Many of us spend without a plan. We pull money from our pockets with no thought to our overall financial goals. To get a better handle on your spending, make a budget. Decide each month how much money you will need for fixed and variable expenses, as well as how much you will spend on incidentals. While it is true that you can’t do much to pare down fixed expenses, you are sitting on a virtual gold mine when you count the money you will save by spending consciously on your variable expenses.
First, keep a log of your spending for two weeks or a month. Record every penny you spend, and where. Include vending machines, coffee shops, grocery and department stores. If you have been wondering how you can beef up your savings, it’s a sure bet that your log will give you some insight.
Try a few of the following suggestions:
1. Bag your lunch. At $6.00 each work day you are spending more than $1,500 annually on greasy food that expands your waist line and adds nothing to your bank balance.
2. Brew coffee at home. On average a cup of coffee costs $1.75. Throw in a pastry and you could be looking at more than $3.00.
3. Skip the mid-morning vending machine stop. Instead, pack a snack.
4. Check your clothing labels. Use the gentle cycle or hand wash items to save on dry cleaning bills.
5. Give yourself a pocket money allowance. Your spending should not exceed your allowance. After the money is gone, it’s gone.
6. Avoid foreign ATM machines, the fees often total $4.00 per transaction.
7. Buy gum and mints in bulk. Single packs in the check out line often cost nearly as much as the multi-packs you will find in the candy aisle.
8. Consider a cosmetology school for haircuts and coloring. Services are provided by students nearing the end of their training and are often 50-75% less than those provided by salons.
9. Give yourself a manicure/pedicure on alternate treatments rather than going to the spa each time.
10. Never enter a store without a predetermined spending limit.
11. Pay cash. Interest and fees can quickly transform that great bargain into an overpriced extravagance.
12. Clip coupons and purchase seasonally available items. Many local newspapers include a food section, which lists budget menus along with tips about produce and seafood coming to market. Create menus from these pages to tame your grocery bills.
13. Plan meals. This will end the daily, “what’s for dinner” dilemma that often ends with a call to the local pizzeria. Another benefit, with planning comes leftovers good for lunch or dinner for another night.
14. Experiment with bargain brands. More is not always better.
15. Purchase family packages of chicken, ground beef and turkey. These are often cheaper than smaller packages and can be divided and frozen for later use.
16. Find out about free checking. Many banks now offer free checking with direct deposit or minimum balances. You will realize savings of more than $120.00 annually.
17. Attach your checking and savings accounts for overdraft protection. If you run short (of course this scenario is not ideal and should be avoided) the funds will be taken from your savings account for a fee of $10.00. Without this service an overdraft will cost you more that $30.00 per incident.
18. Buy bottled water in bulk. Purchase a case of 24 for around $5.00 or an individual bottle for about $1.00…you do the math.
19. Consider a DVD subscription service. For about $20.00 each month your movies are delivered to your door and there are never any late fees. If you go to the theater, two people can see only one movie each month – snacks not included.
20. Eliminate extra phone services such as call waiting. In this hurry and rush culture it can be refreshing to give your complete attention to the task at head. Incoming callers can leave a message and enjoy your undivided attention when it is their turn.
21. Caulk windows and change air filters.
22. Change you motor oil at recommended intervals to save on fuel costs.
23. Avoid impulse purchases.
24. If you buy online, look for vendors that offer free shipping.
25. Purchase firewood in bulk rather than at the grocery store.