Maybe you’re still neck deep in debt and would love to see ‘the day’ again, maybe you’re just concerned with not having enough money saved, maybe, after setting your budget and tracking expenses you almost had a heart-attack, seeing how much money gets wasted each month.
No matter what your reasons might be to save money, here are few tricks on how to save money that will make a huge difference in your bank/wallet.
1. Make lists
My husband jokes that I’m the list ‘queen’, but these serve for 2 purposes: 1. you don’t forget to buy the stuff you need (many of us seem to have quiet a talent with this) and 2. you’re less compelled to purchase useless junk. Sure, you need to make a conscious effort to not go outside the list too much, but for me at least this clearly limits the ‘maybe we need this too’ thoughts.
You can start building your list slowly, as you remember what needs purchasing, or you can just spend 3 minutes BEFORE you leave the house to see what’s missing in your household. Whatever works for you, but do try to shop with a list.
2. Don’t go shopping unless you really need to
We’re humans and the stores have a great ‘way’ to trick us into wanting stuff. If you know you cannot just enter a store, see what’s there and leave, then don’t enter at all. Make sure you HAVE to go shopping and carry the list we already talked about. The less you’re in a store, the less money you’ll waste on junk. Making less trips to the stores (and having a plan) not only saves you the money you’d spend on the items, but it saves you TIME and energy (not to mention gas).
3. Do pay your bills on time
I don’t think any of us was able to never miss a ‘deadline’. I am sometimes too lazy to make a payment or just forget about it. No matter how small the late fees are, it’s just wasted money. Write down your due dates for the bills, set them on auto-payments, do whatever you can to be on time. Why waste money, if you don’t have to?
4. STOP buying on credit
I know you ‘need’ that fancy item today, otherwise the whole world will collapse. Believe me, whether you buy it today or in 2 weeks time (when you might actually have the funds for it), it will still be there. And if that shop will discontinue the item, chances are 1000 other stores have it. This helps you build a very useful habit (to stop relying on credit cards), plus a bit of patience, which also never killed anyone. There’s another ‘upside’ to this, not buying on impulse might also help you really asses the need to purchase said item. If you take few days and think about it, who knows, maybe it’s not as important as it was.
One of the biggest steps you’ll make towards being debt free and financially independent is to either be very smart with your credit card use (which, let’s face it, doesn’t happen with the majority of us) or to learn how to buy based on what money you HAVE and not money you borrow and then pay some insane interest.
5. Use the items as much as possible, don’t trade for new ones just because it’s ‘cool’
One of the greatest lessons my folks taught me was that we need to learn to really appreciate what we own and not discard it unless it’s not good to use anymore. Some might think this is how ‘poor’ people do, but it does make a lot of sense. It’s normal to desire things that make your life easier and more enjoyable (a nice TV set, a car, a decent laptop, even a DSLR camera, if you really are passionate about it). What it doesn’t make sense is to keep on purchasing new versions (while losing money) just to keep up with the trends.
It’s not a ‘poor’ people mentality, if you don’t squander your hard earned money just to get a new phone (when the last one you purchased is just 4 months old) or a new car after 4 years of using yours. No one is expecting you to drive a beater or still use a ’99 model mobile phone, but not jumping the gun when Apple releases yet another iPhone this year will help you save a lot of money.
6. Don’t let family/friends distract you from your goal
There are people who get into serious debt or just spend money like crazy, because they feel ‘forced’ by their peers. In order to better fit and be ‘cool’, they just recklessly spend, fearing not keeping up with these would harm their social position. YES, there are ‘friends’ who’ll stop calling you, if they notice you’re not the ‘high-roller’ you used to. Yes, there may be family members who’ll instantly forget your number just because you don’t want to squander your money buying them stuff.
You know what, the problem is not you, they are the problem. If you have such relatives/friends, slowly move away and find better peers. A true friend doesn’t care if you’re broke or are on a ‘spending diet’. A true friend will love coming to your house (or welcoming you to theirs) just for the pleasure of having a nice chat and being in your presence. Same with your family. If all they expect from you is money and help, maybe it’s time for them to learn the meaning of ‘work’ and being independent.
I’ve made the mistake to over-spend just to fit in with some of my mates and, when we parted ways, guess how close we remained. Yes, if it wasn’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t even know if they’re still alive or a T-Rex ate them. The moment I stopped lending money, playing the ‘taxi driver’ and caring for their needs, most of them disappeared. Good riddance.
7. Give your money a purpose
This is where budgeting plays such a great role. Don’t see your money just as a ‘chunk’ that needs to get paid each month, plan your spending and, based on it, start tweaking and optimizing. Most of the time, when we’re receiving that paycheck, we’re seeing a lot of it (what doesn’t cover utilities / debt) as ‘discretionary’ money. If you don’t have a plan to save the money, pay the bills and shop smartly, you’ll surely overspend and be left with nothing.
The moment you have a budget, you clearly know where your money is supposed to go and what needs to be paid. Sure, most of the time what you plan won’t happen, but, even if you’re over/under budget, at least you’re not blindly spending money. Don’t expect your budget plan to be met each month, we’re not after having perfect numbers, use it as a good planning tool for your money needs.
8. See what you can optimize when it comes to utilities, bank accounts etc.
This month I closed down 2 of my personal bank accounts. I was sick a tired of paying them all kinds of fees/commission (even if I do have just debit cards and zero overdrafts, the banks here have a knack for inventing the wildest fees possible) and losing money each month. OK, it wasn’t a great deal, we’re talking few bucks/month, but the idea remains. I can use the money for anything else than to keep on feeding these sharks.
Same with the utilities and anything else. See if you can ‘downsize’ a little. Maybe there’s a way to get a better deal, maybe you don’t need the big cable plan (especially if you don’t get to watch TV too much, not that you should do it anyway).
Is your phone bill too big? How about getting a better deal? Don’t keep on ‘bleeding’ money, just because it’s what you’ve always done. Few dollars here, few there and you might get enough to speed up your debt payment. Or put the money in a small jar labeled ‘Christmas shopping’. Believe me, in a year’s time, this ‘trimming’ can save you quite some money.
9. Just because it’s ‘little money’, doesn’t mean it’s OK
Few days ago I was telling you how much money I squandered years ago, just because I failed to understand that a small price doesn’t mean it’s not money you spend. A latte here, a small meal afterward, maybe an icecream and a pack of ‘cigs’ and you’re wasting a lot of money each month. Most of us tend to see only the ‘big money’.
You know exactly how much you had for your car payment this month, the mortgage and the gas bill, but, when it comes to small pays, you’ll just think ‘come on, it’s 5 bucks, it’s nothing’. Sure, it’s nothing today, but if the 5 bucks happen few times/day, at the end of the month it’s few (or more) hundred bucks that you’ll hate having spent.
Stop smoking (it will kill you anyway), stop spending money on junk. Eat out less, drink your coffee at home (believe me, with a bit of an effort you can make a killer coffee at home), buy your wine from the store and enjoy it with your spouse. No one expects you to never dine out or buy that Starbucks latte, but, if you’re doing it daily, there’s a lot of money you’re just wasting.
10. You don’t need tricks to save/not overspend. You’re not a dog!
I know making changes in your lifestyle is not easy (we’ve been through it ourselves and we’re constantly re-adjusting) so many people are looking for ways to persuade them to stop spending or start budgeting (and keeping it consistent). You don’t need to trick yourself, you don’t need to reward your efforts, you’re a human being for God’s sake.
Just take a serious look at your life and finances and see if you’re really pleased with how things work. If you sense there’s something wrong in your ways, you don’t need to trick your mind to not buy that new dress, you need to ‘man up’ (yes, even if you’re a woman) and start acting like an adult.
We all make mistakes and no one is perfect, we’re humans after all. But a conscious effort and some consistency can bring us to a better place. Each month we try new ways to budget/save, each day we experience need and cravings, but it’s up to us to try manage our money better. So, what’s your story? What have you applied from this list? What works for you? Where do you stumble?