It’s no secret, money is hard to come by. Saving money has become the mantra for many households across the United States, with more and more families choosing to forgo quality for cost savings. However, this doesn’t necessarily always have to be the case. You can cut back your spending and still buy and do the cool stuff, you just have to find creative ways to stretch your dollars further. Here are 7 tips to help you get started down the path of cutting spending, saving money and still buying the things you want.
1. Practice self-control.
This is probably the most important piece of advice anyone could ever get. Have you ever wondered why there are shelves of stuff to buy located at the end of shopping aisles and at the cash registers? They are designed to entice you to make impulse buys, purchases you make just because something caught your eye. Impulse buys are true budget busters, and can derail even the most detailed spending plans in a matter of seconds. To avoid making impulse buys:
- Create a shopping list of the things you need before you leave home and stick to it no matter what.
- Set aside a spending limit, no more than $10, specifically for impulse buys. This can give you a little leeway, but keeps your spending under control. If you find that you are tempted to spend more than your limit, choose to walk away and “think about it”. If you still want it, then you can go back and purchase it later.
- Refrain from carrying large amounts of cash. Not only is carrying cash dangerous from a theft or lost wallet perspective, many people tend to spend more indiscriminately if they use cash rather than debit cards or checks.
2. Do your research before you spend.
While this generally applies to larger purchases, you should practice researching your purchases for all things. This means comparison shopping groceries, shoes, and even gas. This will help you get the most bang for your buck. When researching potential purchases, read reviews on well-respected websites and talk to people you know who have made similar purchases. Make sure that you check both retail and online stores for the best prices. Many stores will price match, even if the item was found online, so if you don’t want to wait or pay for shipping, take the advertised price into your local retail outlet and ask for a price match. This practice even works when certain groceries are on sale at one store and not your normal grocery outlet. Lastly, don’t forget to take advantage of coupons and mail-in rebates.
3. Keep a spending journal.
As you go throughout your day, jot down the things you spend money on. This includes all cash, debit and credit purchases. This will help you understand your spending habits and lets you know where your money goes. Add these purchases into your monthly budget so that you can see how this spending impacts your cash flow and reserves.
4. Buy used and borrow if you can.
Borrow things from the library, from friends, and even from work. Buy used when you can’t borrow and leave purchasing new as a last resort. By buying used, you stand to save a substantial amount over buying new and you can usually upgrade to a better quality item. This is a great way to buy designer clothing and consumer electronics.
5. Take good care of what you buy.
Replacing items you have previously purchased is just a waste of money. Take care of the items that you buy and save your cash for something new.
6. Disconnect extraneous services.
Do you still have a landline phone? Do you also have a cell phone and a work phone? If so, odds are you are paying out too much money a month on services you don’t really need. Choose one line of communication and disconnect the other. Are you paying for premium cable in order to get one specific channel? If so, you can probably scale back your monthly cable bill and get the same programming for less using an online streaming service such as Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime.
7. Utilize your employer’s flexible spending accounts.
Odds are, if you are employed by a large organization, you have benefits that you know nothing about. Flexible spending accounts give you an opportunity to allocate money, most of the time on a pre-tax basis, to pay for things such as medical expenses, child care expenses, transportation costs and more. Look into whether your employer offers such benefits and begin to spend on a pre-tax basis. This puts more spendable cash in your pocket every month thanks to a lower tax burden on your paycheck.