Tips to Save Money
Get Out of Debt and Start Saving
Debt is slavery. If you want to get out of debt or if you want to start "watching your spending" then it's time you adopted frugal habits. I write this for you.
If you have any debt, I suggest you adopt Dave Ramsey as your personal financial advice guru. Get his free podcast and read his book, The Total Money Makeover. Request it from the library. (You are in debt, remember?) Once you have read it, you will have a solid plan to get out of debt and even become wealthy. You will understand how wealth and money works. It's also a great, enjoyable, inspiring read. So welcome to the light, adopt Dave Ramsey as your Financial Ambassador and you are ready to start your journey toward financial health.
Along with Dave Ramsey, I like to recommend Mr. Money Mustache, and my all time favorite, MJ DeMarco, author of The Millionaire Fastlane.
Now, with a financial plan in our head, we are on to my most excellent...
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Weigh Heavily Where You Choose to Live. I don't mean the location exactly so much as the total outlay if you're buying a house or the monthly expense of your mortgage or rent. It is much easier to save money and even have the room to make money mistakes if your rent or monthly living expense is smaller rather than larger. Dave Ramsey recommends that your monthly living expense not be more than 1/4 of your take-home pay. I would recommend even less than that, if you can do it. The amount you have left over is your cushion that you can invest, use to pay off debt, or just have as a "oops" account. As in "oops" I made a big money mistake but it's ok now since my rent is so low. :)
Living in San Francisco I know people who pay more than double what I pay in rent and all I hear from them is how they hate their job and need to make more money. They could get out of that mindset if they found a cheaper place to rent or went and got a roommate or two.
Another aspect of where you live is how close you are to work or school (if you are a full time student). The shorter the distance away, the cheaper the commute and the less headache commuting is.
Try to keep your regular monthly expenses very low. Maybe you should move into a house or apartment with roommates? Maybe you can rent a room in your house to a roommate on Craigslist or even rent out a sofabed to travelers with Airbnb? There are a lot of ways to save money on your regular living expenses. For instance, use the cold cycle on the washing machine, line or air-dry your laundry, or if you're stuck with using a laundromat or coin laundry but you have a car, you can even clean your clothes in a sealed plastic tub in the back of your car! Just add water and laundry soap. Speaking of cars, if you live in an area with good public transportation, consider selling yours.
A word about cars. If you live in a place that has good public transit, or a city where most of the stuff you need to get is an easy bike-ride away, then getting rid of your car can save you A LOT of money. You will have to make the judgment yourself by doing some careful calculations because sometimes the added time (if distances are too far to bike) doesn't make it worth it. Some places have other car alternatives, like ZipCar, Citycarshare, and RelayRides. There's also renting of course, if you only plan on driving once in a blue moon. And there's always the bike too. If you must have a car, do not buy new and never lease. Cars only depreciate. They're not assets and buying new or leasing means you're the one paying for the depreciation. Consult with Consumer Reports and talk with an engineer friend about what makes of cars cause the least headaches for people. Picking the wrong car can turn into wasting a lot of money in repairs, maintenance, and gas.
The point is find ways to keep your regular expenses at a minimum, and then its easy to save a lot of money.
Now, you're going to want to start to see stores for what they really are:
GIGANTIC MINUS DOLLAR SIGNS
Imagine Gigantic Minus Dollar Signs (they look like this: -$ only big) every time you see a store. If you are really struggling, then you must adopt this mindset to curb your spending.
You see, there exists a multitude in life of people, businesses, stores, merchandise, and services that you really don't need to pay for to enjoy. Or, let me put it this way ~ because you don't have the money, you don't need to enjoy.
Haircuts. It is perfectly fine for both men and women to grow their hair. If they need a haircut, not only can you find a cheap place to get it done, you can also ask a loved one or friend to cut your hair for free. You can also put an ad on Craigslist requesting a free, student haircut. You can go to a beauty salon training school and volunteer yourself as a victim- er, subject, to get your haircut there for free. There are loads of options.
When you have the money, fine, pay as much as you can and would like for the haircut of your dreams. If you don't have the money, get yourself a free haircut or let it all get long and sexy.
Expensive Cell Phone Plans. Cheaper, better rates are out there. How much do you really talk on that phone? You can get a pay as you use plan and save oodles of money. You can go online and talk for free through your computer with Google or with a Skype and a webcam. Republic Wireless has one of the cheapest plans out there with smartphones. Get one of their Androids and then pay only $19 for unlimited talk, text, and internet. There are even cheaper set ups out there for you if you do your research. There really is no need to have a horrendous cell phone bill.
There are plenty of areas where you can do it yourself and save money:
Learn to sew and hem. Not only will you find a new creative outlet, you'll save money when you hem your pants or skirts yourself rather than paying someone else to do it. You can also get crafty and sew your own wallets, T-shirt bags, purses, clothes, and household items. It's fun, easier than you think, and not that expensive to get started. You can search online for free patterns and free lessons. You'll be saving lots of money as your skills increase.
Or, use a cheaper alternative like:
Natural and handmade household products to clean. Examples include white vinegar, baking soda, lemons, and bleach. White vinegar cuts shower mildew better than expensive and toxic cleaners. Squeeze a lemon down a drain to freshen it up. You can make your own screen, mirror, and window cleaner with a simple mixture of half distilled water and half rubbing alcohol. Keep it in a spray bottle for easy use. Making your own laundry soap can save you lots of money. The directions are here.
Hulu, the radio, and free TV. They're free. No need to pay.
What you want to do is adopt frugal habits. This means if you want something, you don't buy it. You put it on a list with all the other stuff you want and can't afford. Then you look over your budget and get yourself back into a frugal mind frame, after taking a good, cool look at your debt and savings plans. The time you spend with your list is limited but quality. You take that list and you make it work for you with your new, scaled down lifestyle. What things can you make or acquire used from a friend or family member for free? What things can you borrow once instead of having to own? Once you've paid off your debt and saved up you can buy any item you can afford. But it's actually fun to make a tie-die project out of old T-shirts or sheets instead of buying new. Or to make or sew your own purse or wallet. It's fun to be creative with things and end up saving money.
Start investigating under-utilized benefits around you, like:
Freecycle and the free section on Craigslist. This should be your first stop and a regular part of your consumer life. Not only can you find your old junk a new home with these websites, you can find quality items for free! Baby items, child items, bikes, TV's, sewing machines ~ it's endless. My sister once used Freecycle to borrow a Santa Claus suit and I gave away a large, quality TV through the free section of Craigslist. Check regularly to snatch up popular items and place a want ad if you don't see the item you want or need. Just be patient and thorough, and remember to give back by giving away your old or unused items to the community.
Second Hand Stores. I have found so many clean, beautiful, cute, chic, fitting finds at the Goodwill that I laugh inside when I hear someone say in passing how they "couldn't" or "would never" shop there. There are plenty of practically unused items you can get for so cheap you'll begin to feel you "can't" and "would never" shop retail. Practically new items are donated every day, for who-knows-what reason ~ and you get the benefit of the new, depreciated price tag. So do not hold your nose up any longer. Go check it out the next time you need something that could be sold there.
Coupons. But beware you do not use coupons if you weren't planning to buy the item in the first place. The idea is to save money, not spend it. Not even cheaply, if possible.
Libraries. Libraries are wonderful buildings full of free books, free movies, free magazines, an enforced quiet atmosphere with which to enjoy them, and friendly people who will help you find absolutely anything you are looking for. Your library can order an item for you and will place it on hold for you and then lovingly notify you when the said item is there for you, good and ready. Utilize your library and stop buying books, movies, and magazines.
Stop Eating Out. Spending money at restaurants is probably most people's biggest budget buster. So make a pact with yourself (and your significant other if necessary) that those days are gone. Instead, get a regular potluck exchange going with your close friends. That means each month (or more often if you want) you take turns having a potluck with your friends. This will save you loads of money when you also cut out your old restaurant hopping days, and you'll soon find their company is what life is about.
Reconsider coffee and cafes. I live in a lovely cafe-rich town and stopping in for a bagel and a hot cocoa regularly has not been good for my pocketbook. I had to train myself to chose cheaper menu items, like ordering only a tea and bringing my own sandwich. I also had to start limiting how often I went. I soon started visiting the library instead because the social experience of being with others while I read or study can be replicated for free there. Now when I go to cafes it's a treat and a rare little expense. It might seem silly to be cautioning you about a $3-$7 expense, but realize these bucks add up. There are more important things I'd rather do with the money, like saving up for traveling, a creative project, or, most importantly, investing for my future.
Travel Cheaply. Learning to travel cheaply and actually doing it make traveling even more fun. Save money by planning the trip ahead and taking advantage of good resources, like Craigslist (housing swaps or subletting), Airbnb, CouchSurfing, hostels, or friends and relatives. I've stayed in hostels for $17 a night, and stayed in Washington D.C. for $25 a night in my own room with a kitchenette and bathroom. My roommate saved money staying in a boat on his trip to L.A.! He found the deal on Craiglist. CouchSurfing is the best deal (being free) but, as with any traveling, do your due diligence beforehand to be safe. Research your destination (going to San Francisco or New York, anyone?) and follow the advice of other frugal-minded travelers and locals to save money on everything from airfare to bus passes.
Along with cutting spending, choosing to spend wisely, and listening to Dave Ramsey, there are plenty of fun activities that you can do for free.
Languages. You can learn a language for free by checking out your library or FSI ~ the Federal Services Institute FREE resource of tons of languages that you can learn for FREE. They're very thorough, as it's the same exact language course that used to be taught to foreign diplomats. Hey, if it's good enough for a foreign diplomat, it's good enough for you. Full audio and text provided for nearly all the languages listed. It's astounding, truly, and a pity that nearly no one I've told about this great resource even knows of its existence. And don't fear that you need a teacher ~ the teacher coursebook is often provided! Get thy saving money self to Craigslist and begin a language buddy partnership if you feel you must.
Free Movie Scripts. You can read free movie scripts online at Drew's Script-O-Rama. It's a fun name and an even more fun site. If you like movies and if you like reading ~ check it out! Watch out for their stupid spam advertisements that happen on Thursday nights though. (Just close the windows. The scripts are still free.)
Parks and Nature. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
Spend time with friends and loved ones. Enjoy them the most.
The best thing about being frugal is that soon you'll be out of debt and have real savings. Your own personal journey to change your habits will teach you what many in our culture lack ~ financial wisdom.
Warm regards to that.