Movies, cartoons, and video games have reinforced the image of ninjas as sword-slashing combatants. True, ninja's are experts at both armed and unarmed combat. They are also spiritually refined and philosophical as well as masters of strategy. When it comes to managing money, adopting some of these ninja traits can help you slash the cost of living.
Ninjas must be in tune with themselves spiritually. According to Ninjutsu.org.uk, Seishin Teki Kyoyo (spiritual refinement) is one of the 18 levels of training where ninjas develop their personal power and assess their strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to managing money, finding your own personal power, strengths, and weaknesses is one of the most important steps.
As you begin your cost-cutting journey, write down your financial strengths and weaknesses. Are you good at paying your bills on time? Write that down. Do you have a weakness for "retail therapy"? Write that down, too. By understanding where you excel and where you struggle, you'll be better able to leverage your strengths and address your weaknesses.
First, know that you CAN slash your living costs if you put your mind to it. Start each day with a positive affirmation related to saving money. Do this every day and you will build your resolve and be more aware of what you spend.
Disguise and Impersonation
Another ninja skill that may help is the ability to become a master of disguise, or Henso-Jutsu. Ninjas assume false identities as part of their espionage duties, blending in perfectly due to their ability to impersonate the role they've adopted. You can use a similar approach to gain control over your monthly budget.
For example, if you've identified a weakness for retail therapy, consider assuming the role of someone who finds therapeutic relief in a different manner. When you're feeling stressed and want to go shopping to blow off steam, assume an opposite role. Instead of playing the part of shopper, become a donor. Go through your closets and donate clothes you don't wear to charity. You'll get a similar feeling of satisfaction without the price tag.
Bo-Ryaku, or strategy, is another area ninjas (and money ninjas) must master. Before you can begin slashing costs, you need to know where your money goes and what you want to accomplish. This particular lesson will take you at least one month. Spend 30 days tracking every penny that you spend in a notebook or spreadsheet. You likely know how much you spend each month on rent, utilities, and groceries, but you may be surprised at how quickly all the frivolous expenses add up.
At the end of the month, take a look at your expenses. That $19 gym membership you never use doesn't seem too expensive and the $3 in overdue library books wasn't too painful. However, when combined with other non-essential expenses, you may discover that you're spending hundreds of dollars on things you don't need.
In addition to understanding where your money goes, you should also determine your motivation. Without a goal, your strategy will flounder. Don't just say you want to "save money." Be specific. Why do you want to save money? To save for a down payment on a house? To fund your emergency savings account? To pay for your child's college education? To become financially independent? No matter what your motivation may be, define it as specifically as you can and include a dollar amount. Write your goal down and post it in a prominent location so that it's always at the top of your mind.
Now that you feel empowered and have a strategy, you can move on to the money-slashing phase of your money ninja training. While ninjas master the Ninja Ken, or ninja sword, using both a fast draw technique and fencing skills, your money slashing skills don't necessarily need to be precise or practiced. You just need to do it.
Take your list of monthly expenses and start slashing! Use a highlighter to highlight everything you can do without. Now, make a few phone calls. For example, if you realized that you aren't using your $19 per month gym membership, call the gym and cancel it. That phone call just saved you over $200 per year. Call your cable company and drop your premium channels. Call your insurance agent and raise your insurance deductibles so that you can reduce your monthly premiums.
As you go about your daily routine, think like a money ninja and look for ways to cut your expenses. For example, if you stop by the local deli for lunch and find yourself ordering a soda to go with your sandwich, stop yourself and ask for a glass of water instead. Take it further by reminding yourself to pack your lunch the next day.
You're empowered, you have a strategy and a goal, and you've begun slashing costs. You're well on your way to becoming a money ninja! However, all ninjas-in-training can benefit from a few helpful pointers. Below are a few more ideas for slashing your costs.
• Insurance – When was the last time you shopped for insurance for your car, home, or health? Online tools make it easy to quickly compare rates and potentially save money. While you're at it, choose a high insurance deductible and consider consolidating to a single carrier for all of your policies.
• Food – Pack your lunch each day. If you'd rather not go the brown bag route, buy an inexpensive but funky bento box and have a little fun with your fixings.
• Energy – Install water-saving fixtures and energy-efficient light bulbs. Instead of regulating temperature by the thermostat, dress in layers.
• Communications – Ditch the landline and either stick with your cell phone or go with an inexpensive VoIP phone service.
• Travel – Pack picnics for your road trips instead of stopping for junk food.
• Entertainment – Cancel your movie subscription and premium cable in favor of board games, books, DVDs from the library, and family sing-alongs.
From empowerment and role-playing to personal assessments and goal setting, you can be a money ninja and slash the cost of living.