Lovies, our economies may be tanked, but that’s no reason to add to the national deficit with irresponsible financial practices in our own lives, right? Unless you’re already living a very Spartan lifestyle, you, like me, can probably stand to economize a little… but how? After reading far too many books on personal finance, and gamely attempting to apply most of the “easy” principles, I’ve found that the following list of ways to economize is the easiest and least painful. Here are 8 easy ways to economize.
1. Brown Bag Your Lunch
Assuming you spend a mere $5 per day on buying your lunch — and likely it’s a lot more — you would save $3 of that by bringing a bagged lunch. That’s $15 per week, across 48 weeks per year… which is a total savings of $720 a year. Another plus? If you bring your own lunch, you’re much more likely to eat more healthful foods. Saving $720 a year, and cutting calories and fat from your diet? Bonus!
2. Limit Dinners out
Dinners out are convenient, sure, but they’re also expensive. If you typically eat dinner out at a sit-down restaurant 3 nights per week, and your own bill comes to $20, that’s $60 per week. For every one of those nights you eat at home, you’ll save just over $1,000 per year. And again, when you cook at home, you’ll tend to make smarter food choices, so you’ll save money and calories.
3. See Matinees
When did we have to start taking out second mortgages just to see a movie at the theater? At the cinema near my home, it’s just over ten dollars for an adult ticket, and that doesn’t include the $15 for a soda and popcorn at the concession stand. By choosing a matinee, you’ll save almost half (though the popcorn and soda still cost the same). If you see one movie a week, and save $6 by choosing a matinee, you could save a little more than $300 a year… and if you bring your own snack foods (like diced fruit or plain popcorn and water), you’ll again be cutting calories and saving money! You’re an economizing whiz!
4. Thrift Rather than Boutique
Let’s face it — the one place we fashionistas don’t want to skimp is on our wardrobes. But how to get all of the latest trends without breaking the bank? The solution is simple: shop thrift stores rather than boutiques. Check the labels in my closet and you’ll see a lot of Anthropologie and Banana Republic and White House Black Market, Coach and Nine West and Steve Madden — but it’s all second hand, on the cheap. My latest amazing find? J Brand dark-wash skinny jeans for $7.95 plus tax. Assuming you typically spend $1,000 on a seasonal wardrobe and accessories, and that a seasonal wardrobe in a thrift store only costs about $200, that’s a savings of $800 a season, or about $3,600 a year. Amazing!
5. Trade in!
Did you know that some resale stores, like popular Chain Plato’s Closet and children’s chain The Children’s Orchard, will buy your gently used designer-name clothes for cash? They also offer store credits, so you can trade the clothes you don’t wear anymore for something new.
6. Stop Using Credit Cards at the Pump
Nearly every gas station in metro Detroit charges upwards of seven cents a gallon extra if you want to use your credit card or debit card to pay at the pump… by withdrawing your gas money from an ATM, and paying cash at the pump, you can save a lot. Assuming you put 20 gallons per week in your tank, that’s a savings of $1.40 per week… or, about $50 per year, which is, realistically, a free tank of gas each year. That may not sound like much, but do you really want to hand over an extra $50 a year to a big bank or an oil company? And besides, most of us use a lot more gas than only 20 gallons per week, so it adds up, helping you economize and take a (minor) jab at big business.
7. Stop Using Credit Cards!
Speaking of not using credit cards at the pump, how about we stop using credit cards altogether? It’s like this: credit card companies would do almost anything to keep you from paying off your debt or (worse) stop using their cards. Why? Because carrying debt and using your card is how they make money, billions of dollars per year in fees alone, not to mention the exorbitant interest you pay! Assuming you pay a miniscule $20 a month in interest and fees (and that’s EXTREMELY low), that’s more than $1,000 a year. That’s a lot of money to be handing over to a credit card company, isn’t it? And that’s a VERY low estimate… you’re likely paying a lot more than that!
8. Ask Yourself…
Before you make any purchase, large or small, ask yourself if you really truly need whatever product or service you’re about to buy. New highlights, when you just got them done a month ago? Another pair of wedges? Another iPod, just because it’s newer? While these things might seem important at the time, wait three days and see if you still absolutely have to have whatever it is you want to buy. Chances are, you’ll have calmed down some, and decided that a sixth pair of wedges aren’t a life-or-death necessity.
With so many easy ways to economize, right here on this little list, don’t waste your time reading those (expensive!) books… try these first! Or perhaps you already have… which of these tips did you find the easiest? Or do you have another tip to share?
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