Between travel, parties and gifts, millions of people end up in debt each year – but that doesn’t mean you have to. With a little planning and discipline, you can boost your bank account and still enjoy all that life has to offer.
Write it all down
The easiest way to save money is to start paying attention to money. Most people have a vague idea of their monthly budget – but they can’t pinpoint where the money really goes. Start tracking every penny you spend for a month and you may be surprised to find out where your hard-earned dough is ending up. Those are the first areas to cut back on spending.
Spur-of-the-moment purchases are notorious budget killers. Put a stop to impulse buys by planning your shopping in advance. Make a grocery list before you hit the market, or even better, try online grocery shopping. Pack a lunch – and a good book to read – so you’ll have a reason to resist buying lunch at work everyday.
You may not think of yourself as an extravagant person, but the little extras you indulge in may be straining your wallet. Instead of your usual $5 gourmet coffee, settle for the free coffee in your office kitchen. If you get a manicure every week, cut back to once a month and do your own touch-ups in between. You also might want to consider putting a hold on all shoe shopping until after the new year.
Coupons might sound a little 1950’s, but you don’t have to spend hours snipping them from the Sunday paper anymore. Find coupons for specific products on the maker’s websites, or hit coupon-only websites that offer discount codes for buying online, as well as grocery coupons you can print and take to the store with you. One word of caution: only clip coupons for things you need, otherwise you’ll end up buying things just because you’re getting a discount.
Part of living on a budget is learning to distinguish between wants and needs. Going to movies, sports games, nightclubs and restaurants may seem like needs, but they are really just things you want to do. If you’re serious about saving money, you’ll have to expand your idea of entertainment. Instead of going to a movie theater, rent a video and stay in. Instead of paying big bucks to watch the game at a stadium, head to your local sports bar.
Add some income
If these money-saving tricks don’t seem to be enough, it may be time to consider adding some income to the bottom line. It’s the busiest season in retail, and most stores are looking for part-time help. If the mall’s not your thing, check online want ads for freelance and part-time gigs, like babysitting, tutoring or household repairs. It might also be a good time to empty your closets, attic or basement and make some extra cash with a yard sale.
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