During difficult economic times, most people look for immediate results when it comes to saving more and spending less money. Like most long-term goals, success comes from developing and maintaining good routines so they become good habits for financial success.
Although there are many areas of personal finance to consider as starting points for saving money, it is best to focus on just a few areas at a time to make small changes that can save big money. Three of these areas are groceries, clothes, and social outings. Knowing how to make small adjustments in spending for these three main budget items will make a positive impact on a single or family household.
Small change #1: Only buy grocery items on sale using the store’s circular for that week.
Groceries are a difficult item to compromise. There is nothing worse than pinching pennies on a favorite food or substituting items with lesser quality brands or generics, because the odds are that these lackluster replacements will go to the garbage, not taste the same, and inevitably lead to spending money on eating out. The key to saving big money on groceries is to have lists of basic foods and treats, not compromising taste and preferences.
Then, using a store circular, it becomes easy to find the items if and when they go on sale. For many, coupons seem like arduous work, but circulars with sales and deals maximize weekly grocery purchases. Why? Because the research for sales has already been done and all summarized in one circular. To shop with a circular, it is also key to shop weekly. This allows familiarity with a local store’s sale model and prevents purchases out of sync with specials. If, for example, there is a half-price sale on pasta, the circular prompts the consumer to buy pasta boxes of at this lowest price, because for the following weeks, there will be no need to buy pasta (and it will likely not be on sale).
The grocery budget then moves onto other sale items from the circular, like paper towels, cereals, chicken breasts, or orange juice. After one month of weekly circular-based purchases, a person should have stocked their pantry, refrigerator, and kitchen with a savings close to, if not more than, 50 percent off of the regular price. Circulars tend to highlight major discounts and that is what a consumer wants to do. Make that small change to purchase what is needed only when it is on sale. If coupons can be clipped, that’s even better!
Unlike groceries, clothes border on being a necessity and a luxury. No one is likely to wear the same t-shirt and slacks daily and launder them at night to save a penny. It’s possible that some people have to do this, but the average person trying to save money on clothes usually still wants to maintain some fashion sense. People spend money on clothes to maintain social appearances, too. Saving money on clothes is a different challenge, but it can be done!
Small change #2: Only buy clothes from clearance racks and high-end consignment boutiques.
This change is very easy, but it may be extraordinarily difficult for those who would feel some embarrassment at buying clothes that is not “new.” It is best to start with the clearance rack mentality, and only buy from any store’s clearance items, saving anywhere from 30 – 75 percent off with most major retailers. All stores and brands engage in clearance sales to rid racks of clothes that did not sell for a season.
For those who need clothes for work, the clearance rack is the best small change that will save up to 75 percent in many cases, bringing business and business casual clothes to a remarkable price, since business attire tends to be less popular than trendier fashions. Since work clothes tends to be standard and conservative (in most cases), the latest fashions are irrelevant, since most pants, skirts, suits, and tops are variations of the same basic business elements.
Buying trendy clothes could be a challenge, especially for those who feel they must have the latest fashions as they appear off of the runway. Unfortunately, some small changes come with other sacrifices, and when saving money on clothes, it is best to research the best consignment stores within an area and become a loyal customer.
There are consignments stores that sell high-end purses, jewelry, clothes, dresses, shoes, and more. The odds are that most people visit thrift and consignment stores on rare occasions, but repeat customers develop relationships with store owners who may even make phone calls to let loyal customers know when some quality items have arrived.
Although many people have mixed feelings about thrift stores and the like, it is important to find a quality store with great policies. Many consignments shops limit their clothes to styles within the past year or two. Others promote that their items all look like new, showcasing high-end brands at discounts anywhere from 50-90 percent off of retail value. It may be the best small change with the largest savings.
Similar to saving money on clothes, social outings are typically considered a luxury, but they should be viewed as a necessity. Even in the hardest of times, people need to connect to other people, bond with family, laugh with friends, and relax.
Small change #3: Host pasta dinners at your home for family and friends.
The quickest and most immediate small change to save big money on social outings is to host at home. At first, the idea of hosting sounds expensive and troublesome. Well, this is not about hosting a holiday feast. This is a casual Friday night. Taking that a step further, hosting pasta and salad nights (noting small change #1) will maximize a host’s obligations while pleasing everyone with a casual and home-cooked meal.
In some cases, a host may order pizza for everyone and find that guests will chip in for the pies. The best part about hosting at home is that other people will also save money, and maybe be obliged to bring a bottle of wine or a dessert to contribute and complete a meal. This may lead to others returning the hospitality and possibly develop some creative get-togethers at home, like Mimosa brunches, Sunday quiches, Friday night buffalo wings, and other fun themes. More importantly, it allows people to be together without the uncomfortable economic pressure of paying for a fancy dinner or night out.
In general, making any small changes to simplify money-spending habits is the key to save big money in any aspect of life. Drastic changes hardly ever feel good to anyone. However, whether a person is unemployed or just planning a major saving goal, small changes are more realistic and likely to be yield long-term results.