I used to be terrible with money. To me, it was a renewable resource that I would burn through until it was depleted. Once that happened I would just wait for my bank account to fill back up. I’m not saying that I had lots of money, and I did work hard for the money that I had; on the contrary it was very limited, but since I didn’t (and still don’t) have kids, a mortgage or anything else of that nature, I felt like if I missed a payment here or there or splurged on something I really wanted but wasn’t in my budget it would be fine.
But living paycheck to paycheck was not a good way to live and pretty soon I found myself in some serious debt and began noticing that I kept running out of money before payday. When that happened I would be stuck at home, eating Ramen and trying to entertain myself. Looking back, I was seriously limiting my opportunities for the present and the future. Over time my habits changed, mostly out of necessity but also because I wanted them to change. I realized that by following certain rules I could live a fulfilling life as well as helping myself to prepare for the future. Below are a few of the things that have really helped me with keeping my spending low and my bank account high.
Our culture has taught us that things are replaceable and disposable, and that once something becomes broken or worn out, it is time to get a new one. Clothing is a good example. If you’re like me, you enjoy shopping and like to stay in style and up to date with what is current. Instead of splurging on new items, try switching your habits up and repairing damaged clothing instead of throwing them away. A little bit of thread can go a long way, and a patch can add some originality and character to an otherwise boring pair of jeans. Go through your closet and recycle items that you don’t plan on wearing again. Many consignment shops and charities will allow you to donate the items for a tax deduction. Have a yard sale for all of the ‘stuff” you no longer need or want and pocket the proceeds. These are a great way to find really cool and original items at bargain prices. Remember, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. As far as household appliances and things of that nature, try replacing broken parts before trashing the item or calling a repairman. Many things can be fixed cheaply if you can figure out what exactly is wrong with them. Finally, when out shopping for standard household items, compare prices and check out used stores before heading to the more expensive stores. There iw also nothing we
Make Your Own Stuff.
Don’t spend money on something that you could make or easily fix at home. I recently had a terrible clog in my bathtub that was so bad that the water would threaten to overflow when I was halfway done with my shower. I tried expensive drain cleaner to no avail, and was about to call for a plumber when I decided to see what I could find on the internet. I came across a simple recipe using baking soda, vinegar and boiling water, things I already had at home, and it worked wonders with unclogging my pipe. In the kitchen, try out new new recipes instead of eating out, and you might be surprised at how cheap and rewarding it can be. I personally swear by the Crock pot. When it comes to gift-giving, making something yourself can be more personal and special than an item that can be purchased from the store. You can even recycle a gift card. Every little dollar saved adds up.
Make a list and stick to it.
I have always had a tendency to buy things on impulse, so doing this was very helpful. I started only going to the grocery store when hungry, and would keep anything that wasn’t already on my list out of the cart. Couponing also helped save me a bundle, both through frequent shopper rewards programs and flier’s that arrived by mail. Some people have had success with “extreme couponing”, but I was never able to get into this. With things that I wasn’t sure I really needed, I employed the ten second rule. This involves pausing for ten seconds in order to ask yourself whether you really need the item. I would oftentimes find myself putting it back after realizing that I didn’t. For bigger purchases, the the similar thirty-day rule works just as well. Buying generic items in bulk is also a great way to get the most bang for your buck. A lot of generic products are the exact same as brand name ones, minus the expensive packaging.
Stay up to date with your accounts. Keep track of your account balances and always pay your bills on time to avoid late fees. This means organization, which for me has never come easily. But once I got the hang of it I found the whole ‘financial thing’ much easier to deal with. Focus on paying down your credit card balance(s). Interest is a huge expense, so the faster that you pay the balance off, the more money you will have in the long run. If you have good credit, it never hurts to ask for an interest rate deduction. The same goes for service fees and things of that nature. Make the decision to automate your saving account, so that the money never touches your checking account, where you might be tempted to spend it.
Saving Energy = Saving Money.
When not using something, turn it off! It sounds simple but is often something that we don’t think about. Choose LED light bulbs instead of incandescent ones, as they have a longer life and use a lot less energy.
Exercising is a great way to spend time while increasing your overall health and well-being. You will be amazed at how great you feel after just fifteen minutes of exercise a day. Drink lots of water and you will find yourself feeling energized as well as spending less on expensive sodas and other beverages. Always start the day off with a healthy breakfast such as oatmeal or cereal. A good breakfast will give you energy for the day and stop those late-morning cravings that can lead to splurging on a big lunch. Make the conscious decision to cut back on convenience and junk foods, as not only are these unhealthy but they are a good way to blow lots of cash. Finally, give up your habits like smoking and drinking. These vises are not only unhealthy but will drain your bank account very quickly.
Most importantly, don’t forget that you are human, prone to mistakes and poor choices. When I forget to pay a bill or splurge on a dress that I really shouldn’t have bought, I have learned to accept my mistake and move on. With an eye on my future goals, and through some frugality and financial planning, I know that I have a good chance of being completely debt free in the near future.
Sarah Parker is a writer and blogger from Greensboro, NC. She enjoys all things outdoors, especially camping, gardening, and swimming. Her favorite time of the year is summer and she aims to be as financially responsible as possible.