Nothing is more thrilling than financial freedom, just like there is no bigger burden than insurmountable debt. Follow these keys to save money, live better.
One of the latest polls predicts that more than 64 percent of Americans will be living paycheck to paycheck as inflation soars to all-time highs. The number has always been believed to be greater than 50 percent, but increased costs have continued to raise the statistic.
While some folks are out there fighting with all their might, there are equally as many (if not more) who are just simply overspending and not budgeting their finances properly. Some will make the argument that money can’t buy you happiness, and while I truly do believe in that motto, not living in debt or high-stress money situations can make your home life substantially better, which will ultimately lead to happiness.
A motto that has become famous over time and is especially true right now is, “save money, live better”. I hate to patronize folks who are doing their absolute best and certain circumstances won’t allow them to get out of a hole, but I also want to provide ideas and suggestions to allow them to live a “save money, live better” lifestyle.
In my experiences in life, I have been through all phases. I was a college kid with no money, I was a newly hired employee who finally started to earn some income, I was the guy who got a few raises and bought a big house he probably shouldn’t have, and I am now the guy who has children and is far more conservative with my spending.
I have no regrets about my past (when it comes to finances haha), but I can tell you that the “save money, live better” mantra is the way to go. In fact, my family and I just made a huge decision that completely embraces this philosophy.
About two years ago, I took a new job in a new city. One we were super excited about, but one we didn’t understand all the additional costs that would be associated with living in. So, after two years and realizing we weren’t saving nearly as much per month as we wanted, we decided to downsize.
We put our house on the market and took the nice profit the market provided, and we bought a house that was smaller and cheaper than our current home. Even with interest rate increases, we will be able to save nearly $400 a month on a mortgage payment, which is incredible. That savings will go directly towards my kid’s 529 college accounts and my lifestyle will remain the same.
There will be some struggles for my family by downsizing nearly 800 square feet and losing a full bathroom, but at the end of the day, the peace of mind knowing I can save for my kid’s college education and not stress myself out financially makes it worth the sacrifice.
Maybe you’ve tried everything to loosen up your budget, or maybe you’re struggling financially and don’t know where to start. Keep reading for some ideas and tips to help you start living the lifestyle of “save money, live better”.
Ways to Save Money, Live Better:
Know your Financial Goals:
This may sound like a no-brainer, but I assure you there are a lot of people that haven’t thought about financial goals outside of a six-month window. While it is important to think about the short-term, especially if you have incurred some type of debt, it’s equally as important to think about the long-term game.
Are you going to help your children through college? At what age do you want to retire? Do you plan on having two homes during retirement? How long does your money need to last after you retire? What type of lifestyle are you going to live in 15 years?
Trust me, I get it, these are all extremely difficult questions to answer on the spot, but things you need to consider now so you know your financial goals. If you don’t have a goal or a target, you are basically running around with your head cut off, not seeing anything.
For example, I have two goals that I have set recently. One is a long-term goal, and one is a short-term goal, but both will help me live a “save money, live better” life. The short-term goal is to buy a boat. I know in the next three years I would really like to purchase a boat. But I also know that a boat is something that should not be financed (just my opinion). If I can’t afford to pay for it, I’m not quite ready to make the purchase.
In this case, I will start setting a little bit of money aside each month, figure out what I can carve away from our current savings, and hopefully come up with a plan to purchase my dream boat in the next 24-36 months.
My long-term financial goal is to pay off my house five years early. I have moved around a lot for jobs which have created a situation where I have often upgraded. After we get moved to our next house (the one where we down-graded), my plan is to make enough of an extra payment to pay it off five years early. That will allow me to pay off the house five years before I retire, which will allow me to contribute heavily to my retirement in my final working years.
These are just two small examples of defining a financial goal, but both helped me achieve a “save money, live better” mentality. Your financial goal may be to buy your first home, purchase your first car, or even rent your own first place. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the goal is, just having an understanding of what you want to achieve can be extremely helpful.
Cut your Spending:
Trust me, I’m a realist when it comes to money. I really do enjoy saving money and consider myself financially smart. But I’m far from “frugal” as well and do enjoy spending what I make. However, I can about guarantee you that all of us have a few habits that are costing us a fortune that we may not even be aware of. If you can cut even just a few bad habits, you would be amazed at the savings you could take advantage of. Here are a few easy ideas on simple things to cut to help you save money, live better.
Pack your Lunch and Coffee:
For me, this is one of the toughest things to do after my office officially went back to “in person” instead of working from home. I had gotten so used to my typical lunch at home and making my coffee in the morning. Since I wasn’t leaving the house, it was so much easier and less pressure to not purchase those things at restaurants.
Now I’m back in the office three days a week and the temptations are back. Not only does my wallet hate me buying Starbucks and McDonald’s for lunch, but my waistline is also starting to get mad at me as well.
I was really bad for about a month and had two to three coffees a week and was eating out all three days. Now I have limited myself to one coffee a week being purchased and eating out once a week and packing my lunch the rest of the days. I did the math the first month I did this, and it saved me almost $100 compared to the prior months. I do have some expenses for the packed lunches, but my family is really good about making big dinners and having plenty of leftovers to take to work for the week.
You can also take this to the next level and monitor eating out in general. Now that I have two kids, I don’t have to worry about that nearly as much right now, but I know in the past I used to spend way too much eating out and there was plenty to be saved if I really watched.
It gets to a point where eating out and buying coffee becomes routine and almost like a job. By cutting back, not only will you be able to save money, live better, but you’ll also find a new appreciation when you do purchase a specialty drink or eat out. It sounds lame, but you’ll get to a point where you are excited to get to eat out for lunch.
Manage your Subscriptions and Services:
Cable has become almost a thing of the past, and now more and more folks are using strictly subscriptions for their tv purposes. Because the demand is there, it now feels like every single channel offers a package for $4.99 a month. It all sounds cheap until you have 10 of these subscriptions and realize you could have just had cable for the same or less.
My dad is a prime example of someone who saved a fortune just by checking all of these purchases out. He told me he was spending over $250 a month on TV and subscriptions, and I told him that was outrageous. He had three packages with his satellite he didn’t use, subscriptions to four different packages he wasn’t aware of and had been with the same cable company for 15 years, where his bill was constantly increasing.
At the end of the day, I got him from $250 per month down to $75 per month and he doesn’t even miss anything from what he previously had. You read stories about people who have been paying for Netflix for two years and have never even watched a show. The bottom line is to check your credit cards and bank statements to see what’s coming out each month. You’ll be shocked at the simple subscriptions you can cut and save yourself a fortune.
Make Shopping Lists:
Maybe it’s just me, but when I go into a grocery store, it feels like I’m always hungry and I leave with 100 extra items I don’t need. The extra items aren’t usually healthy choices either. One thing I have started doing in all shopping situations is creating a list, and it has saved me a fortune.
I make a list, and I stick to it. When I go to Lowe’s I don’t wander down aisles looking at things I don’t need. When I go to the grocery store, I don’t wander down the ice cream aisle, and when I go to Kohl’s to look for clothes, I stick to the list of what I need.
Want to take this to the next level? Create a meal plan each week and then base your grocery list off that and some occasional snacks (especially with children). With the increased costs at the grocery store, my wife has really focused on fine-tuning the grocery list and it has helped us manage our weekly spending. This won’t be a huge amount, but it frees up $30-40 a week which can add up and helps us save money, live better.
Create a Budget:
I know, I’m a broken record when it comes to creating a budget, but when trying to save money, live better, there is nothing better than creating an old-fashioned budget. A line item of all income and expenses is the quickest way to help you make some cuts.
I went nearly four years of being married and about six months with a child of just “winging it”. We made enough money that we got by, but I quickly realized some of our habits were leading us down a dark path. I am the crazy guy that tracks every single penny in a month, but I also feel like I’m at a point where I have financial freedom, and there is no better feeling.
I can’t go buy a $70,000 car, but I can go on a weekend getaway out of the blue with some old friends and not have to worry about paying my electric bill. Having a budget each month and following it as closely as possible is the biggest reason I am at that point in my life.
The “save money, live better” mentality has really been life-changing for me. I don’t want you to leave today thinking that means don’t spend your money. It’s actually the opposite. But plan ahead for how you want to spend your money and make sure you do have enough before you pull the trigger.
As I stated before, the best kind of freedom is financial freedom. I have had my days worrying about how I was going to eat my next meal, and I don’t want to go through that again. I’ve also gone through my days of losing a tax return because I owed money to doctors for prior services.
My point is that you’re never going to be in a situation where you can’t better yourself. The “save money, live better” mentality is never going to be unattainable for you.