This evening, I spent a few minutes tallying up the savings on the bottom of a stack of shopping receipts. I usually collect them in a box for a few weeks, then pull out the calculator, add them up and add them to the running total I have been keeping for three years. The money represents the amounts I have saved and earned from couponing, sales and rebates everywhere I shop.
Tonight was a big night. I added over $400 in savings to the total, and it now stands at $10,240.02. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money saved over three years’ time, but when you consider what I didn’t have just a few years ago, you’ll reconsider.
I had no emergency fund, no someday fund, no HSA, a chronically empty checking account, and a savings account that rarely had more than a few hundred dollars in it at any given time. All of that has changed, and it happened without the intervention of a money fairy, sugar daddy or huge inheritance.
It was an ugly and painful journey from stupid broke to sound finances. I now have the EF, the HSA, the freelance fund, more than enough in the checking account and savings, no debt and my retirement funds are still intact. I did it with major changes (grocery shopping like it’s a professional sport, with coupons and sales matched; driving my old car for years, until an accident took its poor life), but most of the changes were minor, such as keeping a price book, saving spare change daily, walking and cycling instead of driving, and most significantly, saving what I save. After all, you cannot call it savings if you reap the rewards of careful spending, only to go out and spend them mindlessly.
I noticed that on some of those receipts, the savings were pretty significant – $40 or $50 at times. One receipt showed I had saved one cent. But I reason that it’s all the same good money, regardless of amount, and I have no shame or regret in toting up the columns and adding it to my account. It’s not just about the money. It’s about lessons learned, discipline gained and new habits formed.