Whenever Laura and I return from a trip away, especially when we've been to someplace expensive, we always, always get an attack of the cheaps. Always.
Well, we're experiencing an attack of the cheaps right now, because we recently wrapped up a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii. It's a wonderful city, but each time we visit we're stunned by the extremely high cost of living there. Food in grocery stores costs double what we pay in New Jersey. Rent, housing prices, gas and other costs are similarly off the charts. And the cost of restaurant meals bugged me so much that I wrote an entire post about how to find cheap eats in Waikiki, Honolulu's key tourist district.
But enough complaining. After all, there can be benefits to catching the cheaps too. Uh, like saving money. And sometimes you discover that you never even missed the things you cut back on. So why not catch this cheapness wave, ride it, and share my "attack of the cheaps" ideas with readers? And why ask readers to share their own "attack of the cheaps" ideas too? Pretty soon we'll all be putting away some extra dough.
By following the tips below, you could easily reap savings of $500-$700 per month. Each is easy to implement, and none represents any huge downsizing or embarrassingly overt reduction to your standard of living. Best of all, however, each of following tips is temporary and reversible. They're not one-way acts of permanent abnegation that make you feel like you're denying yourself forever. You can try them out for a while, see what you think, and reap the savings until you reverse the decision.
Finally, readers, be sure to share your favorite "attack of the cheaps" ideas in the comments!
1) Downgrade (or better yet, cancel) your cable or subscription TV service for 3-6 months. Added bonus: evade commercials and infotainment that's just going to make you want to buy more stuff. Savings: $35-$200 a month.
2) Put all book purchases and magazine/newspaper subscriptions on hiatus. Take advantage of your local library for the next couple of months, save a few trees and enjoy a brief respite from the media. Savings: perhaps $30-$100 a month.
3) Forgo juices, sodas and other beverages for one week or one month and substitute simple tap water at just pennies per gallon. Protip: Keep in mind how profitable these beverages are for the companies that make them. Savings: $20-50 a month.
4) Embrace partial vegetarianism and go meatless for 1/3 to 1/2 of your meals. I've found that you can reduce your food bill by a third or more this way. Savings: $100-200 a month--or more, depending on your food bills and the size of your family.
5) Experiment with meatless weekdays for a month. This might be the easiest way of all to cut excess calories and excess costs out of your diet. Savings: similar to #4, $100-200 a month, possibly more.
6) Pack your lunch for one month--or longer: If you're a habitual eater-outer at work, this tip will save you a ton of money. Try making and freezing a batch of my burritos and storing them in the office fridge. Or make a double batch of dinner on Sunday night and pack the leftovers for a week's worth of lunches. Savings: $120-200 a month, or a cool two grand a year.
7) Set aside your credit cards and go cash-only. There's something about using 100% cash that limits your spending. It makes spending more of a tangible and conscious act. Plus, if you put a certain amount of cash in your pocket and start to run low, you naturally cut back. Hey, when you're out of dough, you're out of dough. Savings: hard to quantify--perhaps $100 a month, but possibly far more.
8) Track your spending closely for one month. This tip, stolen from the exceptional book Your Money Or Your Life, will reveal surprising information about exactly where your money goes--and you'll see proof of the saying "what gets measured gets controlled." Savings: equally hard to quantify, perhaps $200 a month or more.
Add up the savings from these tips and you can get to $500 to $700 a month. Sustain this level of savings for just a few months and this will translate into an extra $1500 to $2000 sitting in your bank account. Sustain it for a full year and you'll be looking at an extra six or seven grand. Not too shabby for a few temporary spending measures!
Readers, this list is far from complete. What have I missed? What tips do you rely on to save money after a period of overspending?
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