There’s no way to even begin to estimate the number of changes that can be made that would save money. Just check out the advice of an untold number of ‘experts’ – online and off – who have compiled long, detailed lists of money saving tips to see what I mean. But no matter whose advice you follow or how much time and effort you put into your goal of saving money, it all comes down to one simple action, with all tips being a variation on this theme – cut back on spending and inefficiency.
By keeping this ideal in the forefront of the decisions we make, we’ve been able to save. And by using this simple idea consistently to stretch our family budget, I am confident that we’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years. There are three distinct areas that I have applied my cut-back strategy.
A Simplified Lifestyle
Living on less, by cutting some of the non-essentials of American life, has made the biggest impact on our ability to save. Unlike much of the society around us, we anticipate the day when we can afford the luxuries we dream of without the expectation of immediate gratification. We have come to appreciate the sense of accomplishment we experience when we are finally able to buy something we long hoped for.
Living simply encompassed all areas of our lives. Many of our hobbies supplemented the needs of the family – gardening, home improvement and repairs, cooking, crafts, etc. and essentially cut out the need to purchase store bought products or hire a professional for services we did ourselves. For entertainment and service opportunities, we volunteered in our kids’ schools and scout troops; vacations were more spontaneous, less structured, but no less fun.
Energy Saving Efforts
With the average annual cost of driving a car of approximately $8,766 and the estimated median U.S. household income of $46,326, families with one car are seeing almost 19% of their budget being spent to drive. For as long as we were able, we were a one-car family. When that was no longer practical, we bought a used car that is limited to getting around town to keep the costs down.
Other measures we use in our home to cut our energy bills include using the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer only when we have full loads and lowering the heat in winter and raising it in the summer when no one was in the house. While there’s no way to know just how much we save in this area, our efforts to cut not only save money but are beneficial to the environment.
The distinction between a want and a need was established when our family was young by the simple life we chose to live. If the purchase would positively affect our health on some level – food, water, insurance, basic clothing, etc. – than it was considered a ‘need’. If, however, the purchase would not affect our health in any way, it was a ‘want’ – coffee latte, movie tickets, new shoes, etc. We check out sales fliers and decide where to shop based on the best deals. We redeem coupons and submit rebate forms whenever available.
This doesn’t mean we never splurge on things we want but don’t need. We first make sure what we want fits into our budget and then we got busy demonstrating our savvy shoppers skills by comparing prices.
The act of cutting back will require commitment and may even hurt for a while. But in the long wrong, you’ll have made a positive impact on your budget, helped the environment by using fewer resources and learned that being happy with less takes away the strain and stress of striving to have it all.
This was a guest post from Noreen Ruth writes for ASAP credit card blog and several popular finance websites. She is interested in educating consumers about using credit responsibly and about legislative action that will affect their ability to borrow the money they need. She has contributed hundreds of articles to various online sites that provide content to educate consumers on the best credit cards, debt relief services, loans and other finance related topics.