It’s easy to turn these five money-saving tips into smart spending habits that will benefit your bottom line year-round.
Pay cash. It’s much easier to track your spending when you are using real dollars rather than plunking down a credit or debit card. There are no whopping penalty charges on cash, as there are with plastic. This tip and habit is for not for unavoidable expenses like gas or necessary expenses such as prescription medicines or your monthly mortgage or car payments. It’s for after-work happy hours or other things that fall into the category financial experts call “discretionary spending,” including refilling your Starbucks card (see Pick Your Vices, below).
Think twice before buying something on sale. Remember that a bargain isn’t a bargain until you use it. That includes the impulse shirt or shoes you just happened to see, canned or packaged food in the supermarket, even items in bulk from wholesale buying outlets like BJs and Sam’s Club. I’m guilty of ignoring my own advice – the last tube of mascara I bought recently in a bargain-priced multi-pack is too dried out to be usable, so that’s wasted money. Let’s not even talk about those aforementioned shirts and shoes I rarely wear but couldn’t resist buying because the discount deal was too good to pass up. (We’ve all been there, haven’t we?)
Exercise. Jogging in the park for free, or a health club membership you pay for, can actually save you money. According to the World Health Organization, people who exercise regularly have fewer health risks and lower medical bills than those who don’t. Also, being fit could save you money on health insurance.
Pick your vices. If you really can’t live without a $5 latte, make it an occasional treat, rather than an everyday expense, and pay cash (see the first tip). Ditto take-out lunches or dinners via telephone or online order and delivery that requires a tip. In the supermarket, avoid single-serving packages, which can cost three times per serving as a “regular” package. Make your own 100-calorie packs. Buy a re-usable water bottle to avoid purchasing bottled water; the re-usable bottle will pay for itself in a week or less. Plus, you’ll be saving the environment from all that packaging that winds up in landfills, and perhaps even help reduce your local tax bill for the manpower, vehicles and fuel to transport all that packaging to the landfill.
Track your spending. A couple smartphone apps can help you track spending, which can show you where you’re going wrong. Expensify is free, for Apple, Android and Blackberry devices. Pennies is $2.99 for Apple devices.