10 ways to stretch your budget that you probably haven?t thought of
So you?ve jettisoned the cell phone and car payments, do all your grocery shopping at the local farmers? market, and maybe moved back in with your parents?and still can?t quite make ends meet? Here are some other creative ways to get by on a shoestring without feeling like you?re depriving yourself of the finer things in life.
1. Seek Cheap Entertainment
In Uncommon Sense, her online personal finance column (moneycentral.msn.com), M.P. Dunleavey?s first tip on living large on next to nothing is going to art galleries. ?It?s all about gallery openings,? her cousin Alicia once told her. ?You?re there, you?re fed, you?re buzzed.? To get invited to those free wine and cheese openings, visit local galleries and put your name on their mailing lists. Other ideas: Head to free nights at your local museum. Instead of paying $50 for a concert or play, volunteer to usher. Or support local artists by attending open mike nights at a coffeehouse. Better yet, bring your guitar or tambourine and play along! If you can play a few tunes, play outside. Busking is a great way to earn money, and it makes our streets more entertaining!
2. Lounge Around
If you can?t afford dinner and a movie, try the time-honored tradition of staying in bed, ?ideally with someone else,? writes Dunleavey. And for great entertainment until you find company, she suggests reading up on the topic: The Kama Sutra, Fear of Flying, and The Monica Lewinsky Story. You can find these classics at your local library?for free.
3. Brew at Home
Making coffee or tea at home is easy. Really easy. And it will save you oodles. That harmless $3 per day in latte adds up to $1,095 per year. And for tea drinkers: Loose-leaf tea in bulk is often half the cost of prepackaged bags.
4. Start a Travel Honey Pot
Having trouble saving for a trip? Putting away just $5 a day in an actual travel honey pot will add up to $2,700 every 18 months, writes Sabrina Sakata in the new women?s travel magazine Guava. A few of her ideas for finding that $5? Unjoin the fitness club by exercising outside or buying your own weights. Take your shoes to a repair shop rather than shelling out for new ones. Stop buying a new PC every few years; build your own by buying cheap used models and upgrading the memory. Every time the pot reaches $200, put the money in a savings account.
5. Rediscover the Clothesline
The average apartment dweller might spend $250 in quarters each year to use a dryer. If you?re not already convinced that the clothesline is the way to go, Sakata offers more evidence: ?Electric dryers suck the life from clothing (result: dryer lint!)? and the high heat of dryers guarantees that stains are permanently set in your clothes. Plus, the sun actually removes stains from white clothes.
6. Avoid Parking Meters
Cars are the single greatest money-suck in most people?s budgets. But if you must drive to work or to play, look for free parking on the fringes of parking meter land. You?ll save a bundle every week and get in a little walk before and after work.
7. Borrow a Video
Next time you?re thinking about a movie night at home, skip Blockbuster and check out your public library. Many local libraries have a great stash of movies you can borrow for free.
8. Swap Clothing
Cheaper than the local thrift store and more fun than a potluck, clothing swaps can be a great way to freshen up your wardrobe without dropping a load of cash. Just pull all the serviceable clothing you never wear from your closet, ask a bunch of your best friends to do the same, and let the trading begin.
9. Start a Workers? Collective
Need some work done around the house? Gather together a group of friends to help with painting, gardening, or construction projects. Your job is to have the projects lined up and the food on the table. If the group spends one Saturday a month at each person?s place, you?ll get a load of work done and have some fun together. If the party goes into the evening, break out the board games or cards for more cheap entertainment.
10. Get Help
Simply put, you can save more money if you take a hard, honest look at your finances and develop a plan, no matter what your income. Surf the Net. Read a book. Take a class. Or seek support from a real live financial planner. With more knowledge and less worry, you?ll be sure to have more savings, and more energy to devote to the rest of your life.