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One thing is true about building wealth. The discipline of spending less money is the surest path to saving more. But you may have to reform your way of thinking—we do not deserve to buy something now if we can’t afford it today. Here are a few suggested ways to help you spend less:
• Shop with cash. If you carry a debit or credit card, it is too easy to escalate your buying when out at the mall. Better to put a budgeted amount of money in your pocket and spend no more—make sure you include enough for a treat at the café.
• Clean your clothes at home. Try to buy clothing that can be washed at home, using caution not to shrink your fabrics.
• Don’t fire up a temptation. Don’t bother browsing the catalogs, the clothing racks, or the car lot if you don’t have an honest need.
• Look for freebies. Use your own bank’s ATM to save the $1.50 service charge. Try to avoid all the little service charges that hotel chains are starting to slip onto your invoice. Try to include extras with your vacation packages. Buy vacations in domestic dollars if you can. Plan to attend one of the numerous festivities that municipalities pay for and provide in the summer holidays. Consider that many entertainment venues offer discounts just prior to the show.
• Borrow DVDs and CDs at the library. Try your library for movies or music—you may be surprised at the free access they provide.
• Take portable picnic coolers to avoid eating out. This can save you hundreds of dollars per month. Picnics are great getaways in the summer and can be carried in coolers in your car.
• Learn the skill of cooking. It is easy to rack up over $50 with a tip when two eat out one meal per day. By learning to cook, you can add the artistry and relaxation to your own fine dining experience. When you do go out on the town, consider splitting larger meals with your partner. Avoid supersizing fast-food which may cost more and add calories.
• Limit prepaying your taxes. Adjust your income tax deductions at work, to make sure you aren’t pre-paying too much.
• Do a “needs analysis” by asking, “Do we need it?” This is where your partner can help you be honest and accountable by simply discussing every purchase, at say over $50—set your own dollar figure, at a point where you involve the other’s advice. Make lists and discuss your real needs.
• Don’t prepay phone charges. Some long distance residential plans and/or cell plans are priced so high that the average caller will not benefit by a higher pre-paid monthly plan. Long distance and cell phone minutes are better paid by a flat rate, per second, for restrained use as needed. However, some good plans allow you to use VOIP online where prepaid amounts stay on the books, and more minutes can be added as needed. Note: LINKSYS by Cisco Systems offers inexpensive hardware under one hundred dollars at computer stores, which allows two lines to regular phones.
• Liquidate if you have too much stuff. Space costs money so consider what is essential. Go over your furniture, books, general stuff, to determine what you don’t or won’t use in the next five years. If you don’t love it, sell it, or give it away.
• Invest your raise. Avoid spending up to any increase in your income. Rather plan to invest it.
• Assess the unit price and buy in bulk. Most everything is sold in quantity and can be compared with a competing brand—either by ounce kilo, or serving, etc.
• Buy depreciated cars. Avoid the biggest depreciation that occurs among assets. Buy vehicles used after a year or two, with the factory warranty still on it.
• Reduce your vehicle’s weight. Unload excess vehicle weight that can cost in gas consumption. Similarly having your tires carry the correct PSI will offer better gas mileage.
• Know that it all eventually goes on sale. It makes sense to wait it out for the seasonal sales. Stores begin to sell their seasonal stock, including clothing, often prior to the need. So if you are savvy, mark in your calendar the best times to buy. This is true also of travel bargains.
• Pay cash only for groceries. Have you ever spent double what you intended on items that can be eaten? If you pay cash you are forced to budget regardless of how hungry you are, sticking to the necessary items.
• Know where the quality brands are. Don’t purchase items that will wear out prematurely and will have to be replaced; instead buy quality, but shop around for the best prices.
• Buy more when it is really cheap. If you can buy tuna, salmon or spaghetti at 30% less than usual, why not stock up on it? But don’t make the mistake of buying multiple “on sale” items if you don’t need higher quantities.
• Make fun fast food. In many ways, you can make your own fast food, such as fruit or vegetable trays for drives, hikes, or stay-overs.
• Use public transit. By not driving all the time you may save some money. Many municipalities offer cheap bus transportation. Some prefer not to drive if they live in a large city such as Vancouver or Toronto. They can unload insurance, fuel, and repair costs on top of any lease or loan payment (along with the interest). There are car-sharing co-operatives in larger cities. Car rentals can be cheaper in the winter and on weekends.
• Cut your hair between main cuts. Sometimes a minor home trim will add another week before you’ll need to visit the barber or hairdresser.
• Utilize the secondary market. If you are a bookworm, Amazon.com or Abebooks.com may help you find the book for less than a dollar, or perhaps find a camera on eBay at 25% off the cost. Most of the world literature is available online for under $5 for the entire life-work of an author, sold on Amazon Kindle.
• Make the park your gym. Why not walk around the park’s pond and get outside as a bonus.
• Adjust your thermostat. By juggling temperatures by one to two degrees on your thermostat (wear sweaters or shed clothing) you can save a few hundred dollars per year.
• Know how and when to return merchandise. Many admit mistakes or displeasure with a product and promptly return it according to policy—in the free market that is more than fair! Ask about return policies when shopping. Often it is wise to reassess a purchase in a day or two.
• Pre-pay certain vacation costs. Prepaying for a resort food plan in domestic dollars to avoid paying later for dollar-exchange loss, can make budgeting sense because you’ve got to eat anyway. Likewise prepaying museum ticket passes can save money and side-step long line ups.
• Just stop—don’t shop! Tell yourself to stop shopping when you have no imminent need. Try walking, sitting in a café or reading instead.
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