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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 August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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