In times of economic uncertainty, it’s wise to get creative with your budget. Here are a few small action steps you can take to free up some extra cash and have fun while doing it.
1. Cut back on eating out.
At one point eating out daily had become the norm for me. It was convenient, particularly on my lunch breaks. Going out for dinner became not only a favorite pastime but also a way to socialize and catch up with friends and acquaintances. As much as I enjoyed it, eating out was putting a dent in my pockets.
How I changed it…
Meal Prepping. Planning your meals in advance helps you save money because you’re not buying food on impulse. Preparing your food at the start of your week will require some type of budget. You can create your own meal plans or go with a company who offers predesigned choices such as Hello Fresh or Blue Apron. Don’t forget your lunchbox or necessary containers so you can package your lunch to take with you each day.
Practice Discipline. When I’m hungry, any and everything looks yummy. Therefore, it was easy for me to spend ridiculous amounts of money for lunch just to turn around and buy food again for dinner. Being aware of my thoughts and making conscious decisions about food choices and money were the keys to practicing discipline. (Discipline was also required in order for the meal planning to occur.)
Cook at home. Once I began cooking at home, I started to actually have fun with it. Cooking is art and as with anything, the more you do it the better you become at it. I saw a significant difference in my budget once I started inviting friends over for a home cooked meal versus meeting out for food. It’s more personable and my loved ones looked forward to gatherings centered around eating.
2. Learn how to do things yourself.
Like many others, I was once addicted to convenience. Anytime there was a problem my first instinct was to find someone to fix it, immediately no matter the cost. I realize now that was a defense mechanism and a prime example of throwing money on a situation instead of actually learning the lesson from it.
Here’s how I did it…
Become Self Sufficient. Get out of the habit of paying for convenience and learn to do things yourself. Instead of paying someone to mount my television, I went on YouTube and learned how to mount it myself. Instead of paying the hairstylist every week, I learned how to cut, color and style my own hair. If the task is massive then, of course, outsource it. Otherwise, have fun with projects & you’ll be surprised at the things you’re capable of doing and the amount of money you will save.
Be Frugal. Rather I’m shopping online or inside the store, I rarely purchase anything full price. In terms of retail, outlet malls are a great example of frugal shopping. At the end of each season, a new fashion line is introduced by top designers, sending last season’s clothing to outlet stores. This affords us the opportunity to purchase luxury designer clothing for fifty to eighty percent below ticket price.
Recycle Unused Items. We all harbor unused items in the closet, attic, garage or in storage that we no longer need. We tend to keep them around for sentimental value but in tough economic times, it’s okay to let the junk and old clothes find a new home. Sites like Poshmark, OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace (to name a few) are great free platforms where you can sell new and used items to earn some extra cash.
3. Get Particular About Every Penny.
If you really want to see a difference in your money it is imperative that you get serious about every single cent and where it is being spent. For me this means, no matter how much money is involved, no more being frivolous about my finances.
How you can change it…
Differentiate wants from needs. How many times have we overspent on things we wanted but didn’t necessarily need? FOMO is real and if you aren’t able to separate wants from needs, you may find yourself chasing a feeling of instant gratification with your wallet and left feeling emotionally, mentally and financially depleted in the long run. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your overall wellbeing and what a healthy financial portfolio looks and feels like to you. Clearly define and consider what you want, but only spend money on what you need.
Keep track of your expenses. I’m sure this one sounds like a broken record, but it’s a proven tactic that has worked for decades. Living in the digital era makes it even easier to track your expenses since almost everything is available and tracked for you online. Long gone are the days of keeping and scanning receipts or invoices. If you haven’t already, make use of the online apps with your bank(s) so you can review the details and transactions on your statements. Other apps such as mint.com allow users to track expenses, credits, debits and balances all in one platform. Watch your transactions closely and call your bank immediately to dispute any unauthorized charges or unwarranted fees.
Have a plan for your money before you get it. Maybe you’re expecting a raise at work or perhaps you won the lottery. Congratulations! Do you have a clear-cut plan written down for how you will allocate each dollar? Aside from paying bills, shopping or taking a vacation, consider placing a large portion away for a rainy day. In other words, be grateful for the increase but put it away and continue to live your daily life as if you never received it. When saving money keep the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” in mind and write down every single dollar and how it will be spent before receiving it.
“Being self-sufficient never goes out of style. Neither does being smart about your money.” Tynisha Sanders
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