No matter your financial situation, pretty much everyone’s been hit hard by the recession in one way or another. The real key to surviving in tough times is being smart with your money. Only spend on what you need and cut back on what you don’t need. Seems simple enough, right? I know, easier said than done. Here are a few tips to get your started on the right track this month (it’s not as painful as you might think):
1. Cut Back on Eating Out
Instead of eating out three times a week, cut it down to one. Yes, even if you try to eat out cheaply. Think about this: for that one extra meal out, you could buy enough groceries to make you 3+ meals that week! Putting things into perspective like that can really help you out in times of financial stress.
2. Cut Utility Bills
Buy efficient light bulbs, lower the thermostat, turn off the AC whenever possible, turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use. Make your home more energy efficient by using sealing products like caulk and weather-stripping to block drafts. Think of the savings! It’s simple math that can save you some much-needed money.
3. Make Your Own Coffee
A trip to Starbucks should be viewed as a rare treat, not a daily necessity. Cutting down your SBUX specialty drinks and brewing your own at home can save you A LOT. Plus, think of how much more you’ll treasure that expensive drink when you don’t get it as often.
4. Shop at Warehouse Stores — But Shop Wisely
Shopping at stores like Costco and Sam’s Club can save you tons in the long run. But, be wise. Stick to your shopping list and only buy what you need and will use. Don’t be lured in by the bulk. There’s no sense in buying a bulk item when you will only end up tossing away some of it.
5. Pay with Cash
Yes, plastic is more convenient but the buy-now-pay-later credit card model is actually designed to make you spend more. A 2008 study by researchers at the University of Toronto and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City found that the opportunity to earn rewards led more consumers to pay by credit. Use cash instead to track your purchases. Another bonus: many gas stations around the nation are now offering a lower “cash only” gas price.
6. Look for Coupons
Get over the wrongful assumption that using coupons makes you look cheap. You’re saving money and spending wisely. When you get coupons in the mail, clip out the ones you need and keep them in your wallet so you have them ready the next time you’re at the store.
7. Haggle Your Way into Savings
When times get tough, consumers need to get aggressive. Don’t be scared. The worst they can say is “no.” Just ask if there’s a chance you could get a better price. You have the money and they have the service. This haggling skill takes practice, but once you get over your insecurities, it really works – even on big-ticket items like the cable bill. Try it!
8. Find Free Entertainment
Spending time with your loved ones doesn’t have to carve a hole in your pocket each time. Plan a picnic in the park for the family. Dust off that old library card – you can rent books and movies for free! Look for free concerts and performances around your area. Go to the museum on “free admission” night. Sometimes you have to do a little digging, but it’s out there!
9. Establish a Waiting Period on Big Purchases
If you’re an impulse buyer, this tip should work for you. On big-ticket items – anything over $50, let’s say – establish a waiting period of 48 hours before you purchase. If you still REALLY want/ need it after that time period, then go for it. But, you will often discover you may not need the item after all.
10. Reassess your Gym Membership
Do you pay $30 or more each month on a gym membership you barely use? It’s time to face reality and save up that money instead. If you TRULY aren’t getting the most out of your gym membership, cancel it. There are plenty of other ways to work out that are cheaper or cost no money at all. Exercise at home, outside or at the local park. Or, sign up for individual exercise or yoga classes rather than a full membership.
Try out some of these money-saving tips this month and make sure to keep track of your spending. You may find that saving money is a lot easier than you expected!