It sounds simple right? Spend less money then you can save more, but for most of us spending less is really difficult. It is a lot like dieting–we all want to lose weight, and we know eating less makes us thinner–but in practice it is very hard. As you can tell from reading my blog entries, I find comfort in both eating and retail so I know that cutting back spending can be very hard to do in practice.

A good rule of thumb is to save 10% of your gross income, and it is easy to see how quickly a little bit can add up:
Assume your savings earns 5% per year.

Time 5 Years 10 Years 15 Years 20 Years 25 Years
$50 per month $3,414 $7,795 $13,420 $20,637 $29,899
$100 per month $6,828 $15,592 $26,840 $41,274 $59,799

Most people are able to save $25-$50 per month pretty easily if you just figure out how to cut costs. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

  • Instead of going out to dinner with your friends, host a pot luck. If you normally spend $25 going out to dinner, you can whip up some great recipes on the cheap (I need to write a blog posting on this!).
  • If you normally buy lunch out (typically around $10) you can bring left overs, or make a sack lunch (typically saving around $5 per day).
  • Check out your local library.  In addition to having lots of great books to read (which is a great inexpensive form of entertainment), there are audio books, movies, and even magazines–all of which can save you money.
  • Minimize bank fees.  Don’t use out of network ATMs (at $1-$4 per pop, these can add up).  Balance your checkbook and make sure you don’t overdraft or go over your credit limit.  Know what you are spending (and sticking to your budget) can help a lot with these things!
  • Try to buy things on sale.  Make a list of the clothing items you need/want and then shop discount stores (like Nordstrom Rack or even thrift stores–and of course craigslist) to find your items.  Avoid impulse purchases, and don’t deviate from your list.   You can also try shopping online where sale items may have a greater selection of sizes.
  • Buy generic instead of name brand.  This applies to food in the grocery store, but also to things like makeup and shampoo.  For example, nail polish is only made in a few places in the world–so the cheap $3 polish is often made the same place as the more expensive ($15) brand name polish–the only difference is often the name and the color (and you can usually find a shade that is very similar).

There are just a few little examples.  But there are lots of other ways.  The main thing you can do is try to start saving and figuring out where you can cut your spending.  Every little bit can help a whole lot in the big scheme of things.

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