- Eat 3 (only 3!) lunches out per month. If each lunch is around $10, that’s $30 a month which is reasonable. It’s really easy for me to go home and make a sandwich or have a yogurt. It’s really silly to be spending $60-$80 a month (6-8 lunches out) when I’m already buying groceries. Another idea I had was to pack a lunch and take it somewhere on my lunch break like Starbucks or a nearby park. This way I can spend some time outside without sitting on a patio at some expensive restaurant.
- I read about a good was to curb the $4 cup of coffee habit – get a gift card to your favorite coffee place and load it each month with $10-$20 depending on how much you want to budget. You get to use that card for the month and when it runs out, it’s office coffee for you. My office coffee is pretty bad so instead, I buy Starbucks Via in both hot and cold forms. For about $12 I can make 10 cups of Iced coffee and 6 cups of hot coffee. Bonus: Starbucks gives great rewards like free syrup and soy milk when you use your card.
- Stick to some sort of clothing budget. This morning, I was in a frenzy trying to find something to wear to work, mainly because nothing was fitting right. I think it’s time I made a trip to the tailor and re-purposed from ill-fitting outfits. I could probably get a few pairs of pants, some shirts and a blazer re-fit for about $50-$60. That’s the same cost as a new pair of work pants from Gap.
- Dinner Parties!! Talk about a cheap way to feed a crowd, plus I love cooking for my friends. It’s easy for me to prepare the main course and have friends bring dessert or sides. We’ve even had microwave dinner parties where everyone just brings whatever they have or picks up a few prepared things from Eatzie’s. It’s really a cheap way to eat “out” with friends. Bonus: BYOB! By far the cheapest way to consume alcohol!
- Stop the unnecessary Target runs. Why, oh why, do I always leave Target spending at least triple what I intended on spending? I go in there for shampoo and leave with a new DVD, a bathing suit and some mascara. The best way to avoid this would probably be to not allow myself to wander around the store. Set a timer, get in, get out. Spend less.
- Automatically transfer something like $200 to a savings account each month or another checking account and use that as your “play” money. When it runs out, DON’T transfer more in or charge it to a credit card (not that any of mine haven’t already been maxed out). This is really the most desperate way to limit unnecessary spending.
At the end of the day, some costs are unavoidable. Rent, utilities, cable (well i guess we could get rid of that…but come on!), 401k contributions, groceries (any ideas on ways to cut grocery bills?)…the list goes on. I’ve had to accept the fact that car insurance is going to cost me at least $100 a month no matter how much I try to reduce my policy. When the car runs out of gas, I can’t just avoid filling it up because, well, I have to go to work if I want to get paid.The lesson at the end of the day is save where you can and watch where those extra dollars are going. Every month when I check my account and realize I have $20, I panic and vow to “save more” next month. Well, let this be the month where I actually commit to this resolution. Wish me luck!