In terms of looking for ways to save money, we’ve seen it all. Almost everyone has their go-to way to save, ranging from the mundane (clip and use coupons!) to petty criminality (take home toilet paper from work). In this post, I will share some savings tips that can potentially change your life. Potentially because it’s still up to you if you’ll apply them in your life.
All of these have and continues to work for me. I hope you can incorporate some of these ideas in your journey to a better financial future.
Saving money can be a struggle especially if you’re out of practice. But just like exercising our bodies, our money-saving muscles will get stronger the more we use them.”
Saving money is only hard at the beginning but becomes easier as we go along. The most important thing is for us to try hard and persevere.
I wish it’s clear to everyone why we need to save money whatever income level we currently are in. Unfortunately, I have met people in all income levels – yes, even those who are almost drowning in debt – who think saving money is not important. Their arguments are usually based on iterations of the following:
- I want to enjoy life while I’m still young so I’ll go on vacations regardless of whatever my bank balance says.
- You can’t bring your money to the grave so why not use it all up now?
- I’d rather invest in bitcoin, business, networking, etc. to earn monster money instead of scrimping centavos (then proceed not to do any investing).
You get the drift.
Sadly, this is a pretty common mindset and I’ve seen this in my own family and circle of friends.
Usually, people who think money is not important fall into two categories: extremely rich people isolated from society and unable to make lasting relationships and friendship despite/ because of their humongous fortunes (i.e., people in movies and Howard Hughes, I guess) OR those who are broke and don’t know how to get out of being broke. Most likely, people who think that money is unimportant are the latter.
Why we need to save money
Now, I’m not saying that money is the most important thing in the world. Because it’s not.
It’s not the physical money itself that is important, but what money can get us and what it represents.
Money can be exchanged for goods and services. It can buy us food and shelter, books to read, vacations with our loved ones. It can help us feel secure in our future. All of us attach different meanings to money.
At the start of our journey to financial independence, we rely on our salaries as our sole source of income. Until we build up other streams of income, our salary is the most important tool in our money arsenal.
Our salary is what we use to buy our health and life insurance, pay our debts, and invest. We don’t just wake up one day with a large enough money ready for investing without proper planning. It takes effort and time.
That’s why it’s very important to be intentional and efficient with how we allocate and use our money.
Savings Tips That Will Change Your Life
I compiled 14 savings tips that will change your life, or at the very least, help you rethink and reevaluate your relationship with money. Because I’m apparently incapable of writing short articles, I presented them in two parts. Let me know in the comments how you think about these savings tips.
1. Compute your expenses in terms of time
I wrote an entire article dedicated to the concept of thinking of your expenses in terms of time spent earning the money to pay for said expense.
This concept is based on the fact that we only have a limited time on Earth and we exchange a portion of that time to go to work and earn money. Literally exchanging our life for money. The idea is more fully articulated in the personal finance classic book Your Money or Your Life.
In that article, I included a case study of how much my real hourly wage was when I was working in a BPO (business process outsourcing) in early 2010s. I also calculated some of regular expenses in terms of time. I learned that to:
- Buy a tall caramel macchiato in Starbucks, I had to work 138.5 minutes
- Watch a movie in 4DX, I had to work for 461.68 minutes
- Afford a Toyota Vios, I had to work, non-stop with no breaks and sleep, for 13 months and 1 week
Knowing how much of my life I trade to be able to afford and buy something makes me more careful of buying useless stuff.
I encourage you to check for yourself how much your real hourly wage is and calculate how much each purchase translates to the time by using the Life Energy calculator.
2. You are your self’s most valuable asset. Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself is a great long-term investment for you and your family. You can’t earn money for your family if you’re sick. You won’t be in any position to help yourself let alone your family if you’re constantly sick and broke by being constantly sick. Sickness can adversely affect your earnings and deplete your savings.
Hospitalization expenses are some of the biggest bills paid so it stands to reason that we can save a lot by taking care of ourselves.
Here are some the steps towards healthy living:
- Take care of your teeth
- Drink lots of water
- Avoid smoking
- Moderate your drinking
- Learn to manage stress
We don’t even have to spend a lot. The saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure still holds true. As a matter of fact, due to advances in technology, taking care of our health has never been easier and more cost-effective.
Instead of getting a traditional gym membership, we can now take up yoga by following yoga instructors in YouTube. To get off the couch and start running, we can use the free version of the C25K (couch to 5 kilometers) app. In some cities, public parks have exercise machines and free weights that anybody can use. We should maximize all these free things technology affords us.
Also, teeth! Take care of your teeth. I personally know people who have terrible teeth problems and I know they suffer and will continue to suffer as they grow older. If you can afford it, buy an electronic toothbrush and of course floss daily. Go to the dentist twice a year. If you notice some decay, get a filling. It’s not really that complicated. If you wait, you’d probably pay for more expensive treatments like root canal, bridges and whatnot in the future.
Plus, having great teeth will give you self confidence. Having bad teeth will make you feel self-conscious.
Another important thing, before flu season arrives, make sure that you are vaccinated. I’ve personally suffered from a nasty strain of flu my first year living abroad and I thought I was going to die. And actually, where I’m at, people still die of flu, that’s how nasty their strains here are.
Being sick cost more than the flu shot, which I paid US$40 for and was reimbursed by my insurance. Had somebody told me, I could’ve invested in the flu shot instead of suffering from almost a week and spending a lot of money for having food delivered all the time.
3. Tie up saving money with losing weight
One very effective method I have learned in terms of losing weight and saving money is to tie up the two together!
A crucial step in doing this is to make sure that you have the proper tools to track your weight loss and your expenses. For instance, to track my calorie intake, I use the app My Fitness Pal where I log in all calories I ingest throughout the day. To track my expenses, I use Dave Ramsey’s Everydollar app. For my purposes, I’m using the free versions of these two apps.
What I do is before I consume or do something, I think first of its consequences for BOTH my weight and my expenses.
For example, I have a bad caramel macchiato addiction that I’m trying to get rid of. As a matter of fact, I used have this drink at least once a day but sometimes twice. For argument’s sake, let’s say I have coffee once a day, costing me US$5. In a month, I would’ve spent US$150.00. Now, depending on how much disposable money you have, that might not seem like a big deal.
A tall caramel macchiato has 180 calories. In a month, that’s 5,400 calories. Depending on how much exercise you do, having an extra 180 calories a day may not be such a big deal.
Here’s how it get interesting. When I combined saving money and losing weight, avoiding my daily caramel macchiato has a bigger personal impact.
If I was only thinking about my calorie intake or my savings, I might consider that an extra US$150 or 5,400 calories a month are no biggies. But since I tied both weight loss and saving together, avoiding coffee will have me saving US$150 AND avoiding 5,400 unwanted calories that I needed to work off in a month. It now becomes a big deal.
I encourage you to try to find an equivalent item or expense in your life.
4. Take care of your stuff
This one is a low-hanging fruit. Just take care of the stuff your already have, then you don’t have to buy new ones to replace them.
Take care of your clothes, find out the best way to launder the clothes you use at the office, seasonal clothing, special-occasion dresses, delicates, and underwear. Read the labels.
For instance, I always make sure that before storing my winter coats and furs, I have them dry cleaned and mended. The dirt my winter clothes accumulated were removed and missing buttons replaced so I don’t need to worry that my clothes will deteriorate while I’m not wearing them. As a result, I don’t need to buy new winter coats every year, which seems to be the custom where I’m currently based at, saving me several hundred dollars every winter. Those coats are expensive.
Similarly, take care of your shoes and bags. I’ve seen people sport expensive everything but you won’t notice because their designer shoes are scuffed and their bags dirty. If looking expensive is your thing, you’d be better off wearing moderately-priced but well-kept accessories.
Plus, I think one of the reasons we’re unsatisfied with the things we have is that we think they look ugly and unkempt the longer we have them. If our clothing, accessories, and other stuff are well taken care of and look new and shiny, then we wouldn’t feel the need to buy newer, shinier ones.
5. Scour Craigslist and Facebook communities for household items
Other people’s cast offs are another’s treasure. You’d be surprised by the selection of quality but cheap (or sometimes free) household items, appliances, and furniture being sold in Craigslist and Facebook.
If you’re an expat, join Facebook group pages for expats. It’s a great place to look for cheap but quality stuff because a lot of people would rather sell or give away their things instead of shipping them home.
Some of the awesome things I bought off Craiglist and Facebook expat groups at steep discounts:
- Almost new racing Fuji bicycle
- Italian-style queen-size wooden bed frame
- Free books
- Velvet sofa
- Several armoires made from heavy wood
Second hand furniture
There are people who cringe at the thought of buying second hand furniture. I’m not one of them. As a matter of fact, I find a house full of entirely new furniture creepy. I prefer second hand furniture for their lived-in feel and character. I don’t mind a little bit of scuff here and there since these can usually be buffed off with wood polish.
The challenge is to find out where to buy quality second hand furniture. Usually sellers in Facebook expat groups are honest and will tell you exactly if there are some dings that might bother potential buyers.
Of course there are things that you shouldn’t buy second hand:
- Mattresses and beddings, which can carry bed bugs.
- Helmets, since you don’t know if the helmet has already been compromised and unable to protect you. I only have one brain and I’m unnaturally attached to it.
- Makeup, because gross.
6. Write down all your expenses
Having a budget is a great way to take control of our finances. How about we take it up a notch by writing down all of our expenses?
A detailed and honest list of our expenses will:
- Help us notice many things about our buying habits.
- Provide an insight to our lives that we may have never noticed before.
- If we write down all of our expenses for a long enough period, we will notice patterns in our behavior that we won’t notice unless we have a thorough accounting in front of us.
What do I mean? For example, I noticed that I spend more money on things that make me comfortable like delivery food and nice bed sheets when I’m not feeling well. The delivery food may be excused but nice bed sheets? Even with expedited delivery the fastest Amazon can deliver to me is 1 week. I knew this intellectually but my brain just wanted me to buy that soft, 1000-thread count Egyptian cotton bed sheet. NOW.
Another insight is that after a particularly good workout, I tend to pour money on workout gear.
Yes, these are still all within my budget under categories of food, miscellaneous, and clothing, but I wouldn’t have been making these purchases in the first place if I was aware of these triggers. I could’ve saved money.
I haven’t noticed this until I looked into my little notebook where I categorize my purchases and saw the spike during some dates.
These are just some insights into our habits that can be gleaned from a written down and well-categorized expenses notebook. I’m sure I will uncover more as I continue to list down all of my expenses.
Writing down all expenses is not meant to stop us from buying things. It is meant to help us understand what and when we buy and our purpose.
How about you? What are your favorite ways to save? Let me know in the comments!
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