Ways To Make Your Money Go Further Each Month:
At the start of every year, people make all sorts of promises to themselves. They will make more. They will save more. And they will be smarter with their money. Yet by this point in the year, many of us are wondering what happened, and where all the money’s gone. Making your cash go further is crucial, but at the same time it seems impossible. Costs keep going up, while our paychecks stay the same (or in some cases even drop!).
You may already have a side hustle going on to bring in some extra income. Or you may be wondering how you can squeeze in another, while still finding time to sleep. But if there’s just no way you can bring in any more than you’re already making, you’re down to one choice: making your cash go further.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tricks you can use toward making your cash go further each month. Here are some of my favorites:
This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.
Actually Use Cash
I realize this seems terribly retrograde, in a world where businesses and even some countries are going cashless. But unless that is already your reality, try using only cash (as much as possible) for a month.
What kind of an effect might this have on your spending? Well, for starters, you’ll need to cut way back on your online shopping, and avoid using those credit cards whenever possible. When you have to hand over money physically, your brain registers it in a different way.
Yes, you probably have some direct debits attached to your bank account. But if you usually use a credit card to pay for your weekly shopping and all those things you and your family “need,” then see what happens if you try to pay for all those daily expenses with cash instead. So many bloggers, from Crystal of Money-Saving Mom to Sarah of Lemon Blessings, swear by the cash envelope system for helping to keep your family’s spending on track and under control.
This is the short version of how it works: Once you have a handle on your family budget, divide up the cash you need for day-to-day things into envelopes each month. Write the amount on each envelope, as well as what it’s for. Then don’t spend more than the envelope contains. For example, if your monthly food budget is $300, that works out to $75/week. Once that $75 is gone, you’re done buying groceries for that week. No splurges, no eating out. Instead, it’s time to eat up those casseroles in the freezer, and get creative with what you have on hand.
As you shop with your new cash-only envelope system, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you find ways to save money and still get what you need.
Which brings up another key point: If you don’t already have a budget, then you don’t truly have a grip on your money. Which means it’s high time to make one.
As soon as you can, sit down and go through your monthly income and and expenses. This will give you a better sense of where you’re spending money. Sometimes you’ll even find that you’re still paying each month for things you no longer use (gym membership, anyone?). Once you’ve figured this out, you can cancel those services and reclaim that portion of your monthly income.
Next, take a look at all those little “extras” that slip all too easily into our lives. Lunches out, dollar store/dollar section spending, take-out, and buying things you don’t really need just because they’re on sale – these all add up, frighteningly fast.
And when you’re first making a budget, see if you can plan for the whole year, not just base your yearly budget off a month or two. Planning ahead for the year will help you cover those one-time expenses that loom large at certain times of the year, like holiday shopping or your yearly car or homeowner’s insurance premiums.
Writing the numbers down, and storing them somewhere safe to check over at the end of the month, will help you stay focused on stopping expenses that are more “wants” than “needs.”
Vouchers, Coupons, and Sales
Extreme couponing is big business. It saves thousands of families thousands of dollars every week. If you haven’t tried it yet, go check out a coupon website or two. If you aren’t sure where to start, then Facebook and some money saving websites also have forums with extreme couponers there.
They will be able to help you turn a few hundred dollars’ worth of shopping into less than $50. You’ll need to spend some time printing the coupons, or cutting them out of magazines. But that’s a small price to pay for a significant discount when you get to the checkout.
On the other hand, if you just don’t have time to go out to stores anymore, and can keep your online shopping in check even if you’re not using cash: First, always try to wait until something’s on sale before you buy it. I’d much rather scoop up new swimsuits on clearance in next year’s sizes (often for 75% off or more), vs. buying things in season at full price. We use this same principle to plan major appliance purchases, too.
Second: NEVER check out without hunting for coupons and discount codes. One easy way to do this is by using Ebates (I have a whole post here about getting every last penny back you can from this fabulous program.)
But another secret trick I use is this: If there’s something we need that I can buy online (especially if I can save money doing so, and if Ebates doesn’t work with that company), I’ll take one crucial last step in an incognito browser window before clicking “purchase”:
I’ll open a search window, then type in “online promo code” plus the name of the company where I’m shopping.
A lot of times, this will give you expired promo codes and ads for sales from that company or store. BUT, I’ve discovered an extra promo code or savings enough times while doing this that I keep going back for more. (I’ve also developed a sense of which sites are most likely to have valid codes, so sometimes I’ll just check those sites directly.)
Will It Add Value?
Millions of us buy things that don’t add value to our lives. In fact, they get purchased, used/worn once or twice, and never see the light of day again. In other words, they’re basically money wasted in the long run.
Sometimes, making your cash go further can be about spending less. But it can also be about buying something of high quality, and then that item adding to your quality of life. (This is one reason my family and I prefer to buy solid wood furniture, even if we have to do so secondhand or wait until it’s on sale, versus flimsy particle-board facsimiles of real wood.)
For example: instead of having dinner out with friends, perhaps you can have them over to your house instead. If you can make it a potluck gathering (where everyone brings a contribution toward the meal), then you can save even more. Or instead of eating out with your family several times a month, do something special at home instead (ice-cream sundae bar for dinner, breakfast for dinner, homemade pizza and movie night). Then put aside the extra money you would have spent on a meal out. You could save as much as $100 or more per month!
Finally, think about the choices you make day in and day out, and discuss those choices with your kids. For our family, travel is very important to us, so we prioritize saving for travel over many other things. We rarely eat out, we almost never grab those lattes or lunches on the go, we don’t have cable or dish subscriptions, we have a super-inexpensive cell phone plan, my husband and I never take “date nights” unless we have free childcare, and our kids don’t have the expensive destination-based birthday parties that seem to be the norm where we live.
But this means that when it’s time to plan our next family vacation – whether it’s a weekend family camping trip or 11 days in Hawaii – we have the money in the bank to make this possible. And the memories the girls make on these trips are priceless.
The “30-Day” Rule
On the other hand, maybe you especially have problems with impulse purchases. Impulse-buying, whether online or in person, can derail any family’s budget faster than you can blink. So if that is you weak spot, try this:
If you find yourself wanting to buy a pair of shoes, a sofa, or anything else that you don’t need immediately, then hold that thought. Rather than give in to that impulse purchase, try waiting for a minimum of 30 days. If at the end of those 30 days you still “need” the item, then ask yourself if you could you wait another 30 days?
Changing the urgency in which you buy things will automatically change the rate at which you are spending money. It’s easy to succumb to advertisements and the fear of missing out. But that FOMO makes us grab for our credit and bank cards. Impulse buying accounts for a lot of online spending.
If you want to take the 30-day wait even further, you can have no-spend weeks or months, where you spend nothing beyond what is required to pay your bills.
Swapping and Substitutions
People often assume that branded items are better. But they aren’t always. In fact, many cheaper brands are made in the same factories. (I know this for a fact, as I used to live in the same metro area as the main headquarters of a certain brand of food products that are sold worldwide. Same products, different packaging – tasted the same, cooked the same, but items in the store-brand packaging were much cheaper.)
So next time you make your shopping list, as you’re browsing the aisles, compare the brand-name items to their off-brand counterparts. Take note of the price difference. You may be surprised at how much less the generics or store-brand versions cost.
For some things I will accept no substitutions; I’ve tried the off-name brands, they don’t cut it for whatever reason, and so I’ll insist on buying name-brand. (Preferably on sale – this is how I get my favorite brand of premade salsa. I stock up only when it’s on sale.)
But if it’s something where the name brand really doesn’t matter, I’l always buy the generic, the store brand, or whichever is on sale. Those little “per-unit” price tags on store shelves are your best friend here, because you can figure out which is the better price per ounce or serving. (This is also a great consumer lesson to teach school-age kids, if they’re at the store with you.)
Finally, it never hurts to ask. Sometimes – e.g., when booking a hotel on the road – if you call the front desk and ask their nightly rate, but then say, “And what is your BEST RATE for that room tonight?,” they’ll come up with something better. Just because you asked.
I’ve done this regularly with everything from internet fees and phone bills to insurance premiums. Most reputable companies would rather keep a current customer than have to go trolling for a new one. So especially if you have legit info that you could save more by switching to a different provider, they’ll do everything they can to match (or beat!) that rate, just to keep your business.
This is especially true with basic utilities. If you’ve been with a company for years, you may not be getting the best deal currently. Call your provider and ask for the details on what you’re spending. Then ask if there’s a better option available. After you have the details, head to a comparison website, and use that info to see if you could save money by switching providers. Sometimes, a stellar introductory rate from another company might make jumping ship worthwhile; just make sure you know the fine print about long-term contracts, and what happens once the introductory rate expires.
RELATED POST: Three Easy Tips To Save On Cell Phone Bills
Making your cash go further isn’t about taking things away from yourself or your family. It’s about smarter spending, and looking for cheaper alternatives – without compromising on how you currently live.
If you enjoyed this post on making your cash go further, why not share it with others by pinning this image?