Saving money is a long term strategy: getting into the right habits will help you along the way.
My mother is fond of a saying: waste not, want not. When I say ‘fond’, I mean she likes to repeat it EVERY single time I want to throw anything out, from the kid’s sandwich crusts to the bell bottoms I’ve had in the back of my closet since… well, never mind how long since.
The point is, her philosophy is simple: if you don’t waste, you won’t be wanting. Frugality at it’s finest, brought to you by her WWII upbringing. The really disturbing part—and don’t tell her I said this— is that she’s not wrong. Okay, we can do without the sandwich crusts, but on the whole, frugal habits can take you a the right way to some longer term goals.
It all comes down to a few simple rules to live by.
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1. Start with a plan and think long term
Saving money, in and of itself, isn’t that interesting and if you’re not in the habit of doing it, can be a little painful. It’s like dieting. Unless you have a goal in mind, it’s can be a slog.
Saving money with an eye to paying off your mortgage or finally taking a family trip to Hawaii? These are goals that make the short term ‘pain’ worthwhile. So start with some long term goals, decide as a family, and make a plan as to how you are going to get there.
2. Live with less
Before you roll your eyes, if you have kids, go and look in their rooms. Right now. I’ll wait. Okay, so do their rooms look like a toy store or clothing boutique threw up all over them? Think about how much of that stuff doesn’t get played with, worn or used. Think about how much money you could have saved if you hadn’t bought it in the first place. Easier said than done, you’re thinking: after all, birthdays and Christmas and grandparents, right?
But here’s the thing: if you can cut down on your conspicuous consumption, you can save. It’s not about extreme cuts, but just a trim here and there. Like how?
- Limit gratuitous shopping to special occasions and birthdays. If the kids want to buy a toy outside of those times, they can earn the money or use their allowance. Change the mindset about shopping: it isn’t entertainment.
- Invest in experiences rather than things: the memories will outlast the toys.
- Live more modestly: do you really a three thousand square foot home? Or can you live with fifteen-hundred square feet? Do you need to two cars? Do you need twenty-six pairs of shoes?
- Eat more carefully: Can you trim the takeout to once every two weeks instead of once a week? Can you drop your latte habit to a twice a week treat instead of a daily visit? Get into the habit of cooking at home by batch cooking, freezing and meal planning. You’ll save a lot on last minute takeout or a rush through the drive through.
There are always ways to trim and change your lifestyle up a little so that you’re not depriving yourself, but you’re living a little more frugally.
3. Use what you’ve got
We have become a ‘throwaway’ society. If something doesn’t work or isn’t up to our discerning standards, out it goes on to the garbage heap. Change that way of thinking: can you reuse those old shutters that you pulled off the house in some way? I’ve seen people make beautiful privacy screens to split up a room, starting and ending with an old shutter.
From clothes to appliances, there are things we throw away that we could repair, reuse or recycle in a better way. Come spring, if you can’t find a use for items that are still good, have a yard sale and put the money in your goal fund.
4. Look for deals
We can’t get away from some spending but you can save a lot by never paying retail price, or at least if you do, getting some cash back in the process.
- Look for cash back credit cards, or ones with rewards that you will actually use. Just beware of high annual fees that come with some of these cards.
- Apps like Flipp can help you find the best deals near you on the things you are buying anyway, like groceries and pharmaceuticals.
- If you like online shopping, sign up for Ebates. You get cash back on your purchases through the site or app at stores that you’re already shopping at. You can also find discount codes that aren’t available otherwise.
You might also like this bill payment organizer.
Keep track of your spending, and saving, for a while and you’ll be surprised at how much you can put away with a few simple changes to the way you do things. Do you have a tip for living a little more frugally?