I was ten when my mother sent me to the west coast to spend the summer with a rich uncle. Before I boarded the airplane, she told me about his beautiful home in the California hills, a charming jet setter lifestyle and the fleet of luxury cars he owned. What dear old mom neglected to share was Uncle Al’s fondness for living large on the cheap (and demanding everyone under his roof towed the line as well.)
After reading a few of my millionaire uncle’s money saving tips, perhaps you’ll understand why sending me back to Texas on a Grey Hound bus made perfect sense to him although everyone else vigorously debated his judgment.
1. A penny saved is a penny earned.
True, saving money can feel like a part-time job. However, the benefits are well worth the effort. Investing in personal savings accounts is an important step towards financial stability. Many economists suggest saving at least 10% of your income and even more when you can. A properly funded savings account can be the difference between financial survival during tough times and homelessness.
2. Live well, within your means.
Living in high cotton, or in fine linens for that matter, doesn’t require spending more money than you make. Consumers often fail to understand the concept of Wants vs. Needs when budgeting for their households. Personal credit cards were initially intended as temporary methods of payment for necessary items. Quite simply put, avoid purchasing what you don’t need. You’ll save thousands in credit card interest charges.
3. Shop smart from the start.
Before heading to the mall, make a plan of action then stick to it. Decide how much you can afford to spend, what your most immediate wardrobe needs are and always remember to browse the sales and clearance racks first. Expect to find quality name brand labels at a fraction of the original price. I always do.
4. Learn to want what you have.
We live in an increasingly more disposable society than we did a few years ago. High pressured sales ads and peer pressure to over consume can cause a tendency to glorify what we don’t have while under appreciating what we already own. Take a minute and photograph all of the clothing, shoes and accessories in your closets. Hopefully, taking a closer look will help to remind you of how good you have it and how much of it there is already.
5. Cooking Out vs. Eating out.
Certainly there are many benefits to dining out although the price of a deliciously prepared meal often far exceeds the experience itself. How often have you spent five times the amount it cost a restaurant to cook your entrée only to return home afterwards with a bit of dissatisfaction in your stomach and a sore spot in your wallet? I’m not advocating avoiding restaurants entirely but rather that you consider having more dinners with friends and family in the casual setting of your own home, backyard or patio. Enjoy the savings and a chance to re-connect with people you like the most.
6. Free is not a four letter word.
Well, you know what I mean. Free is good! Some of the best things in life are free. While I didn’t come up with that on my own, I agree with it whole-heartedly. City parks and recs offer regularly scheduled events tailored for family entertainment, most of which are sponsored by taxpayers or private interest. Either way, leave your wallet at home and enjoy.
7. Seek the lesser of two prices.
If you love bestselling books and magazines, visit your local library. A library card is a lifetime of savings. Pay a small membership fee then borrow the novels and periodicals you would normally shell out money for. Similarly, most box office movies make their way to retail rental outlets and discount theaters. With a bit of patience you can sit back and enjoy the show for only pennies on the dollar.
8. Recycle Leftovers.
Actually it’s tastier than it sounds. Save yourself both energy and expense by recreating one meal a week from refrigerator recyclables. You’ll be pleasantly amazed how well Monday’s pizza, Tuesday’s beef stroganoff, sweet corn and mashed potatoes from Wednesday all blend perfectly together for a Thursday night masterpiece by adding a fresh garden salad to the mix.
9. Chart & Reward your savings success.
I think we’d all agree family budget meetings are no barrels of laughs. Sitting around the kitchen table with dual calculators humming, anxious children bickering and rumors of cut backs looming sounds more like a government shutdown scenario. However, the flip side to that same coin could provide a different perspective altogether. Posting a budgeting chart on the wall in the laundry room or on the refrigerator door could be quite helpful in achieving them.
10. Road Trip Rations.
Plan carefully when packing food and drinks for long family excursions. Make enough sandwiches, snacks and beverages for the entire trip or you might be forced to waste time and money along the interstate. While you may stumble upon an upscale restaurant that doesn’t offer gravy with every entrée, I seriously doubt it.
Lastly, and this is more for my mental wellbeing than anything else, please consider packing more food than you’d think is necessary when putting your ten year old nephew on a two-day bus across the great southwest. Boys tend to eat continuously when bored and are almost certain to run out of food on day one. Thanks a lot, Uncle Al!