Here are 3 painless ways to save money. This article doesn’t include “write a budget” like you haven’t already tried seven different budgets.
No one wants to just “spend less.” Spending money is fun, damn it. I like getting new clothes and eating out! Yet, debts still must be paid and savings accounts must be grown.
So here’s to finding a little balance to your finances instead of bouncing between overspending and feeling deprived.
1. Cancel Amazon Prime
I know, I know.
Amazon Prime is incredibly convenient. Every blogger on Earth wants you to buy stuff on Amazon because they make a few pennies off of your purchases. It is a godsend for anyone who struggles to get out of the house, like new moms. But that doesn’t mean it’s great for everyone or a great way to save money.
While the Amazon Prime subscription is relatively cheap (honestly, what’s $12 a month?), the real cost is that it’s an enabler for impulse spending. Free shipping?! That means it’s not any different than buying stuff from a store, right? Except now you can order things whenever you happen to think of them. Human wants are unlimited.
Think you’re only buying things you really need and were going to pick up anyway? Yeah, I used to tell myself the same thing.
I really need these new cleaning cloths. Cleaning is a necessity. These cloths are microfiber, superior to my current cleaning cloths that are a year old and not microfiber at all. Because when I am cleaning up kitchen or bathroom grime, I really need fancy cloths. My cloths aren’t going to get a good enough clean. My cloths that don’t have any holes in them or anything actually wrong about them at all.
Guys, these are literally just pieces of fabric to pick up dirt or hold cleaning products. I still feel like I need to upgrade them when I’m looking at new items!
It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of convincing yourself you need more than you do. Amazon offers a limitless number of products at your fingertips. If you actually need something, it can wait until you can run to the store. Even the standard shipping on Amazon Prime takes two days to get to your house.
Cancel the damn subscription.
2. Go to an activity that costs money instead of shopping for fun
Yes, you read that right: spend money on an event or class as a way to save money.
How many times have you gone shopping to have fun with a girlfriend? If you’re anything like me, stop number one is for coffee. That’s automatically $3-8 before you’ve even started your designated activity.
A designated activity in which the entertainment is you spending money. Have you ever walked into a makeup store, “Just wanting to try something on for free!” and walked out with a bag of expensive goodies? Oh, um, me neither.
It’s like walking into an animal shelter “just to look” at all of the sad puppies who desperately need homes. If you love dogs and desperately want one, don’t go to an animal shelter if you’re not prepared to adopt.
Willpower doesn’t have to be your strong suit if you know how to avoid temptations.
Instead of tempting yourself with new clothes, expensive makeup or tech, consider the cost of an activity. This could be anything: a yoga class, a wine tasting, a cooking or art class, or viewing a gallery.
Most of these activities are going to be $20-60. You’ll have to pony up, but then your spending for the set time is done. At most, you’ll be tempted to buy the chef’s latest cookbook or decide to invest in future fitness classes. The key is to get in a balanced mindset. It’s okay to spend a little money, but a lot of impulse spending can get you off track. You can save money by making sure your risks of unexpected spending are limited.
3. Set a Food Budget instead of a Grocery Budget
If you’re open to budgeting, you probably already know it can be a powerful tool to help you save money. If you actually use it.
One fatal mistake I’ve made in the past is assuming a tight grocery budget keeps me on track. Instead, my husband and I get fed up with limited options in the house. Then we eat out three times a week anyway because we love eating out.
You can save yourself tons of money by re-framing your category for groceries into a category for all food and drink. This means whether you’re making a family dinner or you’re eat out it all counts against your food budget.
Which food experiences are important to you?
Before you come up with a “grocery” or “eating out/alcohol” budget, decide what is really your priority. If eating out is your greatest joy in life or you spend a lot of time in hotels for work, it’s okay to include extra meals out! No shame for knowing what you like in life.
If your big priority is your health or creating family memories around the dinner table, you’ll probably want to prioritize groceries. It will give you room to splurge on a nice roast or recipes with a lot of ingredients.
That said, if you really want to eat out three times a week while maintaining a modest budget, then you had best be prepared to live off of rice or ramen a la college student for the other meals of the week. If eating out is a priority, don’t buy a bunch of groceries you can’t afford.
Vice versa is true for the chefs among us. If you want to host glorious multi-course meals complete with paired wines or beer on the reg, you have to understand that you won’t have much money left over to go out to a nice restaurant.
Remember that this priority may shift from month to month. During the holidays, you may find yourself going out to eat a ton with friends and family you haven’t seen all year. Then come January, you may swap back to prioritizing family meals at home.