/a>Most people are probably tightening the financial belt right now, but how can you squeeze extra dollars out of an already tight budget?
How often do we “need” something and go out right away and purchase the item? Whether it is a want or need, a closer examination of most checkbooks and cash receipts would show that a lot of purchases fall into the unplanned or miscellaneous category. (Think of your last Wal-mart receipt!) I would even guess that the reason many people fear a budget is they are concerned they will not be able to think of all the “surprises” that life brings.
To combat this, our family often plays what one Dave Ramsey listener called the “Make Do Game.” Here are some steps to reducing the impact of these “surprise” expenses.
1. Plan ahead.
The best defense is a good offense. Create a list of items that you expect to need before you need them. This gives you your best deal finding ally- time.
2. Make a deadline.
Be realistic. Most of the time you don’t have to have it tonight. The more you plan ahead, the fewer last minute purchases you will have.
3. Think of alternatives.
Answer this question: “How can I make do with that I already have?” A lot of times the item you “need” can be eliminated by using something you already have.
4. Get the word out.
Let your friends and family know what you are looking for. Your friend might look past that great bargain on the perfect lime green chair for your living room if they don’t know you are looking for one. Often someone we know already has an item that we can borrow, barter, or buy from them. If you make a habit of sharing with and helping others, others will often be open to helping you.
5. Set a maximum price and save up.
Do your research and set aside enough money to purchase the item for a reasonable price. Great deals often come up unexpectedly. If you don’t have money set aside, you might miss out. It isn’t a bargain if you have to borrow money or use a credit card to buy it.
6. Be creative.
Think of all the possible ways that this item might be available. My favorite (and least expensive) options usually involve purchasing the item used. However, you can find great deals on new items if you know how/where to look. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
- Buy used- Pawn shops, thrift stores, yard sales, classified ads, Craigslist.org, eBay Amazon.com marketplace, half.com
- Deep Discounts- Clearance aisles, after season/holiday sales, scratch and dent, outlet stores, wholesale clubs
7. Enjoy the ride.
Make the process fun. The long-term rewards of finding your item at a great price are so much more fulfilling than the short-term thrill of the instant purchase. Appreciate the challenge of the hunt and you will quickly prefer the hunt over the easy find at full price.
8. Reflect on the purchase.
This step is easily missed. Make mental or written notes to help you the next time you are looking for a similar item. Keep track of how much you save. Remember… If you set aside the money beforehand every dollar you saved can go toward meeting your other goals. This helps you evaluate and answer the What’s In It For Me? and Is it Worth It? questions you may have.
Some of you might be thinking… “Who cares about saving 5 bucks here and there? My time is worth more than that.” If it takes you a year of driving all over town to save $5 on an item, you would be right. However, the confidence you gain and the money you save by making this a lifestyle can completely transform your wallet and your life. Little exercises in saving $1 or $2 add up in the long term. I would challenge you to try this out for 6 months and see if it doesn’t make your money stretch and even provide little luxuries you couldn’t (shouldn’t) afford to purchase retail. Could it save you enough to allow you to retire, live on one income, or cut out your part-time job? It is up to you.
Overspending is normal. Be weird!