There is a well-worn theme throughout many of this author’s postings: “It’s not what you make it’s what you keep…” After all, money spent is money gone so paying monthly expenses, AKA: for the majority of us making the ‘money and the month match’ is looked upon with dread. It does not have to be that way. Belt-tightening seems to have become a new indoor sport for the middle class, so that trimming excess household (and corporate) spending should be regarded as a badge of honor, not a source of shame. While some families turn to financial advisors for help to establish a household budget and to stay on track of their finances, that may be out of reach for others. Whatever category you fall into, take heart, here are a number of easily doable hacks to start saving money right away. In time these can lead to big savings and help to lower your debt.
Spending less is not a new concept. The fervently religious Victorians extended their concept of ‘Godliness’ by exercising thrift and value. Religion aside, these are great themes to live by. Today we can apply these concepts to our personal expenses. First, a solid piece of advice from someone who has ‘been there’: target what is a need versus what is a want. Then try to locate a viable substitute. Now here’s that list. You may marvel at how you’ve been overspending all these years:
1. Drive Up and Deli Food and Beverages
Sure it is hard to get up in time to make a sandwich and pack a lunch. So do it the night before and before you go spending $$$ at the deli counter, see what you can rustle up from your own fridge. Leftovers make a great scramble, or just roll into a burrito or tortilla wrapper and reheat in the office microwave.
And here is another nugget: I call it the ‘Goeszinta Factor’: that breakfast burrito and small coffee will cost you $4-5 a day. Stop spending that money at least 3 x a week and you’ll save about $800 a year. Don’t believe me, do the math!
Now let’s extrapolate this equation further (yes, I come from a financial background). Invest this $800 for 20-25 years at an average interest rate of 7% and, given unforeseen market fluctuations, you’ll reap about $35K in savings plus interest. And half the time that fast food burrito is stone cold, so chew on this concept instead. Not a bad trade off, no?!
2. Make Your Own Java, Dammit!
Invest in a good coffee maker and thermos and start brewing and bringing your own java. Not enough time in the morning? Buy a brewer that stores ground coffee and water and brews it automatically to the time you set. Not only will it taste better, but few aromas are nicer to wake up to than fresh coffee perking!
3. Buy Second Hand
Also not every occasion merits a new dress. If you must see and be seen, try any of the online thrift shops for current, well-curated outfits at a fraction of the original cost. And if you balk at pre-owned clothing- remember that in a retail store, others will have tried on, and rejected the same garment on the rack. So get over yourself! Recommended online secondary market retailers include: ThredUp, Ebay, Poshmark, The Real Real, Rue La La, and so many more! BTW: most have policies that cover issues such as the seller not sending the goods so there is no buyer risk involved.
4. Paper Goods
While we advocate buying the best toilet tissue on sale, forgo buying paper towels and napkins. Use cloth napkins instead, and recycle old natural fiber clothing as rags. No one is going to see them anyway. The environment and your wallet will thank you.
5. Female Versions of Products
Shaving cream and razors for women are a rip-off. Period. Learn to like blue, black, silver, and green disposable razors and unscented shaving cream. You’ll save about 40%. Seriously. Deodorant and soaps, too.
6. Convenience Foods at the Grocery
Everything you use from bags of shredded salad (which are almost always turning brown or soon do in your fridge), to cut up fruit, to juice boxes, to single servings of yogurt are costing you big time. Okay, it may be hard to part with all of them, but again, invest in decent quality, washable food storage containers and portion out these foods at home into individual servings for great savings. Manage your time and you’ll soon be thanking yourself when you pay your monthly bills!
7. Sell One Family Car
Whoa! We all love our freedom machines. And those of us who responsibly traded sports cars for SUV or vans to transport our families have been longing to buy their next ride and drive something we’d be proud to call our own. But stop and think about it. Have you or your spouse become remote workers, that is, not commuting to an office anymore? Then why are you paying for two cars? Two car loans? Maintenance for two vehicles? Two insurance policies? Filling two gas tanks? Etc. This is a tough decision as we are very possessive about our vehicles. Spouses and partners need to have a serious discussion because this is one change that can reap long-term savings as well as an immediate influx of cash.
8. Downsize Your Home
You might consider this a drastic move. (Figuratively and literally.) After all, both spouses are working. Shouldn’t you cut back on say, another big expense such as vacation trips instead? Look at it this way. Your kids are young only once and many family memories are made on vacation. So this is may not be a good line item to trim family fun your household budget. But do your need that 5-bedroom, 3.5 bathroom house when your children will be off to college in a few short years? Bunk beds, and a smaller, 2-bath house will pay dividends in cheaper upkeep and lower taxes. It is worth considering.
9. Know When Not to Cheap Out
There are just some things that you should not cheap out on. Seeing a doctor when you are sick rather than self-medicate with OTC items from the local chain drug store is one. Buying quality vitamins and supplements rather than whatever is on sale and near its expiration date is another. Putting off the roofing or chimney repair are two others. You can see where we are going with this. It is the old ‘ounce of prevention’ axiom and it is still valid. Besides, for the last two items, there is always Groupon!
Well there you have it. For those who were expecting a list that included, “cancel cable, cancel subscriptions, stop dining out…” we assume you’ve already gone down that road. The purpose of this article has been to point out other overlooked areas, some easy to make a new habit and others that might require some emotional surgery. Whatever you decide, remember to consider the long term.
Before you leap and put your house on the market, or sell one of your rides, however, consult a financial planner, a realtor, and anyone who can advise you about taking your next steps to financial freedom. These professionals can assist you to understand how to make your current economic situation more bearable, and your long-term financial outlook brighter. It might be that your earning power over the next five-10 years will increase. Or that, in lieu of drastic changes to your family life, that simply starting a part-time, at-home business will alleviate most of your money worries. We do not expect that you’ll employ all these suggestions, and only advise that the time to start thinking about your financial future is now.