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How to Live on a Tight Budget

How to Live on a Tight Budget

Do you go out to eat at least once a week? Do you frequent the movie theater? Are you are Starbucks addict? If so, you are spending thousands of dollars a year on the little things. Just think of the money you would save if you just cut a few corners each day. Now think about what your savings account would look like if you put that money in a high-interest bank account.

How much you save actually has very little to do with the income you receive. In fact, the amount in your savings account actually has much more to do with how you spend your money. Here are just a few “small” ways that will allow you to save a lot of money in the long run.

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Entertainment is the first expense that seems to be talked about when it comes to living on a budget. We like to do things in our free time and we like to go out to eat or to concerts on the weekends. But when money is tight, we need to be a bit more creative in how we entertain ourselves.

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  • Look at your city’s newspaper or entertainment guide regularly to see what free events are in town. You will be surprised at how many free things there are to do when you take the time to look for them.
  • Head to your local museum or library. These are free places to relax and spend some time away from your house. And they often offer a number of free programs and events.
  • Go for a walk in a park. Many local public parks offer walking trails, tennis courts, and other equipment free of charge. The whole family is sure to love a day at the park.
  • Have a movie night at home. Instead of spending money on going to the movies, why not take out some of your favorite movies that you own and watch them at home? You can pop some popcorn and have all night movies marathons.
  • No Cable TV. According to research performed by Nielsen Co, the average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. That’s 2 months in front of the television every year! Trade in the TV for quality activities like spending time with family and reading and you will save about $50 per month.

Gas prices have gone through the roof. Here are some simply ways you can save on gas.

  • Search for the lowest gas prices online at GasBuddy.
  • Save up to $100 a year on gas by keeping your engine tuned and your tires inflated to their proper pressure.
  • Avoid driving as much as possible. When traveling short distances, you can walk or even ride a bike. This will save you hundreds of dollars and probably get you in the best shape of your life.

Gifts and holidays are another source of worry for those living on a tight budget, but they don’t have to be. Though it may seem like you need money in order to show someone you love them at the holidays or on their birthday, this isn’t the case.

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  • Create freebie coupons. Mark some index cards with free help or favors that you will provide whenever they need it, whether it’s a backrub or mowing their lawn, your time and your help is more valuable than anything that comes with a bow.
  • Look at online auction sites or garage sales for gifts. While it can be tricky to find nice gifts that are cheap, these two places are often a lot more helpful than you might think.

Grocery costs are another major expense for many families. Fortunately, there are also a number of ways to save on food and groceries.

  • First, you should always pack your lunch for work. Not only will you save a ton of money, but it’s also a lot healthier.
  • Skip the Starbucks. Many people don’t realize how their coffee expenses can add up. A single latte can cost up to $4. This means that a Starbucks addict ends up spending about $1,000 just in coffee. Start making your coffee at home and your wallet will thank you for it.
  • Buy in bulk. There are a number of stores that allow you to save by buying in bulk. Sam’s Club is one of the most well-known examples.
  • Look for coupons. Coupons can save you a ton of money. However, you have to be careful. Even with coupons, you might not be getting the best buy. Comparison shopping is key.
  • Look for generic products. Often times, the only difference is the packaging.

Living on a tighter budget simply requires you to add a bit of creativity to your financial planning and daily expenses. There are plenty of ways to live life on the ‘cheap’ without feeling like you’re pinching every penny.

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If you know of any other frugal tips, please feel free to add them in the comments.

Kim Roach is a productivity junkie who blogs regularly at The Optimized Life. Read her articles on 50 EssentialGTD Resources, How to Have a 46 Hour Day, Do You Need a Braindump, What They Don’t Teach You in School, and Free Yourself From the Inbox.

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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