After reading many articles about how to save, how to invest and grow your 401(k) it isn’t hard to feel deflated. Because not everyone has the spare change to put into savings, investments or other. More often, in the early days, it is about stretching your money. Making a dollar go further, making your paycheck last until the next one arrives.
While prices are going up each year, not all employers are making the same raises. Meaning that the same month in previous years would’ve seen you with more left – even though you have changed nothing.
Embracing the more frugal lifestyle is something everyone can do. It’s not just for those who are struggling. Living frugally allows you the opportunity to eventually put money away – even if it isn’t for another ten years.
This might seem like a boring bit of planning but actually if you sit and write down everything you have coming in, and the things you have to pay for each month, you might find there is more room than you first considered. If you don’t have a firm plan about where your money HAS to go, then you’ll find it fritters off to places it doesn’t need to be in.
A reasonable budget is one that includes things like entertainment and little frivolities. It’s not about being unrealistic and depriving yourself of everything, it is about having a limit to things that will impact you in other areas.
You should look to build a yearly view so that you can be more flexible when the kids are off school, or when the holidays are coming up.
You can maximize what you can keep before taxes by putting your money in clever places. A flexible spending account, for example, monthly retirement contributions and health insurance premiums reduce how much the IRS will take out. Take advantage of any programs that you haven’t already, and you can maximize what you get to keep.
Retirement contributions typically come out before taxes if you have a 401(k). And, you aren’t taxed on what your employer puts into the pot either. So get a company match if you can. This is where the company put in the same as you do – but not out of your salary.
Flexible spending accounts let you put money aside for things like childcare and healthcare before you are taxed. This saves you money, and you get reimbursed for the expenses once you have paid them. Make sure that you use them up, or you will lose the benefit.
If you aren’t into coupons and vouchers, you are missing a trick. If you need inspiration, then you should check out extreme couponing groups. They often buy in bulk, and what might be a few hundred dollar shops, will cost less than 50 – and sometimes it costs just cents. You can get coupons for gas, utilities, food, a Tracfone promo code, and cash off (or free) days out. A few hours on the internet and a printer, or with scissors and a pile of newspapers and magazines will get you everything you need. Joining Facebook groups will also give you the inside track on how to maximize your savings.
Split The Cost
If you don’t have a family, it doesn’t always pay to buy in bulk. However, the more people you have in your home, the higher the chances are that you can see a considerable benefit from buying in bulk. You can combine your bulk buying with your couponing to stretch out those dollars too.
If you are younger, but really looking to see your money going further, then ask a few friends if they would like to split the cost on bulk items and value packs. Typically toilet paper, long life kinds of milk, tins and other store cupboard staples are wise buys.
Another way to save on food, in general, is instead of going out, you take it in turns to cook for each other. You will be having 3 meals a month extra for the price of one. Plus it is an excellent way to spend time with your friends and learn new recipes.
Meal planning, combined with batch cooking, can see you massively cut the costs of fresh produce. You buy in bulk once a month and spend a day preparing most of the months worth of meals. Pop them in the freezer, and not only have you saved yourself an evening of prepping and cooking, but you have saved a lot of money too. There are some free meal planning lists online, and you can sit and work out how to incorporate that into your daily life.
Of course, you will need to be strict here and not order take-outs as a fast option instead of defrosting and cooking what you have already prepared.
If you have been with you utility suppliers for many years, the chances are you aren’t getting the best deal that you could. Start by calling your current suppliers and seeing if they have a better rate. You don’t have to tell them you are planning on moving, just do the research.
Once you have the information from your current supplier, head to an online comparison site. If you really want to take control of your energy spend, then you might like to consider having smart meters and thermostats installed. The more you understand how and when you use electricity and heating, the better decision you can make when it comes to switching suppliers.
Take one step at a time. If you are trying to batch cook, coupon cut, meal plan and arrange a new eating schedule with your friends – you will quickly lose heart. And, this is about making your money go further, not burning yourself out while doing so. Take it slowly, introduce you new habits once you have one mastered – and have fun.
Making your money go further isn’t about cutting everything out that you enjoy, it is about finding ways to enjoy it – without the big spend that is attached.