Lifestyle Changes that Pay
Bill Gates is worth $72 billion, and Warren Buffet, $58.5 billion. Unless your name is next on the list, or even fifteen places below, you probably are interested in ways to keep more of your paycheck in your pocket. There really is no need to overhaul your life; simple lifestyle changes will net you a hefty savings.
This area gets to the heart of what we value as Americans. Family meals and round-the-table chat are the Norman Rockwell values we Americans cherish. TV ads play on that to sell us convenience foods and cappuccino machines. That picture of family meals is no longer the norm, however, and with our hurried schedules we often eat on the run. That means pre-packaged expensive foods. Eating a few more family meals and shopping wisely for them can make all the difference in what we spend on food.
1. Pay attention to when and how you shop. Eat before you go to the store because hungry people spend extra on food they don’t need. Also, shop alone, if possible. Stay away from store-front impulse items. Stores put staples at the rear of the building so that you have to pass through the more expensive items to get to them. Watch out for positioning of foods on shelves. More expensive brands are usually at eye level. The store brands and generics (which, in most cases are just as good) are down low or up high.
2. Use coupons. This is true only if the item is something you use all the time. If it isn’t, make sure you save more with the coupon than you would pay for the item you usually purchase. Cutting and organizing coupons takes time. If it is something you like to do, and have the time to do it, you can cut your bill in half with the savings. Make sure to check coupons for expiration dates and requirements such as minimum purchases.
3. Plan meals and make grocery lists with store specials in mind. That means plan ahead and if beef roast is on special, buy a couple. Use beef in several meals that week and freeze any leftovers. Even small amounts can be tossed into soups.
This is a bit harder than changing the way you shop, but the benefits go beyond the financial savings. Exercise and good diet, incorporated into your lifestyle, can make you feel and look better. It also will lower your life and health insurance premiums. A Wall Street Journal article said that a 45-year-old man weighing 300 pounds could cut his life insurance premiums in half by losing 60 pounds. Stopping smoking is another way to get healthy. It also means a healthier pocketbook. A one-pack-a-day habit at $4.49 a pack, can add up to $1635 a year. That’s enough to take a family vacation. The same Wall Street Journal article estimated that a 45-year –old woman who stops smoking could lower her health insurance premium by 60 percent.
Taking Time Outs
There is a big difference in needs and wants. When you are tempted to purchase a big-ticket item, take some time to consider it. Is the item something you need or just a luxury you would like to have? The time-out also allows you to research the item. If it really is an investment you want to make you can use the extra time to look for better values.
Re-thinking Your Mobile Phone
There is no doubt that the mobile phone has gone from a luxury to a necessity for most of us. It is how we stay connected to our families and our work. Still, mobile phones that come with costly contracts and expensive features you may never learn to work are not a bargain. Track phones offer some of the same services without a contract and with a pay-as-you-go option that lets you pay for only the service you use. You might even consider a prepaid phone. In addition, most of us do not need land-lines and mobile phones, since we always seem to have our cell phones with us. If you do decide to keep both, there is wisdom in combining (or bundling) services like mobile phone, landline, Internet and cable TV.
Other Ways of Saving
Line-drying laundry can cut utility bills by $30 to $40 a month. If you enjoy the softness a clothes dryer gives, then use it only for jeans and towels. Home maintenance can save money if you are a capable handyman. Otherwise it might cost you more in repairing the fixes. Buying in quantity gives you a lower per-item cost, but if you don’t have room to store the extra purchases, or if food items will go to waste, it can end up costing more in the long run. In short, be smart about saving. Sometimes things that sound like good ideas are not.
Small lifestyle changes can make big differences in our budgets. The bottom line is that everyone has an idea of how to save, but not every idea is for everyone. It’s been said if you spend less on things that don’t matter to you (like paper towels and store brand veggies) and splurge on a luxury item that really makes you feel good, you will never consider yourself poor.
James Jordan from Active Finance offers a range of small lifestyle changes that if incorporated into your daily routine can help you save money.