As a self proclaimed (and proud of it!) Tightwad, I am constantly looking for new and creative ways to make a dollar stretch farther. I subscribe to the old fashioned notion that to get ahead financially, it is important to live within -or below- your means. I also believe that this can be accomplished while still enjoying a few “extras” in life. The concept of saving money is really quite simple, and can be attained by following a few simple guidelines.
BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET: A commonly misunderstood concept in America, it is still the most basic to financial survival. Know what you make, know what you spend, and never spend more than you make. Whether you use a “skeleton” budget, or detail every category of life, this is a vital step if you ever plan to get ahead.
LEARN TO DO IT YOURSELF: Who knew that making baby wipes is as easy as paper towels and baby soap? Or that taco seasoning consists of a few staple items in your cupboard, minus the MSG? The Internet has a wealth of recipes and instructions for doing whatever it is you need to do. The next time you run low on something, stop and ask yourself if you can save money by learning how to make it yourself. Your growing savings account will be the reward!
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “NEEDS” AND “WANTS”: As a stay at home mom of two preschoolers, I took a crash course in this department. A prime example is the choice we have made to own one car instead of two. We live five minutes from my husbands work, and if I really do need wheels, he can carpool with a friend. We save hundreds of dollars a year by eliminating a second vehicle. When it comes to cutting back in order to save, almost all of us would be able to find some area that can be done without if necessary.
SET LIMITS, AND LIVE WITHIN THEM: We have a category in our budget entitled “Misc”. Each week a set amount goes into this fund, and all the et-cetera household items are purchased within these limits. There are some weeks that allow a guilt-free splurge on expensive hand soap; and other weeks that I must steer clear of the cosmetic aisle! The point is, discipline yourself so that when your budget says you can’t afford something, even if it is only a few dollars, you listen to your budget. Wealth is built slowly, over time, by wise choices and small sacrifices.
THINK OUTSIDE OF CONVENIENCE: Matinee, anyone? Or how about rescheduling Family Night from Friday to Tuesday so you can take advantage of the “kids eat free” at the local restaurant? A little research and planning go a long way in todays world of expensive entertainment. Don’t be ashamed to clip coupons. Utilize rebates. The list goes on…
PLAN IN DETAIL: The biggest key to sticking to your budget is planning. How easy is it to just dial takeout at the end of a tiring workday, when the chicken breast is still a frozen block in the freezer? Taking the time to plan a detailed menu can be invaluable. Making a detailed shopping list off of that menu takes the guesswork out of grocery shopping. Of course this concept goes much farther than the kitchen, and once you are accustomed to the orderliness of it, you won’t want to live without it!
BE A SAVVY SHOPPER: With that detailed shopping list in hand, you are ready to grab some bargains! Take your time comparing prices to avoid overpaying. Search your area for the nearest bulk food store. Huge savings can be had by buying staple items in large quantities. Above all, STICK TO YOUR LIST! Remember, if you buy an item that was not on your list only because it was on sale, you have not saved money. At the same time, stocking up on needed sale items will save you money in the long run. Use your discretion, but when you have reached your spending limit, head to the checkout!
There are as many ideas for saving money as there are people to share them.
It is important to realize that what works for one person won’t always work for the next. However, keeping an open mind and staying on the lookout for new ideas guarantees that you will never become stuck in a financial rut! Armed with your own experiences and the willingness to learn from others, you can rest assured that your dreams of success will someday become a reality. And that, my friends, is worth scrimping for!