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Serious Ways to Reduce Expenses, Save Money, and Pay Down Debt

Updated on October 21, 2011
Get Serious about Your Money.
Get Serious about Your Money.

If you're serious about paying off your debt, and want the added security of savings and retirement plans you can implement these steps to move towards a brighter financial future. These steps are not all easy but you are trading the inconvenience of today for years of happiness and financial security later. Think about it this way -- at your current age this is when you should be earning, saving, and paying off debt -- not when you are 75, 85, or 95 years old. Don't make your retired self carry all the burden for your financial choices! Your future self will be very disappointed with your current self about your lack of planning and selfishness! Have you ever asked yourself this question? -- do you really want to be bagging groceries at 83 years old to make ends meet!!!??? I didn't think so...

Here are some common sense tips for money, savings, frugal living, and getting out of debt:

ALWAYS WRITE DOWN YOUR MONEY FLOW. Make a budget (money in and money out), but considering make twelve different budgets for the year. What you pay for winter (with heat and holidays) might be different than what you budget for in May! I have friends who made money in the summer with side jobs but always went deeper in debt in the winter - not realizing that it probably averaged out! Budgets keep you from spending like crazy when you have money, and then panicking like crazy two months later when you have a big car repair.

REDUCE FOOD, GROCERIES, and EATING OUT. Buy larger quantities, less frequently, and cook more. If you buy food to cook for more than one meal you will stretch your dollar. Make an old classic casserole with mac and cheese, veggies, soup, bread crumbs, and then have it for multiple meals. (Or make two!) Make a large amount of rice and use some for a variety of meals over a few days. Leftovers in the house also make it hard to buy lunch on the go. Just bring casserole or rice, or whatever with you and stop spending at work. I also recommend a coffee/tea thermos or water bottle, so that you're less likely to stop for a beverage. Add up the weekly expenses on food/beverages, and depending on your hourly wage, and you realize that you work between one to five hours a week or more for the snack cart, vending machine, hotdog stand, coffee shop, or lunch place. It will increase your home food budget a little but less than buying on the go. Personally I carry a cold beverage container or water bottle to work, pack my lunch, and keep a couple snack granola bars from home in my office desk. I don't spend at the coffee cart like I used to... If you can't cook -- learn. It's actually easy, smart, and fun.

GET REAL ABOUT OTHER EXPENSES. Do you really need full subscription cable TV? We reduced our cable to basic before we moved last year and barely miss it. We get movies from the library and streaming from Netflix, and were able to drop MANY(!) premium channels. When we had HBO we felt like it was worth it, and now that we don't have it we don't really miss it. (When I'm a gazillionaire, I'll probably have all the channels -- but I'm not going to continue to feel 'broke' just so I can watch "Entourage".) Being able to divide wants and needs is a huge part of being great with money. I have wanted an iPad for a while now. And then I wanted an iPad 2, but I tell myself that it's not more important than killing the balance on this one particular credit card -- you know who you are! I know people with mounds of debt and crappy cars who insist on buying premium gasoline!?! Really-- I'll put a bottle of dry gas through my tank each winter and just use regular unleaded. Cars are expensive enough without that. These same people won't pay extra for organic romaine lettuce even though that goes through their "engine". I'd rather pay extra for pesticide free food that get extras for my six-year-old car!

DEBT NEEDS EXTRA EFFORT. The two aspects of killing debt are to not add to it, and to accelerate the payoff. Once you budget hopefully you'll stop relying on credit cards to pay for things. Remember everything on the card is a ball-and-chain around your future. Just because everyone takes credit doesn't mean that's how you should pay. Why charge cat food and spend three years paying it off...? Cash flow your needs (and your pet's needs), so that you don't pay 6-12% or 18-24% interest on silly, regular purchases. If you don't earn enough money than focus on that! Smart money people, let's call them comfortable, live below their means. Hard to do? Nope, unless you don't really know what you earn and what your household obligation actually are. Once you do, it's easy to add extra payments to your debt to hurry it along.

EXTRA MONEY. If you have ways to make extra money, do it now -- especially if it doesn't cost anything to get started. I am always looking for ways to trade time, skills, or ideas for another trickle of income. Again do you want to be 101 years old asking your neighbors if they need their grass cut or snow shoveled? I'm not suggesting being a workaholic and ignoring loved-ones, family, and friends. I'm just suggesting that a little extra effort now can pay off nicely later. Think about this -- An extra night job a few evenings a week pays its that wage PLUS the credit card interest charges you didn't have to pay because the balance was zeroed out sooner!

THINK AHEAD. We're busing living so who wants to think that far ahead? Well I would argue that living is generally better and more fun if you have a plan. For many Americans winning the lottery or some other windfall is their plan -- that's insanity. It's never too late to fix your situation. You don't need much - just cover expenses, a buffer, savings, and a long term personal wealth plan. Start today if you haven't already! Your future SELF will thank you!


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    • CapstoneTrends profile image

      CapstoneTrends 5 years ago from Outside Boston, Massachusetts, USA

      thanks Audrey!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 6 years ago from California

      Great article! Well thought out and well executed!

    • CapstoneTrends profile image

      CapstoneTrends 6 years ago from Outside Boston, Massachusetts, USA

      Thanks umakeit... appreciate the comments...

      Thank you b. Malin- yeah, health really is the other piece of that puzzle... I am doing that homework now so that we (me and mine) will benefit decades from now! HubPages is great!

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 6 years ago

      Well written and Timely Hub as we live in these times of uncertainty...We have recently retired and feel we've done our homework and as long as we stay Healthy we will live an Enjoyable Life. I look forward to following your Hubs Capstone, and thank you for becoming a Follower of mine...and Welcome to Hub Pages!

    • umakeit profile image

      umakeit 6 years ago

      Good tips. Paying off debt is crucial and spending wisely will help in our finances. Thanks for sharing

    • carriethomson profile image

      carriethomson 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      yep!! great tips for saving money!! you can also try to earn more while you can and save for the future rather than spend it out right away:)) writing on hubpages can help :-)


    • CapstoneTrends profile image

      CapstoneTrends 6 years ago from Outside Boston, Massachusetts, USA

      Thanks FrugalFamily: It's so true!

      Thanks MGB: The phrase "If only I knew then what I know now"... is my theme song!

      Thanks Neighborhoodtools: That's a great tip. Make your own little shopping coop. I like it!

      Thanks for stopping by... all!

    • neighborhoodtools profile image

      neighborhoodtools 6 years ago from United States

      Another tip is to get out of your comfort zone and try new ways to save money or reduce your expenses. Like there is no reason to buy many things at retail prices. Why not join or start a neighborhood buying club or form a grocery bargain shopping group with your girlfriends to save time, money, and gas!

    • mommygonebonkers profile image

      mommygonebonkers 6 years ago

      Great tips! Especially about thinking ahead and stocking away savings while you can. Now that we have 2 kids and a mortgage and only one income, I wish I could go back in time and kick myself for not sacking away tons of money when we had 2 full time incomes and a super cheap rent!

    • frugalfamily profile image

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 6 years ago from Houston, TX

      Great tips: People sometimes have no idea where the money has gone until they commit to tracking it by writing it down.