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There is no time like the present to start managing your money well–budgeting, saving, and paying off debt! One of the number one goals or resolutions of a new year is to get in better financial shape, with good reason, of course! But that doesn’t mean you can’t start right now–right where you are–getting your finances under control!
Fifteen years ago, we were in the worst financial state of our married lives. I’m not even joking. It was bad. Oh, we were paying our bills on time without fail, but there was way more money going out than coming in, and we owed every bit of money coming in to someone else.
>>Related post: How To Save When There’s Nothing Left
My Top 8 Money-Saving Tips:
Today, I’m sharing my top money-saving tips with you because I love saving money. There’s truly something exhilarating about watching your savings account grow and your monthly debits shrink!
1. Create a budget.
First things first. You have to know where your money is going. If you don’t, you won’t know how much you are actually spending.
A budget is simply a plan that tells your money what to do.
Budgets are often avoided because they seem difficult and restricting, but the truth is when you have a budget in place and know how to work it, it’s very empowering! If you need help getting started with your budget, a good place to start is with The Intentional Mom’s 5 Day Budget Bootcamp.
>>Related article: The Best Budgeting Move You’ll Ever Make .
2. Cut cable.
The average American family spends $60 a month on cable, that’s $720 a year! I don’t know about you, but $60 is a big deal to me, and $720 certainly is! That’s an extra mortgage payment, a car payment, or a weekend getaway.
With technology what it is today, there are many alternatives to having cable TV. We have used a number of streaming apps over the years, which can range from $10-$13 a month as our means of entertainment, along with free apps like Happy Kids, Kidoodle, RokuTV, and YouTube. The one streaming app we do pay for currently is PureFlix.
The problem with cutting cable? No sports. So if you have a sports lover in your home, you might want to check out this article from The How-to Guru for more alternatives to cable.
3. Eat at home.
This is probably a very close second to cutting cable. According to an article by CNBC, Americans spend an average of $3000 a year on eating out. That’s $250 a month!
So how do you avoid the eating out trap? You have to have a plan. Like a meal plan.
It’s true; I have a love/hate relationship with meal planning. I do not love it, but I hate when I don’t have a plan. Click HERE for a step by step guide to how I meal plan each week. It’s the grocery shopping method sure to save you money!
Also, The Grocery Budget Makover was HUGE for me in getting my grocery spending under control!
4. Cook from scratch.
There is a myth that cooking from scratch equals standing in the kitchen for hours over difficult recipes. Wrong!
True, it does take a little more time, but not hours–not even close! I’ve made muffins and waffles and/or pancakes once a week for so long now that I know the recipe by heart.
Find a simple recipes that you all like, and stick to those.
5. Check out books and movies from the library instead of buying.
I love books, so I get it! However, you can check out books for free from the library, both hardbound and ebook format. Check out your library’s website for information on checking out ebooks. This is my new favorite thing!!
The same goes for movies. Generally, the movies aren’t the newest ones, but our family has found some real gems in our library’s selection.
6. Use cash.
If you use the envelope system recommended by Dave Ramsey, you will most likely spend less. The idea is that you see actual money and see it dwindling; therefore, you are more likely to put on the brakes!
You have a set amount in your cash envelopes, so when it’s gone; it’s gone. For us, it helps us to plan more carefully, and slow our spending when the cash gets low. The trick it to not go use your debit card when the cash is gone. You have to make yourself not spend anymore. Adopt the motto, “When it’s gone; it’s gone.”
UPDATE: Since getting out of all debt except for our mortgage, we have been super lax about getting cash out for our weekly spending. Bad idea! Over the long haul, we have spent way more money with our debit cards than we ever did with cash.
7. Delay gratification.
Just don’t buy it–yet. I find that if I wait a day or two before purchasing that thing I think I HAVE to have, I decide that it’s not worth spending money on after all.
And sometimes? I forget about it anyway…literally forget. Super important buy, right?
In a society where instant gratification is a must, just slow down and take the time to think about it. It’s not going away in a couple of days. If you still feel that you need the item after taking 24 or so hours to think, go ahead and get it!
8. Sign up for cash back programs like Ratuken and Swagbucks.
I had no idea until recently that these even existed, and upon first discovering them, I was skeptical, thinking they had to be some sort of scam. They are actually legit ways to get cash back! Over the last year, I’ve gotten three “big fat checks” from Ratuken, and I’ve redeemed two gift cards from Swagbucks. All you have to do is shop!
And let’s face it. Which one of us isn’t doing at least some shopping online? Go ahead and save money while you do!
What about messing up?
Let’s be honest. You are going to mess up. Sometimes you just want to eat that burger from the drive-thru, and it’s hard to pass up. You know what? It’s ok to give in sometimes…IF you have money in your “eat out” envelope!
Truth: Saving money isn’t easy! While it can be done, it can also be frustrating and consuming at times. It takes work and dedication to save money.
Here’s the thing: you are going to mess up. That’s were grace comes in. Give yourself a break, forgive YOU, and get back up and try again. I can’t tell you how many times on our journey to financial freedom that we’ve screwed up and made stupid and rash decisions causing us to waste money. It happens. But you get back on track and keep pushing forward!