Beyond nixing your coffee habit … we all know that by now.
I love spending money. Yes, I said it … And I will say it again: I love spending my hard-earned money. Are you confused yet? Did I just lose my credibility? Stay with me.
I love spending money on experiences that bring me joy. That is completely different from spending my precious income on unnecessary products, services and goods that will not bring me fulfillment beyond a short time frame.
I watched a documentary a few years back that compared the human brain’s activity while influenced by cocaine to the brain’s activity while consuming sugar. The activity was NEARLY IDENTICAL. That study makes me wonder how our brains react when we engage in an “instant gratification” kind of purchase.
Back to the point: We, as humans, are addicted to that “high.” We crave it. We continue to buy more products, more gadgets, more stuff and more crap. Our purchases give us the euphoric feeling our bodies and minds crave, but does the excitement last? Is it making us happy? Are we fulfilled? Or are we completely stressed out?
I believe it’s the latter. Study after study shows the majority of Americans are stressed out about their finances. We feel discouraged and defeated. We look at our bank accounts at the end of the month and wonder, “Where did it all go?!?”
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you are planning to travel long-term, eager to buy your first home, save for retirement or simply looking to experience more in your current lifestyle, you can save money and spend less with these easy lifestyle changes. You simply need to re-frame your thinking, attitude and habits regarding your spending. It will improve your current financial situation, decrease your stress and give you the opportunity to spend your hard-earned money on things that bring you joy and fulfillment.
“Keep your eye on the prize,” I always remind myself. Small sacrifices reap big rewards … later on. Your success is rooted in your commitment to deferred gratification, courage to challenge social norms and discipline to stay true to your goals.
1. Participate in a 30-day capsule wardrobe challenge.
How it works:
- Pick 30 items from your closet to wear during a 30-day-period (you can choose to participate longer if you’d like). You’re only permitted to wear the 30 items. Put all other clothes/accessories out of sight.
- A few items that should NOT be included in the 30 items: Undergarments, gym clothes (if only wearing to and from the gym), wedding band/engagement ring and one pair of simple earrings.
- A few items that SHOULD be included in the 30 items: Shoes, purses/bags, scarves, jewelry (excluding a simple pair of earrings and engagement ring/wedding band).
Tips for success:
- Similar to packing for an extended trip, choose neutral colors that you can mix and match.
- Keep it fun! Don’t stress yourself out.
- Encourage your family to join the fun. Men, women and even kids can participate.
- Saving money because there is no shopping allowed.
- Less stress due to less clutter AND less time picking outfits each day.
- Realizing how easy it is to engage in a minimalist lifestyle.
Pick 30 items to wear during the 30-day capsule closet challenge.
2. Evaluate all recurring subscriptions and determine which ones are “negotiable.”
How it works:
- Review all bank statements from the past year. Compile a list of all recurring charges and then mark each charge as “non-negotiable” or “negotiable.”
- Non-negotiable items may be an electric bill, rent/mortgage, car payment, etc. Even though it’s non-negotiable, you may still be able to decrease the bill — reach out to your provider/insurer or decrease your usage if it’s a pay-per-usage kind of bill!
- Focus on the negotiable items:
- Magazine/book subscriptions such as a monthly book box, the newspaper, etc.
- Music streaming services — Spotify, Pandora, Apple …
- Makeup/accessories services such as Birchbox and Play! by Sephora.
- Television services like cable, Netflix or Hulu.
- Food/meal/beverage services such as Blue Apron, HelloFresh, wine clubs or health-related shakes.
- Clothing services like StitchFix, Le Tote or Trunk Club.
- Apps on your phone that charge fees.
- Of your negotiable items, keep the ones that have a value to you that far exceed the cost. Always ask yourself, “Is this cost justifiable?” If not, bye, bye, bye. Yes, that’s a Justin Timberlake reference. No, I’m not sorry for it.
Tips for success:
- You must make sacrifices and you must be disciplined, but you should not make yourself miserable. For example, if you read the New York Times every morning and you find it professionally and personally fulfilling, do not cancel it. If renting clothes through a Le Tote clothing subscription dramatically cuts down on your shopping habit, maybe you shouldn’t cancel it. Perhaps keeping Netflix is a trade-off for canceling cable. Determine which services are worth it to you and which ones can be nixed.
- Re-evaluate these negotiable items every 3-to-6 months. The minute they no longer provide you with a ton of value, break up with them.
- Saving money — lots of it.
- Less clutter and waste.
3. Before purchasing a service or product or engaging in a paid activity, determine if you can get it for free/trade OR if there is a suitable alternative.
How it works:
- Before you purchase a product/service or spend money on an activity/event, find out if there is a similar option that can be borrowed and used for free. If not, determine if there is a reasonable alternative that would accomplish the same thing.
Tips for success (with examples):
- Are you an avid reader? Instead of purchasing a book, check it out from your local library. Many libraries also provide online magazines and podcast services.
- Are you paying for a baby sitter or a pet sitter a few times a week/month? If you have friends/family with children/pets, work out a deal where you trade off and watch each other’s kiddos/pets for free.
- Are there items you need only a handful of times per year? Most yard and house tools aren’t needed very often. Rather than purchasing them (and having them sit in your garage or basement 99 percent of the time), consider borrowing them from a family member or friend. Encourage others to borrow things from you, too!
- How much is socializing with friends costing you? Most of the time, you’re really craving human interaction, not the specific activity. Instead of dining out, volunteer together at a local nonprofit, take your dogs to a local dog park or check out the free events calendar in your city.
- If you’re in need of adult beverages, pick up cheap bottles of wine and host a game night at your house.
- Break up with your cable provider. Many programs are viewable online the following day. A good trade-off is keeping your Netflix and canceling cable.
- You already know how much a daily Starbucks habit could cost you, but even making coffee at home will cost you. If you work in an office and can wait until you get there, take advantage of the free coffee in the break room. Every little bit adds up.
- Saving money.
- Less clutter/stuff.
- Utilizing free community/government resources.
- Doing good in the community through volunteering.
Strolling across the FREE walking bridge in my hometown.
4. Think GREEN and stop being wasteful!
How it works:
- Stop being wasteful: Be cognizant of your product and utility usage. You likely do not need nearly as much as you’re currently using. Items to consider: paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, tissues and cleaning products. Even pay attention to how much shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste, makeup, hair spray, lotion and hand soap you are using.
- Unplug items/lights not in use, take shorter showers and run the dishwasher and washing machines only when they’re full. Decreasing your energy and water usage will also decrease your electric bill!
- No more plastic or disposable “convenience” items. It’s tuuuurrible for the environment. TERRIBLE! And guess what? It’s also costing you. Avoid purchasing bottled water, plastic straws, disposable cups/mugs, plastic sandwich bags, plastic wrap, disposable razors, plastic/paper plates, etc.
Tips for success:
- Evaluate your beauty, hygiene and household products. Are there products you could exchange for a cheaper (but still quality) option? For example, my face’s complexion improved significantly when I started removing my makeup with warm water and a washcloth (and I stop purchasing the makeup remover wipes I had been using for 12 years). I save $96 a year because of that, and it is also better for the environment! What if you replaced the disposable hand soap dispensers with bar soap? I’ve found that bar soap lasts much longer than a dispenser.
- When I started “thinking green,” plastic sandwich bags were the hardest to give up. I invested in cheap mason jars and a good set of glass storage containers. Problem solved!
- I am not pretending to be Mrs. Green Queen. Trust me, I am far from it and continue learning each day. I am sure many savvier, environmentally-sound people would laugh at my tips, but I found that small changes made a big impact over time — on my bank account and (hopefully) the environment!
- Go green. Improve the planet.
- Improve your bank account. See more green.
5. Focus on your health.
How it works:
- Get yourself in shape physically and mentally.
- Eat well.
- Drink lots of water.
- Drink less booze.
Tips for success:
- Water is FREE! Drink it.
- Cook healthy meals at home: Save money by NOT going out to dinner or ordering takeout. Be sure to plan your grocery list so that you will stick to it while shopping.
- Meal prep at the beginning of the week. Pre-pack your lunches in case you are in a hurry to the office the following morning.
- Create a fitness schedule and stick to it. Bonus points if your fitness routine is FREE. However, even if you pay a small gym/class fee, it is likely worth the cost. If you’re committed to working out (especially on the weekends), you are less likely to spend a lot of money on eating out, going out to a bar, staying out late, etc. When you work out, you’re inspired to eat healthy!
- Do you smoke? Please consider STOPPING! It will not only save money but more importantly, you could save your life! I am not qualified to share advice on quitting this habit, so check out this link to get started.
- Long-term health improvement.
- Enhanced mood.
- Better sleep.
- Saves money. Poor health can cause serious financial stress.
Invited friends over for dinner! It was healthy, delicious and cheap.
Cha-ching! Your bank account is happy. You are happy. Happiness is contagious. The people in your life are happy. Now, get out there and start living!
Please share your experiences on spending less and saving more in the comments below. I’d love to hear your ideas and feedback. And if anyone needs an accountability buddy on the 30-day capsule closet challenge (or a 30-day monthly challenge), I’m in!
Ready to travel more in the next year? Check out this three-part budgeting series to saving more money and spending way less:
- Part 1: Determine your “non-negotiables” when traveling. What is important to you?
- Part 2: Create a budget for your trip.
- Part 3: Cut expenses. How to save enough money to travel.
Like the idea of making small improvements to your life? Join a 30-day monthly challenge. A monthly challenge is a fun way to try something new while also easing your way into forming new habits. Together, we will feel healthier (both mentally and physically), expand our knowledge, help others in need, improve the environment and increase our wealth. Check it out!