Living generously, being able to save or invest a portion of all income, and enjoying financial breathing space, requires smart spending.
Here are some of the most important ways to get the most for your money in the major spending categories. As you read these ideas, keep in mind that they aren’t about obsessive frugality; they’re about spending smart.
Two keys here: First, make sure you actually budget some money for the maintenance and repair of your home and car. Not doing so is one of the most common budgeting mistakes people make.
Second, be willing to spend some money on preventative maintenance. It’s a lot cheaper to pay for oil changes every 3,000 to 5,000 miles than it is to replace an engine. By the same token, it’s less expensive to keep your sink drains clear or unclog them yourself than paying for a plumber. The best drain-clearing product I’ve ever found is Thrift.
You’ve heard these tips before, but they work. Switch to LED lights. Consider going with just a cell phone and eliminating your landline.
The biggest true transportation cost is insurance. If you have an adequate emergency fund, consider raising your collision and comprehensive deductibles. If your car is not worth very much, consider dropping them altogether and only carrying liability insurance.
If you’re among the 80 percent of taxpayers that gets a refund each year, you’re in the unfortunate habit of giving Uncle Sam a no-interest loan. I’m a big fan of generosity, but not toward an organization that can print its own money!
I’d rather see you estimate your taxes with the help of the IRS withholding calculator and have your withholding adjusted accordingly.
You don’t have to be a super couponer to save at the grocery store, but a little couponing with the help of a site like Coupon Mom can go a long way toward helping you save on groceries. There’s credible research showing that cherry picking is worth our time as well.
You can get some great clothing at stores like Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, and especially Nordstrom Rack, although that last one is still a bit of a splurge. It’s also amazing what people drop off at Goodwill and other second hand stores.
A big key here is budgeting a monthly amount for gifts and then letting the money build up in a special savings account for the big gift-giving months like December. In our household, we maintain two gift budgets—one for monthly gifts (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) and one for Christmas. Plus, our kids have to contribute to the cost of gifts when they go to friends’ birthday parties.
With sites like Groupon and Restaurant.com, you never need to pay full price for restaurant meals. Just make sure the availability of so many “deals” doesn’t tempt you to overspend. Financial death by discount is not a good deal!
We also use SlingTV instead of cable, which costs a lot less.
At the risk of sounding parental, take care of yourself. It is absolutely the best way to save on healthcare costs.
For a long time, I aspired to be a consistent runner, and strangely enough I think I’ve actually become one. You don’t need to run to maintain good health, but you do need to move. Walk on a regular basis or ride your bike.
Oh, and eating healthy is a good idea, too. One of the many blessings my wife brings to our family is her insistence on healthy eating. She has gone a long way toward taming, or at least counter-balancing, my sweet tooth.
Surf For Savings
For just about anything you need or want to buy these days, there are discounts to be had. Many times you can even double or triple dip on discounts.
What are some of your favorite ways to spend smart?