Are you looking to simplify your life? Do you have financial issues? Are you still paying off debts with no end in sight? Hey, me too! Part of my methodology includes plugging expense holes, and shunting that money towards my debts. Here are eight expenses to cut and how:
- Make Your Own Morning Coffee– I have a tiny little one-cup machine with a steel filter. Why? Because it’s silly easy to operate and clean. I buy really good coffee by the pound, and so a pound of coffee costs $6.50 or so US. Buying coffee at the coffee shop is $2.50 or so for a large. That means, I save after only 3 uses, and it doesn’t really slow down my getting out the door, especially if you think about how much time it takes to wait in a drive-up line.
- Use Your Public Library– Libraries have changed. Most libraries are now connected into a big sharing consortium, expanding the collection of what you can take out and what they’ll have that you might want. Further, most now have an online catalog that you can use to browse and request from home. Libraries now frequently stock DVDs (mine favors Hollywood movies, and the one in the next town features mostly highbrow independent stuff). Heck, my library just launched a big commercial digital audiobook download deal, so I can get books on my computer from my desk.
How often do you reference a book after reading it once? Make that your point. Are you going to open it many times over the years, or is this a read once, use often kind of information dump?
- Get Netflix– Going to the movies isn’t a great plan if you’re trying to save money, but renting movies is a hassle too, right? At least in the States, this is a much better option to going to brick and mortar stores for movies. They deliver the movies to your mailbox. You can’t get a late fee. Oh, and you can choose from getting just one disc at a time, two, three, or even larger numbers, for those of you who get to watch tons of flicks at once. BONUS: using one of your Netflix slots for a kids movie lets you save money, too. Kids will watch a movie 200 times, and then never need to see it again. Right?
- Bring Meals From Home or Find a Cheap, Repeatable Meal– We tend to bleed cash on feeding ourselves, and rarely do we really savor or notice the food anyhow. It’s just a meal that we consume in between doing other things. If you can bring meals from home, that’s the least expensive, and it’s also the bet way to ensure that you know what you’re getting. I’m currently taking frozen dinners that cost only $2.00 a meal, and that’s cheaper than any sandwich I can buy. If you have to eat out, trying finding the healthiest, best value meal you can find, and stick to it or slight variations. The more adventurous your meal seeking gets, the more it will likely cost you.
- Drink at a Friend’s House, Not a Pub– The cost of a dozen bottles of beer shared between a few friends will always be less expensive than a single drink out at a pub. Surely, one of you has a place to go for the casual entertainment experience, right? Okay, you might not be able to meet attractive members of the opposite sex there, but even if you spent a few days at one of your homes, that’d save some cash, true?
- Reconsider Your Driving Habits– Are you a leadfoot? Are you the kind who goes on an hour or more jaunt just for something to do? With gas/petrol costs being so high thanks to some interesting world stage situations, considering how often and how fast you travel will help you cut a few bucks in the short term. BONUS: Get out your bike and kill two birds with one stone. Work that spare tire back off the ole belly.
- Sum up all Your Entertainment Expenses– When you look at each one separately, it probably doesn’t seem weird to pay $15 a month for Netflix, $10 a month for XBOX Live, $60 or so a month for Cable TV, $100 or more a year on various magazines, not to mention all the ways you spend money when you go out, including clubs, pubs, bars, concerts, shows, events, and dinners. These are all entertainment. If you’re working on your debt, tally up all those expenses and look at them in a big sum per month. How much does your entertainment budget really cost, and does that relate to how much money you’re putting towards your debts and other expenses? Maybe it’s time to reconsider.
- Go on a Clothing Fast– There are a hundred reasons why you need that new shirt, or that clever belt. You might need those shoes because they’re quite a bargain. But take a good long look at your closet, at what you already have. Do you need more right now? How often are you buying clothes for fashion’s sake versus need? Are there ways you can stretch your budget by coordinating differently? We buy clothes on impulse more often than just about anything. Pay close attention to this, and consider a clothing fast. Promise not to buy clothes for one month at a time. Say, “I’ll go all of August without buying a single article of clothing.” At the end of August, assess. Do you really need anything? See if you can go September, too.
Sure, you’re deserving of a good life. This isn’t as much about deprivation as it is examining the life you’re leading. If you’re working on your finances, and you’re serious about putting them in order, there are even more holes than those I’ve listed above that could use plugging. With a little bit of tweaking, you’ll recover money at a fairly decent clip. This adds up. If you tally up your savings from all eight tips above, it could quite easily be $200 or more back in your finances a month. $2400 a year? That’s a nice tidy raise, eh? Congratulations.
–Chris Brogan is working hard on his expenses over at [chrisbrogan.com]. Well, not really. He’s writing about self-improvement and creativity.