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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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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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