I keep seeing all these, “How to stretch your dollar” articles that are at best useless and at worst nothing more than an ad to a scam “work-at-home” website. Here’s the truth. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, literally, you can’t save money. That’s what that means. It means you need every last dime you have. So you have to get creative in how to cut corners. This post will be honest. Brutally so. For all of those out there who don’t have the vacation accounts, extra cars, 3 bedroom homes and a maid that are recommended to cut from your budget, this post is for you.
- If you do have a retirement plan, that’s great. But if your goal is to save money for something other than retirement, it’s not helping you presently. It might be best to cut what you save there and put it in the other account. Think carefully. While yes, your kids grow up and that one trip to Disney you’ll get to take them on before college is vital, that wrap around porch with a new grill isn’t.
- Get another job. Whoa! Did you just tell me? Yes. It doesn’t have to be permanent. Just a couple of weeks, months, or even years depending on your needs. “But I don’t have time for another job.” I don’t either, and I so understand where you’re coming from. That’s OK. Let’s move on.
- Do NOT try to sell stuff online or host yard sales unless you know what you’re doing and live in an appropriate environment. If you live on a dead end street in the middle of nowhere, a yard sale isn’t going to help you. If you go around buying used books at yard sales and then try to sell them on Amazon, I’m afraid you’re going to be in for great disappointment when you see Amazon’s charges for you to do that. You will literally be lucky to make a dime. Literally.
- Monetize a hobby. Do you knit? Sew? Bake? Write? If you’re going to do it anyway, might as well earn back some of the millions you spent on yarn and icing sugar. But don’t count on this being your financial savior. Consider it part of your hobby, and if it grows from that, great.
- Garden. No, seriously, garden. It doesn’t have to be big or difficult. Lettuce is cheap and easy to grow with bountiful yields. You will eat healthier and save a ton! Potatoes do well too. Check with your local area and see what does and does not do well. Even if you do wind up using pesticides, it’s potentially cheaper than buying at the store. Be sure you plant from seed. If you go and buy four cabbage plants for $1.50, you’re spending more than just buying it already grown. Be careful though. You can spend a fortune on “recommended” supplies like netting, tools, and other items. Don’t get dragged into that. You’re doing this to save money, not spend it, remember? If it doesn’t work, you tried.
- Don’t eat out and don’t snack. “But… but… but…” I said this post would be honest, not fair. Those snacks cost money. Save EVERY receipt. EVERY receipt. Snacks, vending machines (write it down on a posty), eating out all count as groceries. COUNT THEM. I do. I have little slips of paper in my purse or car or somewhere to write down things like that. I’ll write it on my hand if I have to and add it later. You are NOT going to like what you see, but you need to see it. Pick yourself up (you can’t change the past) and work on the future. That $50 you spent on 20 oz cokes last month? If you can’t live without the cokes, buy a six pack or 2-liters. One 2-liter is cheaper than a 20 ounce.
- Eliminate your entertainment budget. This one will hurt a lot of you. I have never, repeat, never had an entertainment budget. If it’s food, it goes in groceries. If it’s clothes, it’s only bought if necessary and therefore goes in that budget. Entertainment budgets are justifications and unnecessary. “But it’s what makes like worth living!” Oooooohhhhh yes. Yes it is. And this is why so many poor people are depressed. We don’t have the privilege of movies, fashion clothing, new cars, eating out more than once a month (if that), more than three pair of shoes (work, home, running/etc) if that, cable, or even a second set of sheets. I lived many years with one set of sheets. Wash and dry and put back on. Get rid of cable or any other services you don’t need. Internet is probably a must at your house, and most shows can be watched without the expense of cable. I haven’t had “TV” in over 10 years. My horizons have been broadened because of it.
- Stop using the dryer. If you have time and space, hang your clothes. I added it up, and the dryer costs us $30 a month to use. That’s $30 that could go elsewhere.
- Stop wearing makeup. Good golly Moses! I can’t believe the cost of makeup these days! Don’t worry. It doesn’t take long to get used to being “naked” in public. No one’s going to throw rotten vegetables at you. However, you will become accustomed to it and no longer view overly made women as attractive. “But my husband likes me in makeup.” Your marriage is more important. If you honestly believe it would cause a problem in your marriage to quit using makeup, then don’t quit. Maybe you could save it for special occasions? Many men find barefaced women more attractive than madeup ones. Trust me on this one.
- Have an allowance. Yes, even adults need limits. We have allowances in our house. Maybe think of it as that entertainment budget you got rid of? Be strict! Be brutal! If you can only afford $20 a month for each adult, then so be it. And stick to it!!! Want something not budgeted, like unnecessary items, makeup, clothes, movies? Use your allowance. That’s what it’s for. Our allowances are also what we buy each other presents with. “I’m not doing that. That’s not fair.” Again, this post isn’t about fair. It’s about truth.
- Learn self-control or learn around the lack of it. I knew a girl who could NOT save money. She said money burned holes in her pockets. If that’s you, try to control yourself. If you have tried and tried and simply cannot, then do what she did. While rent-to-own furniture, etc is a waste of money for people who are able to save money for themselves, it’s helpful for those who can’t. Utilize these places. But realize it’s costing up to three times what it would if you could just save it yourself. I’m not trying to make you feel bad. We all have weaknesses, but I want you to be aware that learning to hold onto money is best.
- Search the sidewalks. When we lived in Knoxville, we drove around certain neighborhoods and picked up their discarded furniture and stuff. We got a nice TV, several couches, sets of drawers, chairs, old computers. Pretty much everything we owned at one point was found on the side of the road. A little paint and some work later and viola! Good as new. If you’re too good for that, then you’ve come to the wrong blog. I’m proud of my scavenging skills, of my abilities to recycle items others throw away. Others are too. We have some nice things in this house no believes someone else threw out when we tell them. Be sure to ask their permission if they’re around, and don’t take something unless it’s blatantly obvious it’s being thrown out.
- Look for sales. This one is more difficult unless you’re a housespouse. Stores have sales certain days of the week and certain times of the day. At work I used to visit the deli at 7:30, because that’s when they offered all the food left at the end of the day for next to nothing. The bakery marks everything expired down at the beginning of the day and then again at 4:00. At 4:00, my produce friend grabs what he wants from that second markdown. Smart man. But we have the advantage there. Visit different stores on different days. Watch their billboards. Browse their ads. Soon, you will pick up that store A has cheaper pizza and store B has cheaper milk, but only on Mondays.
I know you didn’t hear what you wanted. There are no honest get rich schemes. I’m sorry. But maybe there’s something on here that helped you. If you’re already doing all of this, well then I’m sorry. You’re in the same boat I am. Good luck.