…and no, skipping your daily Starbucks (who does that anyways, seriously?) isn’t on this list.
In June I switched to a new job and because I was so desperate to leave Old Place I accepted the position at New Place for the exact same amount I was making at Old Place. The difference is that going from Old to New took me from private sector to government, and this government job meant mandatory participation in the state retirement plan which automatically takes 7% from my gross income. I didn’t think about this during salary negotiations for New Place and am now making more gross income (after a 3% mandated raise for all state employees that took place a month after I was hired), but my take home pay is about $100 less than it was at Old Place. I had to take a look at raising my income level, cutting my expenses, or both to maintain a level of spending and saving that I am comfortable with. Cutting expenses is an easier and quicker way for me to stay in control of my finances, and I’ve been feeling pretty good about it lately and thought I’d share some tactics that work for me and aren’t the same stupid ones you hear all of the time that we already all know and ignore. Some of these tips are a little more psychological and make you really evaluate how and why you spend the way you do. Others… other tips just involve cheap(er) beer.
1. Lead Me Not Into Temptation– Those daily deal emails, along with emails from clothing and furniture companies that I signed up for to get initial discounts or notifications of sales got unsubscribed from immediately. If I don’t know there’s a sale, I don’t know that it needs to be taken advantage of. The same lesson applies to the New York & Co. and Express coupons that come in the mail that I used to love so much. Unless I know I need to buy something from those stores within the week, they go straight into the recycling bin before walking into the house.
(Photo source: peerbits.com)
2. Identify Triggers– Are you super susceptible to the power of suggestion? That pizza on the billboard is immediately all you want for dinner after seeing it, or the scent of a coworker’s coffee makes you have an instant craving for your own caffeine boost? Me too. I listened to my bank account and saw that a few times a week I was wandering out to coffee shops on my lunch hour since at the new job there were tons nearby and was bored. To correct this problem I brought in the supplies to make coffee in the office and started bringing books and magazines to keep myself occupied during this hour instead of using getting coffee as an activity.
Once I realized that I was combining those two triggers- wanting coffee and wanting something to do on my lunch break- I was able to redirect my efforts into habits that didn’t cost anything. Your trigger might be completely different, and chances are you already know what they are because you feel slightly guilty for overindulging in them.
3. Buy ahead– I suck with the whole couponing and buying things on sale when I have coupons thing like the eXtreme couponers are able to pull off. It’s hard to keep all of that info in my head and coincide it with that I want to eat the week ahead. However, there are several non perishable items that we ALWAYS use and I try to buy ahead when they are on sale, even if that means spending $30 on coffee in one grocery trip. When it’s cheaper, it’s cheaper! The things I buy ahead on are canned tomatoes ($10 for 10 deals- yes sir!), coffee grounds, dog food, paper products, and pasta. Every time those items are on sale, extras are purchased and I usually don’t have to buy it when it’s off sale.
4. Say yes to grocery store loyalty for gasoline discounts– I’m not sure about other parts of the country, but in South Carolina we have Bi-Lo and Piggly Wiggly groceries stores that offer Fuel Perks and Greenbax, respectively, which can earn you cents off per gallon of gasoline when you shop at their stores. It’s worth it to me to be loyal to Bi-Lo (except for a few key items that they don’t sell there that I like to get once a month or so) because getting five to 50 cents off of a gallon sets off a secret thrill in me.
5. BYOB– I take my Camelbak everywhere with me to avoid the temptation to stop and grab a drink while I’m out and about because as soon as I pull out of the driveway I get thirsty immediately. Why is that? Seriously, why? Saves me money and usually calories to have the water within arm’s reach because I do love me some milkshakes, coffees, and smoothies. Plus, it keeps me extremely hydrated!
6. Drink special– Speaking of drinks, one of my favorite ways to save money on beer, which I won’t give up, I won’t!, is to take advantage of special drink prices. Meet your friends for happy hour instead of the witching hour and get up to half off on what they have discounted and you’ll not only learn to try new brews, you’ll save some money for
more beer! next time! (Sorry if you’re from one if the 18 states that prohibits drink specials!)
These are just some things that have worked for me and have been easy to implement, though I didn’t necessarily do them all at once because that would have been a lot of changes at once to think about and think about without feeling overwhelmed. Next I’ll do a piece on the other end of the spectrum, which is increasing income, a task that takes a bit more planning and effort and that I am still working on myself, but is still achievable! I feel that no discussion on budgets, saving, and spending is complete without a look at the things that aren’t quite necessities but that we still don’t quite want to give up.
How do you cut expenses?