René Nourse, CFP®
We’ve all been there at some point in our lives: when the money runs out well before the month ends. It’s a sinking feeling to realize that you have bills and obligations that you simply don’t have the money to cover.
You most likely have a set amount of fixed expenses—those bills and obligations that don’t fluctuate from month-to-month and aren’t easily changed—but you also have variable expenses that represent the daily decisions like eating out, buying clothes, Starbucks runs, and social outings. These variable expenses are usually what put us over the edge in terms of excessive spending.
Let’s look at some creative ways that we can decrease our monthly expenses and even have extra left over at the end of the month!
1. Write down everything
A dollar here and a dollar there ends up being a lot of money at the end of each month. Be mindful about where you are spending and how much you are spending through getting in the habit of writing everything down.
2. Make your own coffee
If you feel like you can’t live without your Starbucks (or other name brand coffee), challenge yourself to at home coffee for a month and see how much you notice the difference. Chances are you will get used to making a quick cup of coffee in return for more money at the end of the month.
3. Plan your grocery trips
Everyone knows that walking into a major supermarket is one of the most tempting things ever. Having a pre-planned list of items helps to keep you on track as you are inundated with yummy treats. Also, plan out recipes for the entire week and look for recipes with overlapping ingredients to cut down on the number of food items you need to buy. If you are cooking for one, choose meals you’ll like as leftovers to avoid wasting food.
4. Buy generic brands
You might be surprised to know that many generic brands of foods are just as tasty as the expensive name brands. Sometimes they actually are the same—just with different labels. Don’t be seduced by great packaging. At the end of the day, milk is milk.
5. Pack a lunch
It may take a few extra minutes each day, but packing your lunch will not only help your wallet, but also your waistline. Save time by taking leftovers from that delicious dinner you made last night.
6. Carpool (or walk or bike)
Sharing a car or taking alternative ways to work will not only save in gas and wear and tear on your vehicle, but it will also allow your bank account to grow as you save.
7. Slow down
Simply driving more slowly, or less aggressively, will save significant amounts of money on gas.
8. Re-evaluate your insurance
Whether it’s life, health, or travel insurance, shop around for the best deals and compare prices.
9. Decrease your phone bill
Evaluate whether you really need the biggest and best plan, or if the minimum will work. Don’t stay stuck on a carrier, shop around to see what the other companies are offering to their customers.
10. Cancel club memberships
Instead of paying premium pricing for exclusive memberships, take advantage of the great (free) outdoors! Get on your bike, take a hike, or lift weights at home. If you just can’t give up yoga, Pilates, or other exercise classes, look for deals on websites like LivingSocial and Groupon (see Tip 14, below). You’ll save money and avoid committing to on-going automatic payments that add up, even during months you don’t use the membership.
11. Turn off the lights
Get into the habit of flicking off the light switch every time you leave a room. This will save on your monthly electricity bill.
12. Unplug unused appliances
Do you have electrical devices around the house they stayed plugged in, but are rarely used? To eliminate the small use of electricity that is running through the cord into the device, simply unplug it.
13. Pay with cash
Take out a certain amount of cash each week and when that is gone, it’s gone. This is a great way to keep check on frivolous spending and prevent you from racking up credit card bills.
14. Look for deals
Sign into LivingSocial and Groupon, or create an Amazon.com account, to capitalize on discount pricing for home goods, beauty products, social activities, and a variety of local services, including beauty services. Exercise a little patience to take advantage of sales at your favorite retailers, or shop online at retailers dedicated exclusively to selling goods at discounted prices, such as Hautelook, Gilt and Bluefly. Also, discount stores near pricey neighborhoods tend to carry higher-end items at deep discounts.
15. Take care of your health
By taking care of your health now, you will help to eliminate costly health obligations down the road.
Excess stuff takes time and resources to maintain. Why not just get rid of unwanted stuff and make a little extra money in the process? Yard sales, ebay, craigslist, and amazon are great ways to offload excess stuff.
17. Bundle services
Many times, your cable, internet or phone service will bundle plans and services to save you money.
18. Eliminate services
Are there things you pay for but don’t use? Stop throwing away money and get rid of services that aren’t 100% necessary.
19. Take a pause on clothes shopping
American consumers have more clothes in their closets than most people in the world. Get creative with your clothes and take a break from the spending. Learn to differentiate between needs and wants — and be honest. Do you really need that hot pink sweater, these suede platforms, or those expensive workout pants, or do you just really want them?
20. Be a smart shopper
Impulse and emotional shopping is a fastest way to break the bank. Be smart about your purchases and remain in control. Don’t let stress or circumstance drive you to overspend. No purse, bracelet or pair of shoes—no matter how stunning—will solve that stressful situation. Instead, go for a walk; it’s free and will help clear your head.
Being a conscious consumer will help you to avoid many of the pitfalls that come with overextending your wallet. Use this list as a reference tool when you are looking for creative ways to cut your expenses!
Photo Source: Freedigitalphotos.net, keerati