If you are following along with the $50 a day project or trying a similar project on your own, here are 25 easy, cool, awesome tips to help you stay within your budget…
1. Remember that the figure you set is up to you and what you are comfortable with. I chose $50 because that appears to be what I need to sustain a simple yet productive lifestyle. I personally don’t want for much and I’m easily entertained by cheap, free shiny stuff. I ain’t high maintenance. Your situation may differ. Be it $50 a day, $100, a day or more. Use a figure that you can realistically live within and then go for it.
2. Being single makes this project real easy for me. I am the only one involved so I have more control on what I spend. If you are a couple or a family it may be tougher. Not everyone in the group may be on board with your nefarious plan of frugalism. Sit ‘em down and try to explain the benefits of not spending so much everyday. Teach the kids to appreciate what they use and need. Don’t set the project up as a punishment nor a chore that everyone needs to get on board with or heads will roll. Don’t force them, challenge them to stay within the budget. Make it a positive. Maybe even give each individual in your family a personal daily spending cap and see if they can stay within it. If at the end of the year you have accomplished your budget goal and stayed within or close to your daily average, show everyone the resulting benefits of a larger bank account. If necessary, offer some sort of reward at the end of the year for anyone staying within their respective budget. But keep it simple and within the spending limits you have set up.
3. Some bills are set and cannot be reduced. Rent or mortgage. Debt payments, if you still have them. That’s ok. Work on the stuff you can control, food, clothing, entertainment, that sort of thing. If you have a particular bill that offsets the budget project, separate that and just do a smaller side budget project that involves the basics of everyday living.
4. Don’t neglect things you absolutely have to have just to stay within budget. If the vehicle needs repairs and you are dependent on it for transportation, get it repaired. If an emergency takes place, medical, damage to your home, whatever, take care of it. The budget isn’t written in stone here. Actual physical survival sort of takes precedent.
5. Food is one place where you can save a lot of money. As I said before, I only have a toaster oven and a microwave but I eat damn good without breaking the bank.
6. While fast food is cheap, it has absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. Avoid it and you’ll be heather for it. You can cook a burger and fries at home for way less money and spice it all up to your own tastes. Don’t sacrifice convenience for health.
7. Hunt down the deals at your grocery store. Publix usually runs their specials starting on Thursdays. Two for ones, discounts on certain cuts of meat and fowl, that sort of thing. Take advantage of them.
8. Limit yourself to how much you can purchase at any one time when you go to the store. For example I carry one single canvas shopping bag when I hit the grocery emporium. When it’s full, I’m done shopping. Using the bicycle helps also as I am limited on what I can carry home. It may mean more frequent trips to the store but it also means fresher food and being more choosey as to what to purchase.
9. If they are available in your area, hunt down local farmers markets. You can find some great deals on fresh stuff and usually at a good price.
10. Cut back on dining out. Sure it’s nice to go out to eat now and then. Nothing wrong with treating yourself. But restaurants are expensive. All of them. If you don’t cook, then eating out will blow a budget all to hell.
11. When you do eat out consider the following: avoid desserts. They are way overpriced. One restaurant I ride by along the beach charges $8 for a slice of key lime pie. If I’m paying $8 for a slice of pie, there had better be a stripper and a brass pole that comes with it. I can purchase an entire key lime pie at Publix for $6.99. Get the whole pie, go out for dinner, come home for dessert and you can strip for each other if you want.
12. Appetizers are another high priced item when eating out. Although, I have gone to a few spots and had only the appetizers and no entree. But both together, add up.
13. Learn to brown bag it for lunch at work. Going out to eat for lunch every day really adds up. At least limit it to once a week if you need to. But a PB & J, a piece of fruit, and a snack will tide you over until dinner. No, you won’t starve to death in five hours.
14. Avoid vending machines. No nutritional value and overpriced.
15. Buy generic. This doesn’t just hold true for food but other things as well. Most of the time generic products have the same ingredients, will last as long, and perform the same functions as name branded items. You can save a ton of money here by dropping the brand loyalty. I’m personally going through that decision now in my choice of a new bicycle. Cheap off brand for $90 or fancy Trek for $450. Both do the same thing, only question is how long the cheap brand will last compared to the Trek.
16. Avoid convenience stores. Except for fuel if you still buy that stuff. There is nothing in a convenience store that has any nutritional nor monetary value. Nothing. And it’s all over priced.
17. On the other hand, get aquainted with your local dollar store. They are everywhere. The dollar store is a great place to save on those consumables like soap, shampoo, if you still use that, toilet paper, and other such items. Park the ego. There is no shame in shopping at the dollar store. Rich and poor alike use the one here on the island. It’s a money saver and makes perfect budgetary sense.
18. If you have a bad habit that’s expensive, now would be a good time to quit. Still smoking? WTF is the matter with you? It’s
2011 2012. Everyone on the planet knows smoking will kill. Time to stop. No excuses, stop. Hell I could probably live on just what the average smokers spends on their filthy disgusting habit. And no, you don’t look cool with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth.
19. Do you play the lottery? Why? It’s a tax on the stupid. Nobody wins. In fact your chances of winning are the same whether you play or not.
20. Entertainment is another area where you can save big. There is nothing wrong with going out and doing stuff. But can you cut back? Or find stuff to do that’s not so expensive. Sitting in a bar all night with your friends can add up. Drinks, maybe some wings, shoot some pool, play some music on the jukebox, it adds up fast. Get some drinks in ya and money don’t matter. You can burn up a weeks budget in one night easily.
21. Look for other things to do that are not so expensive, or even free. I have an advantage here in Key West because there is always stuff going on and most of it can be done without spending any money. Sunsets, bike rides, just walking up and down Duval can be entertaining. At home I’m content as long as I have the iPad in my lap and an Internet connection, but as I said, I don’t want for much and I’m easily entertained. There is plenty to do out there in the world without spending money to do it.
22. Avoid going out for things like shopping as a social event. A morning at the mall can get expensive. Don’t go shopping just for something to do. Go shopping when you need something.
23. Eat before you go out anywhere. You are less likely to get cravings and decide to stop someplace expensive or unhealthy to grab a quick bite. Update: my nit picky editor says throw an apple in a bag and take it with you so you have something good to eat when you get hungry.
24. Keep track of every single penny you spend. No matter how small the purchase, record it in your budget. If you are really into this you can break down your purchase categories into individual items just to see where all the money is going. Next year, I may try that with my grocery bill. See where the more expensive food is. Although I pretty much know already. But try to account for every purchase. Go back from time to time and review. Could you have gone without this? Did you really need that? At the end of the year, if you are over budget, you can point back and say this is why. And correct it for the next year.
25. The best for last…NEVER SPEND A DOLLAR BILL. And yes, I have not been following my own advice. But I may start up again. For those of you who are too lazy to click the link…the basic premise is to never spend a dollar bill. Anytime you spend cash for something and get any single dollar bills for change, don’t spend them. Bring them home and save them. Stick them someplace out of sight and keep adding to the pile. You’ll be amazed at how fast they add up. I routinely wound up with $50 or so at the end of every month I did this. Now go click the link to read about it in more detail and the bonus story of the time I lost a job because I put the dollar bills in the cash register upside down. True story.
Ok, that’s it. 25 easy, cool, awesome tips to help you stay within a daily spending budget of your own choosing. It’s not living poor. It’s not going without. It’s living within your means and not wasting money on crap you don’t need or use. And it gets easier as you go on. I’ll be posting more as the project goes on, good and bad, so be sure to follow along and if you are doing a similar project, post your results too.
Buy what you need. Use what you buy. Less is more.