What do you earn? Do you feel like you are underpaid? Do you feel like your employer is not giving enough cost of living increases to keep up with inflation? I used to blame my lack of savings on the fact that my employer never paid enough money. I bitched that the world was becoming increasingly more expensive and employers needed to understand this and pay accordingly. There is some truth that many employers do not pay enough. Minimum wage is finally starting to increase here in Seattle thanks to a movement a few years ago. It would still be very hard for a family to get by on $15 an hour in the city. Throughout the country there are many in the same shoes trying to get by on lower wage jobs. I know what it is like trying to pay the bills while earning $12 an hour. Been there done that. Lately, I am starting to see the whole earning vs. spending cycle more like sports. You need to play both offense and defense to win the game. I see earnings game as offense.
Offense: In the quest to save money, the first thing we usually think about is what do we earn. This is where we tend to put the most energy in life. We talk to our spouses, family and friends about never being paid enough. We go to college, we go to trade school, we seek out professional development all in the hopes of earning more cash. We quit good jobs and take risks in the unknown at a new job all in the hopes of earning more. Earning money is like playing offense. Whether it is seeking higher pay at our jobs or jumping around, this is how we bring money into our life. Some people are motivated and start businesses in hopes of increasing earning potential. I have co-workers who work second jobs in the evenings and weekends. All of this to bring in more money.
Playing offense when it comes to earning is important. I will state the obvious, but the more money you can earn the more you can save. I am not saying go work two jobs, but if there is an opportunity to make more per hour, per day or per year, you should try to explore it. I do not encourage a miserable existence to achieve those ends. If earning an extra 10% a year would mean working 80 hours a week for an asshole, it is probably a bad idea. However; if you can increase your skill-sets and earn a little more money, why not? Playing offense in the savings games means creating potential. Without offense, (earnings), there is zero potential thus no way to play defense.
Defense: Of course playing defense in saving money comes down to the spend. There are several things we need in life including food, roof over the head and a few other necessary items. When you tally the list of what we actually need, it is not extremely long. Playing defense with our money is not sexy. We work hard and spend a lot of time playing offense so we can enjoy the fruits of that labor. However; if we do not spend a little time thinking about how we spend our money we risk wasting a lot of the hard earned wealth that we develop.
Think about this. You spend hours and hours every week earning money. You get up early, you commute, you deal with office politics all in order to earn money. Before you do this job, you might have spent some time in college or some type of training program. All of this time spent in order to earn cash. You give and you give and you give. You finally bring home a pay check and by then end of the weekend there is nothing fucking left. All of that time at work and you are waiting for the next paycheck. Do you ever stop to think if what you are buying is truly bringing you happiness? Do you think about those long hard days and ask if yourself if the way you spent your money earned was worth it? I can tell you most of my life, I did not. I spent so much money on useless junk without thinking about it. I earned plenty enough but played no defense and lived paycheck to paycheck.
Budget: Playing defense is not as complicated as I thought it would be. Start with a freaking budget man! I used to listen to people talk about budgeting and think that they were boring and needed to live life. Tracking money spending seemed like a chore and I wanted to just have fun. Now I keep a budget and track all of my expenses. I allocate a certain amount of money to eating out, drinking booze, going to movies and all of the other things I like to do. I just keep it within reason. I also use financial calculators. This has allowed me to better understand where all of my hard earned money is going. I can look back and decide if the expenditures I am making are really bringing me happiness. Being frugal in Seattle is not easy. There is a lot to do here. Saving money is Seattle is without a doubt hard.
I will write more about budgeting later, but this idea of offense and defense is interesting to me. As mentioned, we put so much energy into earning and then look the other way when it comes to spending. This all has led me to look for cheap options in enjoying Seattle. Let me know if you found yourself in similar circumstances.