Real Non-Insulting Ways to Save Money
We All Live and Spend Differently
It feels pretty insulting to read article after article about how to save money when they all suggest the same little changes. Many reference cutting out that cup of coffee from Starbucks every day and making it at home instead. I have always considered that a luxury, a rare treat. For people that are tight on money, and need to cut corners in a real way, daily Starbucks runs aren't part of their lifestyle.
To save money in the long term, it takes much deeper life changes than making your daily brew at home. Looking into each facet of your life, there could be small (or big!) changes you could make that save a couple dollars.
I dislike the feeling of being "cheap" but I also appreciate the cumulative effect of saving. Many small savings add up to larger savings over time. The side effect of these life changes? A simplified lifestyle that you may even end up embracing.
Cancel Cable (and Other Expensive Media)
Many people that are trying to save money have already cut the cable long ago in favor of online media like Netflix or Hulu. If you're one of those people who want to save more money but are still dragging your feet - you can do this - you too, can get rid of cable! Think about how much it costs you per year and decide if you need that money or not. The cost varies by company and package deals, but if your cable costs $30 per month, you'll save yourself $360 per year by canceling.
If you're thinking, "Hey! I don't even have cable!" then I understand how you feel because I don't either. It might be time to get rid of other media subscriptions that you have held onto. If you have a basic Netflix subscription, you could take a year off and save yourself $96.
Create Meaningful Holidays
The pressure and social expectation to consume on holidays and birthdays is incredibly strong. It is built into us. It is so expected. This makes it awkward if you want to try doing things in a different way - or plain old can't afford to spend a penny.
Take to heart what the real meaning of each holiday should be and focus yourself on that. If you celebrate Christmas, you know how intensely focused the entire event can be on gifts! In reality, it is about so much more than that. What ways can you add more meaning to your holidays that take the focus off of "stuff" and emphasize creating memories with people?
We could apply the same attitude to birthdays, of course, by focusing on making the person feel special and loved. Children love new experiences, so experience gifts have so much more impact than a pile of toys could ever be.
Challenge yourself to create a year of meaningful holidays and celebrations this year. Days with meaning, that aren't centered around being a consumer. The more passionate you are about this, the more contagious your ideas might be to the rest of your family!
Eat Simply & Plan Ahead
You don't need to face a life of bland or unhealthy food just because you're trying to save money. Work toward adding some basic inexpensive meals into rotation that you can count on to be your "cheap" meals that week. Make a big batch of hummus and use that for lunches (dip for veggies, spread on wraps) all week. Bake a tray of granola that will last you a couple of weeks but only cost you a few dollars. While doing this, take advantage of certain produce that freezes well and buy a bit extra if it's on sale. You can wash, cut and freeze things like onions and bell peppers to use later in quesadillas, omelettes, and soups.
Work hard to meal plan so that you are wasting less food. When you plan, you are spending with intention, buying what is in season and on sale.
Go On A Spending Fast
Sometimes we don't realize how many little purchases we make throughout the month. Try to take on the challenge of a spending fast. Take a month and spend money on nothing but the bare necessities and bills. This gives you the opportunity to pay close attention to your spending habits and trim out the excess.
A helpful tip for going on this journey is to create a wishlist that you can add to throughout the month. When you think that you need or want something (but do not buy it unless it's necessary!) you add it to the list. If you use your Amazon wishlist, at the end of the month you can look through it and add to cart what you still need and then delete the rest! Once you let some time pass, it is easier to have perspective on your needs and wants.
If you're feeling motivated to try this, take the Living Well, Spending Zero Challenge!
Go Green When You Clean
Simple household items like cleaning spray or paper towels doesn't seem to be a huge financial drain. But over time, these consumable purchases add up! Walk through your home and make note of products you use up over time. Decide what you could do to replace them with reusable or natural products instead! Here are some ideas:
- use rags or dollar store washcloths for cleaning
- use cloth napkins at dinner time
- use cotton flannel cloth wipes for diaper changes
- use cloth diapers instead of disposable
- make your own laundry detergent with this easy, inexpensive recipe
- use vinegar and hydrogen peroxide for cleaning (to see how to do this properly, read this article)
- wash laundry in cold water
- hang dry your clothes outside or on an indoor drying rack
Be Energy Efficient
Utility bills can become uncomfortably high, especially during months of extreme temperatures. Be vigilant about making your home as energy efficient as possible. In cold climates, seal your windows with a window insulation kit. During the summer, close the blinds and curtains to keep the sun from warming the rooms. Throughout the year, be conscious of turning off the lights and unplugging appliances and computers that are not in use. Get your family on board so that these activities become a habit for everyone!
Energy Star has a comprehensive list of ways to be more energy efficient that you can click through to get inspired and get saving.
Live The Simple Life
For some of us, going out to eat, seeing a movie, or having drinks with friends is a way that we enjoy life and treat ourselves. After all, what is the point of working so hard and being judicious in our saving efforts if we aren't even living in the moment and enjoying our lives?!
Expand your horizons and look around at what is available to you locally that you haven't experienced yet. What activities can you try that are new and different - and free? Or at least, less expensive! Explore local parks and nature trails with your camera and some lunch in a backpack. Venture into your library and talk to the librarian about the things they have to offer aside from books (it might surprise you). Take some time off from busy activities and tinker around your house. Clean and organize (and maybe find some things you could sell), and take a moment to appreciate what you have.
One important benefit of minimal living is the simple reality that it costs less. As you accumulate fewer things, you spend less money. Additionally, it costs much less to store them, maintain them, repair them, clean them, and even discard them. And as your affection for physical possessions begins to fade, you’ll find far more opportunity to use your finances in other ways.— Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist
What is the hardest for you to give up when trying to save money?
Make Slow and Steady Change
Of course, there are many other areas of your life that you can change to save more money. Figuring out where to cut costs is a challenge that you will have to continue to work at as your life circumstances change. Your car insurance, phone bill, housing, credit cards or loans - analyze these to see if you can save a little in each area. As you go through your list of expenses, think critically about what small changes you can make. Remember - even the little things add up.
It is hard work to make sacrifices in the name of saving. The future is important, but the present is all we have. You are doing a wonderful job already just by being conscious of your budget. Be realistic and don't deprive yourself of a small luxury here and there. You deserve it!