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How to Live on a Tight Budget

How to Live on a Tight Budget

Do you go out to eat at least once a week? Do you frequent the movie theater? Are you are Starbucks addict? If so, you are spending thousands of dollars a year on the little things. Just think of the money you would save if you just cut a few corners each day. Now think about what your savings account would look like if you put that money in a high-interest bank account.

How much you save actually has very little to do with the income you receive. In fact, the amount in your savings account actually has much more to do with how you spend your money. Here are just a few “small” ways that will allow you to save a lot of money in the long run.

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Entertainment is the first expense that seems to be talked about when it comes to living on a budget. We like to do things in our free time and we like to go out to eat or to concerts on the weekends. But when money is tight, we need to be a bit more creative in how we entertain ourselves.

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  • Look at your city’s newspaper or entertainment guide regularly to see what free events are in town. You will be surprised at how many free things there are to do when you take the time to look for them.
  • Head to your local museum or library. These are free places to relax and spend some time away from your house. And they often offer a number of free programs and events.
  • Go for a walk in a park. Many local public parks offer walking trails, tennis courts, and other equipment free of charge. The whole family is sure to love a day at the park.
  • Have a movie night at home. Instead of spending money on going to the movies, why not take out some of your favorite movies that you own and watch them at home? You can pop some popcorn and have all night movies marathons.
  • No Cable TV. According to research performed by Nielsen Co, the average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. That’s 2 months in front of the television every year! Trade in the TV for quality activities like spending time with family and reading and you will save about $50 per month.

Gas prices have gone through the roof. Here are some simply ways you can save on gas.

  • Search for the lowest gas prices online at GasBuddy.
  • Save up to $100 a year on gas by keeping your engine tuned and your tires inflated to their proper pressure.
  • Avoid driving as much as possible. When traveling short distances, you can walk or even ride a bike. This will save you hundreds of dollars and probably get you in the best shape of your life.

Gifts and holidays are another source of worry for those living on a tight budget, but they don’t have to be. Though it may seem like you need money in order to show someone you love them at the holidays or on their birthday, this isn’t the case.

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  • Create freebie coupons. Mark some index cards with free help or favors that you will provide whenever they need it, whether it’s a backrub or mowing their lawn, your time and your help is more valuable than anything that comes with a bow.
  • Look at online auction sites or garage sales for gifts. While it can be tricky to find nice gifts that are cheap, these two places are often a lot more helpful than you might think.

Grocery costs are another major expense for many families. Fortunately, there are also a number of ways to save on food and groceries.

  • First, you should always pack your lunch for work. Not only will you save a ton of money, but it’s also a lot healthier.
  • Skip the Starbucks. Many people don’t realize how their coffee expenses can add up. A single latte can cost up to $4. This means that a Starbucks addict ends up spending about $1,000 just in coffee. Start making your coffee at home and your wallet will thank you for it.
  • Buy in bulk. There are a number of stores that allow you to save by buying in bulk. Sam’s Club is one of the most well-known examples.
  • Look for coupons. Coupons can save you a ton of money. However, you have to be careful. Even with coupons, you might not be getting the best buy. Comparison shopping is key.
  • Look for generic products. Often times, the only difference is the packaging.

Living on a tighter budget simply requires you to add a bit of creativity to your financial planning and daily expenses. There are plenty of ways to live life on the ‘cheap’ without feeling like you’re pinching every penny.

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If you know of any other frugal tips, please feel free to add them in the comments.

Kim Roach is a productivity junkie who blogs regularly at The Optimized Life. Read her articles on 50 EssentialGTD Resources, How to Have a 46 Hour Day, Do You Need a Braindump, What They Don’t Teach You in School, and Free Yourself From the Inbox.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2020

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

  1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
  2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
  3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
  4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
  5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
  6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
  7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
  8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
  9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
  10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
  11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
  12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
  13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
  14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
  15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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