Assessing your current situation helps you see just how much you spend on certain expenses. It is the best way to start determining where you can save money and greatly impact your happiness in life, by reaching the goals you have set. The following are a few of the areas, where you could really save money or even make money.
Groceries and Related Expenses
By far, food expenses are one of the largest ticket items that recurs each month, so you can survive. It is also an area that everyone overlooks for cutting back. There are three areas, where you can save money on groceries and related expenses.
Dining out is expensive and relatively unhealthy. Most restaurants overuse salt, making it dangerous to your health. You also tend to eat more calories when you eat out. Here are some suggestions for reducing your dining out expenses:
- Share a meal with another family member. This reduces your portion size; plus, reduces the amount you pay.
- Choose restaurants with healthier options, such as a diabetic menu or gluten free menu.
- Choose 4 places, you want to eat out per month. Choose one day a week to eat at one of these places. Basically, choose your top 4 favorite restaurants or if you have 10 places you love to eat, rotate eating at these locations.
- Limit yourself to one coffee from a store per week. Buy an espresso or Keurig machine to have your coffee at home.
- Stop having coffee at noon, every day. This will remove the caffeine from your system, and help you sleep better.
- Sleep better at night by establishing a new routine. Turn off all electronics 30 minutes prior to sleep, avoid caffeine and chocolate, and read a book or meditate.
- Increase your exercise because sleeping better, getting more exercise, and not overindulging in coffee will help increase your energy, so you will cook at home.
Buying Household Items
Toilet paper, tissues, cleaning supplies, dish detergent, dishwasher soap, and laundry detergent should be an every 3 to 4-month purchase. These are items you can purchase in bulk from Sam’s Club, Costco or other warehouse stores. Buying small bottles means you spend more throughout the year. Buying one tissue box versus 8 or 12 at the warehouse store is more expensive.
Cleaning supplies are the biggest waste people spend money on. What is a Clorox wipe? It is nothing more than a hardy, moist towel placed in scented bleach. A bottle of bleach, gloves, and a rag will do everything Clorox wipes will do. Water and vinegar is also a great combination for cleaning hardwood, tile, linoleum, and walls. It is a recipe of ingredients your ancestors used and it costs less than $3 to $5 a bottle for cleaning supplies that can harm the environment.
In fact, medical supplies can also be something you save on. There are numerous medicinal herbs you can raise to help heal cuts, sanitize wounds, and even eat a healthier meal. If you do buy medical supplies, then go to the Dollar Store. Did you know the acne cream sold at the Dollar Store for $1 has the same ingredients as a cheap $3 to $4 brand at Wal-Mart? Even $1 hydrocortisone is the same. An anti-itch cream has 1% hydrocortisone. The brand name for $5 that is called Hydrocortisone has 1% in it. It is the same. So don’t buy into the brand name because there are things you can purchase that have the same exact ingredients and are less expensive.
It is going to take time to learn what you can and cannot purchase for less, but once you do, you can save money on household items.
Eating healthy means eating cheaply. Yes, fruits and some vegetables can become expensive depending on where you live and where they are imported from. However, you will have fewer medical bills by eating healthy and ignoring the frozen and canned food section. People who have switched to a non-gluten diet also feel more energized
There will be certain things that are more expensive, but as stated, in the end, if the healthy food is more expensive and you have fewer medical bills, you are actually ahead of the game.
Coupons also exist. Buy a newspaper, sign up for coupon sites like All You, and take advantage of the healthy coupons. You will spend more on cake mix, cookies, and other unhealthy foods, if you use coupons. However, when and if, there are coupons for healthy foods like yogurt, you can save money. Again, it takes being savvy, finding the deals, and seeing if the coupon is really as good a deal as shopping at a different store.
Many people spend too much on clothing. There is a cycle to retail. Unless, a pair of pants, shirt, underwear, socks, or other clothing has a hole, start getting into the retail cycle for buying items.
Yes, designer stuff is all the rage, but you can find some pretty great outfits at outlet stores for half the cost. You can even get name brands at certain outlets. In retail, clothing is always brought in ahead of the coming season. Half-way through a new season, the sales start and by the end of the season you can get clothing that is 50% or more off. By getting into the cycle of buying clothing during these sales, you can lower your clothing expenses and improve your budget.
Furthermore, if you do feel a need to buy new clothing, then start an online store. Sell your old clothing that is in good shape, so you recoup some of your expenditure on your clothing. Even if you have a garage sale and get rid of most of your clothing, you can recoup a few dollars.
No one wants to stay home all the time. Yes, it can be fun to play a game, have family movie night, and run around the lawn or backyard. But, there are so many things you can experience in life. You don’t always want to stay home.
There are ways to enjoy family activities without killing the budget. For example, if you go to a movie, just purchase the movie tickets. Most theaters have a cup they can provide for free for water. It may not seem fun to avoid concessions, but honestly, the costs are just too high. The mark up on concessions is extremely high, so the theater can make a profit. The cost of tickets is set to cover the cost of bringing the movie to the theater. In fact, movie theaters break even on their expenses for the movie, labor, and overhead through the movie tickets. If a movie doesn’t perform then the concessions usually ensures the theater can remain open.
The point is, for family activities you can save money by being smart. If you have a zoo in your hometown or close, you can pay for a membership, go to the zoo often, and take a picnic lunch versus buying a meal there.
You can also search your local listings for free events, such as music festivals, movies, rodeos, arts and crafts, wool markets, and other events. If you have children, then educating your children about these events is important, even if you find them boring. If there are any parks, campgrounds, or coupons to places, then go for the inexpensive fun.
You don’t always have to spend money to have fun. Telling stories, jokes, walking, biking, and other activities can be just as fun as Disney or places like it.
Home Furnishings and Decorating
The number one rule on home furnishings and decorating is to sell your current items for as much as you can get. Make sure you are getting money for your old items, unless they are extremely dirty or damaged. If no one is willing to pay, then get the right off for donating the items.
Like with decluttering your home, you want to stick with the rule—if you bring something new in, then something else must go, preferably for a little cash.
For example, if you have decorations that you are tired of for the holidays, try to sell what you have before you buy new things.
Also shop smart. There are certain furniture stores that don’t provide quality. In a year or even less that expensive item can break down or become damaged. Shop in a place that offers a good product for the value. If you do have an issue, call, use the warranty, and get it replaced. Don’t let things like warranties go because they are there for any problems that arise, at least with reputable stores.
If you want to change your decorating scheme, look around, shop, and then make purchases. One store can have the same item, but for more or in some cases less than another.
Holiday spending is definitely an area where you can save. You are not being told to go to the seedy hotel on the outskirts of the projects, but to find a package that is all-inclusive and reasonable. You don’t have to stay in a multimillion dollar resort, where celebrities hang out. You can choose a modest hotel and be comfortable. You can also elect to do the top most important things, versus trying to do everything and spending more than you need to.
There are packages that include a day at this park, a day at another park, and so on. One of the best ways to spend less on holidays you set up, is to ask local forums about things to do.
Don’t go to TripAdvisor or Hotels.com. Instead, find a forum that is created by locals, where they talk about cool things they have done in their home town. You can find things that are inexpensive. For example, you could pay $10, walk around New York City, try ten restaurants, and get a great meal and a tour of the city. You could also pay hundreds for a tour bus, eating in high end restaurants and never have another vacation.
Research is the key to spending wisely on a holiday.
Tasks for this Exercise
- Research what you spend on the expenses listed in this chapter.
- Determine where you can save, by conducting research on how to save on certain items and holidays.
- Change your mindset to believe in the facts versus the hype of a brand name.
- Get ready to plan for these expenses with a budget.
Internet and Mobile Devices
Another area you can save money on is your internet and mobile devices. It is also an area that has become one of the greatest expenses in our lives. We cannot seem to forgo the electronic world and technology now that we have it. Yet, we are also creating a dependency on it. There is a whole movement called, unplugging, where people get off the grid, away from technology, and enjoy a few weeks or the rest of their life without the “must haves” of today’s era.
It is understandable that you may not be able to unplug all the time. If you have a job where you are on call over the weekends and evenings, then you can’t distance yourself, but that does not mean you shouldn’t save money on your expenses.
Internet companies attempt to sell you the highest megabytes per second downloading speed they can. They are in the business of making money off their service. But, you do not have to buy into the jargon. Yes, streaming TV, running multiple online shows, and computers on the internet is better with a faster speed. However, you can also unplug the kids from multiple devices and have family time.
The average household can survive on 12 Mbps downloading speeds for multiple devices. It may require a little buffering depending on the amount of electronics using the internet and whether you are on a busy IP address, with other users. However, the internet is built so that multiple people use the same IP network, which is why 12 Mbps can be enough for your regular usage.
You also have the option of bundling your services with most companies. You could bundle your mobile phone, internet and TV for a lower price than having each one individually.
Each year, you should assess your package and determine if it is working for you, if there is a new, less expensive package, and how you might be able to lower your rates.
Television fits this category considering that most companies provide TV and internet. TV is also one of the main areas that people overspend on. Why spend $100 or more on TV?
CBS offers free access via computer browser. Their shows will stream anywhere from one day past the regular airing up to one week. Some shows are limited access for a week simply because of new broadcasting deals. The point is, you could train yourself to be a week behind on a favorite show and watch it the same time a new one is airing, so you don’t feel left out.
ABC, NBC, and several other networks also offer free access after a certain period of time has passed. You don’t have to miss out on your shows, just because you don’t have cable or satellite.
Furthermore, most seasons are coming out in the summer or six months after they air on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or on DVD. You could wait for your shows, binge watch them, and still pay less than a steady TV payment.
SlingTV is an innovation by DISHTV. Certain channels such as HGTV, TNT, A&E, FYI and Disney are available via SlingTV. You can pay $20 to $30 a month for this option. Think about it. If you have SlingTV and free local channels, you are spending less than the typical Internet/TV package.
Now there are some cases where you may pay $50 a month for TV and internet. It is reasonable because you get most of the local and specialty channels you might want to have.
However, paying any more than $75 per month for internet and TV is too much. Things like HBO, Showtime, Starz, and other movie channels are too expensive for what you actually get. Some channels offer a new movie every week, others have changed to every two weeks, and some are a new movie each month.
You usually see the same movies on these movie channels as are streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Additionally, they are old movies from the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s versus new. They also play them over and over and over again.
There are savings you can find by reducing your TV bill, either in a bundle or on what you are willing to pay for. Additionally, why be so stuck on TV and miss out on all the adventures you could be having? Cut your TV expenses for those holidays, amusement parks, and other family activities.
Another gimmick is the mobile phone industry. Whatever happened to picking up a phone and making a call? It turned into texting, social media, and a must have the latest phone culture! Don’t get stuck in the cycle.
Unless you have major problems with your phone, such as no new updates to the software, broken screen, or software problem, don’t get a new phone when your plan allows.
It is not the line cost of having multiple phones. For example, you might pay $10 for each additional line, but somehow your bill is still $200 each month. What exactly are you being charged for and is there a way to switch providers to gain better costs?
It is difficult to determine because unless you are in a city, chances are your coverage with certain providers is not worth the change.
You also have to consider if owning a tablet is really worth it. Are you using the tablet or always using your phone? Is it a “necessary” convenience to have?
For some individuals a tablet is necessary because they don’t have a laptop computer. It enables them to do work or personal business while on the go. However, for most, it is just another device that costs money and allows access to videos all the time.
Tasks for this Chapter
- Assess what you are paying for internet, TV, and mobile devices.
- Are there savings by switching to a new company?
- Can you save by bundling services?
- Do any of the companies you use have employment discounts? Some places like Verizon give a discount if you work at a certain location or in a certain industry, such as a nurse.
- Do you need everything that you have, i.e. tablets and phones, movie channels, etc.?
- Switch if the savings are worth it. The value of services has to be there, otherwise, you get what you pay for.
Another expense that many people spend a great deal on is energy to keep their house air conditioned or heated. It is an expense that we tend to feel we cannot do anything about. However, it is simply not true. There are a lot of things you can do to lower your energy bills. It takes changing your mindset and using self-discipline.
Lights and Electronics
One of the biggest areas that people waste money on regarding energy is on their lights and electronics. If you do not know how much your items draw, there are places to find out, as well as tools you can use to see how much energy you are drawing.
Certain items cannot be unplugged: fridges, stoves, washing machines, and dryers. The plugs are too inconvenient. For some houses a microwave can be difficult to unplug.
However, anything else that is easily accessible should be unplugged when it is not in use. For example, remove the plug from the outlet, not just from the device. If you have a tablet and you need to charge it, charge it and then remove the plug from the wall. A plug can draw minute energy even if it is not charging a device. While minute, it adds up.
Lights are another example. If you are not in a room or reading, then don’t have every light on in the house. Have one energy efficient lamp in each room for reading or watching TV.
Unplug your TV. Even off, your TV is drawing quite a bit of energy.
If you own your home, think about installing solar panels. It is an expense at first, but the $10 to $30 bills you get all year round makes up for the installation costs.
Window coverings, whether curtains or blinds are necessary. There are two things these things can do for you. The first is to reduce heat escaping in the winter. If you live in the mountains, northern states, or other cold places, then you want to have window coverings. Windows are designed to breathe a little, so air can leak in making your heater system work overtime. Leave the window coverings down, except when the sun is coming around to provide warmth. On days where the temperatures are below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, leave the window coverings down.
If you live with a lot of windows and plenty of sun, in the summer, you may find you are using a lot of air conditioning simply because you are leaving the window coverings open. There are more suggestions that can be made, but basically, find out what you can do in your home to reduce energy using window coverings.
A digital thermostat that you can set to a specific temperature is going to reduce your expenses. You can set your home to a warmer or cooler temperature, while you are at work. Why have a constant 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit in your home, if you are not going to be there? Instead, turn it down to 65. An hour before you come home, have the thermostat set to increase to your ideal temperature. When you go to bed, studies have proven that a cooler room is better for sleeping. With a digital thermostat you can control your expenses and thus have a better budget for the things you do want.
Weather stripping can plug the large holes that cause air to leak into your home, whether cold or warm air. Make sure you have plugged the holes.
Wearing more or less Clothing
Why not dress for the weather and reduce your bills? You know if the weather is cold then you shouldn’t go around in shorts. Dress appropriately and use blankets. Get up and walk around if you get cold. In warm weather, dress with less. There is no shame in going around the house in a comfortable bathing suit versus fully clothed, to be comfortable and save for the things you really want.
Tasks for this Exercise
- Figure out how much you spend on energy and what your current energy usage is.
- If necessary, hire someone to come in and see if there are any weak areas in your home that could be repaired or updated to lower your energy costs.
- Turn off and unplug all that you can.
- Make sure you adjust your lifestyle to accommodate the seasons.
- Get information on energy efficiency techniques and find out what others have done that you might employ.
- Spend the money on energy efficient bulbs, versus those that use more energy and have a shorter lifetime.
Cutting back on expenses is often hard and can lead to the blues and feelings of inadequacy. When you do make changes, make sure you take care of your health and get plenty of sunshine, or you could place yourself at risk with moderate to severe depression.
One area you may have not considered and that is your annuity or structured settlement. There are options now where you can get your future monthly payments paid out right now, so you get your money out in a large lump sum. This can help in many areas for your family financially. Discuss with an expert or contact one of the structured settlement companies.…