How did you celebrate X-mas this year? Are you glad all that shopping, gifting, cooking, and cleaning are over with? Aren't you glad it's only once a year? The holiday season can get stressful, especially with bills to pay after all the festivities and fun times are over. Our bank accounts will take a dip for months, so what can we do to save money to help us pay off those bills sooner?
I recently read an article about the "the cheapest man in America" and was very inspired by his way of living cheaply. I, myself, am striving to accomplish my financial goals the best way I know how, and I would like to share the things that I did or will do to make 2014 a better financial year.
1. Cancel that gym membership - I loved working out and staying fit, so I got myself a really good gym membership deal earlier this year. I was going religiously for about a month until I could no longer fit 2 hours of gym every other day into my schedule. Then I started going just twice a week and that didn't last very long either. Eventually, I couldn't go at all. My mistake-- since the membership was only costing me $10 per month I didn't bother to cancel it. Then 2 months ago, decided to just cut it loose and never look back . And guess what ?" I DID IT !!. Let me tell you, it was a great decision...I felt great and still do 2 months later, with more money in my pocket.
2. Coupon-clipping - You certainly can do this at any age. Yes, I was guilty of feeling like it's an old people's hobby before for thinking that. About a month ago, I started clipping coupons from printable coupons online and I have gotten so into it that I would say it's my new-found hobby for 2014. Sure you don't save a ton of money from coupons, but every dollar adds up at the end of the month. Why pay full price when you don't need to? I think if you incorporate ways to save in your daily living, you will see that it's not too much trouble at all to use coupons. In fact, I've experienced a sort of 'high' from all the little savings. You can certainly called me coupon enthusiast because I'll be doing a lot of clippings in 2014.
3. Cook and eat-in - I have always been good at doing this simply because I live on a very tight budget. It has saved me so much money and the extra calories that come with eating out. The only fast-food place I prefer is subway sandwiches because it's healthier than most, and they have specials all year round. I do love to go to buffets, but that is limited to once every two months. I also compare prices before I do my grocery shopping. For $2.50 I can get 6 giant drumsticks to make grilled chicken that serves 2 people. I also prefer home-made cookies because they're just so good fresh out of the oven. I love coffee and I saved money by making my own instead to making Starbucks runs. If you cut back on things that you can prepare yourself, you'll start seeing a difference in your grocery bills and your health.
4. Save on everyday items at your local Dollar Store - if you are seeing more Dollar Stores popped up near you in recent years, know there is a very good reason for that. When we fall on hard times, we have to shrink our spending by looking for deals on things we use all the time because that's where the real savings come from. Everyday items like shampoo, Q-tips, hair-gel, dish-washing soap, deodorant, toothpaste, and etc. are all carried by DS for $1.00. They are deals as compared to many other stores that even when everyday items go on-sale, they are $1 or more. During the holiday season, it is the best place to go for gift-wrapping supplies and decorations on a budget.
6. Invest in a basic sewing machine - Over X-mas I received my "most wanted" gift, and I can't tell you how useful a sewing machine is. I have resurrected a number of pairs of pants and shirts that I couldn't wear before because they were too long or billowy for my frame. I have stopped searching or buying pants completely since I did the alterations. The machine is very easy to use--I have never had any sewing lessons in my life. I feel like I have enough clothes for a while and I will be saving a ton of money by wearing what I couldn't before. Not only is it great for alterations, it's a must have if you are into fashion DIYs .
7. Buy generic medications for over-the-counter or prescription drugs (OTC/Rx) - unless none are available. I've consulted pharmacists about generic verses brand name medications and learned that there's really not much of a difference in their efficacy. The main ingredients that goes into making brand name drugs are in generic drugs. They basically work the same and metabolized by the body the same way. Nowadays, not many people can afford brand names, especially without good prescription insurance coverage. Even the pharmacists themselves would take generic over brand name medications any day. Speak to your local pharmacist or doctors if you have any questions or concerns about substituting brand names for generics.
8. Save on gas- Is your commute to work 30 minutes or longer? Do you get stuck in traffic everyday? If it's possible, would you carpool with a co-worker? Not only will carpooling save you gas money, it also saves the air, and decrease stress levels. Do you find yourself making multiple grocery and shopping trips in a week? It's not difficult to plan ahead of time when you should go where to reduce time spent behind the wheel. Make your shopping list and align them with when it's most convenient to shop.
9. Buy only what is absolutely necessary- This is going to be the hardest of all for me. It takes a lot of self-control and discipline. My weakness lies in my love of insane discounts. It's extremely difficult to resist great deals. So, my plan to conquer this beast is to ask myself 3 questions and if they're all "NO's" I will not buy. Q1: Do I absolutely need it? Q2: Will my life be different with/without it? Q3: Do I already have something similar?. Please share you special strategy to avoid spending on things that are not necessary.
10. Change your habits -Do you smoke? Drink alcohol? or love a certain"bad" food too much? Do you shop on impulse? Do you eat fast-food or take-out all the time? Do you eat emotionally? Do you want to lose weight but finding it impossible to do so? Do you feel dissatisfied with your current job? Do you stay up later than you should and your well being suffers because of it? These are just a handful of very common habits that a typical person is struggling to fight on a day-to-day basis. It's not easy to change, but it's not impossible if you put your mind to it. Imagine success, imagine a healthier you and a healthier lifestyle, imagine how things are going to be so much better, and how much money you'll be saving. The mind is a powerful thing--be strong.
11. Donate - This is a great way to remind yourself that you have way too many things that you don't use/need. It's psychological for me--when I feel the need to make room and donate my things, I would stop wanting more things. It certainly helps to put a stop on your mental list of "wants" for a while. It really helps me curve my spending impulse. There are many places where you can donate your things: shelters, salvation army, donation boxes, or put them on craigslist.com. One man's trash is another man's treasure! Don't waste.