5. Make Simple Budget Cuts
Once you have streamlined your life, set goals, gotten your home in order and created a budget, you’re ready to get more intense about looking for ways to cut your budget in order to free up extra money to pay off debt or save money towards your financial goals.
I suggest you start with simple things that will make a significant impact: Do you have memberships or subscriptions you’re currently paying for but not really using? Can you renegotiate some of your bills to get a better monthly rate? Could you cut back on costly regular expenditures or come up with creative alternatives?
After examining your regular expenditures to see if there are things you can cut or renegotiate, if you’re still struggling financially and need to come up with more breathing room, I’d suggest that you consider doing things which might be more extreme (click on that link for a list of 28 things we’ve done to stay out of debt).
I also encourage you to start slowly adopting a “Never Pay Retail” philosophy. Living frugally or on a budget doesn’t mean you never buy nice things or never pay for anything new again (though buying used is definitely a smart choice in many instances), but you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year just by committing to use some coupons for items you’ll already be purchasing, planning ahead and buying items you will need soon when they are at their lowest prices and looking for creative ways to get discounts on items you plan to buy.
For instance, if you have room to include a “Dates and Eating Out” category in your budget, you can stretch your budgeted money farther by watching for restaurant coupons and deals and purchasing restaurant vouchers through Groupon or Restaurant.com to local restaurants you like.
A Word of Caution
Don’t feel like you need to cut your budget down to such a barebones level that you don’t have any wiggle room or that you can never splurge on anything. If you’re planning to live a frugal and simple life for the longhaul, you must give yourself some grace. In fact, I say that you should budget for splurges. It doesn’t have to be anything costly, but choose a few things which you really enjoy and budget for them so that you can enjoy them without guilt.
For instance, we budget for eating out once a week, we budget for vacations and special family outings and we budget for me to get my hair done. Some people might argue that these things are incredibly extravagant of us, but these are things are family has decided we enjoy and choose to spend our money on. So we budget for these expenses and then we splurging guiltlessly!
Living on a budget doesn’t mean you have to eat beans and rice for the rest of your life or be misers. It just means that you are telling your money where to go ahead of time so that it’s not just passing through your fingers like sand!
6. Remember to Take Babysteps
As you start looking for ways to reduce your outgo and cut costs, it’s easy to get carried away and try learn and do everything at once. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself completely overwhelmed trying to menu-plan, stockpile, print coupons, clip coupons, organize coupons, shop at multiple stores, play the Drugstore Game, sign up for freebies, read great blogs… and on and on it goes.
My advice: take babysteps! Pick one new skill to learn per month and don’t feel guilty over what you haven’t learned or aren’t doing yet.
7. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other People
Sadly, sometimes we can spend a lot of time worrying about what other people are doing or not doing and base what we do or don’t do upon that. If there’s one thing I can not re-iterate enough, it’s this: don’t compare yourself to other people.
We’re all in different families and situations and locations. We all have different goals, different needs and different strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, what works for one family isn’t necessarily going to work for another family.
Maybe your family has food allergies which mean you can’t eat certain things and you need to have twice the grocery budget that your frugal friend without food allergies has. Or maybe you enjoy going out to eat more often so you have a higher “Dates and Eating Out” budget, but you buy your clothes at the thrift store.
Perhaps you like to travel so you budget more for that, but you don’t spend much on food because you grow a lot of it yourself. You might have a really busy schedule due to caring for a disabled family member and working two jobs, so you don’t even bother with using coupons and you hire someone to clean your home but you save money by biking to work and re-purposing everything you can.
Whatever the case, determine what works for your family and what goals and priorities your own family has and then create your financial goals and plan based upon this. If other people don’t understand or possibly even criticize the decisions you’ve made, it’s okay.
Do what works for you and don’t worry about what other people think!
photos from Shutterstock