We all want to save money. That’s a fact. In the midst of planning for retirement, paying bills and other expenses, and hoping to have a little left over for some fun, even the most anal retentive budgeters cannot perfectly master the art of financial management. And the truth is, it’s tough. As the number one cause of stress, there is no doubt that we need all the help we can get when it comes to managing our money.
Even if you keep your checkbook perfectly balanced, and you stick to your budget, it may still not be enough. But rather than using up a lot of your time looking to refinance and negotiate debt payments, you can reduce the amount you spend by simply changing some of your normal routine. You may be surprised at how much money you will save in the grand scheme of things.
Utilities are a necessity; We all need water, heat and electricity in order to survive. But we are so used to having these right at our fingertips that we often take them for granted. We don’t always realize how much excess we are using–and squeezing our wallets dry as a result.
Sometimes the cuts we make aren’t always the easiest, especially when it comes to water use. Try reducing the amount of time it takes for you to shower, and turn off the water while brushing your teeth or washing your face. Also make sure your washer and dishwasher are Energy Star appliances, which are designed to use less water and energy.
To cut back on electricity, open the windows once in a while. A little bit of sunlight is good for your skin and mental well-being. When you absolutely need light, only use what you need. There is no excuse for leaving the light on in another room you don’t intend on returning to for a while. Also invest in a smart power strip, which turns off plugged in electronics when they aren’t in use. This cuts back on vampire energy, or the energy used when electronics are plugged in but not in use.
Many people use the phrase “You get what you pay for,” which isn’t always true. When you buy cheaper brands of the food items you enjoy, they still are likely to be just as tasty. Also don’t forget to skim through the weekly coupons you receive in the mail for your local grocer; you may find some great deals on the food you usually buy. Sometimes you can even find free stuff if you know where to look.
If you like going to the mall, try steering toward the clearance racks in your favorite store. While keeping up with the trends sounds ideal, the majority of people really don’t care. Instead of focusing on what’s trendy, focus on what looks best on you. Even check out thrift and second hand stores. You might be surprised at the awesome, unique clothing you couldn’t find anywhere else.
Also cut back on going out to eat. While running by McDonald’s is faster than making lunch before work each morning, those dollar menu items will add up (in more ways than one). By planning ahead and making your lunch–or bringing leftovers from last night’s dinner–you are saving yourself money and preserving your health at the same time.
Stop buying bottled water – it is one of the most frivolous expenses anybody can make. If your tap water is not suitable for drinking, then purchase a water filter. It will cut back on waste and save you a lot of money in the long run.
Education is one of the biggest expenses for people today. With its rising costs, people are paying a ton of money just to enter a tough job market. Rather than driving to class each day, more and more people are using online degree programs. These programs tend to be much cheaper, don’t require gas to get to class, and you can do them on your own time schedule, leaving you time to go to work and still get a decent education. Just keep in mind that not all degree programs are created equal, so be sure to do your research and have realistic expectations before forking over the money.
4. Think Differently
The best way for you to save money is to think differently about how you handle money. Even if you have the room in your budget to go out to eat or buy something fancy and new, an altered mindset might make you second guess that purchase.
Think of the phrase “time is money.” Calculate how much you get paid per hour, even if you are salaried or own your own business. Then divide what you’re thinking about paying by that amount, and there you’ll have the number of hours it took for you to pay for that expense.
Let’s say, as an example, you make $12 per hour. You’re thinking about buying a new TV that costs $780. If you divide $780 by $12, you get 65. That means you had to work 65 hours in order to get this TV. Now do you think it is really worth it? It still might be, but when you put it into different terms you start to think harder about your purchases.
Money can be a difficult idea to grasp and then manage but once we realize that it’s not just about budgeting, but altering the way we live and think from day to day, we will soon discover that saving money really isn’t that difficult at all.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.