This does not pertain to the wealthy or upper middle class, who “cut back” by taking one vacation instead of two or three per year, save money by not driving their extra vehicle or those who max-out their 401K and invest all their extra money.
My inspiration for writing this piece comes from being sick and tired of reading articles about how one family saved over $12,000/year by only entertaining once a month instead of 2-3 times and stayed in the U.S. for their vacation instead of their normal going out of the country. Or a woman who went 10 whole days without spending any money — she did this by stocking up so she wouldn’t have to.
Reading articles like this usually leave me frustrated and feeling like no one understands how many of us there are struggling, not able to stock-up on 10 days worth of anything or unable to take a trip where overnight travel is required.
Now before we go any further, I understand there are people a lot worse off than me, and will probably read this and think I am out of touch. The fact is I am not out of touch and I do get that there are a lot of people financially challenged.
First and straight to the point: Don’t buy things you don’t need.
I would love a flat screen TV, but I can’t afford one. The TV I have, picture tube and all still work fine.
Think about your purchases, do you really need it? In the same breath you need to treat yourself to something once in a while — I get that!
Let’s talk cell phones/plans.
Take a look at your cell phone plan, do you use all the features? Get rid of the ones you don’t use — and decline the insurance (even if something happened to your phone you have to pay an insurance deductable to get a new one.)
The electricity bill is a topic of conversation in my house every month. Turn the lights off! We have 4 ceiling fans with lights. 3 of them have 4 light bulbs, 4! I unscrew 2 of them on each fan and it is still plenty of light. (Same goes for bathroom vanity lights — who needs 8 light bulbs on at once in a tiny little room?) Stop daily laundry. Larger less frequent loads are more efficient.
Cable, Landline & Internet
I know cable T.V. is a touchy subject. If you have pay channels get rid of them. Basic cable is all you need, when it comes to expanded cable Netflix is probably a better way to go $8 for streaming movies and T.V. shows. It is a little limited, but you’ll be able to find something to watch without commercials!
As for that landline, that phone number is by far more known than my cell number. And the kids have it embedded in their brains. So, port the number to your cell phone account. At $10/month on your family plan you will still get your calls and save $20/month.
Anything you subscribe to (phone, internet, cable, pest control) — call and ask if they have a promotional price. Tell them you need to cut back or save money. Chances are the person you are talking to is in the same position at home. Ask for a better rate!
If you have pool service or landscaping service, cancel them. You can do that yourself.
I was an executive member at our local big box store — that title costs an extra $50/year. Drop it. In fact don’t even bother with the basic membership. The amount you “save” by shopping there is lost in the membership fees and you end up buying WAY MORE than you need. If you really need something from there, go with a friend that has a membership, they won’t mind.
Just take the time to think in advance when planning to go to the store so you can include other errands. This works! (entertain the idea of riding your bike too)
Some people save a ton using coupons. But they spend a ton doing it. We use coupons that we happen upon, and only for products we use. The best way to save on groceries is to plan you meals. I used to laugh at my wife for doing this, but you only buy what you need! If you see the best price you have ever seen on a product buy a couple, not 50. Be disciplined when it comes to consumption.
Shop around. Be careful changing coverage, going from a $500 deductable to a $1000 may only save $20/6 months. If something were to happen it is $20 well spent!
Make a sacrifice
I know, you already do. But if you can trim just a few dollars a week off of your spending it adds up fast. I love a Large Mocha in the morning, but they are over $4. I treat myself once a week now. $4 x 5 times a week = $20. I don’t spend $16/week now. I can’t call it saving $16 because I really didn’t have it to begin with. (I won’t lie, I do buy coffee beans and creamer for my Mocha-less mornings.)
Cutting out coffee shop specialty drinks is an easy target but doesn’t apply to most. How about that soda? That 12 pack of diet whatever costs at least $4. And if you think 1 a day at lunch doesn’t add up you are fooling yourself, have you looked at what a restaurant charges for a soda? At least $2. Drink water! If you enjoy a beer when out, as I certainly do, wait until you get home and have one on the couch. You can cut a dinner bill in half when you don’t drink!
Track you spending
I hated this. But if you write down where you spend your money you might be surprised.
Not buying unneeded items and making sacrifices doesn’t lower your bills. But they will help you be able to pay the bills you do have. Looking for deals, planning errands and searching for better rates certainly lowers bills. Eliminating services is a very fast way to see immediate savings.
If you saved $5/month on each of your necessary expenses:
Phone (land line & cell should save $15-$20/month), internet, cable, groceries, insurance, utilities, warehouse membership, and gasoline should save you $40/month! Get ride of an unnecessary service and double the amount.
Do something with the money you save, put some in your Christmas envelope and it could make a difference.