There is lots of personal finance advice that says if you want to get out of debt and start saving more money, you need to cut out expenses like premium coffee drinks and going out for lunch.
While that advice can help you accomplish your financial goals, you don’t have to make yourself miserable to save money. As Alan Henry explained in a Lifehacker article, “one of the two biggest mistakes people make when they try to live a frugal lifestyle is that they shock themselves into living on the cheap when they’re used to spending their money as they choose.”
Trying to change everything about your attitude towards money overnight is probably going to make you miserable and end up failing as a strategy. Instead of going down that road, let’s look at some techniques that are more manageable and as a result are more likely to provide the long-term financial improvements you want:
1. Do Eliminate Mindless Spending
If spending $7 on lunch every day is a lifesaver because it allows you to get out of the office and clear your mind for 45 minutes, don’t cut out that expense just to save $35 a week.
As long as it’s not ridiculously extravagant, when something plays a major role in your daily routine, it’s usually not worth eliminating. Instead, your focus will be better spent looking for areas where you’re overspending without gaining anything.
For example, if you stop and buy a $2 cup of oatmeal every morning simply out of habit, you can make oatmeal at home in the same amount of time it takes you to buy it from a coffee shop or fast food restaurant.
And because oatmeal is quite cheap when you buy a large amount of it at once, you’ll pay far less than $10 a week for this healthy breakfast.
Once you start paying attention, you’ll realize that you have multiple spending habits like the oatmeal example. Although it can be a little disheartening to realize how much you’ve been overspending simply out of habit, the good news is you can easily eliminate these expenses without feeling like you’re sacrificing anything.
2. Avoid Impulse Buys
In addition to mindless spending that you simply do out of habit, impulse buys are the other most draining type of purchases. Now, does eliminating this type of purchase mean that you have to wait at least a week after seeing any item you want to purchase? Not at all.
It simply means that if you’re thinking about buying something, pause for a second and make sure it’s something you truly want or need. If you realize you were only thinking about buying it because it seemed cool, you can easily pass on that purchase and save yourself some cash.
How does this affect a situation like wanting to go clothing shopping? If you’re doing shopping that doesn’t really have a predetermined objective, the next best option is to set a firm budget for yourself.
By setting a budget in advance, you won’t have to feel guilty about what you buy while you’re going through racks of clothes. Additionally, because having a budget will make you more mindful, chances are you’ll end up being more satisfied with the purchases you do ultimately make.
3. Always Take a Little Extra Time to Find the Best Deal
This ties into the previous strategy for saving money. Just because you see something you want to buy doesn’t mean you absolutely have to purchase that exact model or buy it from the first store where you see it.
Instead, you can get online and find the best deal on that purchase. Since you probably have a smartphone in your pocket, you can even do that type of comparison shopping when you’re on the go.
Keep in mind that this strategy applies to everything from shirts to restaurants to services for around your house. For example, if you’re moving or simply feel like you’re paying too much for cable, chances are that spending five minutes comparing multiple cable TV deals online will allow you to reduce this expense and save money on a monthly basis.
Deciding that you’re going to whip your financial house into shape can seem like a daunting task. Just like losing weight, many people avoid getting started because they’re afraid of failure.
But by using the above tips to make small changes, you’ll slowly build momentum that will eventually lead to you achieving substantial results.
About the author: Thomas Holmes is a proud stay at home dad. During the times when he can actually get his two-year old down for a nap, he enjoys blogging about personal finance and the latest trends in web design.