The golden rule of personal finance, at least when it comes to saving, is to pay yourself first. If you can make putting away money a priority, then you're setting yourself up with basically the best financial habit there is. WIN!
When it comes down to it, there really is only one rule to getting ahead: Spend less than you earn. Simple math dictates that when your outgoings exceed what’s coming in, you're going to fall behind.
And who wants to live life constantly on the back foot? I know what it's like to be stressed about money, struggling to cashflow bills when they come in at the end of the month, being reduced to tears when other unexpected expenses crop up.
In order to spend less than I earn, I like to keep my fixed costs low. In particular, the biggies. You need to house, feed and haul yourself around; there's no getting around that. But that doesn't mean you have to live somewhere with a guest bedroom or a pool.
While I spend a lot of time at home (I'm a homebody and I'm not ashamed to admit it), we're still renting, so I don't see the point of stretching our housing budget to the max for the time being. We stay away from expensive cuts of meat and out-of-season food for the most part, and we've always buy second-hand cars.
Honestly, the main reason I'm able to keep my budget in line is because I still have a bit of the student mindset. Most of my habits haven't changed from my university days.
I still buy clothes secondhand or on sale the vast majority of the time. I eat a lot of cheap food staples — chickpeas, rice, potatoes and such.
We rarely go to the movies, and when we d0 I try to arrange it for Tuesdays when tickets are cheapest (and usually pay for them using credit card rewards).
I don't have a car of my own — we share one between the two of us, and since I walk to work and hate driving, it's my fiance who uses it 99 percent of the time.
And yes, while we have moved to a bigger place since I graduated, it's still cheap by Auckland standards and it's a bit of a dump. Yes, it's roomy — there's more space than we've ever had — but the carpets are ancient, dingy and scuffed, door handles are falling off, the older windows are stiff, and this old house is generally coming apart at the seams.
When we first rocked up to look at it, we nearly turned right around and left without even going in. We decided to give it a chance, though, and while it was definitely borderline in terms of my standards, we decided it would do just fine for the meantime.