Most Americans are spending way more than they should just to keep up with their friends and family. This causes their finances to be out of line with what truly is important to them. If this rings true for you, I want to suggest a few ways you can cut back on spending but still feel like a baller. I broke out the strategies by difficulty level so it’s easy for you to dive in where you feel comfortable. I apologize in advance, most of these involve food.
Share meals- I’ve been using this trick since college and it’s allowed me to eat out either twice as much for the same amount or save half the price going the same amount of time. I realized early on that when I would go out to eat I would either overeat or waste a lot of food because some serving sizes are ridiculous! On top of the savings, I expanded my eating horizons by trying things that my wife enjoyed, but that I would have never touched in my previous life.
Skip the extras- Sometimes you just purchase things that are not special or unique to the restaurant you are visiting because they are convenient. There is not much you can get at a restaurant that you cannot purchase and consume at home for a fraction of the cost.
Copycat Recipes- Even items you think are unique to a restaurant may be duplicated at home with a quick Google or Pinterest search. A few popular items for my family are Culver’s Strawberry Coolers, Olive Garden’s Shrimp Carbonara, smoothies, and yogurt parfaits. The list is really endless depending on your taste. It’s especially rewarding to be able to cook some really solid meals yourself and cooking can even be a team sport, so invite the wife or children to pitch in and make an event out of it.
Buy in Bulk- If having a fully stocked fridge doesn’t make you feel like a baller I don’t know what does. Buying in bulk on items that you’ll easily use is a good way to save money on regularly consumed items. My family’s Sam’s Club membership easily saves us hundreds of dollars every year.
Buy Sunglasses and Go Outside- Who doesn’t look good in sunglasses? Buy a reasonably priced pair and go outside. I literally just got back from kayaking this morning. There are so many outdoor activities you can do that will not only save you money but also help you stay healthy, which is another area of American life that gets pushed to the back of the priority list.
Take Advantage of Launches- The key to this tip is to not get sucked in. New launches are happening all the time and with a little bit of discipline, you’ll get huge discounts at new restaurants or services just for being one of the first, which is kind of prestigious.
Sometimes It’s Better to Be Late- This works particularly well with technology. Although it’s nice to have the latest and greatest, sometimes there is a benefit to wait. You either can purchase the identical product a year later at a drastic discount to make room for newer models or you can spend the same amount the next year to purchase a more refined product, which means you will less likely to replace it in the future.
Free Trials- Again, do not get sucked in. Enjoy the opportunity, but do not feel like your life somehow could not go on without the new service or products if they are out of your normal price range. Free trials or discounts to try out a new product is a really fun way to explore what new things are out there. HelloFresh was something we had looked at in the past and the cost was just not something we could do on a consistent basis, but we saw the opportunity to try it out when we had our son and our schedules were chaotic as we adjusted to parent life. Since it was our first time using this service we received 50% off our first order. We learned some new cooking skills and have been able to replicate the recipes ourselves when we want to fancy up our weekly meals.
Meal Prep- I am not sure what is harder, taking the time to plan out meals that the whole family will enjoy or actually commit to cooking them. Prior to dating my wife, I only ate 1-course meals. That is pretty boring when I think about it now, but with meal prepping, we always have sides that make dinner an actual meal. The key is to purchase items that you can integrate into multiple dishes. A few things that we buy religiously that can transform our meals are potatoes, onions, spinach, and mushrooms. These items give us a lot of diversity throughout the week to mix and match with our main entrees.
Buy Quality for Long Use- Quality over quantity. Quality products and services sometimes come at a higher price point than lower quality items, but the ability to add greater long-term value makes the decision of buying quality over quantity an investment. Long-term value occurs a few different ways. Peace of mind knowing that the item will perform when needed, less likely to need to upgrade or replace, or saves you time. Be aware that potential value is not the same thing as realized value. Those new running shoes are not going to break themselves in and they are not going to provide value unless you use them for their purpose.
Organics- This may not have always been able to make the list, but over the last four years, we’ve been able to substitute a lot of organic items at our normal grocery store, King Soopers, for practically the same amount as non-organics. If you haven’t compared the costs in recent years you may be shocked how many items are similarly priced. Be aware though, there are still plenty of items with a wide margin between cost so you may not be able to do a 100% conversion to organics without blowing up your budget. Also, some items may be a little smaller than non-organics in order to keep them in the same price range. Cheese, for example, is maybe 2 oz.s less than non-organic cheese, but for my family, in particular, this is a very minimal trade-off since we have always been notorious for wasting the last bit of cheese as it reached expiration.
Use Credit Cards Wisely- If you know yourself and feel comfortable staying on a budget from month to month, then using a rewards credit card is a great way to earn freebies like cash back or travel points. There are hundreds of different credit card options, so you will want to compare your expected usage to the rewards program that will make the most sense for you. In most cases, if your rewards credit card has an annual fee, it better be providing an extra kick on earning rewards than if you compared it to a card with no fee. Be sure to pay off your credit card every month and the rewards are practically free just for doing your thing.
There are so many different ways to make living on a budget fun and still be able to have a great life. The great thing is, once you adopt a few of these techniques, they become a part of your normal routine and make it easier to both enjoy life more fully and perhaps put your savings to work in a more efficient manner.
If you are still having difficulties, then it may be best to enlist an accountability partner whether it be a friend or a financial planner that focuses on financial coaching. After all, having a disciplined budget has the tremendous impact on building wealth than many other areas of your financial life.