If you don’t budget, you should. Even if, by some miracle, you have money pouring out of your ears, you should still have some sort of financial plan and outline. So let’s say you’ve taken care of the creating a budget part and now you’re looking to maximize it and stretch every dollar. This is the guide for you.
I’m going to skip over the things like “make coffee at home instead of buying a daily latte” because if you’re on a budget, you’re already not spending $5 a day on coffee (and if you are, you need more help than I can offer). This tip-sheet is about maximizing your budget by addressing the little things.
Related Reading: Creating a Bullet Journal
1. Adjust your diet
I’m not saying reduce down to Ramen noodles and peanut butter! Hopefully you can afford a little bit more than that. There are ways to adjust your grocery list.
First things first: stop spending money on “happy snacks”. You know, the food you eat that makes you happy but doesn’t give you any good nutrients; I’m talking about chips and cookies and donut holes. You love them, but you don’t need them. Don’t spend $3 on those Cheetos and instead get yourself two apples for $1.
Second, cut back on meat. I know, I know, how dare I suggest giving up bacon!? But I’m not. I’m just suggesting that you reduce. I won’t go on about the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet here, but instead focus on the financial benefits: it’s one less thing you have to buy, and meat is fairly expensive. For the $6 you would spend on some chicken, you could buy a bag of quinoa, some veggies, and eggs instead and still feel full. You don’t have to cut it out entirely, but switching to one day, two days, or weekdays without meat can provide a lot of benefits.
Third, get creative with your staples! With the right spices, you can do a lot with rice, beans, tomatoes… Check out our Pinterest board dedicated to eating on a budget, and/or this
Hot Mess Kitchen: Recipes for Your Delicious Disastrous Life cookbook.
2. Cancel Your Subscriptions
While getting athletic leggings for a third of the price at the store or boxes of snacks from around the world sent to your home each month sounds like a great deal, it can actually be a waste of money if you’re on a budget. Think about it: how many of those makeup products you get in your monthly subscription do you actually use after your first try them out? Maybe one out of five. So now you have a growing pile of products that you don’t use. See? Wasteful.
3. Sign Up For Smart Subscriptions
I know, I know, I just told you to cancel your subscriptions because they’re not budget friendly. But some of them are! Like Dollar Shave Club: for $9 or less a month, you get four razor heads sent to your house instead of spending $15+ at the grocery store. The little things add up, so shop smarter not harder… Does that work? We’re going to say it works.
4. Shop Sales and Stock Up
Make a point of shopping thrift and discount stores first whenever you can. Need a new pair of jeans? Check out TJ Maxx and Ross before going to a designer store; you just might get lucky.
And when your regular-buy items go on sale, buy them. Even if you already have one at home. (This is of course dependent on how strict your budget it). This happened to me recently: I ran out of my favorite Dry Shampoo but couldn’t spare any money to buy more. But behold! in my closet was a backup that I had bought the month before when it was on sale. At the same time, I had bought two bottles of mouthwash because it was a BOGO sale. If you know you buy it often–toilet paper, toothbrushes, canned beans–buy it when it’s on sale, even if you don’t immediately need it. In the long run, you’ll save yourself some cash and some heartbreak.
Related Reading: 7 Ways To Enjoy a Night Home Alone
5. Fill Out Surveys and Sign Up For Cash Back
Grocery stores will often have some sort of rewards system. In Colorado with King Soopers, it’s point towards gas discounts. At the bottom of my grocery receipt is a chance to fill out a survey and get an extra 50 gas points (I need 100 for $0.10 off every gallon). It’s a bit tedious, but it’s something I can do while watching TV, and if I do it twice in a month, I get my savings. It’s all about the pennies sometimes.
There are also great apps like ibotta that can earn you some more cents on the dollar and get you cash back. It’s not a get-rich-quick solution, but it adds up over time and can make for a nice gift to your future self.
6. Think “Big Picture”
When you’re on a budget, every penny counts. But in the long run, it’s worth it to buy things like mouthwash and floss. Think about it: it’s cheaper to pay for these items than it is to pay for a cavity. Don’t sacrifice your health in the short run to save ten dollars: take care of yourself and avoid a $500 doctor bill.
7. Shop Where It’s Cheap
I already mentioned shopping at discount stores, but this time I’m talking about zip codes. Different cities have different prices and different sales tax percentages. Example: it cheaper for me to buy gas in Longmont than it is to buy it in Westminster; it’s a difference of a couple of dollars to buy food and goods in Westminster than it is in Denver. Now, I’m not going to drive thirty miles to save $0.05 per gallon of gas, but I make a point of filling up where it’s cheaper, even if it’s only a quarter of a tank. Things to think about.
These are the tips that help me get through the rough patches and make the good patches all the better. What budget hacks do you use?