In 2010, my husband and I relocated and he started a new job. His new position required some transition and time to build name recognition. Translation: we were broke for the first two years after we moved.
Broke like I was working three part-time jobs. Broke like we would make up excuses to get out of social engagements where we would have to spend money. Broke like we both had constant stomach aches from the stress of trying to make our monthly payments while watching the ever-growing debt chasm open wider beneath us each month.
It made no sense to make money to pay our regular bills plus pay off debt. It was like hooking up two garden hoses to a spout, using one to water your garden, and putting the other one directly into a drain. We finally made the decision to get out of debt so all the money we made would be ours and we could start applying it toward our future. It took some doing, but here are a few tips that helped us.
4 Major Tips We Used to Save Money and (Finally) Get Out of Debt …
Cut Out All Nonessentials
Yes, ALL. Before spending a cent, ask yourself if you need it or just want it. Get rid of anything that is not completely necessary for your survival. Can you live without cable TV? Cancel it. Do you have to have new clothes, or can you wear what you have for another winter? Do you need to go to Starbucks, or can you make coffee at home every morning? Consider reducing your Internet or data plan and spending less time online. This may be the hardest part, but it also could make the biggest difference. In the most difficult moments, remind yourself this will not be forever — it’s only temporary. Plus, when you finally can afford those things again, you’ll appreciate them all the more.
Get Pantry Creative
Making adjustments in your eating habits can have a huge impact on your wallet. Cook at home instead of eating out. It may seem like a fast food meal is more cost-effective, but for the same price, you can get ingredients to make a meal you can have for two nights (familiarize yourself with Pinterest for an abundance of these recipes). Have fruits or veggies that are looking sad? Throw veggies in a soup or stir fry, and freeze fruits and veggies for smoothies. Toward the end of the week, have “eat down” nights where you make meals out of whatever you have in the fridge or pantry.
Make Best Friends with Coupons
Honestly, coupons are like free money. If you have the time to devote to it, you can explore the science of extreme couponing. I find it overwhelming, but I am secretly jealous when I hear couponers say a store ended up owing them money. But, for the rest of us laypeople, coupons are so easily accessible now there’s no reason not to use them. Sites such as Coupon Chief are great because all the store deals are in one place rather than hunting them down individually. To this day, I never set foot in a store without checking for coupons first.
Adopt That Whole “The Best Things In Life Are Free” Mantra
When finances are tight, tension and stress can run high. Remember to take moments to enjoy your life and give yourself a break — just find inexpensive ways to do it. My husband and I would take walks and explore different parts of the city. Take advantage of nice weather and eat dinner outside or have a picnic. Look up museums that offer free admission days in your area or, for an occasional treat, movie theaters that have discount nights (bring your own snacks). We discovered a lot of simple and free activities during this time that we still enjoy today.
I think when most of us really take stock and examine our lives, we discover we really can live with less. The funny part of the whole climbing out of debt process is my husband and I actually enjoyed the game of saving money. We would come home at the end of the day and delight in sharing the ways we saved money. The day we got out of debt, we actually celebrated by going out to dinner using a gift card we’d received from the previous Christmas. Scaling back and saving money can be tough, but remember — it’s temporary. And it’s so worth it.
What about you? What are some of the ways you’re scaling back to save money?
Kate Snow is a writer and artist. She finally is living debt free, but still lives frugally and gets irrational enjoyment out of researching deals and coupons as well as being a DIY queen. You can connect with Kate on her site at Writing by Kate.
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