If you’re like many consumers, you have found yourself (at one time or another and for one reason or another) in some sort of debt. Maybe that time is right now. Perhaps it’s due to economic factors -- rising costs or a job loss. Or possibly you were a victim of your own bad spending habits coupled with our society’s marketing tactics which tend to further enable the irresponsible spender, and prey on the vulnerability of those already in debt.
Whatever the reason, the important thing is to recognize the problem, stop this vicious cycle, get back on track, and start learning to save or return to saving. A great way to get the ball rolling when it comes to saving money is to take inventory of each of your expenses and figure out where you can cut back.
As you begin taking a closer look, you’ll find that many expenses are actually luxuries you can live without. Not only that, but you’re likely to find that you’ll experience a feeling of financial and spiritual liberation by letting go of such “luxuries.” Without knowing it, we as Americans tend to develop dependencies on material things, stuff, technology, status symbols, and the like. We think they bring us happiness and fulfillment when in reality the effort to secure these items often contributes to stress, guilt and uneasiness as well as interferes with our ability to manage finances and save money.
Luckily there is hope for those of us who want to start with a clean slate, put an end to our spending addiction, minimize, consolidate, and most importantly, save money! Read on for some smart, simple steps on how you can take on a “less is more” philosophy -- less spending and less worry, more saving and more happiness.
5 Ways to Cut Back, Save, and Simplify
Cash vs. Financing, Saving vs. Debt
Up until recently, American consumers practically embraced the idea of having monthly payments for relatively unnecessary items like luxury cars, expensive furniture, and jewelry. Now many people have changed their tune a bit, and so should you -- if you already have debt that you’re struggling to pay off then avoid adding any new debt. If there is an item that you simply can’t pay for with cash, then you probably can’t afford it and shouldn’t be buying it in the first place. Of course there are exceptions, and low-rate sensible financing for certain necessities like a practical car or home improvement is ok if managed prudently.
Fewer Gadgets, Less Guilt
We’re obsessed -- with technology, that is! You might not think so, but it’s ok to cut back on the latest technology and gadgets, and regain control of your own life. Despite what society, commercials, and giant corporations are telling you, it is totally acceptable to have a simple computer, cell phone, or TV. You will still maintain communication with the rest of the world, and may actually be a better person for it. By spending less time plugged into devices and less money purchasing those devices, you’ll have more quality time with loved ones, more money in your savings account, and less guilt overall.
No More Stuff, No More Clutter
Now is the time to revert back to a simpler lifestyle which means less stuff. Buying less stuff means spending less of your precious time and money shopping, and having a tidier, decluttered living space. You can even take this “less stuff” mentality a step further by cleaning house and donating or selling items you no longer use. The money you “make” by not shopping and any profit from selling things you have can be socked away as savings. It’s a win-win all around -- you will free yourself from the shackles of buying, spending, storing, and hoarding all the while saving!
With the economy taking a toll of many people’s pocketbooks and the cost of food on the rise, lots of cooks are opting for homemade meals from scratch as opposed to those that can be nuked or whipped up using packaged, processed ingredients. This good old home cooking is not only less expensive to prepare but also better for your health and tastier. For many home cooks it is also rewarding to feed their family something they know is wholesome that was made with love -- saving money is just the icing on the freshly baked cake!
Since we’re on the subject of saving on food, there are some tips you can follow when dining out so that you can still enjoy the experience without overspending. You can take advantage of Groupons or other discount coupons to your favorite eateries, you can opt for lunch rather than dinner since there are often more specials available, you can share a larger entrée with your dining mate, or you can skip the appetizer and/or dessert. By doing any of these you’ll not only save money but you’ll eat fewer calories contributing to a healthier lifestyle.
A Little Here, A Little There = A Lot in The End!
Believe it or not, little things add up. A $5 latte here, a 30-minute shower, that extra happy hour last week. By cutting out a few extras here and there you can actually save yourself more than you think, and some of these eliminations could serve you well. If you drink a lot of coffee or smoke, why not curb those habits? You’ll save weekly and improve your overall health. Maybe you love to run the water endlessly or crank up the heat on a cold night. These are easy fixes -- turn off the faucet and throw on a sweater! Your bills will be lower and the environment will thank you. You’ll also improve your overall sense of well-being knowing that you’re cutting out bad habits and becoming more aware of unnecessary wastefulness.
As you begin to change your ways and better manage your money, look to your credit union for more efficient savings tools like Money Market Accounts and CDs. Good luck and happy saving!By Cyndi Cohen