Would you like to have more money in your pocket – without having to do any extra work? For many of us, the easiest way to boost our savings is to cut back on how much we’re spending. Whether you’re channeling money into an emergency fund, or whether you’ve got your heart set on that dream vacation, saving an extra few hundred dollars each month might seem out of reach right now. But there are plenty of ways to cut what you spend, without missing out on what you love. I’m listing five big wins below – rather than giving you a bunch of little tips. Even one of these could easily save you $100+ per month.
1. Cancel Unused Subscriptions
Go through your bank or credit card statement and look for recurring payments (you might want to check PayPal too). Are you really making use of these? Some popular culprits are:
- Gym memberships (if you only go once a week, pay by the session)
- Netflix and other TV/DVD services (are you really using them?)
- Membership-based websites (do you even log in any more?)
Even when individual subscriptions are just $10 or $20, a bunch of them can really add up, each month and each year. Could you cancel just one under-used subscription – and put the money towards something you really want?
2. Don’t Window-Shop (or Window-Surf)
How often have you popped into a store just to take a look around – and ended up buying something? Did you really need it, or want it? Get out of the habit of window-shopping or going to the mall just for something to do: or if you must go, leave your cash and cards at home! The online equivalent of window-shopping – browsing – can be even more dangerous, as you can shop at any time of the day or night, and transactions involve just a few mouse-clicks. I once banned myself from eBay for a month after too many impulse buys: none were for large amounts, but they were really adding up. What stores or websites do you need to avoid?
3. Keep a Wish-List
Do you ever find yourself buying something that a friend has recommended, or which you’ve seen a review of? I often come across books or other resources that I want to buy – but I rarely grab them there and then. Instead, I keep a wishlist on Amazon. This has several advantages:
- I don’t need to worry about forgetting the title or author of the book that I want
- With new releases, I can wait until the price drops
- At my birthday and Christmas time, I give relatives the link to my Amazon wish list
- When I do consciously decide to spend money on a book, CD or DVD, I don’t browse aimlessly – I know exactly what I want
- Periodically, I can review the wish list and remove items which I’m no longer interested in. I’m often surprised how the whims of the moment vanish after a few weeks!
Could you create a wish list – online or offline – for one of your favorite stores?
4. Don’t Buy Brand-New
I’m always shocked by how much some items can drop in price after a short time. New DVD releases are invariably cheaper after a few months – and the same with CDs. Books are cheaper in paperback. Big-ticket items like cars are generally much cheaper second-hand. Clothes are cut in price at sales, or when a particular line is being taken out of the stores. You can save money and have exactly the same things simply by waiting until something has been on the shelves for a few months. Yes, this might mean you can’t have a book or a DVD straight away – but you’ve probably got plenty of other entertainment options in the meantime. In many cases, looking for second-hand versions is a good idea: textbooks, for instance, are often hugely reduced in price without having had much wear-and-tear! There may be some cases where you prefer not to buy used items (not everyone is happy with the idea of wearing second-hand clothes, for instance), but do at least consider this. Can you wait two months before buying those DVDs or books, so that the price drops?
5. Eat Out Less
Many of us end up grabbing a lot of meals on the run – sandwiches and coffee at lunch time; heading out to restaurants in the evening because it’s easier than cooking. Although the daily costs may be fairly small, the monthly amount spent on eating out can be staggering: if you spend just $5 on lunch five days a week, and $15 on dinner three nights each week, that adds up to around $300 each month. Making sandwiches at home and taking them to work (or on a family outing) means:
- You’ll dramatically reduce your spending
- You save time in your lunch hour and don’t have to stand in line at a busy coffee shop
- You can choose exactly what you (or your kids) want
If you tend to eat out in the evenings because you can’t cook, then learn some simple recipes. There are all sorts of cookbooks aimed at beginners – or just look online for guidance (you can even watch videos showing particular techniques). Preparing an evening meal at home will probably save time overall, and many recipes really don’t involve much effort. Try taking a packed lunch to work each day for a week – and see how much you save. Have you found any “big-win” techniques for dramatically reducing your spending, without cutting your quality of life? Share your ideas in the comments!
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