Let’s face it: Cutting back is no fun. But it may be necessary if you find yourself continually struggling to meet your basic financial demands, falling into deeper debt or getting to the end of yet another month with no money set aside for savings.
Is there a way to make thosespending cuts without significantly altering your lifestyle? Or does saving money have to be synonymous with sacrifice?
Rather than giving things up, what if you were to implement new approaches that allowed you to maintain the lifestyle you love while simultaneously finding ways to save and live within your means? These ten strategies can help you find that delicate balance between fiscal responsibility and the enjoyment of your favorite lifestyle luxuries.
Challenge recurring expenses: Take the time to review your recurring bills and monthly statements. See where you might benefit from a renegotiation or an assessment of alternate options. For instance, you may be dead set on keeping your cable, but you can still call your cable company (and its competitors) to negotiate a better rate. Even mundane expenses like insurance should be reassessed annually to ensure you’re getting the most appropriate coverage for your current circumstances at the best possible value.
Challenge everything: Speaking of negotiation, never take a price at face value. You can save hundreds of dollars on things like household repairs and medical bills by doing the requisite research ahead of time and challenging the statements and quotes given.
Use the right tools: Even prices on day-to-day items that are supposedly “set” can be compared easily with price checking apps like RedLaser and discounted with promo codes from sites like RetailMeNot. Browser extensions like Coupons at Checkout from CouponFollow automatically find applicable discounts when you shop online, making savings even simpler. Set yourself up for securing the best available deals by having the appropriate information and tools available at your disposal.
Flee fees. If there’s one thing you actually want to cut out, it’s unnecessary fees. Stop paying for the “privilege” of things you can get for free. Whether it’s withdrawing money from an ATM or investing in retirement funds, look for low or no-cost alternatives. Utilizing your fee-free options can mean banking an extra couple hundred bucks each year or using that additional breathing room to finance other, more exciting ventures.
Shop your closet. Ditch the hyperconsumerist mentality of needing a new outfit for every occasion. Clothes can be repurposed for years, especially those that are of higher quality and aren’t worn often. That’s right, your high school prom dress can double as a gown for all those wedding invites on your fridge (provided your 16-year-old self didn’t have an affinity for hot pink crinoline).
Use what you have: It’s not just clothing that’s susceptible to hyperconsumption, it’s everything. Rather than buying a new car or a new tablet or new shoes when you still have perfectly functional options, make use of what’s already available. If you want to something “new,” adopt a fresh approach to whatever you’re currently using. A little Pinterest or HGTV can inspire rockstar renewal or repurposing of just about anything.
Take on some DIY projects: You don’t have to take on intimidating projects way beyond your skill level to benefit from some DIY savings. Even small adjustments like cleaning your own home, making your own laundry detergent or painting your own nails can leave more room in your budget without much sacrifice.
Rent out your space: Believe it or not, vacations don’t have to get cut out, even when discretionary allowances are tight. Renting out your home while you’re out of town can offset the majority of your getaway costs, allowing you to enjoy indulgence without stressing over excessive additional expense. This strategy is admittedly easier in cities with a high demand for temporary housing, though you can always test the waters by listing your space on Airbnb and seeing how much interest and extra income potential you can garner.
Spread out splurges: While vacation costs can largely be offset by rental income, more frequent splurges are often harder to accommodate. Rather than cutting them out entirely, see if you can reduce their frequency. Cut and color every eight weeks instead of every six. Massages quarterly rather than monthly. Have coffee dates bi-weekly rather than every weekend. Not only will this save significant cash without much sacrifice, according to researchers Michael Dunn and Elizabeth Norton, it will also increase your splurge enjoyment.
Norton and Dunn’s research shows that once you have a lot of something (like clothes) or do something frequently (like pick up a latte), the joy you get from each new purchase of those items lessens over time. To combat this “effect of diminishing returns,” Norton and Dunn suggest underindulging to lower your baseline and increase your enjoyment when you do indulge.
Save your raises: If all of these adjustments aren’t enough to make a dent in your debt or prioritize your savings and you’re still struggling with the idea of sacrificing your lifestyle, perhaps you can better commit to saving tomorrow. Rather than folding future raises into your regular monthly budget, funnel those income bumps directly into savings or toward debt pay off or whatever financial goals are of highest priority. This automatic rerouting of additional income keeps you from inflating your lifestyle beyond your means without sacrificingyour current standard of living.
Stefanie O’Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to “live the dream” on a starving artists’ budget at thebrokeandbeautifullife.com and her book, “The Broke and Beautiful Life,” is now available.