Saving money is something my mother has preached to me since I was a kid. I can remember leaving the grocery store and wanting to buy a toy out of those vending machines filled with bouncy balls or tiny figurines. I would beg my mom for fifty cents so I could turn that magic silver knob and see what toy fate would roll my way, but every single time, her answer remained the same: no. When I was a little older and had my own money to spend (usually saved up from babysitting), my mother still refused to let me buy BFF break-apart heart necklaces from Claire’s or silver sparkle deluxe beauty kits from Limited Too. If I had a quarter for every time I was told, “I am not letting you waste your money on that crap” I could buy an entire vending machine full of mood rings! Throughout my teen years, I was constantly being told not to waste my money on useless things like manicures and makeup but rather to SAVE MY MONEY. I never listened.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I started taking the concept seriously.

I got engaged and started exploring wedding options.  From classic to destination, brunch to a backyard, I researched it all.  After six months of driving myself mad, I finally came to the conclusion that I wanted a “classic” wedding.  I envisioned an evening ceremony followed by a romantic reception that went late into the night with drinks, dancing, and of course, great food.  I started calling on local venues and caters explaining that my budget was limited and asking about affordable options. As the quotes started pouring in, each one more expensive than the last, I nearly had a stroke.  There was no way I could afford a venue, or catering, or any of the staple parts needed to put on a “classic” wedding. At these prices, I would have to sell a kidney just to pay for the appetizers!  I quickly came to the realization that the only way I was going to pay for this wedding was to start saving – like yesterday!

It’s hard to start saving money just for the heck of it but, it becomes a lot easier if you have a goal.  Putting a reward at the end of that long dark savings road will help keep you focused and motivated.  My wedding was the dangling carrot that this horse-bride was chasing! Your saving goal might be to buy something small like a new computer or something big like a house. You may want to save for a family vacation or for a trip to visit a friend who lives across the country. Maybe your goal is to build up a “rainy day” or “in-case-of-emergency” fund. Whatever it may be, set a goal for yourself and keep your eye on that prize.

In order to save money to pay for my wedding, I had to make a few sacrifices…

I stopped getting my nails done at the salon ($35 a month) and did them myself. I stopped going to Starbucks every other day ($20 a week) and started brewing coffee at home. I stopped going out to lunch ($40 a week) and started brown bagging it. I even moved out of my spacious, two bedroom duplex to a tiny studio apartment in the basement of a townhouse – talk about sacrifice! The move was a major adjustment for me but, it literally cut my rent in half and was totally worth it (saved $400 a month). These lifestyle changes ended up saving me $675 a month!

Hear me out for a second – I am in no way saying that if you want to save money you can never buy another caramel macchiato. What I am saying is that in order to save money, we need to be conscious of all the extra spending we do here and there and how much it adds up. A few years ago I was extremely frustrated because every month I was literally left with just a few dollars in my bank account. For months I was desperate for that next paycheck and regularly prayed that the tank of gas in my car would last me until payday. Where was the heck all my money going? I decided to sit down and go through my monthly bank statement item by item to see where I was spending my money and why I was left with just pennies at the end of each month. My discovery was straight up scary. In just one month I had spent $150 stopping at convenience stores for drinks and gum. One Hundred and Fifty Dollars! I would challenge everyone to complete this exercise – take the time to go through your monthly bank statement and examine exactly where you are spending your hard earned money. I had no idea that spending $3 here and $5 there could add up to the equivalent of my monthly student loan payment. Needless to say, I gave up my 7-Eleven stops for sugar-free vitamin water cold turkey. I marched myself over to Target, spent $10 on a pretty, glass water bottle and never looked back.

Another thing that really kept me on track with my savings goal was setting up an automatic transfer. It is super easy to do and trust me; you will thank yourself for this later. Depending on your preference, set up a transfer from your checking to your savings account to occur monthly or bi-weekly as you get paid. Think of it as another bill and factor the amount into your monthly budget: $600 – rent, $85 – insurance, $60 – cell phone, $50 – savings. This was major for me because, if I don’t see the money in my account, I won’t spend it! I decided to set up my automatic transfer for every payday because it felt less intimidating to save $50 twice a month vs. $100 once a month.

Saving money is so incredibly important. Not just because it teaches us to make sacrifices and to spend our money wisely i.e. not blowing all of your 8th Birthday money on miniature troll dolls from a vending machine but because it gives us peace of mind. Knowing that you don’t have to freak out when your car needs a repair because you have savings to cover it. Not having to charge your flight home for the holidays because you spent your money wisely all year and can pay cash. Saving money may seem difficult at first but once you get started, I promise you won’t look back.