For many of us, recent world events have forced us to make some tough financial decisions. If you get to the end of your money before you reach the end of the month, the tips below can help you start the process of spending less on a regular basis. With these skills, you can continue to spend less as you build up savings and hopefully get to a better financial place.
Track Your Spending Until You Can Go Back to Cash
There are many ways to track your spending. You can use a budgeting app, a notebook, or a spreadsheet. However, if you’re not putting the data to use, tracking isn’t very helpful as a long-term commitment to financial improvement.
Track for a month in a small notebook. Writing things down is a great way to build new neural pathways. Sit down and review the receipts that you stored in the notebook and highlight any purchases that turned out to be unhelpful. When you get your next check, go to the bank and take out enough cash for your next shopping trip based on the receipt total minus the unhelpful purchases. With that cash, you can buy what you need and nothing else.
Create “Planned-Overs” Instead of Using Leftovers
Even cheap restaurants or fast food is more costly than groceries. If you don’t have strong cooking skills, start small. Buy frozen baked chicken, bagged salad, and potatoes. Make a double batch of simple mashed potatoes while you bake the chicken and mix the salad.
Put half the potatoes and a few pieces of chicken aside when you serve dinner. The next night, debone the chicken and mix it with a can of cream of mushroom soup and a bag of frozen veggies. You can serve this chicken mixture over the leftover mashed potatoes or make a quick shepherd’s pie.
You can do this with
- a beef roast and rice; add veggies and make a stir-fry
- baked chicken and ramen; add broccoli or other greens for a casserole
If your budget is especially tight, look for new breakfast recipes and skip the meat. An egg-based diet will be much cheaper than eating meat on a regular basis.
Get Something for Nothing
If you have a credit card that will give you cashback or points to a realtor you regularly use, make it your primary payment tool. You can use a cash-back card to pay your utilities, cover the fees for self service laundry and even pay your rent.
Do take care to make sure that your purchases are those that you would buy no matter what. Buying things you don’t need just because you get points is still a waste of money. If you’re not good with cars, don’t take them to the store. Just use cash.
Find Free Fun for Yourself and Your Family
Doing without money doesn’t have to mean suffering at home. Local events can be free. Check out community flyers for
- free day at the museum
- birthday passes for kids at your zoo
- parks that are picnic-friendly
- great playgrounds that will tire out your children and pets
For single or older adults, volunteer opportunities can be a wonderful way to give back, connect with like-minded folks and enjoy your free time without spending a lot of money.
For example, you can volunteer to hand out water to runners during a marathon. Bring gloves and a trash bag to common area cleanups in your downtown. Volunteer to finish a house for Habitat for Humanity or a similar group. You may even pick up some skills you can use to work on your own house!
Make Precise Purchases
When money is short, things on sale will start to look like a really good deal. However, unless you would have bought it before, you probably don’t need it now. Instead, buy with precision.
Spend your shopping time winnowing down your choices. If you need a specific kitchen tool, garage tool, or wardrobe piece, put it in your shopping basket and let it percolate for 24 hours. If you still need it tomorrow, it will be there. If not, turn it back in. You may even get a coupon!
Frugal living can be quite joyful. Instead of putting in the hours to make more money, you can put your time into living better by spending less. Thrifty skills will serve you well no matter your income.