You mention buying an investment property… I’m guessing you don’t do that every week or every day. Yet decisions about food, drink, transport, etc happen all the time.
    Those little dollars really add up quickly.

    1. Hi, I think you make some great points. And yes, the ‘little things’ do happen thousands of times. They are often those unconscious things that you do without thinking about them. Being in a new relationship, it is interesting to see how many ‘little things’ Neil notices me doing that save money. Like how I often say no to little purchases that in the scheme of things don’t seem to matter. Just yesterday I was at ALDI and I nearly bought a few $3.99 Pokemon books for my eldest son. Then I realised his school library has a whole collection and he loves borrowing them there. Maybe $4 (I probably would have bought at least two) doesn’t seem like a lot, mean even for me not to buy them, but after he reads them once I doubt he would read them again. Then that is clutter I need to get rid of from my apartment, not to mention $8 less than goes towards paying my mortgage.

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