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Originally published April 17, 2020
During the last year, many people, both in the U.S. and abroad, have found themselves suddenly living on a reduced income and even struggling to find work. “We’re all in this together” is comforting until you head out to the grocery store and start wondering if there is enough in your checking account to cover the trip.
Inevitably this calls for a radical change in financial habits; reviewing and revising budgets, reevaluate spending and priorities. But wouldn’t it be nice to do this without a significant reduction in lifestyle?
Here are 15 tips to help you cut expenses, reduce spending and still live in a way that feels good to you!
1. Eating Out Less, Gather at Home More
Yes, you can eat at home so much more affordably than you can eating out, but I get that it’s nice to have that social experience, that little indulgence and a bit of a break. Try spacing your dinners out to maybe a couple of times a month and maybe once or twice for lunch. When meeting friends, mix it up with a walk-and-talk instead or have a potluck trading of at each other’s homes. Most people you know are going to be on a tight budget right now so they will probably appreciate it.
2. Get Really Good at Making Deluxe Coffees
Okay, we had to get this one out of the way fast – you know the deal. And who doesn’t love a beautiful blended coffee or tea latte? But there’s no denying that the beverages are expensive and really add up over the month! Give yourself a coffee budget and limit it to a couple of times a month. Buy a hand held milk frother (love these! ) and learn how to make the coffees at home. Also grab yourself a fancy travel mug, one that you really love to use. You’ll be much more inclined to stick to the habit.
3. Find the Best Deals on Streaming TV
TV packages such as satellite and cable, and even all of the premium channels and streaming networks can be so expensive!
Even a basic cable subscription will set you back at least $50 or $60 a month, or $600 a year. Anything you’d rather be doing with that $600 than sitting on your butt mindlessly scrolling through mediocre shows that you may or may not like? And do you know that the average American spends enough time watching TV to earn a bachelor’s degree every four years?
Why not pick a few shows you really like and subscribe for a month here and there. Do one month of Amazon Prime, (and you can go month to month now!) , one month of Showtime, one month of HBO… you get the idea.
BONUS: Hulu now comes free when you have a Spotify subscription and IMDB TV has an app now with completely free programming!
4. Go for Free Content
Are you still receiving hard copies of magazines and newspapers? For most people the answer is “no” and a problem for that industry. But if you have paid subscriptions to online versions, even a few dollars a month, these add up… with another few dollars spent elsewhere, and somewhere else, and somewhere else. There is so much amazing and worthwhile free content available today, that you couldn’t get through a fraction of it if that was your full time job. Put a pause on any subscription based content and consider this a great time to discover something new!
5. Borrow Books, Don’t Buy
I love books, but when you’re trying to cut back on spending everything counts! Instead of buying books, check out your local library. Most libraries today have online borrowing as well as hard copy, and it’s as simple as getting a library card then having the book delivered to your e-reader. And considering how many books sit on people’s shelves unread or unfinished this is a great way to test the waters and ditch the guilt at the same time.
6. Opt For At-Home Workouts
I LOVE my gym membership, and for people who are social and derive a lot of motivation from those around them, a gym or yoga membership can be such an indulgence, but they are also expensive. Now more than ever there is a ton of content available on apps and YouTube, either free or for under $20. Want to make it a little more fun? Grab a workout and keep each other motivated and on track.
7. Mix it Up with Cocktails
Alcohol in general can be a heavy expense, and it also leaves you lethargic and less able to focus and do what needs to be done to improve your financial situation. Instead of reaching for the wine, beer or a mixed drink, consider substituting a wine spritzer – not the kind you buy but actually making one. Start with ¼ glass of white wine, add 2 to 3 times that of soda and then a splash of cranberry juice to give it more of a cocktail feel. Consider garnishing with fresh lemon, lime, thyme, or mint and you get the indulgence of having a mixed drink with out the bill or the heavy buzz.
8. Switch and Swap with Prepared Meals
One of the things I learned about myself in quarantine, and too paranoid to order food, is that I really hate my own cooking! If you’re no culinary goddess either, but the thought of surviving solely on what you prepare doesn’t light you up try a 50/50 mix. My solution: buy a prepared meal you love, fresh or frozen, but mix it with rice, vegetables, chicken breast, salad or something else you’ve prepared on your own. One of my go-to’s is to put whatever it is on a bed of spinach; I especially like to do pasta dishes this way – lots of flavor, nutrients and fibre with half the guilt! It’s probably going to be a lot healthier for you and will end up coming in at a fraction of the cost.
9. Do Your Own Mani Pedi Like a Pro
I have a love hate relationship with having my nails done; I hate sitting there, but love the results! No doubt a fresh mani pedi looks and feels amazing, but the price tag is enough to make you think twice. Even an inexpensive salon is going to run you about $55 per visit, twice a month – that’s $1320 per year! What else would you like to do with that money? Take a beach vacation? Buy a new Macbook? Or pay down a credit card?
Learning to do a professional manicure and pedicure is not rocket science, it just takes patience. I’ve been a hand model for years and have had to learn how to keep my hands immaculate on my own.
10. Learn the Ins and Outs of Hair Color
Kind of like doing your own nails, this is fairly simple, it just requires patience and for you to be meticulous. I stopped going to salons for color and started doing it completely on my own a few years ago after continually spending a small fortune and rarely getting the exact color I wanted. There are tons of YouTube videos on how to do this, and it does take a little experimentation. For example, I often mix 2 colors, using one third of each tube/package to get the color I want. Also, I stick to the roots only! This minimizes damage to your hair. Personally I use a glass bowl for mixing, (purchased at a dollar store) bought the brush and invested in a mirror on a floor stand so I can see the back of my head perfectly!
- I’m quite blonde but my base color is a medium brown; the ends just fade out with washing, sun and heat tools
- I take the left over color and paint a bit down the length of my hair in a few strands here and there for a balayage effect
- Twice a year I invest in a highlight kit to brighten up the area around the face
Again, you’re not practicing medicine here! Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve but the money you save and getting EXACTLY the color you want, are well worth it!
p.s. I’m finding these mirrors increasingly difficult to get for under $150! If you have the scoop on one, please let me know so I can pass the information along
11. Cut Back on Purchased Gifts
I love giving gifts! It’s so much fun to find exactly the right thing that you know someone will enjoy. But post COVID-19 we may all be living on tighter budgets in the months, or even perhaps year ahead. Try opting for a gift exchange that includes sharing time, maybe even things like helping a friend with their gardening. And if you’re really good at making something – baked goods, preserves, hand sewn items or websites, a homemade gift can show a lot of thought and effort.
12. Say Goodbye to Branded Products
Whether it’s shoes, clothes, accessories or even food and household cleaning products, anything branded comes with a higher price tag. Try opting for a non-branded alternative, and do a bit of price hunting to find something that is a much better value. And you don’t need to compromise on quality; today, there are plenty of non branded products that are just as good for a much lower price.
13. Curb Your Clothing Obsession
Yes, clothes wear out. And it’s great to replace them and to have a bit of variety. But buying new clothes all the time just because you feel like it can be an expensive habit. Even if you’re only shopping in the “cheap and cheerful” chain stores and think that the clothes you buy don’t cost very much, if you’re doing it regularly it can really add up quite quickly. If you’re not great at finding cool and fun wardrobe combos, you probably have a friend who is. Have them come over and spend and afternoon or evening with you going through your closet over cocktails and laughs. Try things on, mix things up and enjoy each other’s company. And maybe this can even double up as his or her birthday present to you saving them an expense as well.
14. Kill Interest Payments as Quick as You can
If you’ve borrowed money, especially on credit cards, interest repayments can be a killer! While you may not be able to pay off your card right now, try to at least stop using them. Opt for a cash only lifestyle – if you don’t have the money, don’t buy it! And it may be worth looking into debt consolidation loans that allow you to transfer your debt into one lump sum at a much lower interest rate. This is a great way to help reduce your debt repayments and help you to pay off the debt faster.
15. Just Quit Buying Anything at Full Price
We live in the age of the internet, and these days you can get deals on just about anything! If you’re thinking about a medium to large purchase, shop around online and be prepared to wait a bit until you find a great price. When shopping for groceries, consider what’s on sale this week, not just what you feel like getting . You can probably make minor modifications with out too much trouble and may even end up trying something new!
You can also shop around to get the best deal using price comparison sites to find the best offers. Browser extensions like Honey will automatically search and find the best discounts for you.