So, I preface this post with the fact that living on less money is not fun and is not easy, BUT if we all want to live the lives we want in the future, we have to grin and bear it now. I’m not saying that I do the best at this myself either. Actually, embarrassingly enough I had a money reality check today, which reminded me that I wanted to write this post.
My husband and I have been doing a lot of things to try to live on less money, as well as make more money and pay off debt to get ourselves in a better financial place. Because of this, after paying the bills, filling the car up with gas, getting groceries, putting money away in savings, etc. there’s not a ton left to do fun things with. So usually, I’m pretty good about following my tips to live on less money.
However, today I realized that this week is pay day week and that I still had a couple of hundred dollars in my account. Yes, any mature adult would have realized that’s really not a lot of money in the scheme of things and left the money there. But, I got out shopping and happened to run by Michaels and Target and got lunch and before I realized it, I had spent almost ALL of my money for the week. Before I got married, this wouldn’t have been a big deal. I would have run by my parents’ house to eat lunch all week and gone on my merry way, BUT that isn’t the case any more. So I sat in my car thinking what to do… I knew it was going to be humiliating, but I got out of my car and took all of the frivolous things I had bought at Target back. The cashier must have thought I was crazy since I had just left the store, but nonetheless, I don’t have to worry about not having gas and food to eat this week!
Enough about me, here’s a few tips I’ve found that help us to live on less money and hopefully they’ll help you too!
Think about this… if I were to go to Starbucks every week day and get my usual Grande Iced Skinny Vanilla Latte, I’d pay $4.15 per trip. In the course of a year, I’d spend $1,079 on coffee. Holyyyy! If I were to switch to Donut Shop Coffee K-Cups instead, I could buy a 36-ct box for $19.98. So if I drank a cup of it every week day, I’d spend $145 per year. That’s a huge difference! Want to spend even LESS money? Go really old school and use an actual coffee maker. You can buy a tub of Folgers House Blend Ground Coffee for $8.34 and one tub makes 210 cups, meaning over the course of the year, you could get away with buying just 2 tubs for a total of $16.68. You just saved $1,062.32…you’re welcome!
Thrift for clothes
I, myself, love to shop online boutiques. They’re my favorite, but they’re also not very cost effective. The clothes are really cute and good quality, but they’re also trendy which means they don’t last very long. Not to mention, because boutiques often aren’t large national companies, they mark up their clothes A LOT. You can still look cute on a budget though. There are a ton of stores that have secondhand or outlet-type clothing as long as you’re willing to have the patience to look through things. My two favorites are Uptown Cheapskate and Final Cut. Also, if you love to shop online like me, I absolutely love the clothes and prices at Jane and GroopDealz.
I know, people hear the word “coupon” and cringe, but I’m not talking about sitting around cutting coupons from the paper (although you can save a ton of money that way!) I’m saying taking a few extra minutes when making a purchase to check for a coupon. For example, I NEVER go into Michaels, Hobby Lobby or Bed, Bath and Beyond without looking for a coupon on my phone. They always have them and why spend 100% if you can save 20%-50% every single time?! Again, for the online shopper like me, Retail Me Not is your best friend. They know the best places to save money, so every time I check out online, I make sure to check there first to see if there are any coupons I can use. I have saved money tons of times!
Take your lunch
One of my favorite things to do is to meet up with my friends on my lunch break, but man, is that hard on my bank account! For instance, if I meet up with my friends at Panera, my You Pick Two with a drink is around $10. The cost is about the same or more when we go to Moe’s, Jason’s Deli, etc. So if I go every week day, over the course of a year, I will spend $2,600. Yikes! For example purposes, let’s say you take a ham sandwich, apple and Skinny Pop for lunch every week day (not that you would want to eat that every day!) the cost is about $2, so in a year’s time, you would spend $520. So, challenge your friends to also bring their lunch and then meet up at a local park to eat together. No social fun lost, but you’re also spending $2,080 less a year on food!
If you don’t try to find wifi everywhere you go, you’re just being lazy. My husband and I always have a hard time staying under our data limit and when you go over, you spend so much more on your bill at the end of the month. I’ve learned to take a few extra minutes to try to connect to wifi when I’m going to be somewhere for a while, saving my data and and saving me a bunch of money.
Join a Grocery Rewards Program
There’s honestly no reason not to do this. It doesn’t cost you any money and it only takes a few minutes. I am a loyal Kroger shopper and it pays off! I don’t even have my Kroger card anymore, but I can put in my phone number each time I shop and I automatically get tons of discounts. Just go one time and ring up everything before putting in your rewards information, then enter it and watch the total fall significantly. Such an easy way to spend less money at the grocery store, so you have more money for fun things. Not to mention, it keeps track of everything I spend and gives me discounts on gas. Win-win situation!
Don’t shop hungry
Speaking of grocery shopping, NEVER go to the grocery store hungry. It’s the worst mistake you can make. I know from my own experience that every time I shop hungry I buy 2x more than I usually would… picking up snack foods, candy and pre-made dinner so I can eat as soon as I get home. If you know you’re going grocery shopping, eat a meal before, or at least a snack, so you don’t become a ravenous beast on aisle 5.
Give up monthly membership groups
I’m not talking about the gym (that is a very worthy expense), but I am talking about all of those fun, money-sucking monthly memberships like Stitch Fix, Birchbox, JustFab, etc. They are so fun, but I had to realize that a lot of times, I was buying items just because they were sent to me or getting charged because I forgot to skip the month. If JustFab charges you $35 a month and you no longer buy their shoes because they’re poor quality, you’re losing $420 a year and they know they suck, because when you try to cancel they make it virtually impossible. Give ’em up, they’re not worth it!
Think about gifts ahead of time
Really this goes for everything, but if you buy items that would be perfect for gifts or holiday decorations or cards, chances are you’ll find really great deals when you don’t need them. However, if you wait until the last minute, you’ll most often pay full price and perhaps even have to get them at a more expensive store when you’re in a time crunch, meaning you’re paying a ton. If I go to Dollar Tree and stock up on 25 birthday cards for the year, I’ll spend $25, but if I wait until the last minute and have to run to Walmart, I’ll likely spend around $5.97 per card, which would mean for 25 cards, I’ll end up spending $149.25, $124.25 more! This only multiplies for gifts and holiday decor.
Drink water at restaurants
This is not only good for your wallet, but also good for your health. There are so many empty calories hidden in sodas and sweet tea. Drinks at restaurants are about $2 – $4 a piece, so you can save this every time…but if you’re already following my tips, you’re not eating out a ton, so this shouldn’t be a problem anyway. 🙂
Inviting people over vs. going out
This is something my husband and I need to get better at. We’ve moved into a new home we haven’t quite gotten decorated all of the way yet and honestly, it sometimes takes a lot of work, but at the same time, it’s so fun to have friends over. It sounds cheap, but if you ask everyone to BYOB and you provide the entree, while they all bring a side or dessert, it’s super cost effective! Way cheaper than going out to eat, then going out drinking… just admit it, you hate looking at your bank account the next day! Plus, you don’t have to pay for a ride home, extra perk!
Uber vs a cab
The first time I took an Uber I was amazed at how cheap it was. I was used to taking cabs in Athens which would charge you per person and out the butt. On game days, it’d sometimes be $20 a person for 2 miles, BUT Uber is amazing. Their rates are affordable and it doesn’t matter how many people are in the car. I have heard horror stories though, so don’t take it alone!!
There are a ton of other things you can do, like using reusable water bottles versus buying plastic ones, ordering rum and water versus the expensive Texas margarita and restructuring your monthly bills. It’s not always easy, but living on less money definitely makes life easier as a whole.
I will make a note that there are some things I will not (and you should not) skimp on, such as a good hair stylist, the gym (I know I already mentioned this, but it’s really important) and date nights/travel (you deserve to live a little every once in a while).
Do you have any tips for living on less money? I’d love to hear them! How about lowering your power bill… because I could definitely use some help there! 🙂
C’est la vie,