Are you digging around for spare change at the bottom of your purse – or under the sofa cushions – by the end of each pay period? Has that been going on for a while? If you’re always living paycheck-to-paycheck, it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that there’s nothing you can do about it (other than getting a better job, that is). But that’s a false assumption. For the vast majority of people, there are definitely some things you can do to make your salary last longer. But they probably aren’t the same things you’ve tried before. Here are some common-sense strategies for stretching your salary, and they involve very little sacrifice.
Cancel stealth subscriptions
Those subscriptions that automatically renew each year are definitely convenient, but they can be a black hole when it comes to your hard-earned money. It’s incredibly easy to keep on paying year after year for subscriptions or services you don’t use anymore. Give your credit card statements close scrutiny so that you can catch renewal charges right away. If you find some that you no longer need, just call the company and tell them you want to cancel. Most legitimate providers will be happy to take care of it for you.
Stop wasting food
The western world wastes a ridiculous amount of food – up to 40 percent, by some estimates. For someone who has trouble making ends meet, that’s a “gimme.” Whether you put off cooking for so long that the food you bought goes bad or you just tend to toss out your leftovers, stop today. Don’t buy food without considering your schedule and whether you’ll have time to cook. And when it comes to leftovers, invest in a few freezer bags. Divide your leftovers into meal-sized portions and toss them in the freezer. They’ll come in handy some night when you’re considering ordering an expensive pizza.
Just say no
It’s the impulse buys – things we hadn’t really planned on buying and that we definitely don’t need – that wreck our budgets. Whether it’s the magazine in the checkout lane or the cute little Cub Scout asking you to buy popcorn, it adds up. Americans, for instance, spend $800 million per year on Girl Scout cookies, $310 million on Halloween costumes (for their pets!), and $17 billion on video games. And the Globe and Mail reported that Canadians spend $3,720 per year on impulse purchases. So you could save hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars simply by training yourself to stop and think before you buy.
Don’t waste money trying to save it.
This sounds contradictory, but it’s really not. Your efforts to save money can actually end up costing you if you aren’t careful. Take your beauty products, for example. Say you decide to forego your favorite department-store lipstick and fall back to a pre-packaged drug store brand. But you can’t test it, so you discover later that the color is wrong. So you go try another one…and on it goes. Eventually you end up spending more than you would have on your regular lipstick. The bottom line is, you know your priorities best – if there’s something you know you’re really not willing to give up, then don’t. There’s no reason to spend time and money on something you know you’re going to fail.
One reason savings plans fail is that people aren’t realistic. They cut back so far that they feel deprived and quit, or they vow to give up something they’re not willing to live without. Depending on your financial situation, drastic cuts may indeed be necessary. First, however, try these pain-free ways of making your salary last. You may be surprised.
Image source: Flickr via 401(k) 2012, 2010