Is your savings account empty? Do you have less than $100 in your checking account and payday is still days away?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, you are probably looking for realistic answers to propel yourself into a better financial situation. And you are undoubtedly tired of hearing the same old responses from people who are okay with spending several hours a week compiling a budget on Excel.
Well, I’ve been in your shoes, and I’m here to offer valuable advice to get you on the right track to financial stability. I’m not going to say all my suggestions are easy. But they are realistic and attainable. Ultimately, the idea is to make temporary or marginal sacrifices for long-term gain. Bonus: you don’t have to be a financial wizard to apply them into your life.
Get a Roommate
Regardless if you rent or own your residence, get a roommate. Or offer temporary housing to friends in transition, and charge them $100 per week. Any effort to save or capitalize on housing will help leverage your financial situation.
Plan Your Meals
Yes, this is torture, but it can save you thousands of dollars per year. Planning decreases your grocery costs, and prevents spontaneous stops at convenience stores or fast-food restaurants. This task was the hardest one for me to accomplish. However, when I started saving $150 per month by taking one hour each week to plan (including planning a night a week to go out to eat, because let’s face it, I love being social), I felt like a lottery winner.
Kick One Bad Habit
Whether its smoking, drinking, or compulsive shopping on iTunes, choose one habit in your life that costs money each month and either stop doing it or curb it. For example, instead of going out with the girls to a bar where my favorite cocktail costs anywhere from $7 to $14, I do one of two things: invite the girls over to my house to drink my cheap, yet delicious, bottle of Smirnoff Vodka or go to a bar with the best drink specials. I save about $40 a month by drinking “smarter.”
Ask for Gift Cards, and Then Use Them Wisely
Instead of creating an Amazon wish list for your birthday, ask family and friends for gift cards to your favorite grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants or social-outing places. You will end up with useable gifts, and keep more cash in your pockets. Not to mention, if you are ever in a pinch when someone’s birthday comes around, you can re-gift. Don’t cringe. I’m serious.
Buy Inexpensive Greeting Cards and Gift Wrapping Supplies
You might laugh at this one, but have you seen the cost of these items lately? $3 for a card and $4 for a gift bag, and those are among the least expensive prices. The average person purchases around 55 gifts per year. If you spend $7 per gift for a card and gift bag, that is $385 per year! Go to Dollar Tree or shop the clearance sections at chain stores year around, and never spend more than $ .50 on a card and $1 on a gift bag.
Put Some Money in Savings Each Week
I don’t care if you can only afford to put $1 into savings this week. Do it! Then leave it there. Force yourself to save money, any money! The best use for your money right now is in a savings account. Then after you save at least three months of wages, start using extra savings to pay off outstanding debt.