When you’re working and making an average or above average income, sometimes it’s nice to spend money just because you can. I’m usually pretty good with money but for some reason, getting take-away food is my enemy. I know I have better food waiting for me at home yet I still purchase restaurant food. And I almost always regret it because I know I have an inexpensive and usually better tasting meal at home. I’m much better about that now and I probably go to a restaurant twice a month after calculating how much money I was spending.
There are lots of ways to reduce money without having to sacrifice your current lifestyle and we’ll look at a few examples of what my family is currently doing.
The first thing you need to do is sit down and go over all of your spending. It’s annoying but you have to go through your credit card statements and bank statements to see where you bought something, how often, and the reason for doing it. You might be surprised to find that you spend money on a drink or snack just for the heck of it. Did you really need that coffee, candy bar, or doughnut? The answer is most likely a ‘no’.
Set a Goal
It’s easy to say you want to save money and you may avoid an unnecessary purchase here and there but you won’t be fully committed until you set yourself a goal. What the goal may be is completely up to you. You can setup a separate bank account for the purpose of putting excess money there and your rule is to never touch that account. Your goal could be to fill a jar with money until you reach enough to go on a vacation. As long as you have a goal, you are more likely to stick with the path you have chosen to achieve it.
I personally had a Mexico vacation jar since my friend and I planned a trip about a year in advance. My goal was to reach $1,200 to take the trip without it affecting my personal bank account. Besides my Monday to Friday work, I took up a cashier job at a corner store working for cash. I would spend five hours every Saturday at the store until that jar had $1,200. I didn’t mind spending the early part of Saturday working and at the end of it, it felt really good to be able to purchase the trip without it affecting my savings account.
Purchase Smaller Packages
Usually, it’s cheaper to buy packages in bulk but that’s not always the case. I’ve been at Safeway and Wal-Mart on numerous occasions pulling out the calculator on my phone to see what’s best for my wallet. And to my surprise, there are lots of products that are actually cheaper to purchase if you get the smaller one. I’m not saying this is the case all the time but it’s worthwhile to calculate and squeeze those pennies. Every penny saved counts in the long run.
Stop Buying Coffee at Starbucks
A very easy way to stop spending money on a daily basis is to stop going to Starbucks, Blenz, Tim Hortons, Dunkin Donuts, or which ever place you go to get your morning, afternoon, and evening coffees at. I invested in a Delonghi Lattissima Plus and the machine has practically paid for itself. I get gourmet drinks for a fraction of the cost. Also, Nescafe instant coffee is pretty awesome tasting (in my opinon) and inexpensive.
I admit, I was embarrassed to use cut out coupons in the past to save $0.50 on a bag of potatoes or whatever grocery item it may have been. I practically grew up on coupons thanks to my parents and saw them using these things every Friday when they went shopping. Now, living on my own, I have no issues with using coupons. Also, be on the lookout for promotions and specials on items you already need. But avoid these promotions on items you have no intention of actually using. What’s the point in buying something just because it’s on special but you wont’ use? True?
Make The Errands Count
Gas prices are crazy for Americans, ridiculous for Canadians, and a robbery for Europeans. If possible, do all of your errands in one day, in one long trip. Plan your route so you can hit up every stop in one trip. In the past, I’ve gone back and forth and past some of my destinations multiple times. It may not seem like much but every mile/kilometer adds up. Lack of spending is technically saving.
Phone Bills Are Ridiculous
I was spending approximately $70-100 per month on my stupid phone bill each and every single month. Canada has some of the most expensive mobile rates in the world but I had to make the switch to one of the smaller carriers. I was not getting my moneys worth and signed up with a start up carrier which gave me unlimited data, unlimited SMS/MMS in Canada/USA, and unlimited minutes for calling Canada/USA. All of this for only $28 including taxes! Not too bad eh? The catch however is that the company only has a few towers and their focus is the major cities in Canada. So reception can be questionable but it has been PERFECT for me as I never leave the city anyway. And if I do leave areas of reception, the company allows me to pre-pay for roaming. It works out perfectly for me.
Get Rid of Extra TV Packages
Just last week, I got rid of two bundles in my Cable/Internet package because the promotion ran out. I was paying $54/month with the promotion but without the eight-month promo, my bill would have been $109. I enjoyed the extra channels but at the same time, there were only two channels I actually watched in all of those extra channels. I’ll stick to the basic cable and if I miss the channels, I’ll just order the channel rather than a bundle of channels. Why pay for extra channels if I don’t even watch them?
Phantom Energy – Unplug Appliances
Phantom Energy refers to the slow drain of electricity that comes from keeping things plugged in. Of course it’s annoying to unplug every single unit in the home but start with the basics like toasters, coffee machines, and even chargers for cell phones.
Sneak Food Into The Theaters
If you’re not into downloading movies and want to watch in the cinemas, I would highly recommend bringing your own snacks and drinks into the cinemas. You’re not supposed to according to the “rules” but I recommend it anyway. I have always done it and will continue to do it. Why the hell should I pay $5-6 for a carbonated beverage or $3 for a bottle of water? No thanks!
Activities with the Family
Going out as a family is not cheap and even a trip to the movies for a family of four is quite expensive (unless you use the tip above). Instead of going out for activities that cost money, why not do something that involves not having to pull out your wallet. Get your kids off their phones and video games and go for a hike and finish it off with a picnic. Go to the nearest field and play some sports followed by …a picnic. There is plenty of free entertainment within each community. Besides parks, sometimes you can visit museums, exhibits, outdoor concerts, outdoor movies, and other various community activities all free of charge.
Bring Lunch To Work/School
I used to spend $10 per day on lunch from Monday to Friday and I never gave it much thought. And I was doing this for a couple of years. But after calculating the costs and realizing I could take two decent vacations with the $2,600 I was spending, I changed things up and only went out for lunch on Fridays.
Consider Generic Brands
If you stick with “generic” brands, you will save a significant amount on your grocery bills. Generic brands usually don’t have fancy packaging or labeling and it usually doesn’t get advertised. The companies save money by doing this and part of those savings are passed on to the consumer. Sometimes the generic brand is just as good as the competition and other times, you may think you’re eating dog food. Test out different products and see what works best for you.
Second Hand Shops
Your everyday consumer usually does not go to second hand stores but the smart ones do. I personally wouldn’t buy sofas or mattresses from these places but there are lots of awesome deals available on decorations, dishes, outdoor furniture, used books, movies, clothing, shoes, etc. You’ll be surprised types of bargains you can find. At one point, my wife was even picking out brand names and selling them on ebay for a small profit.
Take Care of Your Clothing
Just like a car, proper care and maintenance means clothing will last you a long time. I still have shirts in my closet which are six or seven years old. And if you can predict what types of clothing you’ll need for the following year, I would recommend buying clearance items at the end-of-season sales. A winter coat/jacket is always cheaper at the end of winter and start of spring.
Cut Out Alcohol and Smoking
I’m not here to tell you what to do but a great way to benefit your health and bank account is to reduce the use of alcohol and smoking. If you must smoke, consider an e-cigarette which is not only cheaper but is also a less toxic way to get your nicotine fix. And going out for drinks is probably one of the most ridiculous activities around. I’ve seen friends burn through $80 to $200 in one night. And never mind the people that get VIP booths at clubs. Be on the lookout for drink specials or consider pre-drinking to save some cash.
Avoid Bank Fees & Credit Card Interest
The banking system is really messed up, isn’t it? Not only does the bank take your money and make a profit from it, they also charge you for profiting. If you don’t have unlimited transactions, make them count. Withdraw enough money to last you so you don’t have to use the ATM and deal with the transaction fees. And if you have a credit card, make sure you use it wisely. Always clear the balance at the end of the month to avoid their high interest fees.
The list can be quite extensive but I’ll stop right here. All of the tips mentioned are ones that I’ve been using for the past five years or so. Because of these tips, I’ve gone to Australia twice now as well as two trips to Las Vegas. Just remember that every cent counts. If you have tips, feel free to comment.