When my family and I found ourselves in a nasty financial situation, we had to dig deep to discover how to take care of the family and still have fun on the cheap. We discovered it was not only possible to live cheaper, we even had fun doing it. We decided to keep doing it when times got better, because it made us feel smarter to save more. If you want to feel smart too, here are 10 money saving strategies that work.
1. Learn to Love the Library
I used to hate the smell of old books and the sounds of silence. When finances caused me to spend more time at our local library, I discovered how many things have changed. Libraries host free events for kids and families. They bring movie nights, magicians and musicians to families of all ages. You can use the internet for free, play online video games, check out movies or music, and, oh yeah, they let you get books for free too. Just remember to return things on time and this place can entertain you in amazing ways. Saving money at the library will become a habit you carry on for years. It’s just that fun.
2. Is It Big Screen Worthy?
If you’re a movie fan like me, you know you can plop down serious amounts of cash by just attending a few flicks a month. So, when you need to save some money it’s time to become a discerning viewer. Most movies make it to DVD within a few short months. They also land on Netflix or Amazon Prime or another venue fairly soon. You can catch that movie later for free or at least cheaper if you are willing to wait and if it’s worth it. The question you have to decide when it first arrives at theaters is this, “Is it big screen worthy?” If you can get just as much enjoyment out of it by watching it at home, then that movie may be worth the wait. You’ll find yourself spending much less money if this becomes your starting question.
3. Shop at Garage Sales, Thrift Stores, and Consignment Stores
For those who enjoy Biltmore style living, this can be a difficult transition. Many communities, including the well-off ones, have regular garage sales. You might find that someone is moving and needs to unload an almost new vacuum. If that fits your need, you’ll save a hundred dollars and still get a product with great suction. When funds deplete, the mall is just too much of a temptation. It does require more hunting and planning, but garage sales, thrift stores and consignment stores will save you a bundle. As you stroll through the items at these places, you’ll find clothes, furniture and knickknacks that contain character and even make your world more fun. When you save money at these stores, you’ll wonder why you ever shopped elsewhere.
4. Choose Cheap and Save Big on Cell Phones
We know the names of the big cell phone companies but did you know that they make their lines available to other companies too. Walmart’s Straight Talk uses the Sprint network at a fraction of the cost. You pay less for the same phones and less on a month to month basis with no contract. You can also set up a pay-as-you-go system with Straight Talk as if you had a contract, but without the extra fees. Republic Wireless limits their phone choice but cuts the cost incredibly by using a hybrid system of WiFi and 3G or 4G. PC Magazine has recognized these companies in their Reader’s Choice Awards. None of the big companies even got a mention.
5. Learn to Cook
It may sound like something out of the 1920’s but when you cook for yourself, you save a ton of bread. This doesn’t mean you will save big by buying a frozen dinner and warming it at home, though you may save a little. If you learn to cook, you’ll find out how many restaurants and fast service overcharge for what they make. They have to do it because they have a bunch of employees to pay. You don’t. When you buy food and make it, you’ll be able to pack it into lunches or make great dinners. You could even branch out and get creative for breakfast. Not only will you save a bunch, you’ll also probably find yourself getting healthier.
6. Learn the Difference between a Need and a Want
When you hear about a new gadget that can do 20 different things you never imagined, you may find yourself excited and itching to buy it. Then, ask yourself to consider if you need this item to survive or if you simply want it, because it caught your attention. The more you ponder the difference between the two, the more you’ll realize the things you don’t need to own. And, you’ll save money.
7. Practice Patience
Technology has been improving at an exponential rate. We get the annual iPhone updates and Samsung updates. New laptops come out each year, as do desktops. New software gets developed each year. It’s mind-blowing how much money you could spend if you made certain to purchase each new annual item. But, if you wait, that new product becomes an old one very quickly. Within one to two years prices often drop by almost 50%.This same approach applies to cars that have aged a couple of years. Consider how much you save if you wait for the new item to not be quite as new.
8. Make Your Own Coffee
Starbucks works hard on its product, but also on its environment. They create nice looking places with beautiful lighting and background music. It makes you feel like you’ve entered a fine dining restaurant when it’s actually caffeinated fast food. You plop down a few bucks for your favorite drink and feel absolutely extravagant. What if you could do it? Many people have figured out how to make them at home for less cost and all the joy. Personally, I love this Gingerbread Latte that I can make for myself at a much lower cost.
9. Exercise Outdoors
Before our finances took a dive I belonged to our local gym. It cost me several dollars each month to ride a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill. When I started seeking to save money, it occurred to me that I could do those things outside on my own. You can too. Many communities provide opportunities to play basketball, run, walk or ride a bike. You can get outside and move rather than pay to remain indoors. Once you start doing it you may never go back to the gym even if you’ve got plenty of money to spend.
10. Learn to Be Content
Often we find ourselves driven to feel happy, happy, happy. Unfortunately, we look to people who make millions of dollars and believe they’ve found it. We want more and more stuff. It’s like we assume that the more things we buy, the better our lives will be. If you’ve read the news lately, you probably also know that people with money have their own dreams dashed to pieces, too. Even people who have got tons of cash still want more.
Maybe we’re hunting for the wrong thing. Instead of seeking happiness, maybe we need to find a deep and complete sense of contentment. There are people who are content with their lives. They appreciate each day because of its innate beauty,not because of what it gives them. Those people value themselves and their lives even without fancy vacations or expensive technology.
The Bible makes a reference to a man who had people try to kill him several times. He had to run from towns and got placed in jail regularly. This same man stated that he had learned to be content in any and every situation. I’ve discovered how valuable contentment really is. It helps me to not need many of the things that cost a fortune and deplete my bankbook. If you seek to learn the secret of being content, you could find yourself saving too.
Featured photo credit: One and Two Half Dollars/Eric Gjerde via flickr.com