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It’s better to live for the moment than save for the future, right?
I don’t blame you for thinking this way. After all, life happens.
Sometimes you need to spend all your extra money on random things to ease financial stress.
I challenge you to think about your extra money differently. Instead, think ahead about how you’d like to spend your money.
Let’s jump right in on how to do just that.
Anticipate Money-Saving Opportunities
You’re curious to find extra money—now what?
First, understand what extra money is. Any income or money that you receive from sources besides your full-time job is extra money. That’s because this income isn’t dependent on any bills.
The truth is that everyone’s situation is different. Some people will receive more breaks than others. But if you improve at spotting these money-saving opportunities, you’ll spend wiser.
Here are some of the most popular scenarios where you’ll receive extra money.
The most common time to find extra money is during the holidays. Christmas is a time when people spend a lot of their money. For example, GOBankingRates’ survey revealed that Americans spent $0–$199 on Christmas gifts.
But relatives and friends don’t always know what to gift their loved ones, so they rely on gift cards. This is where your extra money comes in—and according to Bankrate, Americans spent more than $9 billion on gift cards.
Whether you receive a $25 or $200 gift card, this is an opportunity to be mindful of how you’ll spend this money.
Many of us, including myself, receive a check from the IRS after filing our taxes each year. Many people view this as FREE money, but this isn’t the case.
Because this means you overpaid the government for your taxes. For example, if you owe the government $14K in taxes and paid $15K, you’ll get a check for $1000 when you file your taxes.
Although you didn’t lose money, you lost the opportunity to pay down debt or save money. Regardless, this is still extra money. I’d argue that this scenario is a good thing for some if the money was poorly spent.
Chances are you work hard at your job. You may love your field and team, but promotion is often an end goal.
According to Kiplinger, top-performing employees receive a salary increase of 4.5%–5% each year, while low-performing employees receive salary increases anywhere from 0.7%–1%. Taking the average annual American salary of 45K, you can expect a $315 bonus in the worst-case scenario.
You’re already working hard, so there’s a good chance you can expect a raise at the end of the year. Until then, prepare how you’ll spend this money. But if you’re like me and don’t like waiting for opportunities, there’s an alternative.
An Alternative to Obtaining Extra Money
So what other alternatives are there?
The short answer is dozens. Depending on how hard you’re willing to hustle, you have many options for finding the extra cash. What I’m referring to is building a side hustle.
A side hustle is a part-time job that you’ll use to earn extra income. If you don’t know which side hustle to choose, here’s a great place to start.
What To Do With Your Extra Money
So you’ve anticipated your money-saving opportunities. You’ve hustled your butt off, and now you have extra money to work with. What should you do with this extra money?
Spend it mindfully. But more importantly, use this money to bring happiness into your life. Saving money only for long-term goals can be tedious and shouldn’t be the only thing you should save for.
Here’s why: You’ll be less likely to stay motivated and will eventually misspend your money. Instead, here are a few ideas on how to spend any extra money you receive.
These ideas go against the norm of what most people think, but they’ve helped me improve my finances. I hope that these ideas do the same for you.
Give Your Money Away
Believe it or not, giving to others can be more fulfilling than receiving.
When you receive extra money, this is the perfect time to give some to the less fortunate. You’ll feel happier and know you’re impacting other lives.
Research shows that people who volunteer their time and money live happier lives. In the past, when I volunteered at a center helping immigrants, I felt more grateful. I saw people who struggled with a language barrier and had low-paying jobs requiring harsh labor.
Another benefit to giving money away is building an abundant mindset. This will open many doors as you see more opportunities that most can’t see. As Gary Vaynerchuck puts it well, have macro patience and macro speed.
For example, you may not see any positive returns the moment you give money away, but in the long run, you will. This is not to say that you should expect something because you’re giving money away. Yet, you’ll become a better person for it.
Don’t wait to give away money once you’ve reached financial success; start today.
Automatically Spend it
What you don’t see won’t hurt you.
Similarly, you won’t see any extra money if you set up an automatic budget. Instead, it will get transferred to different accounts, funding other savings goals. This can be tricky if you receive unexpected money, but you can follow similar principles.
For example, any time you receive extra money, make it a habit to deposit it into your checking account. Saving money shouldn’t be your only priority, but saving is still important. And what better way than saving automatically?
Buy Nice Things
I bet you didn’t imagine spending your extra money on nice things, right?
But this is one of the essential rules for saving. You’re often told to save money only for your future. The problem is, you can feel miserable when you resist buying nice things.
It can take years for you to save for a long-term goal. So what happens? You end up spending your money impulsively, sometimes spending more than you’ve saved.
Don’t go overboard spending all your extra money on nice things, but create a healthy balance. For example, set a rule only to spend 30% of the extra income you receive and donate the rest.
Practicing this method will increase your chances of being mindful of your spending.
Build A Purpose
I get it—you’re busy, and life gets in the way.
That’s why receiving extra money is a great solution to start setting new goals. For example, maybe you’d like to save for a vacation six months from now but haven’t started. Maybe you want to pay down debt faster but have difficulty setting aside extra money.
Having extra money can help you recover from bad choices and plans.
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Do I have any debt that I’d like to pay down faster?
- Are there any big purchases I’d like to make this year?
- When do I want to retire?
Mindfully Spend Your Extra Money
Picture living your life to the fullest and using your money to help others. You’re still buying nice things while reaching critical financial goals.
Doesn’t this sound good?
You have what it takes to turn your financial life around. Mindfully spending $20 won’t feel life-changing, but you’ll maximize your spending. You’ll feel more grateful and satisfied and be a better person for this.
Create a healthy balance and make mindful choices.
This article originally appeared on Financially Well Off.