After being coldly given the boot by my parents with only $50 in my pocket in August 2007, I was forced to become extremely budget conscience. For a couple weeks I could only afford bread and butter for a meal, washed down with tap water and sometimes with the luxury of milk! Oh, sweet milk…
I’ve learned a thing or two about scraping by and making it work. Here’s a few tips so you can avoid learning the hard way.
- CANCEL YOUR CABLE TELEVISION!!
Netflix is $7.99 a month and has all the entertainment you could want. Minus commercials. If there’s something you want that isn’t on there, download a torrent file on your computer. If you don’t know how, learn!
- DITCH THE LANDLINE PHONE!!
Assuming you have a cell, why keep the landline? It’s 2011, cancel that silly expense.
- DROP THE DATA PLAN!!
It’s worth the extra $10/month or so to have unlimited txting, but any additional extras are mostly a waste. Do you really need to have internet and e-mail and all those apps on your phone?
- CHANGE YOUR INTERNET!!
Road Runner has a “lite” version that they doesn’t advertise but they’ll honor it if requested. It’s $35 a month instead of $55.
- CHANGE WHERE YOU BUY GROCERIES!!
Food prices are outrageous these days. Stick to Aldi’s or Trader Joe’s or anyplace comparable. Everything is cheap without sacrificing quality.
- DON’T LEAVE SPARE CASH SITTING AT THE BANK!!
The interest you’ll gain is as minimal as it gets if you just leave it all in a savings account. If you have money just sitting there, put it to actual use and invest. Stocks are a great buy right now and you don’t need a broker now that easy-to-learn websites like TDAmeritrade.com exist.
- BUY IN BULK!!
The more you buy in bulk the cheaper the price of each individual item. A single bottle of Propel is $1.25, a 12-pack is $6.99. You don’t need to be great at math to figure that one out.
- GET A KINDLE!!
This one is strictly for avid readers. Books sell for $10-20 apiece and take up space. Buy one Kindle device for as little as $139.00 and you’ll have access to literally millions of free e-books. It’s like going to the library except you don’t have to go anywhere and you never have to worry about returning the books. And you can carry 3,000 books at a time.
- USE CRAIGSLIST!!
A brand new iPod Touch costs $200 for the cheapest model. A gently used version goes for as low as $75 on craigslist. Furniture also is a steal on this site. My sectional couch cost me $80. A new one would have likely been $600-800. I purchased a bike for $40. Need I go on? Use craigslist!
- WAIT FOR PRICES TO DROP!!
Most DVD’s and video games cost a shit load when first released. A single Xbox game can go for $60-70!! Wait a few months and the price easily drops down to $25. Wait even longer, as I tend to do, and you’ll be paying $10-15. (Halo 3 cost me $12.)
There’s nothing “cheap” about using coupons… it’s just smart. The newspaper at work had one for a 99-cent car inspection and I jumped on it. There’s an easy $20+ savings right there! Groupon also has some excellent deals on occasion ($10 for a $20 Amazon.com gift card, for example) so be sure to sign up for those.
- KEEP TRACK OF YOUR MONTHLY BILLS!!
I recommend making an Excel spreadsheet and list all of your expected bills each month in addition to your income. See how much of what you take in really needs to go out, then you’ll know how much waste is leftover to trim. Ideally, it’s good to bank/invest 10-20% of your income if you can. I’m up to 30% now and I don’t feel I’ve sacrificed any comfort.
If you’re in a position where you can afford expensive items and aren’t worried about your budget, then obviously you can ignore many of these tips. But even if you ARE made of money, still consider them. The sacrifices are minimal and often unnoticeable. One thing to keep in mind: you never want to live uncomfortably. Just because you keep a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t be impulsive on occasion. Case in point for me was when I bought Goldeneye for the Wii when it first came out. I’d been waiting for the sequel to the old N64 Goldeneye for over a decade, so I couldn’t wait. And that’s okay if it happens sporadically.