No-one, with the possible exception of Montgomery Brewster in Brewster’s Millions, sets out to waste money. It’s reasonable to say that some of us are less careful with cash. But in the main, we all set out with the attitude that it’s better to have money than not. And yet, for many of us, when we come to do the sums at the end of a month, it’s still depressingly familiar. Money runs out, even when you try to stop it.
Why does this happen? Aside from cases where there is an obvious reason, such as reduced hours at work or emergency medical treatment, of course. In those cases, it’s not hard to trace the problem, and we can hope that following months will be better. If it happens as a matter of course, it can be bewildering. No matter how good your intentions, do you still end up with negative results?
It can be all the more galling when you look at people who seem to have the budgeting thing locked down. Look at them there, with their surplus at the end of every month. Oh, going on a world cruise next year, are you? Great, I won’t have to look at your smug, financially competent face for a few months. Or show you my shame face as I spend the final week of the month eating leftovers.
At least for some of us, the problem tends to be that we look at thrift as something you do. In reality, thrifty is something you need to be. If you do the verb, you pick up discounted food when you see it at the supermarket. If you are the adjective, you head for the discounted aisle first and see if there’s something you can freeze until you make a meal plan. Mostly, you need to shop like you’re poor even if you’re earning like you’re rich.
One problem that a lot of people have when they’re trying to live a frugal life is that they think of cheaper, thrifty living as a chore. The idea of not having the more expensive foods, drinks and clothes seems depressing. It’s worth remembering that being thrifty doesn’t mean choosing the cheap option every time. It means making every penny count. You can do that and still have nice things.
- Couponing: It’s Obvious, But A Lot Of People Still Don’t Do It
Look, we all get it. If you have a busy life, it can feel like too much hassle and effort – and especially too much time – to sit and clip coupons. We’ve all stood in the supermarket queue and felt the death glare from the other shoppers when we pull coupons from our purses. Or wallets! But this is why you pick a time when it’s less busy. And if you set a bit of spare time aside to clip them, coupons don’t take forever.
Why do it? Because there are so many coupons out there and they’re not just for bottles of handwash you don’t need. Or for pasta packets you’ll never eat. They’re also for cuts of fresh meat, and for veg. If you’re prepared to hunt them out, they’re everywhere. And if you live in America, you don’t know how lucky you are regarding coupon limits. In other countries, supermarkets don’t let you double them up.
Using coupons doesn’t mean eating like you’re on the breadline. It can mean having the money to holiday like you’re a movie star.
- Not Every Discount Is Worth Taking
There’s an old joke about a boy who tells his mom “I jogged home behind the bus today and saved fifty cents!”. His mom is proud of him, but his dad interjects: “Tomorrow, jog home behind a taxi and save five bucks!”.
Yes, it’s old. Not necessarily funny. But the point is that the size of saving doesn’t necessarily make it more worthwhile. If to take advantage of a discount, you buy something you weren’t going to buy, you’ve saved nothing. You’ve spent money you wouldn’t have usually spent.
So, for example, you get a gift card as a present. It’s for $20 for a homewares store. You go to the homewares store and find a lamp for $30. You pay the $10, and you’ve got a bargain, right? Or have you spent $10 and added a lamp to the things you have and don’t need? You can now redeem gift cards for cash. Take the chance to learn more about Cards2Cash and similar places. You can also buy discounted gift cards for less than their cash value.
- Don’t Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth. Or A Gift Anything.
It’s not like the world is littered with free gifts. And the ones that we do get are often not the most exciting things; it’s true. We’re all waiting for the issue of our favorite magazine that comes bundled with a free gift fortnight in Cabo. But while we’re waiting, it’s sensible to take the free gifts that do come your way. They could be anything – a pen, a sachet of fabric softener, a tea bag. They may not seem like much, to begin with.
But because they are small, we may do one of two things. Either we say “Too much clutter already” and throw them out. Or we immediately use them because, hey, free stuff, right? Instead, it makes sense to have a box where you put free gifts you might not need now. How many times have you been looking for a pen and not had one? Or run out of laundry detergent between shops?
Instead of having to go out and buy more – incurring more cost because who sells just a single biro anymore? – you have them to hand. Which you wouldn’t if you just immediately used them when you already had enough in the house.
- Use What Nature Gave You
Situational expenses are one of the biggest reasons that people run short of money. We have to pay out for this thing or that thing because life happens and you can’t prepare for every quirk of life. You literally can’t, there are too many random factors that affect us all.
But just as we have to spend money when we didn’t plan to, we can also benefit from unexpected or situational “gifts.” It can be something as simple as cutting down on water bills by installing a rainwater harvester – so you reuse rainwater for practical purposes. It can be planting a small vegetable garden because a packet of seeds is cheaper than one bag of the corn you grow from them.