Another year, another Christmas come and gone. Although the gift buying season is over, you may find yourself with two problems: how to avoid those tempting after-Christmas sales, and how to live on less money for a little while, if, like thousands of us, you spent a bit more than you intended to over the holidays. Here are ten ways to get your spending back on track:
A Little Here, A Little There… can quickly put you in the hole. Budget out your discretionary spending for the week. Go to the ATM once
and withdraw only what you can afford. Your lunches and all other incidentals will come out of those funds. Period.
Coffee and a Thermos. A couple of trips to Starbuck’s can easily run up $10. For that same ten dollars, and if you don’t feel you can live without quality coffee, buy a bag of beans and brew it at home. You can drink good coffee all week for the same price as two at the store in one day.
Brown Bag It. You don’t have to eat a sandwich every day. But you could make a pot of something: soups, stews, a casserole, etc. Divide them into individual portions and freeze. Grab a piece of fruit, some string cheese, or bag up some chips. (Buy a big bag and put them in baggies. Much less expensive than the individual packets).
Clip Coupons. Most weeks, manufacturers and stores put out $150-$300 in coupons. Many stores offer double, some even triple, savings on the face value of the coupon. You can easily save $20-$50 on items you would likely buy anyway, and coupons are also a good way to know what new items have come on the market. And you can try them at a reduced price!
Make a Grocery List. Don’t go to the grocery store without a list, and don’t go when you are hungry. Avoid the endcaps on the aisles, where, frequently, tempting and expensive snacks are displayed. Likewise, don’t grab things at the checkout line, including magazines. And don’t forget your coupons!
Rent a Movie or Check on a Free “On Demand” Flick. Save movie theater money by renting a DVD instead. If it’s your date night, make it as romantic as possible. A home cooked meal, maybe a pretend picnic in the living room with candlelight, can be really lovely. If you have one of the premium movie channels, be sure to check out the Free Movie listings. Many of the films they show on HBO and others all month are available any time you’d like on “On Demand.”
Libraries. Yes! They still exist! Libraries have also evolved with the times, and many have not only great books to lend, but also DVDs and music.
Skip Friday Happy Hour. A lot of people go out with their co-workers after a long week. Those Happy Hour drink specials may seem like a bargain, but it’s still cheaper to pick up a bottle of wine at home. If you really feel like some post-week camaraderie, invite some people over for a BYOB and ask everyone to bring a snack to share.
Consider Carpooling. Gas rates right now are the highest they have been in over a year, and projections are that they are going to continue to rise. If there is a coworker who lives near you, you could split the gas and toll charges and save a few dollars.
Game Night. Board games are fun but in our high-tech world, they have often been moved to the back of the closet. Revive some of those old favorites and have a game night with family or friends. Make a pizza instead of ordering out! Or, if board games really aren’t your thing, invite some friends over or play video games with everyone.