I have to cut the small expenses because I don’t have the option of reducing my rent or loan payments right now. But doing all of the little things is making a serious difference for my wallet and stress level.
1. Work out at home or for free: I don’t pay gym fees and I don’t have the added costs of driving to the gym. Instead, I have my BFF Jillian Michaels telling me to work out until “I feel like I’m going to die” and then do another minute of abs. I also have the P90x workout set, an MTV Yoga DVD and something called the living room floor. I use it to do crunches and core exercises. My other workouts are similarly priced: tennis at the one of the many public courts around town, running at the park or soccer. Making a schedule to work out after work also prevents me from doing other, more costly activities. I miss surfing and swimming a lot, but it’s harder to get to the beach these days (I need to fix that).
2. Tap Water, Tap Water, Everywhere: I love me some unrefined, un-Brita-filtered tap water. I hear “Ew, tap water is gross” a lot. That warning falls on deaf ears. I drink tap water all the time. I just like it! And it also helps me resist the urge to order a Coke when I’m dining out. Speaking of which…
3. Avoiding dining out unless I absolutely have to. Unless it’s a business meal or an opportunity to meet new people, I’m really avoiding dining out. If a friend invites me out, I just invite them over for dinner. Because I do have to eat.
4. Not driving all over town. I’ve only filled my tank twice this month and it’s the 17th! I think that might be a personal record. I used to jump in my car and drive all over town randomly. I’m doing less of that. I try to fit a bunch of trips/errands into one outing.
5. No small (under $5) purchases. It used to be that anything under $5 was given a free pass. T-shirt for $3.99 at Ross? SOLD! Three types of candy as an afternoon snack? DONE! Sorry, you little gremlin purchases. You’re done feeding off my money. I’ve spent $2 on chocolate this month. Compared to what I realized I regularly spend on unhealthy snacks, that’s a huge improvement.
6. Avoid the mall. That’s easier said than done. Malls, shopping centers, promenades have all been my lifelong friends. I need to write a separate eulogy post on ending such a long companionship. (I think it’s gonna be a good one!)
7. “Balance” after every transaction. Now that I only use debit and not credit, I can’t spend freely and hope it works out at the end of the month. Man, it never does! But now I have an exact idea of how much money I have left in my checking account. This usually deters me from purchases I would have otherwise made. I remember I have to get gas, pay for an oil change, or whatever.
8. Track everything I spend. It’s kind of fun. I did it for the first time in January, and I’ve kept it up in February. Think about how meticulous and precise you are at work. You do things a certain way, you have a system for keeping track of what tasks you need to do and when. So how come when you come home it’s like one huge party in your brain? “No systems! No planning! I do what I want!” I know, I want to party and be crazy too. But we just can’t go too crazy until we figure this money thing out. So start tracking.
9. Bring my lunch to work. I finally got a little insulated lunch tote. It’s quilted and kinda cute. I’m pretty proud of it. At first I was bad at packing my lunch. I’d have two minutes before I needed to get out the door and I was stuffing whatever was in the fridge in my lunch bag. Then noon would roll around and I’m eating dry lettuce and some stale pita bread. I felt like I was punishing myself. But I’ve gotten much better! I use little containers to bring dressing, yogurt, or other little things and I pack fruits, granola and other good snacks. I no longer feel like I’m eating sawdust! Lunch is good again.
10. Set reminders. Whether it was filing my taxes, paying my car registration or buying flights early instead of last minute, I’m finally doing things ahead of time. Last year I paid my car registration late and had to pay an extra $35. I was so mad at myself. This year: I’ve got that reminder in my phone, baby! I’ll be damned if I pay another late fee ever again (except of course, if California’s giant earthquake disaster happens and I forget to schedule some payment. But I’ll just call and ask them to waive the fee once the dust settles).
What are the little ways you’re saving money? Have you had to change your approach to spending lately? I need to know!