Without further ado:
1. Ride a bicycle- or walk- for every single trip that is under 2 miles (three, if you’re ambitious)
Why? Frequent, short trips and cold starts use more gas. The more times you use your car inefficiently, the more you pay for maintenance and repair. The less you exercise, the more you spend on health care. The easier it is to transport things, the more things you buy. And bulk is not a bargain if you throw it away. Do I need to go on?
This type of budgeting is referred to as Calculated Inconvenience, which sounds pretty official, doesn’t it? (I just made it up.) If it’s a pain in the ass for me to do it, I’ll only do it because I truly need to, or, more likely, because the outcome will bring me a great deal of joy.
Why you think you can’t: It’s too hot/cold/far away. You won’t be able to carry everything. It’ll take too long. Etc. None of that is true. You can absolutely do it. People do it all over the world, even in the snow. This tip is worthy of several posts, so I’ll keep it short for now by saying if it’s safe to bike or walk where you live, make a commitment for a week and see how you like it.
2. Eat nothing but potatoes for two days a week (three, if you’re ambitious)
Why? Potatoes are a complete food and fulfill all of your nutritional needs. And they’re like 3 dollars for a ten pound bag. You can make a hundred different things with them, and you can gussy them up with the leftover weird stuff in your fridge you’d normally throw away.
Why you think you can’t: Because you think you’ll suffer if you have to eat nothing but boring food two or three times a week. Our palates are spoiled rotten from the variety of food we eat. I promise it’ll be ok, and it’ll make your non-potato days even better.
3. Get rid of cable TV
Why? Simple. You’ll save an average of $1,000 a year.
Why you think you can’t: Because you think you need it. You don’t. I did an informal study among several friends and found that generally they left their TVs on for background noise, or just channel-surfed. That’s not a very efficient use of $75 a month. Instead, why not make an event out of TV watching? Have everyone get together somewhere for the game or the Darkplace marathon. Watch movies or TV in bed on your computer, curled up with your dog, or whatever you humans like to curl up with.
4. Lock up your debit and credit cards for a month*
Why? First of all, more Calculated Inconvenience. The very act of using cash forces you to think about what you’re spending, and to make a plan. It’s harder to spend impulsively when you only have enough cash to pay for your issue of Modern Drunkard.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you they feel weird putting one pack of gum or cigarettes on their card. People buy more things on plastic. Plastic reduces the value of money to a series of numbers on a spreadsheet. Many stores will charge you a fee if you use your card as a debit, and have a $10 minimum if you use it as a credit.
Many people shop online simply out of boredom. How many times have you bought something just because it wasn’t expensive? Not to mention the bank’s own hidden fees and charges. It’s impossible to overdraw or make unplanned online purchases when you’re paying with cash.
Why you think you can’t: It’s inconvenient- which is the whole point. And you’re worried about emergencies. Don’t panic. Lock ‘em up to prevent impulse spending, bring them with if you’re heading for Gatlin, NE. You’d be amazed how much money you save just from making it difficult to access your money.
In short, save your money for things that improve the quality of your life. Make as many things free and fun as you can. It’s only after you make subtle, lasting changes that you can totally Scrooge McDuck in your vault with all your Benjamins.
*If you need to use your credit cards regularly in order to maintain your credit score or however the hell that works, then obviously don’t lock them up. Just stop impulse buying, is all I’m trying to say.