When it comes to saving money, most people assume that there has to be some sacrifice. Money saved means money not spent, which in turn means less stuff, less fun and less pleasure, Right?
While sometimes saving money can mean making sacrifices (but if you want to achieve Financial Independence, then these are sacrifices that are often worth making) there are a load of ways that you can save money AND improve your life all at the same time.
That sounds like a win-win to me!
First up on my list:
If you are anything like what seems like the rest of the country judging by the queues at my local Starbucks, you like a good cup of coffee in the morning.
The US, along with the rest of the western world has gone mad for nice coffee. For many people, instant will simply no longer do.
I count myself among these new ‘coffee snobs’ and for good reason. Nice coffee is … well … nicer!
The problem is that that coffee chains know this and continue to increase their prices and create ever more extravagant coffee variations for us to drop our money on. Double Chia Skinny Mocha Latte anyone?
So much so, that the average American is now thought to spend a whopping $20 on coffee each week! Wow. That's over $1,000 a year!
Until a couple of years ago, I was probably spending that amount or more on coffee each week.
That was until I discovered that I could make my own coffee at home or in the office that was actually better than what the coffee chains could serve up – and it was 1/6th of the price!
Now you can get coffee machines of all different shapes and sizes and they will all have different running costs. My personal favourite is the Nespresso machine with its super-convenient pods.
Other coffee aficionados would say that you simply have to have a bean-to-cup machine, but I just can’t be dealing with the hassle.
With Nespresso you put capsule in, press button and hey presto, you have a great cup of coffee.
Now I personally prefer my Nespresso coffee to those that I can buy in the stores.
I can also buy Nespresso capsules for around $0.50 vs around $3-$5 for a coffee in the shops. That’s a saving of between $2.50 and $4.50 a day. Even at the lower end of the scale, that’s saving well over $15 a week!
If you are the type to buy coffee out and about and you don’t have one already, I highly suggest you get a decent coffee machine. Whichever one you choose, I can almost guarantee it will be cheaper per cup than buying it in the shop.
And, you never know, you might like it better too – I certainly did!
If possible, you should also try to get a coffee machine in the office as well to save all those trips to Starbucks at lunchtime.
If your boss won’t spring for a new coffee machine (stingy), then I suggest you club together with your fellow coffee drinking colleagues and get one to share between you.
If your boss won’t allow you to have a coffee machine in the office at all, you probably need a new boss. Just saying!
I can hear the groans already (not another person yapping on about how we should all be walking rather than driving everywhere) but bear with me.
If you plan things correctly, you can often save a whole load of money, just by walking a few more steps.
The health benefits of walking are well documented by now by people far more qualified than me, so I will leave that one alone and focus on the money side of it.
In some cases, walking or cycling can make a huge difference to your wallet. For shorter journeys, I think public transport can be the biggest culprit.
For example, I you are only going to travel a mile or two, if you drive you own car the only marginal cost that really matters is the fuel, which will probably cost no more than $0.25-$0.50.
If however you take the bus or tram, you could spend $2 or $3 on a ticket for a really small journey.
Once you factor in the waiting times for public transport, it might have been faster to walk as well.
Most of us are going to spend some money each month, no matter how frugal we are. Using a cashback or rewards credit card can help you to save money and also give you more money in your pocket at the same time.
But how can that be?
When you get a cashback credit card, the first thing to mention is that you get cashback (there is a clue in the name really).
This means that you get money back on the spending that you were going to do anyway!
For a cashback credit card to work, you must follow one golden rule – NEVER spend more than you were going to, just because you are earning cashback.
Most cashback credit cards will offer between 1-2% back on what you are spending. So if you spend $100, you can expect to get $1-$2 back.
Now although this does not seem like much, it can be a rather big deal. I generally spend around $25,000 a year on my credit card. I put everything on it that I can – groceries, entertainment spending, home repairs. You name it, if they accept my card, it goes on there.
This means that I get around $300 in cashback returned to me each year, just for spending the money I was going to spend anyway!
The other way in which cashback credit cards can help you is by offering deals on the places where you shop the most.
I use an American Express card and not only do they give me cashback on my general spending, but they also have bonus cashback on certain retailers where I shop. This means that some of the time I can earn up to 20% cashback by taking advantage of these deals.
They might have a deal that says get $10 back when you spend $50 for example.
If you combine these deals with the cashback you get also, then you can actually save money on the things you were going to buy and then get paid at the end of the year for buying them.
Remember the golden rule though – NEVER spend more than you were going to, just because you have a cashback credit card.
Even if you spend just a little bit more than you would otherwise, then this will wipe out the benefits of having the cashback.
If you are not super disciplined with this type of thing, probably better to have no credit cards at all!
You can also use rewards credit cards to build points or vouchers for a certain company that you use a lot.
If you shop regularly at one retailer, then a rewards credit card can actually be better than a cashback card as the rewards points could be worth more to you than the 1-2% you will get back on a cashback card.
You need to do your homework though. Some rewards cards are excellent, some are really bad. It will all depend on the deal on offer, how much you spend and also how much the rewards are worth to you.
First of all, let me be clear – I LOVE eating out. I love going for dinner, lunch breakfast, brunch and almost any other meal I can get away with.
Where I used to waste a whole load of money though was on lunch while at work.
Because I was a bit lazy, I never made lunch and would end up in an expensive café every lunchtime spending $5-$10 on lunch.
That gets super expensive – fast!
For me, lunch while I’m working is more of a utility meal. I tend not to have a massive long relaxing lunch break, preferring to finish earlier in the day if I can. As such, when it comes to lunch at work, I want to eat and get on with my day.
I also want it to be reasonably healthy. Lunch can be one of the most dangerous meals for your health, especially if you are eating rich café lunches every day.
Now making food at home might sound like a really big deal, but it doesn’t have to be.
I have a homemade meal every day at work and it is barely any extra effort. But how can that be.
Well – when I am making dinner, I always make extra and put one or two portions in the refrigerator for the following day. This is almost zero extra effort (I was making dinner anyway) and then in the morning, I just open the fridge, grab a pot and go.
I also regularly make seed bars which can be made in large batches (I usually make around 2-3 weeks worth in one go). They take around 5 minutes to make and are super healthy for you.
Although this blog is not about food, I thought I would share the recipe here – it’s too good to miss.
In addition to my dinner from last night and a couple of seed bars, I just throw in an apple or banana and there you have it – a work lunch with very little cost.
Eating this way will probably do your waistline a favour as well so you can save money and improve your life.
I reckon I now save around $150 a month vs what I used to spend on lunch in cafes.
Gym memberships can be super expensive. I often hear of people spending $50-$100 per month and sometimes a lot more on gym memberships.
Let’s face it, most gym memberships are not used as much as they should be. A significant percentage are not used at all!
If you are not making use of your gym membership at all, just go ahead and cancel it – who are you kidding?
My answer would be no one, except your wallet!
If you are rarely using your gym, or even if you use it regularly, have you thought about creating a home gym to save money?
A home gym can be as simple or advanced as you like.
Some have just a couple of pieces of equipment, others have all the latest technology.
By shopping smart (often using eBay and other second hand sites), you can create a really nice home gym for less than you would spend on your gym membership over perhaps a year or two.
What’s even better is that a home gym means you don’t have to leave the house to do your exercise, meaning you don’t have to brave those cold, dark mornings to get your fitness regime on track.
That’s another possible excuse not to workout done away with!
Now of course a lot of people might not have space for a home gym and that’s fine – you can’t fit in what you can’t fit in!
Plenty of others though have spare rooms, garages or corners where some gym equipment would squeeze in.
So there you have it – 5 ways you can save money AND improve your life. Let me know your ideas and I will try to feature as many as I can in a future article.