The cost of living has been steadily rising in the past decade, and even the minimum living wage is barely enough to cover basic needs. This makes saving seem like a luxury that only the wealthy can afford. While the middle class was once considered to be a haven for many, millions of middle-class families are buckling under the pressure of increasing debts.
It is not all bleak, though. Saving is an art that gets better with practice. Once you start finding areas where you can cut excess spending, other options become clear to you. This is a practical example of the mantra, “whatever you focus on expands.” Presented below are 13 ways you can save money live better.
1. Honor Your Budget
Creating a budget is one of the simplest ways of tracking your expenses. Some expenses are fixed, especially rent and bills. However, there are many fluctuating expenses every month, and you may end up paying a maximum amount on some of these costs, draining your funds. A budget gives you a ballpark amount of the money you will spend in the coming month. You can also use it to find areas that are unnecessarily bleeding you dry. A detailed budget may seem like overkill, but it is absolutely necessary. List everything, even the expenses that seem trivial. You may be shocked to find that these may be costing you more than you think.
However, creating your budget is just the first step in the process. You also have to ensure that you follow it religiously. Tweaking the budget to fit with your miscellaneous expenses is akin to shooting yourself in the foot. You only will end up hurting yourself. Nights out, entertainment expenses, and other lifestyle expenses should be clearly outlined in your budget. In this regard, you get a realistic picture, and you are much more inclined to stick to it.
2. Start Small
The 50/20/30 rule is a saving plan that ensures 20% of your income is used to pay off your debts or to increase your savings. 50% is directed towards the monthly bills and rent, while 30% is for lifestyle expenses. However, this rule does not apply to all. Some people spend up to 70% of their income on rent alone, and this immediately makes this rule impossible to achieve. This should not be used as an excuse to give up on saving. You can start by saving $2 out of every $10 or $20 you have left after paying the bills. This constitutes- 20% or 10% in savings.
Every cent saved will ultimately accumulate into something substantial over time. Saving is not about the amount, but the mentality. Starting small helps you form the habit of putting aside a percentage, and this comes in handy when you start getting a substantial income.
3. Dine In
Meal prepping is a great way to save up and is not only reserved for the fitness gurus. This is best combined with taking advantage of your grocery store’s offers. Create your week’s menu using the store’s deals on grocery items, and then proceed to create a variation of the week’s meals using the ingredients. This ensures that you always have food stocked up and reduces your chances of reaching for your phone to order take-out.
If you feel like a week’s preparation is too optimistic, start off by making enough food for four meals. This will enable you to get used to cooking in bulk, and the chances of wasting any grocery items will be minimized. Additionally, you will be able to better estimate what you need from the store, and you will slowly but surely eliminate the chances of buying more than you need. Your leftovers are also a great way to increase your savings. By creating a comprehensive meal using leftovers, you get to avoid spending money on groceries for at least two more meals.
4. Shopping Lists
Walking into a store without a shopping list leaves room to make unnecessary purchases. How many times have you gone back home and found out that you never got what you had gone to the store to get? Keep tabs on the items that you use daily and mark these as necessities. Always ensure that these are at the top of the list. Once you get to the store, do not buy anything that is not on the list. Put it on your next list if it is absolutely necessary.
By adhering to lists, you are able to spend only what you had budgeted. This allows you to save any amount not spent on each trip. If you were planning to spend $50 and you only spend $47, save the $3 change.
5. Coupons and Generic Brands
We have been conditioned to think that coupons are for housewives and old ladies. This mentality will have you missing out on deals that end up saving you a substantial amount of money in the long run. Take the time to collect coupons, especially on necessities. These items are recurring expenses, and taking a few cents off the price is always a favorable outcome.
Name brands have tricked us into shunning generic brands, and this is a rut that you need to crawl out of. There are many quality generic brand items, and these have a lower price tag. On your shopping trips, pick generic brands and save the difference. Sooner or later, you will find yourself picking the generic brands without a second thought.
6. Bulk Shopping
Toiletries, staple food items, as well as cleaning supplies usually have a longer shelf-life. Take advantage of this by purchasing them in bulk. Bulk purchases are usually cheaper, and this allows you to stock up while saving a couple of dollars. Bulk purchases lead to long-term savings, and this should not be overlooked just because you have to spend a little bit more than usual at the start. By identifying items that you use frequently, you get to check the bulk prices and compare them with the normal cost. This will guide you during your bulk shopping trips.
7. Buy Used Items to Save Money Live Better
Clothes, furniture, appliances, or even housewares can be bought used. There are many stores, whether online or physical, that offer great prices on these items. If you are skeptical about buying online, find specialty stores in your vicinity and check out the items that you are looking for. Yard and garage sales are also great options as they feature items at great prices. However, you have to make sure that you only purchase the items that you need. Great prices may have you buying unnecessary items, and you need to always be on guard.
8. Track your Debt
Visual stimuli are very important, and you can use this to help you make progress in your savings plan. Pre-existing debt is a liability, and you have to find ways of motivating yourself to clear it. Map out your loan on paper and create milestones that will help you to get rid of it systematically. Covering the completed milestone with a bright-colored sticker is one way of doing it. Seeing the stickers increasing makes you feel good, and this, in turn, encourages you to keep at it. Other rewards are also encouraged, although you have to ensure that they are inexpensive and will not jeopardize your progress.
9. Pay Attention to Your Credit Cards
Credit cards are popular mainly because of the convenience they offer. However, they are also the main reason why so many people are in debt. If you already own a credit card with high-interest rates, you can call the provider and negotiate for a cheaper rate. Additionally, you may ask that the balance on the credit card be transferred to a different one, preferably one with a more manageable interest rate. Choosing a cheaper card is not a green light to up your spending. On the contrary, hide your cards so that you avoid using them as much as possible. Learn how to use your debit card, as this allows you to spend money that you actually have.
It is important to note that some credit cards have irresistible perks, such as hotel discounts, coupons, or even discounts when you use the card to purchase certain products. Make sure that you have done extensive research to ensure that the deals will benefit you. Make certain that there are no hidden fees that will come to haunt you later on. Delete your card’s information from online stores to discourage making purchases on a whim. Searching for your card to make a purchase gives you ample time to decide if it is really necessary.
10. The Ten Second Rule
Practicing presence when making purchases is a good way to stop yourself from buying unnecessary items. When you pick up a product or click on an item, take a few moments to ask yourself whether the purchase is absolutely necessary. You can also reflect on how you plan on using it. This gives you time to determine the importance of the item, allowing you to either keep it or put it back.
11. Delayed Gratification
We live in a fast-paced world where almost anything is accessible at a moment’s notice. This limitless availability has trained us to expect our needs and cravings to be satisfied sooner rather than later. Some of our cravings cost us money and jeopardizes our savings. Instead of giving in to temptation, give yourself some time. Do not buy the pizza today. It’s not only the pizza cost you have bare. You have to give a good tip to that pizza guy as well. Promise yourself that if in a week you still have the craving, you will get the larger size. More often than not, you will get over the craving.
Another method is waiting 30 days to determine whether you can live without the item you want. This also gives your impulses time to cool down. By the time a month has passed, you will be in a better position to buy the item from a rationally sound standpoint. If you forgo buying the item, you will have saved some money.
12. Reduce Energy Costs
Heating, lighting and appliances may be fundamental in your life, but they may also contribute to your money problems. Install energy-saving bulbs, as they consume less energy and are also long-lasting. When purchasing an appliance, always check the energy rating to ensure that you get one that consumes less energy. Always unplug appliances when they are not in use. Switch off the lights in unused rooms. If possible, install a programmable thermostat in your home. This allows you to set when to heat or cool your house. This time limitation also helps to improve efficiency and minimize costs.
13. It Takes a Village
Splitting costs is one of the most underrated ways of saving money. Carpooling, for example, ensures that you spend less on fuel while still traveling in comfort. When it comes to entertainment, friends, and acquaintances can be instrumental in ensuring that you don’t become a hermit in the name of saving money. Take turns hosting get-togethers, and pool funds for food and drinks. Split the cost of your entertainment accounts by registering the maximum number of subscribers to get a better deal.
This is also applicable to parents. Instead of hiring babysitters, create a rotation with friends. This allows you to save money, and it is a great way to solidify friendships. However, ensure that participation is 50/50 to avoid conflicts later on.
Finding ways to save money is not a process that can be truly exhausted. As you create a saving habit, you become more adept at recognizing areas that are costing you a penny. Frugality is not about curtailing your pleasures; it is about the efficient implementation of the resources at hand. By creating a systematic way of acquiring resources through cheaper means, you get to redirect your funds to areas that will be more beneficial in the long run. Living below your means maximizes your liquidity and helps you to avoid the ever-growing debt trap.