I used to be an irresponsible spender in my early professional days, buying things without much thought whenever something sparked my interest. Soon, I felt enslaved to my paycheck because of bills I had to pay. But, having been exposed to different experiences and meeting other people through traveling and work, my perspective on handling money has changed. Though I still have a lot to learn, I've become more efficient with my spending, reframing my mindset to choose what will give me long time benefits, instead of instant gratification. In return, I'm able to enjoy my travels more without feeling suffocated with bills or debts.
Here are some practical money tips that has been working well for a spender like me. I've excluded those related to savings and investment as there are already plenty of those online.
1. Choose who you spend your time with. In my career in IT, most of my colleagues, no matter how much they earn are always concerned with saving money. They aren't the type to buy the latest gadgets or to overspend on food. Most are cheapskates who act like they don't have money to spare. Being surrounded with people who choose investments over spending on the latest trend is quite influential. Even listening passively, you'd realize you'd pick up a knowledge or two.
I don't buy the latest mobile phone model (haven't in 10 years or so). Since I'm a postpaid subscriber, I have a plan that comes with a free phone. Though it's 1-2 models behind the latest iPhone, I never felt like I was missing out.
2. Create a payment plan for debts. Financial gurus advice against buying with your credit card if you don't have available cash to pay for it in full. However, there are spending scenarios where just don't have enough cash, like a laptop for your child's online class/work or to be even more realistic, a limited edition item that will run out quickly. In scenarios similar to this, I make a plan on paying it in full as quickly as possible then limit spending to basic necessities like utility bills or food, until I've finished paying for it.
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3. When online shopping, just add to cart but don't check-out yet. I can get impulsive about spending so, to curb those impulses, I just add it to my cart. Once I've saved enough, then I buy it or wait for a holiday where there are chances of getting a discount. At times - and this is the ideal scenario, I realized I don't really need it after all.
4. Set aside a shopping budget and avoid falling into sale traps. Sometimes, the interest rate charged by your credit card won't cover the discount so it's like paying for the item in full plus the emotional baggage of unsettled credit card bills.
5. Be mindful of ordering too much in restaurants. After a long hike, I feel like I want to eat everything I find interesting on the menu so I end up ordering more than I can consume. Sometimes, takeout isn't an option which leads to food waste and a bigger bill to settle. These days, I stick to 1-2 main dishes, maybe an appetizer or two, then stop at that. More often than not, eating a slow meal makes me full in 30 minutes. Thus, all those extra servings aren't necessary. I also carry mints or snack so I don't end up too hungry that I impulsively order.
6. If you love coffee, learn to prepare it at home. I drink coffee everyday so brewing coffee at home has significantly reduced my coffee expenses. Tools like Aeropress Go plus excellent coffee beans, makes it easy to prepare a satisfying brew. If you're lazy, there's Nespresso too (you can turnover used and cleaned coffee pods so it gets recycled).
P.S. I still drop by cafes from time to time. Discovering great coffee will forever be a thrilling activity for me.
7. Exercise more. I find my spending impulses easier to manage when I exercise. It's also healthier and helpful in times like this.
Need more information on how to save money? Check out this helpful article, 40 Money-Saving Tips for Everyone.
Tips like living below your means is great but it can be very challenging for people who enjoy spending. Instead, take baby steps and follow spending tips that best suits your personality and lifestyle. It's your money anyway.