Everyone knows you have to sacrifice in order to spend less and save more. Just how much you are willing to sacrifice depends on how much you want to save or how quickly you want to pay off debt. It really depends on your situation and preferences in regards to how much you sacrifice in terms of financial spending. You can live on very minimal money if eliminate all extra stuff and live on cheap food like top ramen, but is it really worth giving up everything? To some it is and I commend those people. And there are some who aren’t willing to take it that far. As long as you are able to pay all your bills and pay them on time, then you should be able to choose just how much or how little you sacrifice (if you are behind in your bills then you shouldn’t really have a choice).
My husband and I have found ways to reduce our spending in certain areas, without cutting things entirely out. It’s kind of like dieting for me. I am currently on Weight Watchers and I get a certain number of points (based on food’s calorie, fat & fiber content) to eat each week. As long as I stay within my weekly points, I can eat whatever I want. I love sweets and fast food, but they are a lot of points and they quickly dwindle my weekly allotment if I eat them, so I have learned to still enjoy those things, but just eat less of them. I still eat fast food, but I get happy meals instead of super value meals. I still eat desserts, but I usually eat a half of a cookie instead of a full one or a small bowl of light ice cream instead of a huge bowl of regular. So what does this have to do with money? It’s the principle that you can still enjoy what you like in smaller quantities and still reach your goals. You can save money in your life without completing giving things up. Here are a few ways we have learned to do this over the past few years:
Cable/Satellite: This is often one of the first things I hear as advice on what to cut down on. However, if I tried to cancel our satellite subscription, my husband would have a fit. When we first started out we had basic cable (50+ channels beyond the main 4). We found an introductory rate that was about $20 a month. When the rate was up I called to cancel since I had just lost my job and they offered to extend our promotional period (which they almost always do if you call to cancel). So we continued at $20 a month. Then we moved and our rate increased (and we were sick of their horrible customer service) so we decided to get satellite TV. I searched around for the best rate and found one for about $40 with similar channels as we had before. We didn’t get 200, 300 or even 500 channels and I wouldn’t pay an extra $20 a month for HD channels to watch on our one HDTV (although I said if my husband wanted to make some extra money or use his own spending money for that, then that was his choice). We still have our basic channels and the main 4 in HD (as long as he gets to watch his football games in HD). And I could tell you, I never want to go back to our pre-DVR days.
High Speed Internet: I pretty much grew up online and am addicted to high speed Internet. I had dial up when I first got out of college and it worked for the time, but I don’t want to go back. I admit that high speed Internet, along with cable and satellite, are unnecessary conveniences, but they are worth it to me. Similar to cable we got an introductory rate for cable Internet for about $20 a month when we started out and now have DSL for only about $35 a month and I don’t notice a difference in the speed between cable and DSL. I do notice a difference between high speed and dial up though!
Home Phone: When we were paying off our credit cards, we went without a home phone line to save money. We were in an apartment and we had cell phones and decided to put our land line on hold until we moved. When we moved into our house, we needed a land line for DSL and satellite TV. Plus it enabled us to get a hold of each other at home when our cell phones were dead or on silent. We started out by getting a phone line with call waiting and caller id, but when we got our first bill with all the charges and taxes (and when we figured out that everyone called us on our cell phones anyway) we decided to strip away all the excess and just keep the basic line. So for $15 a month we have the convenience of the land line, without all the unneeded features.
Cell Phone: Giving up your cell phone may save you $50-$100 a month, but if you’re like me and haven’t been without a cell phone for the last 10 years, that’s a bit hard to swallow. My cell phone is a basic necessity in my purse. I feel lost without it. I know that people not too many years ago lived fine without cell phones and I bet I could too, but the point is I don’t want to. So we’ve decided to keep our cell phones. We have a basic plan where we share 500 minutes and don’t have a bunch of extra features that we don’t need or use. In addition, we have the benefit of rollover minutes so if we (mostly I) talk more than normal one month we’re not stuck with huge over-charges. In addition, we receive a military discount for our service so our bills don’t break the bank. You can also get a pre-paid phone and only use the minutes when needed. That way you have the convenience without the monthly charge whether you use it or not.
Coffee: My husband and I are Starbucks fiends. I grew up in Seattle so that’s my excuse, but he just loves it too. Frequent trips to Starbucks can definitely be a budget buster so we limit our trips to once a week. That way we still get to go and enjoy, but it’s not costing us an arm and a leg. The only exception is at Christmas time when we get to go about twice a week and treat ourselves to eggnog lattes and frapuccinos.
Healthy Food: Eating healthy most often costs more, but it doesn’t have to break your grocery budget and you don’t have to live on Mac & Cheese in order to keep your grocery spending down. We simply shop the sales and buy our basics at either WalMart or the military Commissary at our local base. This helps keep our grocery bill down.
Vacations: Vacations can be quite expensive depending on where you go, but they can also be economical if you put some effort into them. We don’t want to spend a fortune on plane tickets, but we’re not willing to give up vacations altogether either. We’ve chosen more local places to vacation and drive instead of fly. I also research low cost lodging online and we often bring our own food and snacks.
Cars: You don’t have to drive a beater car with missing doors and windows to save money on a car. We drive an economical used car, but we didn’t skimp on the extras. I’m spoiled and I need to have a sunroof in my car – that’s just my preference. When you are buying used cars, the prices aren’t too much higher for a car with extra features (at least not compared to price difference when they are new). So I drive an older car with good gas mileage, but it’s still a pretty nice car with power options and a nice moonroof.
Houses/Apartments: You can save a lot of money by living in a rat-hole of an apartment or house in a bad neighborhood, but that’s not my idea of home sweet home. Consider going smaller, but still presentable inside and in a decent neighborhood where you don’t fear for your life. When we decided to rent an apartment while we paid off our credit card debt, we rented a nice one with an attached garage. We could have gotten something for cheaper, but we wouldn’t have enjoyed living in it.
Health Clubs/Gyms: Belonging to a gym helps me stay healthy and keeps me from being overweight, therefore it is important for me to have access to a gym. I’ve seen gyms that charge anywhere from $40-$100 a month for use of a pool, tanning, classes, and the ability to use other gyms in different areas. I recently signed up for a local gym that is 2 block from house that charges less than $20 a month and it has all the equipment I need.
Entertainment: You don’t have to cut out all entertainment when you are trying to save money – simply cut down. Instead of spending almost $20 for two people to go a movie (I can’t believe how expensive it’s getting) rent a DVD and watch it at home instead. My husband and I prefer to watch movies at home on our comfortable couch in our “comfy clothes” as he calls them. Plus we can invite anyone over to watch with us and it doesn’t cost more. We prefer DVD mail rentals like Netflix or Blockbuster Online. If you watch movies often, you can get multiple rentals a month for a low fee of $5-$20.
It’s a wonderful thing to be wise about your spending and aim to spend less, but there are still ways to enjoy yourself while doing so.
Image courtesy of Bright_Star