These days, finding ways to make our money last longer is critical. Prices seem to keep going up at a pace that our paychecks can’t match. Saving money can be difficult, but it can be done, and it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing as much as you might think. Below, you’ll find a few ways to stretch your budget without cramping your lifestyle.
Establish a budget and stick to it
The first step in managing your money is to allocate and track it. Start with the non-negotiables like rent or mortgage payment, insurance premiums, utilities, and any other fixed payments you absolutely have to make every month. Whatever is left is all you have to spend on food, clothing, recreation, etc. Period. Learning to live within your means is the first key to living well on a budget.
Eat for less
You may be wondering why food isn’t on the list of non-negotiables. After all, we can’t live without it, right? That’s true, but food represents one of the easiest areas to save money. Eating at home more often than in restaurants is one of the best ways to reduce your food bill. For the cost of one casual-dining meal, you can eat for a couple of days or more if you opt to stay in, especially if you do more cooking from scratch than heating up prepared meals in the microwave. Looking for sales and using coupons (either from the Sunday paper or via one of the many free apps now available) can save more than enough money to make it worth the time it takes to do the homework.
Shopping at farmer’s markets is another great way to save money on fresh produce, especially if you wait until near the end of the day to go shopping. Quite often, vendors are willing to negotiate lower prices rather than have to pack everything up and take it home.
Going online and researching meal plans for people on a budget can be another great resource. You can find recipe plans that allow you to make the most of your purchases by reducing waste and by giving you ideas for using cheaper proteins like eggs and beans in place of more costly cuts of meat.
Look for free activities
Instead of paying a monthly gym membership, look for walking, hiking, or biking trails in your area. You might also be able to find yoga or pilates groups that like to meet in a local park, giving you a chance to get some exercise and meet new people without spending anything.
When it comes to recreational activities, a quick web search could well return a number of free community events in your area. You can find anything from simple meet and greets to wine tastings, book clubs, and pretty much any other hobby-based group you can imagine.
Reconsider your wardrobe
For many, clothing represents a huge expense. Living on a budget might mean that you can’t always run out and buy the latest seasonal items, but it doesn’t mean you have to dress like a pauper, either. Thrift stores, consignment shops, and clothing swaps can all be great ways to get great outfits or accessories for a fraction of what you’d pay in a retail shop. You might also consider going with a more basic wardrobe that’s highlighted and extended by accessories. The right accessories and maybe fresh makeup and quick hairstyle change can take a basic dress from daytime to evening in a flash.
Following these tips can be a great start to living within your means and staying within your budget without feeling like you’re being robbed of living the good life.