1. Keep your spending money in CASH. Use a small divided folder or some envelopes fastened together, label them with categories you regularly use, and put the cash for those items in the pockets. If the envelope is empty before the end of the month/pay period, you’ll either have to rethink how much you’ve been spending for that item, or cut back somewhere else.
2. BILLS should be paid by check or money order, or online if you’re comfortable doing that. Checks or money order carbons are receipts that you paid, while cash sometimes won’t have a trail. Online payments should NEVER be of the “auto pay” option, if you’re on a tight budget! If your plan/service has a price increase, you’ll have more taken than you had budgeted for, and you might not be notified first! [I’m looking at you, phone/internet services…cable, too, for that matter.]
3. NEVER bring your plastic to the store…except your EBT/SNAP card, and even then, know exactly how much you can spend before you even grab a cart! Also, BRING A LIST. Impulse buys will eat your wallet and your sanity.
4. SHOP at 99¢ STORES or GROCERY SURPLUS WAREHOUSES! When something is in season, you can often find it in the 99¢ store’s produce section – even bagged salads, and other items that are usually costly in the supermarkets. They also sell brand name items that had their labels or sizes changed, or were discontinued by the manufacturers.
5. SAVE for something you really want. Often, by the time you’ve got enough money for it, you’ll no longer “have to have” it. Or, the price will have come down, especially if your item was a “New!!” thing.
6. Speaking of NEW things, if something has just come out (like the latest “iThingy”…), look into getting one of the last generation of iThingys. Particularly if the development curve is rapid, you get some nice kit still in new or good condition, for a lower price. [Do check that the iThingy is for a carrier with plans you can afford.]
7. Use LAYAWAY, for gifts — Christmas or birthdays and anniversaries. Some stores, like furniture or appliance places, also have layaway plans. Look into those, and spread out the pain!
8. Why not see if your item can be AFFORDABLY REPAIRED? If you had saved to buy higher quality, it might be worth it. The internet can help you pinpoint the problem, and determine if you can do it yourself or need a repair service. If you do use a repair service, make sure they offer a warrantee or a guarantee on their labor.
9. BARTER or TRADE for what you need, with family, friends or neighbors. Say you’re a gardener, and your friend/neighbor/brother in law fixes cars. These are services that both cost a bit, so make an informal agreement to help each other out. Even if you don’t work a particular job, you can trade something you can do, like baby-sitting for help with spring cleaning, etc.
10. GET IT FREE! Go online and check out Freecycle or Craigslist for your area, and see if someone if offering the item you need, or ask online for it, and go pick it up. Let’s keep using things, not dumping them in landfills for future generations to deal with. Planetary budgeting, that’s the ticket!