This is a topic of discussion that has come up a lot within my life and my circle lately.
Presently, I have two expenses in life: a cell phone bill and groceries. This is not by fluke, this is by choice, strategic work and purpose. A long time ago I made the choice that I didn’t want to live life with debt. Further to that, I made a choice that the extra money I did have was going to be used for travel. This works for me. This is not what everyone wants, and I understand that. I also understand, though, that no one wants to live pay cheque to pay cheque.
So, here are a few recommendations I have, being a thirty year old who has paid for every expense (including a university education) since I was sixteen years old. Take them with a grain of salt, or don’t take them at all. Either way, I hope that you find a means to make some space within your budget.
- Make a budget. Oh and be realistic about your budget. Ensure there’s a column for “Needs” and a column for “Wants”. By completely differentiating the two, it will help you to determine the things that are required to be paid and they things you’re choosing to pay that you may or may not be treating as a need.
- Determine where there’s wiggle room. For my friend, it’s in his subscriptions. He subscribes to Apple Music, to Netflix, to something called ‘Green Kids Crafts’ and to several magazines. (Yes, there are still magazine subscriptions) I may seem as though it’s only 10 dollars per month so why not, but over the course of year these subscriptions totaled more than $400. That is $400 that could easily be going towards paying off debt, or being put into a savings account.
- Where you do need to have an item, like a cell phone, see if you can go for a cheaper cost. Using the cell phone as an example – do you really need 10 gigs of data per month? Or do you want 10 gigs of data? Can you get by with 1 or 2 gigs and, in the process make your cell phone bill a lot cheaper each month? Make a commitment to putting your phone on wifi wherever you can and you will absolutely be able to get by with less data. Apply this principle to other areas of your life, where you can, and the savings will add up.
- Don’t be swayed by “steals and deals”. Could I upgrade my phone? Sure, I absolutely could! My current phone still works, though. And, if I upgrade my phone I’m required to either pay for the phone upfront (which is a hefty price) or pay for it in payments (which works out to be even more expensive). Companies know this. This is why they’ll try and entice you with a “sign up now and get a $50 credit” deal. These deals don’t benefit you in the long run and won’t help your wallet for more than the initial period of time in which the deal is valid. Save your money, pass on the deal.
- Shop second-hand/pre-owned/pre-loved. This is an important one. Fast fashion is one of the more expensive parts of a person’s budget each year. But don’t just relate this principle to your clothes. Not only can you find excellent condition, if not brand new, clothing in second-hand stores, you can also find appliances, home goods, sporting equipment and more. If it’s something that you don’t absolutely need to have brand new, why not see if you can find it second hand, first?
- Meal Prep/Meal Plan/Eat all of the food that you purchase each week. Planning your meals ahead on Sunday may seem like a daunting task, but, if you go to the grocery store knowing what you plan to eat for the week you can purchase only the items that you need. Purchasing only the items you need for the food you’re going t make will save you money on your grocery bill. And, if you only have certain items in your fridge during the week, you’ll be more inclined to actually eat those items and not just let them go bad.
- Adopt the ‘Cash is King’ rule. I didn’t make this rule, but I whole heartedly agree with it. At the beginning of each week I go to the bank and take $100 out of my account. For the next week, this is what I have to spend on my luxuries, not-needed items, or to go out for food. It is really easy to swipe, tap or insert your credit card for purchases without thinking twice about it. But, by telling yourself that you only get ‘x’ amount of dollars each week, you’ll be more cognizant of your spending. It won’t be so easy to just go out for dinner each night you don’t want to cook if you look in your wallet and notice you’ve only got $40 left until Sunday.
- Start a ‘side-hustle’. This is something popping up a whole lot more lately as people are learning that they can turn their passions into a money making option for them. A side hustle does not need to look or be any specific way, it can be whatever that you make of it. Perhaps you walk dogs in the neighbourhood for a fee. Perhaps you babysit. Maybe you take surveys online. Maybe you take a part time job as a waiter/waitress. Whatever it is that you decide to do, find something that can make you money and go for it. Don’t worry about how much money it makes, this is not something you do with the goal of becoming a millionaire. This is something you do with the goal to subsidize your income. Dog walking might only give you $25 dollars a week. But, that’s $25 you can put straight into your savings account, or towards paying off debt. FYI $25 extra dollars per week is $1,300 per year. That’s a lot of extra money at the end of the year!
- Create a cushion for yourself. Even if it’s $10 per month – put that money away and don’t touch it. Knowing that money, however small or large the amount, is tucked away somewhere for you if you ever need it, will provide you some peace of mind in the process of paying off debt/saving. After all, you never know when the universe is going to throw unexpected expenses your direction. My mom was diagnosed with cancer in late 2018 and has had a slew of unexpected expenses this year because of it. Thankfully, she’s been able to use that cushion for the things that she needs and she’s not living accumulating debt right now, she’s more focused on getting better.
- Unsubscribe from emails, notifications and people who make you feel as though you need things you do not. Why? Isn’t it obvious? If someone or something makes you feel as though you need something in your life that is unnecessary then it’s adding a burden to your life you do not need.
I think the most important thing to remember in the quest of becoming debt free, or creating some cushions for savings, is to be smart about it. You’re a smart person and you’re capable of knowing that even the smallest differences are important.
Small differences are still a difference. If you want to live debt-free, or save for travel, or save for a home or a car or whatever it might be that your little heart desires, be smart about it.