Have you ever pulled cash from the ATM, only to find your purse or wallet empty again by the end of the day? Well, I must have some shopping bags or something to show for it. Apparently not…what on earth did I do with that $20…$40…$100??? A pack of gum here, bottle of pop there, I think I will have a candy bar. Boom – just spent five bucks and didn’t even get lunch out of the deal. There are multi-billion dollar corporations all over that base their business model on nickel and diming you out of your hard earned money! Fast food, soft drinks, cigarettes, candy bars, bottled water, gum, prepared coffee drinks, energy drinks; the list goes on and on for days.
Take five minutes to think about where your cash goes. I talk to people every day who seemingly have a balanced budget after all needed expenses are accounted for, yet they struggle with basic expenses like food, insurance, mortgage or rent payments, utilities, etc. Here are five EASY ways to help balance your budget without sacrificing quality of life:
1) Buy in Bulk: This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to back the truck and trailer up to the big box bulk foods stores to load your pallet of rice and bushel of apples. Just think about what you spend $1 a day on. Soda can be purchased much cheaper by the case, just like candy bars, bagged chips, fruit, and whatever else you may like to snack on. Look at the 100 calorie packs and how expensive they are compared to a big bag of the same thing. You often get twice as much or more for the same price, and it is EXTREMELY easy to portion it out into snack bags or storage containers.
2) Make a List: Go to the grocery store (or every store) with a purpose. It has been proven time and time again that people with lists who stick to their lists spend less money AND spend less time on shopping. Who knows, maybe you can double that savings if you just clip a coupon here and there.
3) Pay at the Pump: This tactic is painfully obvious. STOP going into the store and avoid the temptation to spend any more than you need to spend. Gas stations want you inside, wandering past the candy and chip aisles, the neon lights of the soda coolers humming in the background. This is where everyone makes serious profit off of YOU. Besides, if you are planning and really working on this, there is no reason to go into the store.
4) No Vending Machines: The same rule applies here. Avoid the temptation to buy. There are so many ridiculous things available, but the general rule is: NOTHING you will EVER NEED is in a vending machine!
5) Brown Bag It: Coffee, snacks, and lunches can cost $200 a month or more if you buy everything on the run. A coffee and a breakfast sandwich: $5, lunch and a pop: $7, vending machine to get through the afternoon: $3. That is $15 a day, or $75 a week! In other words, you could squeeze out an extra car payment (about $300 a month) with some slight modifications to your approach. My father carried a lunch box and thermos every day for as long as I can remember. I have found over the past year or so that I am capable of that same dedication. You are, too.
Take some time to think about how you are nickel and diming yourself. We all want to have a luxury item once in a while, but luxuries should be a treat, not part of a daily sleepy-eyed routine. I know that I enjoy a coffee house coffee much more now that I have them once every two months or so rather than every day.
But that’s just my two cents.
To find more creative ways to save money or to set up a personalized spending plan, call LSS to schedule a phone or in-person appointment at 888.577.2227 or START ONLINE COUNSELING NOW. It’s free, confidential, and easy – and just as effective as meeting with a counselor in person.
Author Malcolm Johannessen is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS and specializes in Foreclosure Prevention Counseling.