Photo: San Sharma on www.flickr.com
I’m going to share a tip with you that isn’t like all the other “how to save money” boring personal finance boilerplate advice.You’ll only consistently save money when saving money directly IMPROVES your experience.
Here are three of the biggest areas where you can start saving, immediately.
Example 1: Today I was at the grocery store, and mid-way through shopping, I became thirsty. I stumbled across a “manager’s special” section of the store — items marked down due to slight defect or dents, or due to promotional expiration. I was able to buy a bottle of spring water from that section for only 22 cents, versus the $2 or so I would have otherwise spent. The same water. The same thin plastic bottle. The same lame image of a snow-covered mountaintop or deep-in-the-forest serene stream.
Purchasing the 22 cent bottle of water improved my experience; it made me feel good about myself. I’m a savvy shopper, I thought to myself. (And proud enough of my purchase to mention it here, in an article that will likely be read by thousands of people over time.)
Now, I could have spent 0 cents by drinking tap water from the sink in the store’s bathroom. But that would have felt like sacrifice. It would have felt dirty, weird, unnatural. “Pathological” penny-pinching does not contribute enjoyment or add value to your life, and therefore, it’s not a habit you’ll stick with. Be reasonable if you plan to save money consistently.
Example 2: Recently I stopped buying coffee from the coffee shop, and instead brew my own. A great drip coffee maker starts at only $30 or so. That’s a fixed cost which, within days or a week, has paid for itself. And you’ll never taste fresher coffee than your own, especially if you buy whole bean coffee, grind it yourself (grinders cost about $10 to $15), and brew it in fairly small batches.
This is another habit I will stick with for YEARS to come, because it brings me greater pleasure — yes, this habit helps me save money, but it also adds to my level of enjoyment. It enhances my daily life.
I don’t miss paying $1.86 to $2.50 per cup of coffee, at least twice per day. That comes out to as much as $5 per day, or a truly ridiculous $1,825 per year.
Example 3: Spending consolidation. If you don’t yet have one great rewards credit card you feel comfortable using for 99% of your daily purchases, go get one — I recommend you use this page, which my company updates daily, to find a good deal. By consolidating your spending activity onto one card, you have great control over your finances: you can see, in real-time, how much you are spending… and on what. And if the card earns you air miles or cash back, as a solid credit card should, you are now saving money on future flights or on future purchases. This is maximizing the resources at your disposal, which feels good. And since it feels good and improves your experience, you will stick with this habit.
REMEMBER: Never spend more than you have available in the bank. Use your credit card as you would a debit card, in this respect. Getting yourself into debt is the polar opposite of “saving money.” If you historically have lacked the self-discipline to pay off your card statement’s balance in full each month, use your debit card or cash instead.
Example 4: Tackle any financial or service/membership account that is costing you an unnecessary monthly or annual fee. This is one of the most important, yet overlooked, ways to save money. Either get the fee reduced, get it removed, or close the account (if feasible). I recently wrote about my own experience doing this: “Just the other day, I called into one of the ‘big three’ banks where I have a checking account. I politely expressed my displeasure about being subjected to a monthly maintenance fee, which adds up to at least $144 per year. The bank’s customer service rep switched my account to an ‘online-only’ version — I will now face no monthly fees, provided I only use the bank’s ATMs and online banking features, rather than using a teller (which I rarely use, anyway). Awesome. Better still, she even spontaneously decided to credit my account with the monthly maintenance fee that was previously taken out of my account, and then she wished me a happy holiday.”
My experience is better because now I have a checking account I actually ENJOY, rather than fear and resent. And I appreciate the nationwide access to fee-free ATMs within their network. I feel once again like a somewhat valued CUSTOMER, rather than like a parasite’s host organism.
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