It’s easy to think that a big bonus, a lottery win, or a pot of gold will provide what you need for life, but in reality a person can make millions of dollars in their lifetime and still have little to show for it. While money may not be your most important goal, how you spend your money is important. One’s ability to properly spend on what has lasting value to them and save towards future goals will define his/her wealth much better than how much money they came across along the way.
When reviewing my spending and defining my goals, I often look for recurring expenses that are no longer important to me. By doing this, I allow myself to be at great liberty to spend my money on what is important to me or to save towards future goals. It’s like spring cleaning for a budget. Here are some ideas that have worked for me.
Memberships – Save $10-50 per month
Often times we sign up for memberships at stores, websites, gyms, or swim/tennis associations for good reasons. Maybe it’s to get a discount or get back in shape. Problem is a majority of memberships are not used as originally intended. If this is you then cancel now. If you think you may end up using it later, prove it to yourself first by doing something similar and free for a while (go run 3 days a week for 3 weeks to prove you have the time). Also, consider cheaper alternatives. I turned down my local pool/tennis membership that would cost $400 per year and instead use a public pool/tennis that is an extra five minute drive and costs $3 per visit. I doubt I’ll go 100 times during the year.
Books – $10-20 per month
I love to read and have realized that paying $20/book once or twice a month is too expensive. Luckily there are some easy and cheap alternatives. First is a library. My local library system is much more up to date than I thought. They have an online catalog where I can reserve books at any location in the county and have delivered to my closest location for free. Also, I can be put on a waitlist for high demand books and will be notified when a book is ready for me. If you like books to keep or can’t find one at the library, I recommend using Half.com or Amazon.com for a significant discount to store prices.
Cable – $20-50 per month
Have you ever analyzed your cable usage? I have analyzed mine. Outside of football season, I probably watch 1-2 hours of TV per week or 4-8 hours per month. At $60 a month for cable, DVR, and HD service that’s about $5-10 per show. Considering you can watch most shows on Hulu or download them from iTunes and Amazon for half that, I don’t consider this bundled subscription price a great deal. I cut the cord once and it freed up a ton of time and TV although right now I have it on due to a good offer. If your not ready to cut it completely call your provider and see if you can get a special, but if you want to take a big leap try cutting the cord altogether and enjoy finding more time to read or see friends/family.
Insurance/Warranties – Save $10-50 per month
It’s true that a 15 minute call can save you 15% at GEICO. I actually tried it and my old auto insurance broker couldn’t even match the rate with her list of companies. The most important thing about any form of insurance including warranties is to understand what you need and what you can afford. Don’t get a ton of coverage on a car that’s about to die and only insure something when you can’t afford to replace it if it’s lost (e.g. your house and not a TV). Also, raise the deductible as high as you can and avoid warranties when you can insure yourself. For example, if you buy a $600 laptop and are offered a $150 warranty plan, don’t do it. The warranty provider makes money because there is less than a 25% (150/600) chance your item will have a problem otherwise they would go broke. Instead of giving them the money, put $150 in a “warranty” savings account. If you end up doing this for 5-10 items then you end up insuring yourself and when one of them breaks you have the money to fix it or replace it plus some “profit” to keep.
- What ideas do you have for saving on routine expenses?
- Do you have a budget and if so, do you “clean it out” regularly?