When you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck and struggling to get by you need this essential skill of knowing how to stretch your dollars. It will serve you well any time you are trying to cut back, get ahead, pay off debt, or reach a new goal. In this post I’m going to give you 10 simple tips to stretch your dollars that you could put into action today. You’ll probably be surprised at the ways you’re wasting money without even knowing it!
10 SIMPLE TIPS TO STRETCH YOUR DOLLARS
With practice, you’ll find that you really can make the same amount of money go further.
Resist the urge to spend the money you are saving on other stuff you don’t need.
Be intentional with your savings and put it towards reaching your big goals.
Okay, here are the tips.
TRACK YOUR SPENDING
Every single time you buy anything, write it down.
Just the simple act of writing it down causes you to spend less money.
Because when you can see how much you’re actually spending written down on paper, you can’t ignore it. It makes it real. It’s brings it from the back of your mind to the front.
How should you track your spending?
It’s up to you.
You can actually write it down on paper.
I have a beautiful printable spending tracker you can grab for free in my Freebie Library that you could use for this.
Or you could write it in a note on your phone using Evernote or even just the Notes app on iPhone.
You could even send yourself a text message.
However you choose to do it, make sure you’re tracking your spending every time you shop.
Easier said than done, right?
I used to spend all my money as soon as I got it on things I thought I really needed, but actually didn’t need at all.
I thought I needed to work more to make more money but really, I just needed to use the money I had wisely.
So, like any other bad habit, the first step is admitting that this is a problem.
Then, start being intentional about fixing it.
Here is a post that will walk you through 3 Simple Tips to Stop Overspending.
FEEL THE CASH LEAVE YOUR FINGERS
A lot of people recommend using cash for everything.
I don’t believe in that.
There are some things, like gas, that are just easier to buy with a debit card (or a credit card – if you pay it off each month).
And you probably aren’t going to use more gas because you paid for it with a card.
So instead, I say to use cash for your problem areas.
Do you have a Starbucks addiction? Give yourself a set amount of cash spend on Starbucks each month. You’ll find yourself ordering less expensive drinks.
Then, when you run out of your Starbucks cash, hold to that and don’t go back until the next month.
Maybe Target is your problem area, like it has been for so many of us.
Give yourself a set amount of Target money for the month. When it’s out, no more Target. Even if you absolutely need something, make yourself go to another store.
You’ll find yourself buying less unnecessary stuff when you have a limited cash amount to spend.
BE INTENTIONAL WITH GROCERIES
Many of us have this problem area in common. We spend too much on groceries.
But we have to feed out families, right?
The answer is to be intentional with every step of the grocery shopping process.
From the meals we plan, to the list we write, to the actual foods that we buy at the store, we need to be sure that we are being deliberate.
Meal planning is definitely a great first step. If you’ve tried meal planning in the past and struggled with it, check out my meal planning alternative. It’s the flexible meal planning solution for those of us that don’t want to decide on Sunday what we’re going to have for dinner Friday night.
Make sure you are shopping with a list every single time you shop. I like to make my list on my phone so I eliminate the risk of leaving my list at home.
Here are some resources to save more on groceries:
BE SKEPTICAL ABOUT SALES
Retailers are smart. They know you want to feel like you’re getting a good deal. It’s how they pull you into the store.
They’ll send you coupons and emails about huge sales.
You run in, coupon pulled up on your phone, and buy 10 outfits you didn’t need to buy.
And even if you do need something, the sales trick you into buying more than you need. You’ll go into the store to buy a pair of black work pants, but then you realize you have a coupon for $25 off $100, and all of a sudden you spent $75 that you didn’t need to spend.
This was one of my main money traps back in my overspending days.
If this is where your money is going, you have to tune out the sales.
Unsubscribe to the emails.
Remember what Dave Ramsey says, “It’s 100% off if you don’t buy it!”
CONSIDER PRICES PER UNIT
You should always compare prices when you shop if you’re trying to stretch your dollars.
(By the way, I have a handy price tracking worksheet that you can use to help you with this. You can grab yours here.)
But when you’re tracking and comparing prices, it’s important that you consider price per unit.
So, say you’re buying tissues. A single box of Kleenex might cost $2.00. But It you buy in bulk at a warehouse store you could get 10 boxes for $12.50, which equals $1.25 per box.
Per unit, the bulk option is a savings of $7.50.
Of course, sometimes the bulk option isn’t the cheapest. Other store’s sales (especially those on the front page of the circular) beat the warehouse store’s regular prices sometimes.
But it’s worth doing the math to figure it out.
By the way, You don’t have to pay for a membership at a warehouse store in order to buy in bulk.
You can order online with Boxed. Boxed lets you shop for bulk-sized household items online. Your purchase is delivered for free and you don’t have to pay any membership fees.
Bonus: If you sign up for Boxed with with my special referral here, you’ll get $15 off your first order.
DIY WHERE YOU CAN
Even those of us who are not super handy can save money by just doing things ourselves instead of hiring out.
There are literally You-Tube videos for everything these days.
If something small in your home breaks, like an appliance, you can search You-Tube for the problem and the exact model you have, and you will most likely find a tutorial on how to fix it.
Anytime you find that you want to hire someone to do a repair or improvement in your home, consider if you can do it yourself.
I never thought I’d be able to paint a room. In truth I’m not the best at it, but we’ve done several now, and I’m getting much better. There are minor imperfections here and there but I just smile when I look at them and no one else has ever noticed.
Our rule of thumb is that we try to do it ourselves first. If we mess it up, then we’ll call in a professional to come help us.
In some cases, procrastination can actually be a good thing!
When you want to make a major purchase (anything over $50-$100) put it off for 30 days before you decide.
You may find a month later that you don’t actually need that thing at all.
If you still want it, you’ll have followed the price for a while and you’ll be better informed on how to get the best price on that item.
This is also a great way to train your brain not to give into your impulses.
Treat a big purchase as a big deal that it is.
I also like to have a Someday List for things that I’d like to buy someday when I can afford it.
For example, I dream of having a chest freezer. It’s not in the budget right now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on ever having one. It’s on my Someday List.
REUSE WHERE YOU CAN
How many things do you throw away after barely using them at all?
That totally clean Ziplock bag. The basically clean paper towel you dried you hands on. Gift bags.
As you go to throw things out throughout the day, consider whether you can use that item again.
While the amount this saves you isn’t obvious like it was when we were comparing prices, it definitely can save you some serious money overall.
Consider if you used every Ziplock bag twice, instead of just once. That’s basically like getting a whole box of Ziplock bags free.
Be creative and look for the things in your everyday life that you could use more than once.
USE A LITTLE LESS
This was the first tip that came to my mind when I thought of stretching our dollars, but I wanted to save the best for last.
Simply, use a little less of all those products that you use around the house. It will make them go further, last longer, and cost less.
For example, instead of using a whole cap full of laundry detergent use 3/4 of a cap, or even 1/2 a cap if your clothes aren’t that dirty.
You could use a little less shampoo, a little less contact solution, a little less toilet paper. It really works for anything.
Just be a rebel. Ignore the labels. Experiment and find the right amount for you to use.
STRETCH YOUR DOLLARS
After reading all these tips, you are armed and ready to stretch your dollars!
Start by tracking your spending and use that as motivation to quit overspending. Pay for some thing with cash. Be intentional with your grocery shopping and be skeptical about sales.
Compare prices and consider the price per unit. DIY the things you can (it’s probably more than you think!) Procrastinate about big purchases and give yourself time to consider if you really need it. Reuse items and use a little less to make the things you buy go further.
If you can implement these 10 tips to stretch your dollars into your daily life, you’ll be surprised at how much you can save!
Psst… Want to save even more? Hop on my email list here. It’s my favorite place to give you money saving tips and insights that I just don’t share anywhere else. Plus you’ll get lots of free financial tools just for signing up.
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