November 10th, 2016 at 11:00 am


Looking for ways to save money around the house and in your daily life? Trying to stay on budget but giving in to impulse buys and other “stuff” you might not really need? Hoping to set aside enough money to finally get that new car you’ve always wanted?

Yes, it can be tough to stash your cash with temptations lurking on every page of Amazon and at the checkout line. But it can be done, with a little forethought. We’ve rounded up some commonsense budgeting ideas designed to help you save up not just for a rainy day, but for that gloriously sunny day when you can finally make a down payment on a house, remodel your home office, or buy whatever you’ve had your heart set on for so long.

Personal spending habits:

Go on an “all-cash diet”

It might sound painful, but it’s not. Split your spending budget for the week into seven envelopes. Take one envelope each day, and only spend what’s in it. This approach helps you resist the temptation to overspend, and if you have a restaurant date coming up, you’ll find yourself subconsciously trading that burger on Wednesday for a steak on Friday. Using cash instead of a card instantly limits your ability to impulse buy. Try leaving credit/debit cards at home and just bringing a set amount of cash on your next trip to the store or when dining out.

Write a list before shopping, and stick to it

One of the best and easiest ways to save money is to only shop when you have a list, and stick to it. When you don’t, you usually make impulse buys and unplanned purchases–all things that cost money and impact your budget. It’s especially important to create a list before you shop for groceries. Not only can it help you buy items that fit into your meal plan, but it also can help you avoid buying food that you might waste.

Shop for food on a full stomach

Cornell University researchers conducted a study that found hungry shoppers tend to buy more food in general, and more snack style/junk food in particular. So eat some cheese and crackers when filling out your grocery list to fend off those impulse bulk potato chip purchases.

Be honest about group meals

Speaking of steaks, one of the most stressful and unpredictable money dining debacles is the group dinner. Splitting the bill evenly, especially when you’ve ordered light and someone else is chowing down, leads to an awkward financial discussion. How to deal with this?

If a friend is hosting a special meal, especially if it is a set price per person, tell them about your situation in advance to see if you can still attend, but with a lower buy-in. For a casual gathering, be upfront. Just saying, “I’m trying to save money” is enough. You don’t need a big excuse.

Do next year’s holiday shopping right after the holidays

Many people do this for Christmas, but it works for any holiday. Wait until a day or two after the holiday, then go shopping for themed items you can use next year, like Mother’s Day cards, Easter egg decorating kits, and Halloween decoration. Stock up on wrapping paper, cards, bows, and gift bags right after Christmas. The discounts are huge, and you can just put everything in the closet until the next holiday rolls around again.

In and around the house:

Refresh instead of remodel

Whenever possible, update existing materials instead of replacing them. For example, refinish original hardwood floors and paint existing cabinets instead of replacing them. In a bathroom, it might be a good idea to get a new sink, but clean and keep the floors, walls, tiles, and tub intact. Staying with original materials saves money, maintains the integrity and style of your home, and helps reduce landfill waste.

Do the work yourself

It might sound obvious, but you’ll usually save money doing renovations and repairs yourself. However, you probably won’t save time. Delays to the schedule usually mean spending more money. Before you start on a project, look for online instructional videos. Do-it-yourselfers and major companies have posted on everything from how to strip and replace wallpaper to reroofing your house. (In the garage, they’re especially helpful for vehicle repairs.) Friends and family are often happy to help if pizza and beverages are on the schedule. Plus, the work moves along much faster with more people involved. If you’re taking on a big project, we do recommend at least consulting with a professional first.

Get more bang for your buck

To keep remodels inexpensive, focus on the finishes with the biggest impact. Offset these larger expenses by using budget hardware, existing floors, butcher block countertops, and stock cabinets. This is a good rule of thumb for budget-conscious renovations.

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