7 smart tips to spend less so you can live more

When Andy and I decided to become debt free I got excited, then depressed, then excited again. You see, I was excited about the fact that we were going to change our family tree, vacation a lot and do all these things we were dreaming up. However, I also knew that if we were going to realize these dreams, we had some very tight years ahead. Ultimately, I decided the short term-loss would be worth the long-term gain and I started figuring out ways to start spending less.

Now, even though I was never what I'd call a "shop-a-holic", I was definitely used to spending what I made. I thought as long as I didn't carry a balance on my credit card I was being financially savvy. What I didn't factor in was things like retirement, kids' college funds, having the ability to be a stay-at-home mom, allowing my husband to retire early, being able to donate to charities....you know, the things you don't really think about when you're in your 20's (and if you do, awesome, and please tell me what your parents did so I can replicate that with my kids).

So without further ado, here are the behavioral changes I've made in my life to help me spend less overall so my family can realize all these dreams we have. Some are simple "tricks" I use on myself and others are a little bigger, like shifting my focus and mindset.

Here are 7 tips that I use to spend less so my family can have more:

1. Spend More to Buy Less

This sounds odd, I know, but let me explain. Sometimes I spend $4 on a gallon of milk even though it should cost $2. This is because I opt to buy it at the local convenient store instead of the large grocery store down the street.

Sure, it might cost half the price at the grocery store, but I know that if I step foot in there I'll likely see a new kind of cheese I'd like to try, pick up some sushi from the sushi bar because I'm hungry and it looks delish, oh and I need those beautiful flowers over there, those would really brighten up my kitchen.

Before I know it, that $2 savings on my gallon of milk just cost me $30 in extra purchases I didn't plan. So, sometimes I spring for the convenience fee if I only need one or two items. That way I'm not tempted by the tens of thousands of other items at a larger store.

2. Make a List

I know, I know, you've heard this one a hundred times, right? You know why you've heard it so many times? Because IT WORKS!

It does take some planning and a little bit of discipline, but it also makes each trip to the store more stress-free and you end up with less unplanned purchases. My husband and I have a shared "note" on our iPhones titled "Groceries" and we can both add to it. When I go to the store I pull it out and start the scavenger hunt. Think Supermarket Sweep (remember that gem from the 90's?).

You can do whatever works for you ... create a list in your notes section on your phone, or use the old paper and pencil method ... just make sure you remember to bring it with you to the store and then you can put your brain on auto-pilot once you're there.

3. Only Buy Things You Love

This pertains more to clothing and home goods than groceries and toiletries. The gist here is, don't buy it if you're not crazy about.

I have fallen into the trap of buying clothes because they're on sale and I think I'll wear them. What happens is, every time I go to get dressed I choose one of my other favorite items instead of that thing that I purchased because "it was a really good deal." I've given things to charity with the tags still on. I've spent $50 on a shirt before, but worn it a hundred times. That's fifty cents per wear. I've also bought a shirt for $10 and worn it once. That's $10 per wear. In this case, my more expensive purchase was a better deal because I really liked it.

Remember, it's not a good deal if you never end up using it.

4. Don't Window Shop

I mean, really, are you looking for ways to torture yourself? If you're trying to eat healthy is it really wise to drop into the Godiva store just to see what they have? Not unless you want to end up like this afterward:

The same principle applies to shopping. I know that if I stroll into the clothing, shoe or home goods section at Target I will find things that I suddenly feel the NEED to own. So instead of expecting myself to be so disciplined in not buying things, I find it easier to not even allowing myself to SEE those things I might want.

It's a mind game ... it's easier to say no if you don't even know what you're saying no to. So what I do is make a conscious effort to avoid other aisles if I'm only there for diapers and don't have any extra "fun money" left in the budget that month. If I do have some money for the month, I let myself look and buy.

And believe me, I always find something to buy.

5. Don't Use Coupons

Look people ... these retailers are smart. They've done their homework, crunched the algorithms and analyzed all the data. They know what works for them. If they lost money sending out these coupons, they wouldn't keep printing them.

There are so many reasons coupons end up making businesses more money. For one, coupons create a sense of urgency and get you in their store (or on their website). They know that once you are there chances are you will make additional purchases.

Another trick manufacturers use is math. Here's an example of what I mean by that ... I get coupons for 50 cents off a 12-oz bag of Kraft cheese sticks, but if I buy the 24-oz bag the cost per cheese stick is exactly the same price without a coupon. So I can get the "sale" price by simply buying a higher quantity. Or, if I decide to buy the store-brand (which has the exact same ingredients as the Kraft brand mind you) it's actually cheaper than using the coupon on the name-brand cheese.

And let's talk about those Gymboree Gymbucks for a second because I'm convinced someone at NASA has designed this program. The magic is in the way they price their items and the amount of money you must spend in order to get the discount. Somehow you are ALWAYS left with the need to add a $2 item so you can get your discount. But guess what? There are NO $2 ITEMS IN THE WHOLE DARN STORE! So you end up adding a last-minute panic sock purchase for $7 and spending more than you intended. It really is quite genius of them.

Now look, I'm not crazy, if you know you need a new pair of shoes and you get a coupon for your favorite shoe store, by all means use it! But unless you already planned on going there and making a purchase, do yourself a favor and throw the coupon out. Don't treat them as a "to-do" just because you see "free money".

Stores are like casinos...the house ALWAYS wins.

6. Wait it Out

I am a sucker for home decorations. I am constantly adding new chairs, ottomans, tables and art to my "wants list".

Alas, I do not have an endless trust fund to dip into and buy all these items as quickly as I can dream them up. But it's a good thing, because more often than not, I end up seeing another item I like better than the first. I end up removing and replacing things on my list constantly. If the same item stays on my list for a year then I can say with great certainty that I really like it and it would be worth spending the money on it. I rarely feel buyers remorse anymore!

7. Less is More

This one requires a bit more work than the other tips I mentioned above. It requires changing your mindset, and it has been a process for me. This has to do with minimalism.

The minimalist way of life is becoming more popular as of late. With people living in tiny houses, documentaries like Minimalism, and challenges like Project 333 hitting the mainstream, people are starting to reject the "consume more" culture for more simplicity. I don't know if I can call myself a minimalist yet, but I'm working towards it.

Every time I donate more of my stuff I feel weight being lifted from my life. I still want things, and still buy new things, but I make sure my purchases are well researched, thought about over a long period of time and are truly things I love. I have decided to stop buying more "stuff" and start buying more things that add value to my life. And realizing that perhaps I don't need 24 wine glasses for that one party I might have one day. My kids don't need every toy they love playing with at the library or Jimmy's house because if they have it all at home it won't be special anymore.

I recently read an article called How Getting Rid of Stuff Saved my Motherhood and the author explains minimalism so eloquently I just had to include the link. I won't do it any justice by summarizing it.

So all you need to do is this simple little thing called, changing the way you think. No big deal. Just kidding, it's incredibly hard, but it's doable. We can take baby steps each day which will add up to miles worth of progress in the long run.

Even if you use just one of the seven suggestions, I think you'll find that spending less will help you do more in life. I'm not perfect but I'm much better with money than I used to be. We will be debt-free (including our home mortgage) in less than a year, our children will not need to take out student loans for college, and my husband will be able to retire by 50 if we keep on the path we are going down. That makes my small sacrifices every day well worth it.

How are you spending less so you can live more?

The post 7 Smart Tips To Spend Less So You Can Live More appeared first on Marriage, Kids and Money.

RELATED: Finance tips you need to know

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Finance tips you need to know
Making your budget work for your lifestyle

"Are you on a laptop all day? Would keeping an excel file or Google doc file help you track your expenses easier? Would it be more convenient to keep an old fashioned pen and paper type of budget? How about keeping a running tab on the fridge so that you are tracking all expenses?

The bottom line is do whatever works for you! Make it as easy as possible for you to stick to your budget by fitting your budget-keeping into your lifestyle." -Everything Finance

Revisiting your goals

"For the few that actually look at their goals again, it’s common to revisit them only at the end of the year. This is a crucial error.  As our circumstances may change day to day and month to month, so will our goals. A lot can change in twelve months, which is why I propose reviewing once a month, or at the very least every three months.

Revisiting also keeps our desires relevant.  It’s helps us remember that we even have them.  Ideas aren’t enough, we must execute.

As the great Thomas Edison said, 'Vision without execution is hallucination.' " -Jiu-Jitsu Finance

Increasing your income

"After you have lowered your expenses, it is time to bring in more income. There are many ways to bring in more income especially during the holiday season. Maybe your full-time gig will let you work extra hours for overtime. In addition, retail stores typically hire for the holiday season. That part time holiday gig could turn into a longer gig...

Retail jobs aren't the only part-time jobs available. There are plenty of other side hustles you can pick up right at home to make extra money like: Freelance Writing, Virtual Assistant, Social Media Management." -Financially Fit & Fab

Turn on your automatic savings

"Another no-hassle way to save is by setting up an automatic transfer to your savings account. By automating your transfer, you're making sure that you don't forget or pay your savings last–and as a bonus–automating your savings means you never "see" that money and subsequently makes it sting a little less.

Two new apps that I am loving lately are Digit (which has a cult following). It automatically transfers money from your checking account you won't miss. I also love Qapital, which has rules you can set to "save the change" from your purchases. I saved over $75 my first month of Qapital, which was really astonishing to me. Click here to give it a try." -Financial Best Life

Develop the habit to spend with cash than card

"To spend with cash is also an actionable way to get out of debt. According to the research on peoples spending with credit cards; it was revealed that those who shop with credit card are impelled to spend more on luxury items because they feel they are paying with “play or fun money”. In other words, people who shop with credit card spends more than required.

Evidently, finance advisors hold a strong stand on this. They strongly advise that people who are working on eliminating their debt should cultivate the habit of spending cash, to avoid being tempted to spend on irrelevant items." -MoneyMiniBlog

Leave your wallet in the car when shopping
"This trick is simple but impactful. When doing any kind of shopping, use cash, and only take the amount of money you want to spend in the store with you. Leave all other cash, credit cards, and debit cards in the car.

This is very powerful, especially when grocery shopping. In addition to the amount you plan to spend, you can consider bringing in a small cushion of a few dollars (in case there are hiccups at the register). You will shop (and spend) completely differently when you only have a hundred dollar bill with you versus a hundred dollar bill and your debit and credit cards.

Don’t give yourself a way to spend more money than you want to — and you won’t." -Hope + Cents

Start and maintain an emergency fund

"There is no fixed formula for how much you should have in an emergency fund. Some school of thoughts say 6 months’ worth is sufficient, some say a year’s worth. Everyone’s situation is different and as such, each strategy should differ. To start however, I would suggest understanding your spending habits, and then implementing a 3-6-9 guideline.

3 Months: If you are single without kids, renting, no car, partially dependent on parents for income or any combination of these factors, start off with a target of 3 months’ worth of expenses for a rainy-day fund.

6 Months: Married, kids under 18, own a house or condo, own at least one car, or any of these combined, the base target should be 6 months’ worth of expenses (if married, base it off the income of the highest earner).

9 months: Self-employed, freelancers, anyone with a volatile job or unpredictable paycheck, 9 months’ worth should be the benchmark." -Investment Conversations

How students should avoid the debt trap
"The easiest way to prevent yourself from falling into the debt-trap is by living within or below your means (that is, not overspending). In addition, it is necessary to do research before getting credit cards (or signing any contract to take on loan/ debt) so that you really understand how it works. As a student, you must learn to treat your credit card with respect.-Investment Conversations
Build a budget and stick to it
"There are many free apps available to help you track expenses, but I always prefer using my own spreadsheets. That enables me to have the most control over what I’m doing. I understand that being able to access your spreadsheet on your phone makes tracking significantly easier, which is why I prefer Google Sheets over Excel. You can download the Google Sheets app and pull up your expense tracker wherever you are to input a transaction or monitor your spending. By combining the expense tracker as separate tabs within the same spreadsheet as the bill tracker, you can have all your finances in one easy-to-access location." -The Budget Boy
Create an automatic savings account for travel.
"Here's how this automated system specifically works for you and your travel fund. Once it's set up, it goes like this:

-Your checking account receives income.

-The next day, your checking account automatically transfers money to a separate (different bank) savings account—aka your travel fund.

-Transfers repeat every month.

-You end up with a big, fat travel fund to see the world." -Take Your Success

Know your interest rates and then lower them
Know Your Interest Rates
If you have anything that you are making payments on every month, you need to know how much interest you're paying. Make sure you know these numbers, too. Ideally, you'll want to pay debts down that have a higher interest rate first. However, there is another school of thought out there that suggests paying the bill with the lowest balance first. I'd say either way is fine as long as you're making progress and as long as the higher interest rate stuff isn't astronomical.

Action: Look at your statements or call the companies to get your current interest rates on all monthly obligations.

Negotiate Lower Interest Rates
If, by chance, you ARE paying astronomical interest rates on any of your liabilities, call and try to negotiate a lower rate. Oftentimes, if you've demonstrated a history of paying on time, the company will work with you to reduce your rate. The only trick is, you have to ask.

Action: Know your numbers and call the companies to negotiate if you're paying high interest rates.

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