I recently had a conversation with someone who said she loved reading, but she couldn't afford to buy books anymore. I glanced down at her venti (large) coffee cup from Starbucks and realized where her money was going. She was willing to pay big bucks for something that probably wouldn't last an hour, and it was preventing her from several hours of enjoyment. Later I started thinking that we need to find ways to save money so we can afford to purchase books we want to read.
Remember that you don't have to cut out everything you enjoy. Just make a few small adjustments here and there, and you may not even notice. I don't want you giving up the things you love, or you'll revert back to the old spending habits that will keep you out of bookstores.
Here are some cost savers that shouldn't be painful and may bring more joy than your old habits:
- Bring your own mug. It's much less expensive to brew your own coffee and pour it into a travel mug than it is to purchase it at an expensive coffee shop. If you crave the ambiance of the shop and the flavor of coffee brewed by someone else, cut back to a once-a-week treat.
- Bring your lunch to work a couple days a week. Brown bagging is one of the most cost effective ways to save money. If you typically eat out every single day at lunch, you probably don't even realize how much money you're spending. Try preparing something for dinner that can be microwaved in the break room at work. You might discover some extra cash at the end of the week…and you may even start a trend among your coworkers. A bonus is that you'll have time left over from not having to walk or drive to the restaurant, wait in line, and wait to be served.
- Stay away from vending machines. If you must have snacks throughout the day, bring your own in zip-lock bags.
- Bottle your own water. What was a trend 20 years ago is now considered wasteful and bad for the environment. Purchase a sports bottle that you can fill with water from the cooler throughout the day. You'll save money and keep a boatload of plastic out of the landfill.
- Comparison shop for cable or satellite TV. You may discover that you're overpaying for services and stations that you don't use.
- Plan meals a week in advance. Pull out your local grocery store's sale paper, make a list before your weekly grocery-shopping trip, and only use coupons for things you use. This can help cut back on impulse spending or purchasing something just because you have a coupon for it.
- Go to a matinee. If you're a movie buff, cut the price by going at a time when the tickets are less expensive.
- Turn off the lights. When you leave a room, make a habit of turning off all things that use electricity.
- Shop your closet. Before you rush out to buy a new outfit, see if there's a way to repurpose something in your closet. Perhaps you have a suit that can be split up to create a whole new ensemble with other pieces. For example, if you have a black suit, you can wear the jacket with other slacks, skirts, and dresses. The pants can be worn with that shell and cardigan you purchased last season. Dress it up with something from your jewelry box, and you'll have a whole new outfit.
- Invite friends over. Instead of meeting your pals somewhere for dinner, invite them to your house for a potluck and game night. You might discover that it's just as much fun, and everyone will save on entertainment. This might even become a regular event for you and your pals.
- Have a spa night in. Load up on some of your favorite products – facial masks, bubble bath, and manicure products. Put on some soothing music and pamper yourself. The products most likely cost less than one spa session, and you'll have enough to use the next time you need a little TLC.
- Have a garage sale. Purge everything you don't need or want by having a garage sale. This requires energy, but if you get the neighbors to participate, you'll have more traffic and a chance of selling more of your unwanted stuff that takes up space in your home.
- Volunteer with your family. This is a multipurpose activity that will teach your children the value of doing something good for the community, making good use of time, and saving money by not spending lavishly on something that doesn't bring long-term happiness.
- Stay healthy. Eat foods that nourish your body and only treat yourself to junk food on rare occasions. Go for long walks after a big meal and try to find ways to comfort yourself that don't involve spending money.