Save your money and stop living pay-cheque to pay-cheque.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Tips for travelling on the cheap.

If you’re anything like me, all you want to do is wander the world. It’s hard to blame anyone for Wanderlust when there’s so many places to go and so many things to see. Travelling is an expensive hobby, though. And, if you’re not smart about how you’re travelling, things can get really out of reach, really quickly.

A desire to see the world should never be haulted by cost, though. So, if you’re like me and not independently wealthy, then steps need to be taken to ensure that you can get where you want to go without suffering for it for months before, or after.

So, without further adieu, here are some vague tips that I frequently use when planning trips, when looking for new places to see, or when helping friends/family (who aren’t independently wealthy themselves) book trips.

TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ON A BUDGET:

Be flexible with your dates. Obviously this isn’t always possible. If you’re needing to get to a wedding, or some sort of an event somewhere, you have to go on a certain date. But, if time is your oyster, the world can be too.

Example: I was hellbent on the idea of being in Las Vegas for my thirtieth birthday last year. Flights to Vegas for my birthday were $350 there and $395 return. Flights nine days after my birthday were $100 there and $78 back. That’s a savings of more than $500. Just for going nine days after my birthday. When I thought about it I reminded myself that Vegas is still Vegas, and no one’s going to hear I went nine days after my birthday, they’re going to hear that I went to Vegas for my birthday.

Uses travel-friendly booking websites. Though it may seem as you’re selling your soul a small bit when you give your email address over to websites like Expedia or Trivago, these sites can actually be incredibly helpful. Being able to see hotel prices all in one place can allow you to know which hotels are more within your budget and what places to avoid. These websites can also, often, have cheaper prices for reservations than booking on an individual hotel’s website.

Ask a local. Whether it through a blog, or asking someone on a street when you get there, ask someone where the best places to eat or shop are. Tell them you’re on a budget, tell them you’re trying to save. There’s no one who is going to know more about a place and where is cheap to eat or shop then someone who lives there.

Pack our own food. Where possible, this can be a huge money saver. Prices are marked up extensively at restaurants and cafes, especially in overly touristy areas. Wandering into the grocery store and grabbing some food, even if it’s a pre-packaged veggie or meat tray, can be a lot cheaper than a restaurant or a cafe. I quite often opt for this route. I prefer to spend my money on things other than food when I travel, where possible. 

Don’t shop at the airport. Don’t do it. Ever. Even something as simple as a Starbucks coffee can be 2-3 more dollars just for purchasing it in the airport. Also, those cute and dainty little shops that line the halls en-route to your gate… they’re there to suck you in. Resist the temptations.

Skip the frills. Things like airline wi-fi can seem really intriguing when you’re bored on the plane. But, if you think ahead and bring a book… or a notebook… or a sleeping pill, you won’t need to purchase that wi-fi and can save yourself some dollars.

Ask ahead. Finding a hotel that’s reservation includes breakfast in the morning and access to a laundry room is possible. If you’re going to be staying somewhere for a longer-stint of time, having access to a laundry room can be a life-saver. And, if you don’t have access to a laundry room, it’s a lot cheaper to find a laundromat ahead of time rather than using a laundry service.

See what public transit looks like where you’re headed. Using public transit in a new city, if you can wrap your head around it, can be a lot cheaper than taxi and uber trips. Plus, public transit can allow you to see more of the city if you’re willing to try.

Do your research about free, or cheap, attractions. These are out there. They do exists. Pinterest can be an incredible assistance in this process because people who’ve been there before share their stories about where to go and what to see, what is fun and what is not worth it.

Use coupons, sales, discount codes. There’s a local airline near me that has sales on holiday’s. Doesn’t matter the holiday, every holiday you can bet there’s going to be a sale. Usually it involves waking up early in the morning to be one of the first ‘x’ amount of people to purchase the ticket under the sale price. If you can wake up early and get that discount, DO IT. And if you don’t wake up early, still see if there’s a discount code for you to be able to use to cut costs just that much more. Even if it’s only 10 percent off flights, 10 percent off flights still counts.

Take advantage of loyalty programs. I joined the loyalty program of a car rental company about a year ago. I don’t rent cars a ton, but when I do, I am earning points for them. Those points can add up over time and, eventually, I can redeem those points for free rentals. Taking advantage of a loyalty program for purchases that you have to make, or rentals that you have to have, will help you in the long-run when you take a trip you don’t have to incur those costs on. This works for hotels as well.