James contacted me recently and wanted to contribute this guest post for the site. “Sure!”, I said. If you would like to contribute a guest post, bring it on, just contact me.
The web is full of advice on spending less. It’s just a shame that most tips involve doing without – no more holidays, no more car, no more social life…
Yet the expression ‘no pain, no gain’ isn’t always relevant. There are plenty of ways to save cash without missing out on the good things in life. We’ve put together a few examples. They won’t change your life, but they might just prove a point – that you can cut your costs without cramping your lifestyle.
Tip #1 – Trade your skills
Money isn’t the only way to pay for things. Your skills and your time could be valuable commodities. What if you could ‘pay’ your baby-sitter by mowing their lawn twice? Or do someone’s ironing in return for two lifts to the shops?
You could organize swaps with your family, friends and neighbors. The more people you get involved, the easier it should be to find someone who has something you want – and wants something you have.
Tip #2 – Shun the shops
How often do you go food shopping? Would you be able to go half as often and bring back twice as much each time? If you think you can, it’s well worth trying out.
Say you shop once a week and spend $20 per visit on things you don’t really need. If you shopped every two weeks, you probably wouldn’t be comfortable ‘wasting’ any more on impulse buys per visit, so this could be an easy way to save $40 a month.
Plus, you’re more likely to stick to what you really need when you’re buying more – when you’re forced to pay attention to the size and weight of your shopping, whether you’re fitting it in the car or carrying it home on foot.
Tip #3 – Try something new
On the subject of shops, it’s no secret that discount supermarkets tend to do well during hard times. The mother of Karl and Theo Albrecht (as in ALbrecht Discount, better known as ALDI) is reputed to have said “The worse off the people are, the better off we are”.
Many people turn to discount shops – as well as supermarkets’ own brands – during times of economic hardship, and stick with them once times are good again!
Hide the labels and there’s a good chance you couldn’t tell the expensive version from the cheap one anyway. If you’re looking for objective proof, you’ll need to cook two similar meals – one using cheaper ingredients, the other using more expensive ingredients. Try them out and see if your guests can tell which one cost more.
Tip #4 – Who needs cash?
Books, PCs, games, clothes… The computer game you sell to a second-hand store for £2 could sell for £10 the next day.
The age-old tradition of bartering could deliver much better results. If anyone you know has (for example) the same games console, shoe size or taste in books as you, you could trade your items directly and cut out the middle man altogether.
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It’s the kind of thing that the internet could really accelerate – one e-mail to your family and friends could easily reach your family’s friends, your friends’ families and so on. The more people get involved, the greater the variety you’ll all have to choose from.
Tip #5 – Don’t judge a book by its cover
Dented tins and ripped labels can be your ticket to good food at a good price. They won’t change the taste, but there’s a strong chance they’ll affect the cost.
Many supermarkets keep a ‘bargain bin’ where they can sell off slightly damaged goods. It’s often near the end of the shop, so it might be worth taking a different path around the shop and checking out the bargains before you move on to the rows and rows of normal prices.
Over to you
These are just five simple ideas. You might like one of them, or all, or none! Hopefully, they might get you thinking about other small changes that could make a big difference to your budget but not your lifestyle.
Whatever kind of debt you’re dealing with – and whether you’re going it alone or receiving debt help from a financial specialist – cutting back on your spending is one of the most important changes you’ll have to make. Why not make it as painless as possible?