Some recent life changes convinced me that it was time to reassess my budget. And, by reassess, I mean create.
I’ve always loved finding ways to save money. It’s not that I’m cheap; it’s more that when it comes to finances, I’m highly risk-averse. Of course, like most people, I can be pretty irrational in my habits. I will drop $300 on a pair of jeans without a second thought, but buy generic apple juice in order to save $0.15. (I get a euphoric feeling when the cashier at my local supermarket says, “Thank you for shopping here. You saved a total of $3.78 on your groceries today.”).
So without further ado, I’d like to invite you all to join in on my fun. I’ve made some recent lifestyle changes that will help me spend my money more wisely and increase savings. I’ve also computed, on average, how much I expect this change to save me over the course of the upcoming year. I hope these tips can help and inspire you, too. I know they’re pretty generic, but they really do make a difference. And if you have tips of your own, send me a shout.
1. Buh-bye, lattes. Hello, office drip. Being a Seattle-based office, it turns out we serve some high-quality java. It’s just steps from my desk, readily available and comes with all the refills I can drink. And the best part? It’s free! My lattes average $3.50 per day. Assuming I work 220 days next year, that’s a savings of $770! To sweeten the pot even more (sorry, bad pun), I’ve started brewing coffee at home on the weekends, too. This brings my annual savings to $1,014.
2. Clothes do NOT make the man (they only make his mother). I care – perhaps too much – about the brand of clothing I wear. But my son doesn’t. He sees no difference between a $50 shirt and a $5 one. The conclusion? Stop spending money on pricey baby clothing that he’ll either outgrow or stain in a matter of months, if not weeks. Let’s assume I buy him an average of 4 new shirts and 2 pairs of pants per month. Before, I was spending about $20 per shirt and $25 per pair of pants for him. Now I am spending about $8 per shirt and $15 per pair of pants. This brings my annual savings to $816.
3. Dispose of disposable income with a retirement account. Having too much disposable income sitting in my checking account is dangerous. It earns little to no interest while at the same time imploring me to spend it. If I could afford to use that money for expensive dinners, entertainment, and other superfluous purchases, I could certainly increase the amount of money that I contribute to my 401K plan. The best part about doing that is that the money is deducted before I ever receive my paycheck, so it’s really easy to adjust to my new, self-imposed “salary.” I was able to increase my 401K contributions for the upcoming year by $1500.
4. Start or Join a Babysitting Co-op. Forget pricey babysitters. Swap sitting with other parents in your community for points instead of money. Visit Sitting Around (www.sittingaround.com) to find a babysitting co-op in your area or start one yourself. The average family will save $1,000 (or more!) a year using this site.
With just these four changes alone, I’ll be saving an extra $4,330 this year!