- Save your change. One way to do this is after you break a dollar, put the rest of it into a coffee can or piggy bank. Even if you’ve only paid $1.01 for something. That means $0.99 goes into you coffee can. It can add up fast and help you to live cheap. Every penny counts.
- Set up an automatic transfer from your checking to savings account. Have the bank save for you automatically, and then don’t touch it! And while you’re at it, make sure a portion of your direct deposit is going straight into your 401K too. No excuses. This should be part of your original budget plan.
- Raise you car insurance deductibles. This will lower your monthly premium, but be careful. If you are prone to accidents and aren’t the safest driver, this may not be for you.
- Do what you can or find a friend. If you can fix something, then do it. If you can’t, find someone who can do it for you, and offer a trade. Swap the skills you know for something you can’t do on your own.
- Change your thinking. Learn to love the frugal life. Know why you are saving, and stick to it. Make it second-nature to live cheap and enjoy it. Assign values to things that you spend on, and see if it is still worth it. For example, going out to eat will be about $50. That’s equivalent to a tank of gas. That’s one week of driving. Is it worth it? Question your purchases.
Those are just some of my tips on how to live cheap and save money. Saving money can be a difficult endeavor, but it is well worth it in the long run. Put these tips into practice now, and you’ll see the difference it makes.
- Know how to tip. If you are going to go out and treat yourself to a manicure or a night out, it’s important you know proper tipping etiquette. When you are on a budget, over-tipping can be the bane of your existence. OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but don’t pay more than you have to.
Here’s a quick list of tipping recommendations:
–Haircut – 15-20% for the hair cutter
–Shampooers, blow dryers, etc.. – $3
–Restaurant – 15-20%, Buffet – 10%
–Taxi – 15%
–Manicurist/Pedicurist – 15-20%
–Pizza Delivery – $2 a pizza (but do give more if it is a longer distance or bad weather)
–Valet – $1-3 when you pick up the car
If you want more tipping info, go to www.tipguide.org for a pretty all-inclusive list.
- Grow your hair out. It may seem drastic to change your hairstyle to save money, but longer hair is easier to manage. It’s less trips to the hair salon. Try getting a cut that won’t look odd if it’s grown out for a couple of months.
- Don’t’ use you credit card. Actually, you can use your credit card as much as you like in order to help your credit score. This is if you are responsible enough to pay the balance in full every month — not just the minimum. Otherwise, as a rule, don’t spend money you don’t have.
- Shop for clothes cheaply. Try going to thrift stores. The real kind, not the cute downtown vintage shops, and you can find a few cute and interesting pieces. There’s also second hand clothing exchange places like Buffalo Exchange and Plato’s Closet. You can turn in your old clothes and trade it in for someone else’s threads. If used isn’t your thing, stick to places like Forever 21 and H&M. Just don’t expect the clothes to last forever. I do suggest, however, shelling out bucks for items that will last many seasons. For example, a nice pair of boots, a pea coat, or a bag that will match many outfits. When you shop, it really helps to think of your wardrobe as a whole.
Kick Some Bad Habits
These are pretty self-explanatory in how they will save you money.
- Stop drinking soda.
- Stop smoking.
- Stop your addiction to Starbuck’s. Invest in a coffee machine. It is NOT normal to pay $5 for a coffee. Do that even just 3 times a week, and that’s $60 a month!
- Driving everywhere. You don’t have to drive every time you leave the house. You can walk, and you can even get a bicycle. If you live in a city that is bicycle friendly, I recommend riding your bike around. It’s enjoyable, counts as exercise, and free.
Save, Save, and Save.
- Join a credit union. Credit unions have higher interest rates on savings, more free services, lower interest rates on loans, and are not for profit. They are better than banks when it comes to saving.
Some creative ways and other tried and true methods to live cheap and start saving now when you’re in your 20’s and on a tight budget.
It’s hard to be young and broke. It’s even harder to try to live cheap and have a social life. With the huge focus on the downturn in the economy, though, there is an advantage. You can finally let your frugal side shine embarrassment-free. Stating out loud that you are trying to save money, want to eat at a cheaper restaurant, or that you just don’t have the gas money to drive downtown doesn’t hold the same social stigma it once did.
Being cheap is no longer an insult, but the smart way to go about things. From researching around the internet, using my own personal experiences, and taking examples from friends, I’ve compiled a list of tips to live cheap and save money. The good thing about this list is that it’s based on those who have a smaller income but also works well if you are trying to build wealth towards bigger purchases.
You Can Still Have Fun and Be Cheap
One of the hardest things about trying to live cheap is that you miss out on a lot of social outings. Here are a few ways you can still enjoy yourself and not spend much money.
- Don’t go out to eat. I know. I just said you can still enjoy yourself, but eating out is one of the top ways to drain your money. It’s hard to say no to food and friends, but instead you can meet them up later. Try stopping by towards the end of the meal and just having a drink (non-alcoholic will save you more money).
- Don’t spend much money on drinks. On a weekend, dinner is usually followed by a night out on the town. To live cheap, you’ll have to practice self-control. Limit yourself to just buying 1 or 2 drinks, and try to only go out once a week. Another tip, leave your credit cards at home, and only bring a small amount of cash. You can’t spend what you don’t have.
- Host a Potluck. A potluck is a great social activity that combines food and friends while being easy on the wallet. Generally, the hosts prepares the main entrée dish, and each guest is assigned to bring either a side, appetizer, drink, or dessert. This is a great way to enjoy and host company.
- Use the public library. If you like reading, this is a great solution for you. Buying books is expensive especially if you are a voracious reader. Try going to your public library where you can borrow the books for free. It’s free! Is there a better word? I think not.
- Do a clothes swap. You want to live cheap, but you also want to look good. These two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Get your girlfriends together (if you are all around the same size this works beautifully) and tell them to bring their old clothes – nothing stained or ripped allowed. Open a bottle of wine and sift through each other’s toss outs. What is one woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure. You’ll be surprised at how many gems you can find.
- Check your local listings. See what is going on around town. Look through your local Observer, and there is bound to be cheap activities. Also, movie theatres usually run some kind of special during the week. There may be a $5 movie night or discounted matinee showings. Take advantage!
Save Money on Food
- Make Chili. Make a ton of it, and then freeze it. Do this with spaghetti sauce or any other food that can withstand the freezer for long periods of time. Preparing mass quantities of food can save you both time and money.
- Shop at the Famer’s Market late at night. The farmer’s market is a great way to get fresh produce. Go buy your goods closer to closing time. A lot of f the vendors will sell their products at a discount.
- Plan your groceries. Don’t shop without a list or when you are hungry. This leads to a lot of impulsive shopping which is never good when you try to live cheap. Make your list and think in terms of meals. Buy food and ingredients that you can use for other dishes.
- Buy in bulk. It’s no secret that bulk saves money. Get a Sam’s or Costco card. Also, buy things like toiletries in bulk, and divvy it up among your friends.
- Use coupons. Search your local listings, and cut out those coupons. You may hold up the line a bit when buying groceries, but it’s well worth it once those savings start adding up. Make it a habit, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can save using coupons.
Don’t Let Shopping Ruin Your Life
- Search for discounts. Wait for sales to happen. Buy your clothes out of season, and you’ll save a lot. Try to make it a goal to never pay full price for anything. Go to craigslist.com to find clothes, furniture, or anything that you need. This is what it means to live cheap. There are sales out there waiting to be discovered by you. Learn to enjoy the hunt.
- Do more online shopping. Online shopping is a great strategy when you want to live cheap. There are better deals, and though you may pay for shipping, there is usually a discount if you buy more than one item. Sites like Overstock.com offer great deals for refurbished electronics, affordable furniture, nice luggage, and any other retail item you can imagine. Besides the great deals, you also save on gas money.
OK, so you’ve calulated the percentages and numbers for your personal budget. It looks good. X amount will go to your 401K, long term neccessities, Y amount will go to that new car you’ve been wanting and intermediate neccesities, etc…, and put it all together and you’re on your way to wealth building in no time! It looks all neat and tidy, right? A clear plan, now all you have to do is follow it. And you most likely do….at first. Just with any new endeavor, after the steam of the first excitement wears off, you start to slip back a little into old habits. Here are some tips to keep you going and motivated to stay on that budget.
1. Keep your eye on the prize! I know, a bit cliche and overused, but it doesn’t make it any less helpful. A big part in doing this is knowing what you want. Ask yourself what is it you’re aiming for. Have you clearly defined your goal? Or is it just a gist of what you want? (e.g. I’d like to buy a house soon vs. I want to save $10,000 for a down payment by the end of this year) Know your goal, and remind yourself of it. Before you take that spontaneous trip to Vegas with the girls, take a split moment to pause and think: Will this make me happier in the long run? If you think, yes, go for it! If no, well that brings me to my next point.
2. Delaying instant gratification. We’ve all been told that the key to success is not eating that marshmallow. It makes sense. Why go for something and get less, when you can wait just a bit longer and get more. This principal strongly applies to your budget. You want to make it to Rock Star level of the Personal Budget Plan because that’s where you can start investing, and when you invest – your money makes money. This doesn’t mean denying yourself pleasures but rather planning for them. A few impromptu sushi and sake nights after work, some impulse buying here and there, and before you know it your NOW budget will be greatly diminished before you’re halfway through the month. Plan your pleasures so you can truly enjoy them guilt free.
3. Cold hard cash. It’s nice when you have it, and it’s also so painful to let it go. So, use it! Debit and credit cards make spending money a breeze. Sure debit cards pull directly from your account, but you don’t see or feel it happen. The physical act of holding money and then giving it to someone else leaves a much stronger impression than swiping a card. Cash does have it’s downfalls like the fact that you won’t have a paper trail of your transaction, but this is just another motivator for you not to spend money you don’t need to. You’ll have to write down that spending in your budget. It’ll make you think twice about whether you really need that purchase.
So those are a just few tips you can do to keep yourself on your budget. See what works for you because in the end we each have our own unique formula for keeping ourselves motivated. Cheers and Good luck!
Wealth Building Tip #4 is the DEBT STEP. Some folks think this should be #1. I strongly disagree. You MUST understand what money you have available before you can plan for living.
Here’s where my advice diverges from many other advisors. Why? I know you. I understand the difference between your student loans and credit card debt. All debt is NOT created equal….
***CAUTION: for those looking for quick fixes to wipe out credit card debt without paying for it, I am not for you!***
Manage your entire financial picture and to responsibly slay the debt monster. Transform your debt into wealth. It does you NO GOOD to wipe out your CC debt super fast only to have your car break down 2 months later . . . which ends up on what . . . yes, your credit card, again. Lather, rinse, repeat? No thank you.
Most people who dramatically slash their credit card debt end up incurring even more credit card debt later because they did not plan for emergencies. That is why you MUST complete these steps in the order given!
Building wealth takes time, be patient, be diligent. The rewards are well worth it. Control the beast. Transform your debt into wealth!
By now you have a pretty good plan. After a few months of success with WBTs # 1-4, you may be ready to tweak your plan a little bit. The beauty of building wealth is flexibility.
Make it work for you!
Maybe you are coming back after a year of success with your plan or perhaps you are further along with your investment portfolio and need assistance in that area. This is the “step” for you. In Wealth Building Tip #5, you can read my recommendations for asset selection and how to interview financial advisors who have your interests at heart.
Building wealth over the long term means hiring experts as necessary. You will pay for expertise. Understand how to maximize your investment IN your investment.
Step 1: Consider your case.
What have you really done this past year? Did you drive more profit to the bottom line in a meaningful way? Did you suss-out a production inefficiency that has saved your company thousands/millions of dollars? Did you introduce your Boss or Boss’s boss to a premier customer with whom your company now does business? These are the kinds of things to consider. What have you REALLY done that goes beyond showing up for work sober. You DID show up for work sober, right?
Step 2: Begin to Prepare your case.
This is a finer comb activity. This is where years of experience playing chess may net you a nice bag-o-coin, but fret not, you navigate situations like this all the time. To wit, you navigate a freeway all the time (probably). This is just like that. On the freeway you have to avoid the crazy, angry drivers (my father) who cut you off/curse/slow/speed-up at whim, the half blind drivers (my grandfather, who is now no longer driving thankfully) who don’t mean to cause trouble, but can’t really comprehend (due to physical and visual limitations, not competence issues) moving at the speed of the rest of the traffic and aren’t really willing to try, and last but not least, the incompetent drivers – I don’t know what their motivations are, but avoid them. All this, plus you must move your body as quickly as possible to your destination safely. In some cases you dodge, others you may have to weave, but in all cases, you must keep going forward. Right?
Okay, so the destination is your raise/bonus. It is your responsibility to get everyone (all the drivers) to your destination. Which driver is your boss like? Who is in front of him? If your boss is an angry driver and his boss is a grandpa driver then you have a hot head stuck behind a slow poke. Yes? If you give the hot head room to maneuver around the slow poke, that will dissipate some of the angry driver’s energy and he’ll be kinder to you, the helpful driver.
This would be akin to you introducing your boss to a key customer that will give your boss a chance at a big promotion himself. Make sense? Since you’ve played the helpful driver, you can show your boss how you helped him meet “key customer” and that has opened up “door x” to “promotion y” for him. Do this subtly to avoid being tacky.
What if your boss is grandpa? Show him how you helped him stay safe by shielding him from the angry drivers. This would be along the lines of you taking on an extra assignment that his boss was throwing down the line of command; you working on and completing that job quickly, without need for supervision or direction from your boss so your boss’s boss is happy and your boss isn’t burdened with extra duties.
In essence, how have you worked WITH your boss (even if you think he’s a stinking rat fink) to make his/her life easier? Demonstrate that in your request for the raise. Do not expect your boss to remember every detail – to him, to her it was probably of very little consequence. Be succinct. Be clear. Tell the relevant details, get the memories going, make him feel good about how useful, helpful, productive you are and THEN ask for the raise.
Step 3: Have a non-company mentor review your request.
Always put your request in writing so you can fully frame what you want to say and how you will say it, answer questions, respond to push-back. You may deliver orally, but be prepared in writing. Your boss may actually ask you to submit a paper request – sometimes as a stalling technique, sometimes for official documentation, sometimes just so she doesn’t forget you’ve made the request (me!). This request can be reviewed by your mentor for tactical opportunities, logic and relevance. If you have chosen a mentor in the same industry retired or with another company, she may know things about your company that can help you with your raise request (your Co. is about to win a big contract, your Co. President just lost 1/2 of this year’s earnings on a trip to Vegas, etc.). Do ask her to review your request.
Step 4: Practice, practice, practice.
Business is about presentation. We are constantly marketing ourselves, our product, our service, etc. just to keep the doors open. Embrace it. The better you do with fundamental activities, the higher you will rise. Practice how you will talk to your boss, your responses to questions, your tone of voice. Do it. Seriously. Make it natural. Confidence is earned through mastery of fundamentals – you cannot fake confidence.
If your boss sees you making a very natural request for a raise, he’s more inclined to give it to you.
Step 5: Go for it!
Ask your boss for a meeting time and then make your pitch. Be prepared. Good luck!
So your holiday bills are rolling in and you realize, dang, I need some cash, FAST! Maybe your boss will give you a bonus, right? Well probably not, if all you have to back you is your need. What have you done for your boss lately?
If you have been working diligently – making your boss’ life easier, then you have a fighting chance. However, if you’ve been goofing off or distracted, do not go ask for a raise! In most cases the, “It never hurts to ask,” mentality is good, but when it comes to getting your manager to part with a few pennies . . .
The logic is this: you have a finite number of opportunities each year to request an upgrade, i.e. a bonus. If you squander those opportunities, well, you are totally out-of-luck no matter how great you are. There is a certain seasonality to the process. February – just after the books for last year are closed and your boss knows if there’s some extra cash. July – as your boss budgets for the forthcoming year and enjoys the Northern hemisphere summer, and late-October as your boss’ College Football team is heading for a National Title (a few weeks later if NFL fans). Sure, it seems ridiculous, but there are generousity spikes at those times during the year. I studied and put that very information to use myself while running a not-for-profit years back, grew our donations 5000%, seriously. . . .
But here’s the catch. You have to have been extraordinarily productive in the months just prior to the request or your opportunity is null and void. You will be much less successful (i.e. fail) if you’ve been slacking off just prior to one of these “generousity inflection points,” GIPs. To maximize your GIP potential, work your tushie off for the 2+ months prior to the GIP. For the February GIP, make sure you work extra hard December and January. Got it?
Of course what I really advocate is working your tushie off, excelling beyond comprehension ALL THE TIME, but if you’re one of those folks who has to pace himself, well, use the GIP guide.
So what do you do if a GIP is not soon enough or you know you have to wait out this GIP? First, become very aware of what your boss needs so that she looks awesome to her boss. Second, do it, or at least help her do it. Find a way to insert yourself into your boss’ career path so she can’t help but appreciate you. Avoid passive-aggressive tendencies . . . if you are helping her, do it without expectation of gratification.. You are creating the foundation from which you will be able to approach her for more: money, time, responsibility later.
Go forth and be prosperous!