I am not the kind of person who ever budgeted. I used to work with spreadsheets all. day. long. so to come home and voluntarily work on another one? No. I don't do that now either, so don't worry this post is not going to be about column headers and formulas, but I've had to get serious about my finances during the past several months and I thought I would share some ideas on how I'm doing that to benefit others that may be in the same situation or people who are just looking to save some money.
Truly, I was never someone who even really thought about money. I had a decent job and was able to pay my bills so in that regard I was lucky. But there was a spiritual tradeoff in there somewhere and truthfully, even though I am temporarily living with limited means, my spirit is much happier.
So, here are some things I've been doing lately. Perhaps you are doing some of these as well, or maybe you have some other tips to share with me!
1. Buy things on sale!
This seems obvious right? Paying full retail price for anything is a complete waste of money. The markup on most products is astounding. This goes for everything from computers, to clothing to food. So if you can, wait for things to go on sale - especially large purchases. At the grocery store, try to buy items that are on sale that week. If ground turkey is on sale that week, decide you are eating turkey burgers for the next 4 days (Yes, I do this!) It really makes a difference in your weekly bill.
2. Use coupons.
I am no extreme couponer by any means (although at times I wish I could be. I mean, stockpiling 100 tubes of toothpaste because you got it all for free seems like a dream come true, right?!), however I do try to use coupons a lot more than I used to. You can print coupons online, or find them in the paper. Also, a lot of retail and grocery stores now print coupons every time you shop based on the things you buy. So when you get those coupons at checkout, save them! And use them next time. This goes for online purchases as well. You can find coupons online for pretty much ANY store. Before purchasing anything online, look up coupon codes at RetailMeNot. Almost guaranteed you will find a coupon to use at checkout for most any site. You can thank me later :)
3. Buy REAL food.
This one not only improves your health but also your wallet. I found that when I had extra money to spare, I was spending so much money on JUNK. Snack foods, cookies, candy. I've cut a lot of that stuff out now because not only is it unnecessary, but it doesn't nourish my body and I'm thus wasting money on it.
4. Eat at home!
I used to go out to eat several times a week. I'd go out to lunch 2-3 times a week at work, and I'd often grab dinners out too. Such a waste of money. By eating at home you not only eat healthier, eat less (restaurant portions are HUGE), but you spend a lot less money. For what I used to spend on one night of dinner/drinks out, I can now feed myself at home for days. Unreal.
5. Do things that are FREE!
Let's face it, entertaining ourselves is usually expensive - movies, trips, shopping, etc. But this year, I really got into exploring what free resources were available around me. I got a library card early this year. I know right, WHY didn't I do this sooner?! I used to think nothing of going into Barnes & Noble and picking up 3 or 4 books that looked 'interesting'. What a waste of money! Most of those books were read once and that's it. Now I go to the library and can read anything I want for free! I also spend a lot of time doing things that are active - hiking, swimming, running, biking. Not only do I enjoy these things but they are keeping me healthy in the process and cost nothing. I spend a lot more time visiting with friends and family now too, often just hanging out at each other's houses. Quality time trumps everything.
6. Look into consigning.
I'll admit I used to spend a lot of my income on clothing. It wasn't that I was ever into designer labels or expensive things, but I would buy things here and there all the time frivolously. Sometimes I didn't even wear some of the things I bought! So I looked into consignment shops in my area. Every store has different policies on what they will accept and what percentage of the sale you get to keep, but it worked out for me. Clothing that otherwise would have been sitting in my closet, actually made me some money! The store took care of everything and said they would donate anything that didn't sell. At the end of 2 months, I got a nice check in the mail. Easy peasy. There are also online consignment companies that do the same thing. Check out sites like ThreadUp, Poshmark, and Threadflip.
7. Cut or consolidate your monthly bills.
For the longest time, I had been a subscriber to the daily newspaper. Call me old fashioned but I still enjoy print media from time to time. However, the papers would pile up and I rarely would read most of them. So I decided to cancel my subscription. I also negotiated with my cable company for a lower bill. And I went to see my car insurance agent and was able to change my coverage just slightly so that I ended up saving 12% on my yearly bill! If you take the time to look, you may be surprised where you can save money. And it never hurts to call companies and ask if your customer loyalty can yield any discounts.
8. Have a yard sale!
Yard sales are just so quintessentially American aren't they? Who invented them? And do people in other countries set up their junk in the yard on summer weekends hoping others will come by and purchase it?! Hahaha. I remember going to yard sales when I was little and thinking they were the greatest thing ever. I mean you could buy toys and video games for like a quarter! Well, I was lucky enough to have my aunts and mom help me organize a yard sale back home this summer. They all donated things for the sale, we posted an ad on Craigslist, and set up camp one sunny Saturday morning. In the end it was quite a bit of work, but with their gracious help, we were able to make some money and get rid of things we no longer needed or used.
So, there you have it. These are some of things I've been doing lately as I try to chart the course of my ideal life. In the end, I think monetary sacrifices are a small price to pay for living an authentic life.
Have you done any of the above?
Do you have any money-saving tips to share?