It’s easy for people to say, “I could really use some more cash,” or “How am I spending so much?” But it’s sometimes a little bit more difficult to figure out how to actually achieve that goal of cutting back here and there to save yourself a little extra money. I’m a pretty frugal guy, and here are my 13 cents on how to cut back a little to save some money.
1. If you’re a coffee drinker, buy and brew your own coffee. Yes, I’ve posted about this before, but the savings are pretty astounding, so I’m saying it here again! That Starbuck’s is really costing you, and even the cheaper McDonald’s is hitting your bank account far more than you probably realize.
2. Lose the cable television. If you’re a television watcher, this might seem crazy, but trust me it’s not that bad. Most tv shows are available online the next day, or you can rent series through a library (free!) or Netflix (not free, but still cheaper than cable!). Where you will run into trouble is with sporting events (a main reason I do have cable)… But when we needed to save up to help pay for our Vegas Trip, we cut out the cable for a few months and put that extra cash towards our trip…and it made a difference!
3. Make your living room a home gym. If you like to work out, realize that you can get a great workout in at home. No gym or trainer fees. This is especially true with workout plans like P90X or Insanity, which brand themselves as needing very little equipment and space. If you don’t feel like putting in the initial money for either of those, there is a (free!) website: bodyrock.tv which is very similar. Also try getting back to the basics…pushups, squats, running outside, pull-ups. A couple of initial investments (I love my iron gym pull up bar, maybe a set or two of dumbbells, maybe a yoga mat) and you will be set!
4. Don’t buy new stuff if you don’t need it. This might seem silly to have to say, but it needs to be said. Understand the difference between a want and a need, and understand that you don’t always need the newest or the most up to date stuff. You’ll be fine. I promise.
5. Buy off-brand stuff when you can. Related to above. Don’t buy it if you don’t need it. But if you do need it, decide whether or not you can live with the off-brand. Some stuff, you may not want to risk quality, but there is a lot of stuff that you will be just fine with and no one (or at least very few) will know any better.
6. Make your own food! Don’t eat out all the time, or go out to lunch everyday with your co-workers. Making your own food is nearly always cheaper than eating out and often healthier. Check out a few of my more recent “Best Thing I’ve Eaten This Week Posts” where I have priced out some of our meals. Here. Here. And Here, for example.
7. Check for free/discounted activities that you might have at your disposal. When we were at IU, we used to go to the free movie every week. They were new movies, they were free, and they got us out of the house. Pretty sweet deal. (Even if you weren’t affiliated with the university, you could go for a dollar; if there is a college/university near you, it is probably worth checking into.) Check out local events. We’ve gone to free movies in the park, improv shows, and farmer’s markets (even to wander around without buying). There is a section in the local section in the paper that lists free/discounted things to do for the week. See if you have one. Also check with your company/workplace to see if they have partnerships within the community or other businesses. My current place of work has lots of fun (and random) events that we have attended…these are things that we probably wouldn’t have thought to do on our own, so it adds some variety!
8. Don’t buy music. Does anyone even do that anymore?! You don’t even have to illegally download…just use youtube or pandora or slacker or any other number of music sources that are completely free of charge.
9. Drink before you go out. If you feel like it’s going to be a big night, get started before you head out to the bars. In a lot of cases, you can drink an entire six pack of beer for the price of a single beer at the bar. Drink a few before you head out so that you’ll only need to buy a couple instead of several. This will cut your bar tab substantially, without cutting your alcohol consumption or level of fun. (PS. If you buy cases instead of six packs at the store, you will also save. And if you’re drinking several, if you choose a lighter beer instead of a specialty craft beer, you’ll probably save even more.)
10. Make a monthly budget. Make it realistic. Stick to it. Track your expenses for a couple of weeks to see about what you’re spending (i.e. eating out, groceries, alcohol, entertainment, gas, shopping, etc.). Figure out how much that is for a month, then take a realistic look at where your money is going. Figure out your total, and then try to make a cut (10% for example). Then take that amount of money out of the bank (in cash) and put it in an envelope. We call ours our “Fun Money” stash. This is all you get for the month. Realize that you will have to make some tough decisions and concessions here and there. And once your Fun Money stash is gone for the month, that’s it. No more spending. PS. Be sure to think ahead…if you want to take a trip a few months down then you have to make sure to save from your fun money the preceding months.
11. Pay in cash. A lot of people don’t carry much cash anymore. Well, they should start. Paying in cash will help you realize that you are spending money and actually helps relay a tangible consequence for getting things. When all you have to do is swipe a credit card, you’re less likely to think about the money (at least the amount of money) that is actually going out. It almost feels like you’re getting something for nothing. But seeing those 20s actually leaving your wallet is an eye opener. This is akin to this poker quote: “The guy who invented poker was smart. The guy who invented poker chips was a genius.” The idea is that when you convert your money into chips, you are less worried about throwing a few ten dollar chips into the middle of the table than you would be if you had to get out the cash and throw that into the middle.
12. Cut out soft drinks. If you’re throwing back a few soft drinks each day, that adds up. Drink more water. Most people don’t drink enough water. It’s cheaper and much healthier. (Soft drinks actually make it easier for you to dehydrate.) If you get bored of water, buy a couple of lemons (usually only about a quarter each) and pop a slice of lemon in your water. PS. Don’t buy bottled water; get a water bottle and refill it throughout the day from a water filter or just drink the tap water if its ok in your area.
13. Take a good, hard look at your cell phone plan. I know that this is the thing that many of us “can’t live without.” But take a look if you’re even approaching the amount of data or text messages that you’re paying for. If you’re not, then downgrade a step to a cheaper plan. Also think about adding people on or joining a family plan, those usually get discounts.
There you have it. Some (relatively) easy ways to cut back a little bit and save yourself a little extra money. Try one or try them all…it should add to some savings that end up in your pocket!