Sometimes I look at my savings account with giddy optimism (or sometimes a resigned sigh) and think, “I can do better, I can save more.” Saving is important, of course, but it should not come at the expense of treating yourself on occasion—like a coffee out or a nice coffee setup at home. Fortunately, there are ways to save money while still keeping the things in life you enjoy.
One common tip is to cancel streaming services that you don’t use often. But maybe there are certain shows on each one that you enjoy. What if you pick one or two services, watch what you want, and then switch in a month or two to a different one? You can always cancel and resubscribe when that new season of your favorite show comes out, and then move on to a different service again. Keep the variety while reducing the expense. There are even budgeting apps out there that can help you manage your subscription costs.
Cook at home and eat out less is another typical tip you’ll see for saving money. While that can work, it isn’t always practical. Instead, I would say to make sure you use those leftovers. If I get takeout, it is usually good for two meals at least, which helps avoid food waste.
Similarly, when I cook at home, I make sure to finish off any leftovers. Dinner one night can easily be lunch at work the next day. Avoiding food waste can save money and also cut down on trips to the grocery store.
In a similar vein, do you get a $5 coffee every morning on the way to work? Is that something you can do at home? Even if it may require an initial investment in a fancy coffeemaker, run the numbers and see if that makes sense. No shade to you fancy folks, but my budget coffeemaker and no-frills coffee works for me.
If you do need that fancier coffee, most coffee shops have a punch card for a free coffee or a discount after a certain number of purchases. Make sure to use those sorts of benefits when they’re available.
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When shopping for food, do you need that name-brand item, or will the cheaper off-brand do? It might offer minimal savings, but every little bit can help.
Another tip is to buy what you need (again, avoiding waste). If you see a good sale on non-perishables that you will use and will last, though, go ahead and stock up if you have the space. I’m thinking of an old friend who eats a lot of pasta, but only buys it when it is 10 for $10 or on sale for even cheaper. This person is stocked up to last, but it is one way they save money.
Maybe it makes sense to downsize your vehicle or look into an electric or hybrid car. That obviously won’t work for everyone’s budget, so look to optimize your mileage. Instead of going to Store A, back home, and later to Store B, try to plan your errands to get everything done in one outing. This can be especially helpful if, like so many of us in Vermont, you’re at least a few miles from anywhere. Maybe you are too far to walk, but you can strategically park between Stores A and B and walk to each from where you parked. Save some money and get some exercise!
Especially relevant during winter is saving on heat. This can cost a lot if, for example, you are going solar and using heat pumps. For a more budget-friendly option, think about winterizing your home as best you can. Seal any drafty cracks in windows and doors. Plastic on windows can help during the cold months.
Game night! Start up a regular game night with friends that you might otherwise go to dinner or a bar with. You can save money on entertainment by bringing your own snacks and drinks, carpooling to game night where it makes sense, and, of course, dusting off that copy of Settlers of Catan that you have on a shelf but have never played. My friends and I have a Saturday game night each week, rotating through a wide variety of games so it never gets boring, and we collectively save by providing our own entertainment.
Make yourself a budget and stick to it as best you can. There are plenty of blogs out there for budgeting, but to me, the most important thing is to budget in your fun money. Treating yourself to a nice dinner out or one of those fancy coffees can act as a sort of self-reward for following through with your budget plans.
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