“How can I save money?” This is the question asked by all of us not in the top 1% of rich people.
These times of economic difficulty have put us all into ‘caution mode’ regarding our spending. It is always good to check out advice on this topic every few months because it is amazing what you can eventually begin to believe is an essential expense in your life, when in fact you can relegate many things to the “optional” or “less of” list.
If you are looking for ways to drastically reduce your expenses immediately, first look at what you need to spend money on every week. And I mean really need. You don’t really need to order in food. You don’t really need to buy expensive perfume.
Building from that, you can work out how your regular expenses can be reduced. As for irregular expenses, they can also be deceptively costly in the long run. Once-off buys can also be tackled with some prudent planning and a little extra research.
And remember: a budgeted lifestyle does not mean a bad or boring one!
1) Bring a stock of food to the office/work: Instead of popping out for an overpriced salad and a smoothie, leave a set of basic utensils at the office as well as a stock of non-perishable goods such as tinned fruit, tuna, rice crackers and so on (try to avoid the junk food and this can turn into a pretty great diet!). Stocking up means you won’t forget or say “I didn’t have the time” when you rushed out to work in the morning.
2) Buy the store-brand version: Many basic foods, such as bread and milk, will taste exactly the same as their branded alternatives. Go for stuff with minimal additives and preservatives. Meat in a tube is probably insanely unhealthy!
3) Eat cheaper cuts of meat: Learn how to tenderize and flavour cheaper meat and fish, and save on the (typically) most expensive item on your grocery bill.
4) Have group dinners: If 10 friends put $5 each in the kitty, it’s pretty easy to make a giant lasagne and get refreshments, as well as hang out with your favourite people.
5) Get a bicycle: Save on gas money and bus/metro fares with this underrated mode of transport.
6) Use public transport and/or don’t get taxis: Some places can only be reached by car. But as a good practise, check your public transport website and see if any routes pass nearby where you need to get to. Walk as much as you can.
7) Find the cheapest gas: Regularly check out where the cheapest gas can be bought.
8) Shop online: Not only will you save on the gas or transport fares from going to the shopping mall but you will also find better deals
9) Sell your old stuff: Get your unwanted belongings up on eBay ASAP and earn a few dollars.
10) Bulk buying stores: For regular non-perishable/slow perishable purchases such as toilet paper, cat food, pasta, washing powder and so on, do an epic stocking-up trip to a co-op or equivalent (my mum used to go to a place that restaurants buy from). Be wary of supermarket “deals”, as some have been found to be fraudulent after working out a simple calculation.
11) Become a flea market/car boot sale/street market guru: You can find original gifts and develop good negotiation skills at these places.
12) Generic brand medication: More often than not, the generic version of paracetamol and other basics work the same as the branded version.
13) Choose deodorant, not perfume: It blows my mind when someone drops $70 on a bottle of spray. Stick with a nice deodorant, and not only will you smell just fine but you’ll be sweat-free as well!
14) Printing: Ink is one of the most expensive substances in the office and coloured ink is doubly so. Be more efficient and choose black and white, and if your printer doesn’t have a print-both-sides options, just print odd pages first, re-insert the paper and print even pages. Expand the margins of what you are printing as often as you can to save on paper.
15) Minimize SMS and phone calls: A combination of a free chat service such as WhatsApp and a free call service such as Skype can reduce your bill to nothing (so long as you have a decent Wifi connection).
16) Shop around for insurance: Most people don’t spend enough time searching for the best insurance deal. Keep a watchful eye out for deals and new competitors in the market.
17) Try re-negotiating your rent/mortgage: If you have built up a good credit history, or a good rapport with your landlord, then chances are a frank chat about needing to tighten your spending could result in lowering your payments. You’ve nothing to lose from trying.
18) Don’t have a TV: Invest in a computer/laptop and an internet-only package. You can watch more (and often better) entertainment on the web, and skip the advertisements as well.
19) Pool your internet bill with a neighbour: My apartment building is basically a big old house split into three apartments. There are five of us in total. We pool the internet bill, making it crazy cheap.
20) Have house parties: Instead of paying for overpriced drinks, set up a series of in-house get-togethers with your friends. Everyone takes a turn, so it’s not always your house that needs cleaning. For sound insulation hang heavy drapes on the walls and windows. For music, invest in a good second-hand set of speakers which you can connect to your computer. Let Spotify or Grooveshark playlists do the rest.
21) Open festivals, meetups and events: It never fails to surprise me how much underground stuff goes on around me for free or for very cheap. Find out who runs the blogs and websites that list all the less well-known cultural activities.
22) Volunteer: If you can’t pay for a ticket, volunteer and get to be there anyway.
23) Housesit: There are multiple housesitting websites offering you the possibility to avoid paying hotels and skip the discomfort of crummy hostels.
24) DIY beauty: French manicures, pedicures, waxing, eyebrows… pretty much all of these can be achieved at home (and done well) with some practise. There are plenty excellent blogs and YouTube tutorials to help.
25) Fewer haircuts/volunteer at a trainee hairdresser: If you can’t bear the risk of a trainee touching your locks, learn more ways to manipulate your hair as it grows and get haircuts sparingly. Women’s haircuts are outrageously priced in many cities.
Unfortunately, there are some things that require plain ol’ giving up for the time being. This can include high-cost sports such as skiing, the latest versions of some technologies, the finest brands of food/drinks, premier seats at the opera and most other indulgences.
What is important to remember during lean times is that when you look back on your life it will be the experiences that stand out, not the extra comforts. Living on a budget can teach you a lot about how much you can really get out of your paycheck. We only live one life, so make the most of every penny you earn!
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