One thing the current economy has showcased to most Americans is the necessity of being frugal in nearly everything they do. Frugality isn't taught in schools, and it's a lesson that most of us have to learn the hard way by falling short on some bills. Even worse, we're bombarded with misleading messages that tell us that debt is fine.
Debt is not fine, especially consumer debt. Debt is an addiction and an expensive one. If you're learning this the hard way, it's time to look at trimming expenses. It's even better to learn these lessons early, but it's better late than never.
1Save A Percentage Of What You Earn
The ultimate aim is to live on 80-90% of what you earn. To start, you can bank the rest in an interest-bearing account. You don't need to get into complex investment vehicles; a good bank account that pays interest in checking and savings and has no fees is a head start.
2Tabulate Your Current Expenses
List three months of expenses. Find out what you're spending on restaurants, coffee, eating at home, going to the movies, and everything else. What you find may be painful.
But writing out your expenses is worth the effort. You'll quickly notice that there are fixed expenses (like your mortgage and utility bills) and variable expenses (like food and entertainment). You'll discover lots of ways to avoid your money going down the rabbit hole by examining your variable expenses!
3Cut Down On Unnecessary Things
Do you regularly buy a latte on the way to work? That's costing you $20 a week or a bit over a thousand dollars a year. Make a latte at home, drink it on the way to work, and save the rest. Do you smoke? Kick the habit; it's not just killing your lungs, but it also costs you anywhere from $100 to $200 a month or more, which adds up to almost two grand per year.
Do you eat out at lunch? Even a fast-food meal is around six bucks. If you spend 240 days a year at work and eat out for a hundred of them, wouldn't you rather have that $600 back? Get in the habit of spending Sunday afternoons packing a week's worth of lunches. You can make your favorite foods and freeze them or cook a little extra for dinner each night.
4Cook Your Own Food
Unnecessary "convenience food" costs you. While you're in the kitchen, look at how many pre-packaged meals you eat. Every single one of them represents two to three dollars that you're paying someone to cook something for you. It's amazing how much money you can save by learning how to cook your own food! The general rule is that a pre-packaged meal costs twice to three times as much for the same quantity of food.
5Make Your Own Fast Food
Once you start cooking, you can look at other ways to be frugal. You can cook large batches and freezing the leftovers. When you need fast food, grab something out of the freezer and heat it.
6Always Drink Water
You pay a lot less for water from the tap than you do for soda or bottled water. Buy a water filtration pitcher. Keep it filled.
Any time you feel the urge to grab a soda, drink an eight-ounce glass of water first. Then, see if you're still thirsty. This will cut down your soda habit tremendously.
7Make Use Of Coupons
Save even more money by using coupons when items are on sale. You might end up paying only a few cents for an item you use all the time. So start collecting coupons!
8Follow The "Wait For 30 Days" Rule
Wait for 30 days before buying anything that costs more than $50 or so. Patience is a virtue. If you follow the "wait for 30 days" rule, you'll reap its rewards.
Being frugal and learning how to save money takes patience and practice, but the rewards are worth it when you find that you've saved enough money to get out of debt, go on vacation, or buy a new car. Make small changes every week to form new habits. Before you know it, you'll have a whole new way of living and extra money in the bank.
Jackie Wing is an Alaska native, who enjoys snowboarding more than is probably socially acceptable. She lives in Anchorage with her two dogs Reese and Peanut, or as she likes to call them "Thing 1" and "Thing 2."