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10 Money Saving Strategies That Really Work

10 Money Saving Strategies That Really Work

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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