We have all seen or known people who are able to put money away for that rainy day. They rarely buy anything new, have an old car, don’t really go out, and utilize coupons or savings clubs in an effort to save money. In our modern times, it is more important than ever to watch when AND how you spend your money. Rent and mortgages are getting more expensive, child care is through the roof – every necessity is becoming more and more expensive; so how can we actually save money? Can any of us actually get ahead?
While the practice of saving money is hard, it is not impossible. There are so many things grabbing our attention, and demanding our dollars through aggressive marketing. There is a new cell phone every six months, new electronics, new cars – you name it! Years ago they would release new technology every year, or every two years until they realized most people would rather compete with each other than actually learn how to live comfortably, and securely. There was a movie that came out in 2009 called, “The Joneses” that exploited this fact. If you have the chance, definitely watch it. What if we pushed back on this American consumer market? What if we pushed back on the fact that we are being enslaved through infatuation of a life and things that do not really exist? What if we learned to be happy with less? Usually when you suggest living with less to someone, they tend to think you mean they should give up everything, live in a shack and poop in the woods. That is not the case unless you intend to live off the grid. Some people enjoy that style of living, but it’s not for everyone. Let’s explore some practical ways to actually save money.
Rent versus Owning: Due to the terrible housing market, a lot of people are leaving the ways of home ownership behind in favor of paying rent. Is it really better? A lot of locations that are for rent offer a lot of luxuries included versus having to pay for everything separately. A lot of these new condos or rental communities have a pool on site, gym, sauna or spa, lounge, rec hall type location, and much more. Let’s also remember that renting means you don’t have to worry about calling service men when something goes wrong. You call the landlord or the property manager and they deal with all that for you. There are a LOT of pros to renting these days. A lot of this can be cheaper or cost as much as owning a home. It all depends on what you want. What about the American dream of owning a home? That white picket fence fantasy with 2.5 children, PTA meetings, home baked nonsense that is filtered into our mind from when we were kids? Let’s look at the reality of owning a home. It’s expensive, a lot of maintenance, then you have to worry if you are living in a good school district, school tax, property tax, do I have any equity in my home? Is my house losing value due to who is moving in my neighborhood? Can I afford to improve my house? I have to cut my own grass? It’s a never ending list of things that have to be done. Choosing which is better for you all depends on your needs and wants. Some people find it easier to rent their entire lives – and that’s okay. Some choose to buy a home or homes because it works in their life path financially – and that is okay too. It’s up to you to make that decision and go forward with it. There is no shame either way.
Dining out or Dining in: We always hear how it is best to do your own grocery shopping in an effort to save money. I don’t really agree with that statement. I have found that I spend the same amount of money if I buy my groceries then plan out my meals versus going out to eat or getting takeout. Sometimes I don’t mind paying a few cents more (really in most cases it comes down to cents) to have someone prepare the meal for me too. It cuts down on the mess in your own home and effort of cooking. Which is healthier? Frankly, both are just as healthy. If you are the type to only buy super organic items and all that new wave of eating trends, any restaurant that abides by these same rules will be the same price as buying the ingredients at a farmers market or organic grocer. Most restaurants can’t afford to really mark up their meals anymore because the economy is so poor. The only real way to save money on food is start your own garden, or work with friends to have a community garden. The better you are at this, the more fruit and vegetables you will yield, therefore cutting down on your food bill. Seeds are very cheap too. The dollar store even sells them!
Technology: Stop breaking your stuff, especially your phones. I know too many people who spend a lot of money on things simply because they broke it. Also, most of these things aren’t as outdated as companies claim. For example, the iPhone 3Gs can work as well as the latest iPhone. Data is expensive, even on plans where it’s unlimited. You are still paying a lot for it in some way or another. The other thing we’re paying a lot for and not getting much from is cable. With over a thousand channels, and 90% of the time nothing is on, we still haven’t reached the point where you can choose to only pay for fast internet service. I’m sure in the next 3-5 years that will become an option as Netflix grows in power, but for now we have to suffer with having to buy cable packages, home phone land line service and internet access. Ugh, right?
Insurance: The only way to really save money on insurance, especially car insurance is to be a more responsible driver and car owner. Buy a used car versus pumping cash into a newer car. This way, you will avoid paying a car payment plus insurance. A lot of insurance companies are starting to reward good driver, even though their premiums are still high. There is a lot of truth in the saying, “Slow down, and save a life” – you can also save a lot of money too. Getting your car fixed after an accident is expensive, even with insurance. Some metropolitan cities have great public transportation, which is a great way to save some cash as well. All other types of insurance work similarly. Health insurance? Get in shape, exercise, eat right, and brush your teeth twice a day – this will cut down on how often you get sick, and avoid preventable diseases such a diabetes.
Coupon Clipping & Savings Clubs: I used to be an avid coupon clipper until this movement of people who have abused the coupon system has almost ruined everything. You used to be able to actually save money with coupons, but now the value of a coupon is so low that it’s not worth the effort of hunting them down, cutting them out and organizing them. A lot of stores do have lower prices, for instance, stores like Walmart and Target sell a lot of name brand products cheaper. If you prefer to not shop at those stores, you will be paying more for your items. One of my favorite games is seeing how much an actual supermarket charges for some items I buy elsewhere. It’s easily $2 more for the same product and volume. I am also a big fan of stores like BJs and Costco. You really do save money buying non-perishable items in bulk. Don’t feel like you will use your membership to those stores effectively? Share it with a friend. Go shopping together or buy the bulk items and share the cost and items. There are plenty of ways to work this out so everyone wins.
What’s the bottom line in all this? Save more than you spend. Utilize spreadsheets to keep track of things, and if you can’t figure out how to set one up, ask a friend. Google Docs has one for free you can access from anywhere. Not a fan of having your info online? Write it all down, and become your own bookkeeper. Always keep receipts, especially if you pay in cash. Don’t worry if you aren’t organized at first. You will create a new good habit that will last a life time. If you don’t have time to update your records each day, make sure to do it once a week to avoid over-drafting your account. You will be surprised at the many ways you can cut costs, and be able to put money into a savings account each month. Even if you save $10 a month, that is still more saved than lost in a year!
What are some ways you have found save you the most money?