Money management can sometimes feel like a tiresome exercise of self-denial. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact some of the more successful penny pinchers out there have gone so far as to claim it can be a fun and even enriching experience for themselves or their families! The key to this, they say, is to set goals or personal challenges, get creative and even turn it into a game.
Whether you are one of the persistent few with a well-established budget or are still trying to get yours started (again!) here are some simple but less utilized money management tips to make your money stretch a little further.
1. Beware the ATM!
Most financial institutions will not charge customers for ATM usage provided they have an account with the bank that operates that ATM. However, if you do not have an account there, or are not drawing from an account held with that facility, the institute operating that ATM will charge you for any withdrawals made via their machine. The fees incurred from these machines can really hurt your personal money management goals.
Worse still, you could incur fees from your own bank too, as some financial institutes will charge for the privilege of withdrawing from any machine not operated by their group. Though these fees are generally small, they add up if you are doing it regularly. So the next time you get the urge to use an ATM that is not operated by your bank, ask yourself if it’s really worth the double dip fees!
Pro Tip: Give yourself a specific amount of cash, for a specific amount of time, and see if you can stay on budget. Keep track of how much you spend, on what, in that period of time. Adjust accordingly but always aim to spend less and not more on non-essentials.
2. Eating Out: A Privilege, not a Right!
Eating out can be a fun way to spend time with friends and family, or satisfy a craving. But if you are eating out regularly, it can put a strain on your monthly budget. Especially if you are doing this every day for lunch too!
While you might not want to give up eating out altogether, by simply cutting down to one or two times a month, or legitimately special occasions, you can save more and make the times you do eat out really count.
Pro Tip: Use those nights you would usually eat out as an opportunity to make something adventurous at home. Try a new recipe or think of creative ways to combine the ingredients in your pantry! Try taking a homemade lunch into work with you at least three days a week. Brown bagging is a great opportunity to develop healthy habits as well as a healthier budget!
3. Learn a New Skill
No, it doesn’t have to be cooking! Learn to coupon and price match at the store and cut your grocery bill. Learn to sew and save money on new clothing purchases or clothing repairs/alterations. Learn to grow a garden that can supply your kitchen with healthy foods. The list is vast, the internet has resources!
Pro Tip: If you’re really adventurous, the internet is crammed full of demonstrations for things like making your own laundry detergent, soap and household cleaners! You can also learn how to revamp old furniture or repurpose items you’re not using – some of these skills could end up making you some extra cash!
4. Make it a Game
Have you ever tried to find yourself a new outfit using only the clearance racks? If so, try adding a price limit too – think “I will only buy this item if it is priced at $5 or below!” Or better yet, consider stores that sell “gently used” clothing.
Alternatively, challenge yourself to go without spending money for a set period of time. Play the mix and match game with the food in your fridge and pantry. If you run out of something less essential to the preservation of your sanity (and we’re not advocating that you deny yourself a caffeine fix or milk for your children’s cereal), see how long you can go without replacing it!
Pro Tip: Feel as though you really need to update your closet? Search for a website that offers mix and match clothing tips. Enter phrases like “the only 20 items you will ever need in your closet!” Instead of paying full price for these items, find them in a second hand store and follow the tips to create several outfits from them!
5. Stop Hoarding and Make Money
You’ve probably heard the saying “if you haven’t used it for a year, you don’t need it!” You might even be in the habit of decluttering your home on a regular basis. But what do you do with it all? Have you considered trying to make money off of the things you no longer need or use?
Pro Tip: Sites like eBay, Craig’s List and KSL are great tools for turning clutter into extra cash. Go through your closets, sheds and garages for well-preserved items you no longer need or use. Consider that piece of jewelry you never wear or furniture you’ve been storing with no intention of using again. Someone with restoration skills might jump at the chance to snap it up.
6. Get creative with gifting
If you have children, the odds are they get invited to birthday parties. Cue the pressure of finding just the right gift. We’ve all been there; trying to balance our money management goals on that fine line between what the little friend will love and what their parents will be impressed with! Depending on the neighborhood you live in or the size of your extended family, this little ritual can get out of hand. The solution is simple: Set a price limit on gifts.
Sound daunting? Make it a game. Most stores will have seasonal toy/craft clearances or a clearance aisle. It’s a great opportunity to grab a few things and put them in storage for future needs. Visit the dollar store for gift bags, tissue paper, bows and filler candy.
Pro Tip: For more intimate celebrations, encourage your loved ones to get creative and make gifts with personal appeal. Homemade coupons for dates or chores can make for more enriching experiences. Even Christmas shopping on a budget can be fun if you’re trying to come up with the most creative stocking fillers for the least amount of money.
7. Fantastic Fun for Free!
Use the internet and find out what’s going on in your community or surrounding areas for free or nearly free. Often times these activities make for great cultural or educational experiences as well as having entertainment value. Do you really need to see that movie when it first comes out? Can you wait for it to go to the dollar flicks? Or better yet, have a Redbox or Netflix and homemade popcorn night!
Pro Tip: How many free activities can you attend in a month? Who can find the most interesting free or nearly free activity?
8. Keep an Inspirational Reminder in Your Wallet
Keep a picture or reminder of your inspiration in your wallet. Your inspiration could be something you are saving for, a picture of your family or even a great quote that makes you feel ready to conquer the world. Whatever you choose, just make sure it is something that keeps you on the right track for spending!
All of these strategies really can help you meet the budget goals you set for yourself. But, only if you start applying them. So, don’t put it off, decide on at least one of these tips and start implementing today!