Your Money or Your Life: Ten Sure Ways To Save Money

YMOYLThis is the sixteenth part of The Simple Dollar Book Club reading of Your Money or Your Life. Want to know more?

Let’s move through these ten items one at a time.

1. Don’t go shopping
If you’re not going to a retail outlet in pursuit of a specific item, don’t go. If you do, you are literally choosing to spend money completely without necessity. Avoid shopping as a social or entertainment excursion at all costs. I have this very problem myself, actually, particularly when it comes to bookstores. I tend to enjoy going into bookstores, browsing for hours, and then often buying a book or two that I don’t actually need, even when there are several books at home just sitting there unread.

2. Live within your means
In other words, wait until you have the money to buy something before buying it. This is often more difficult than it seems, especially when you’re transitioning from a “buy in advance with a loan/credit card” mode to a “pay for it in cash” mode. Take our experience with vehicles, for example. We bought both of our current vehicles with loans and would like to not repeat the mistake with the next batch of them. That means as soon as we paid off the first ones, we started socking away money immediately for the next ones. While it’s nice to watch our savings balance rise and now there is light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a bit sad to know that we’ve been effectively lassoed with car payments for years.

3. Take care of what you have
This goes from hygiene (taking care of our bodies) to auto and home maintenance (taking care of our stuff). Doing these things extends not only our own life, but the life of our things. Little things, like getting your oil changed or dusting off refrigerator coils or cleaning out our vacuum cleaners or any number of little tasks can do wonders for extending the lifespan of the stuff we have.

4. Wear it out
This is a philosophy I strongly agree with. Don’t just replace an item because you want a new one – wait until you have a real reason to replace it. Drive your automobile until there’s significant issues with it. Wear clothes until they look noticeably worn (and this takes a while for a strong piece of clothing). Heck, reuse junk mail envelopes for lists (I use them in my GTD inbox all the time when jotting down stuff that needs to be done at home). However, don’t keep at it until it annoys you – be willing to accept that something doesn’t work and move on with it when something begins to wear down or actually break.

5. Do it yourself
I try very hard to live by this maxim, but sometimes it’s more difficult than it seems. For example, recently I gave replacing my kitchen sink faucet a shot and it ended with a plumber in my home. The key is to try to do it yourself – you’ll usually learn something in the process and who knows? You might just fix it yourself and save the cost of a repairman.

6. Anticipate your needs
Many people find that their monthly budget is “wrecked” by an unexpected expense, but quite often that expense could have been predicted or at least been somewhat blunted by the presence of an emergency fund. This is particularly true when you’re aware that an expense is going to occur – when you see your tires starting to show some wear, that probably means that a tire replacement cost is coming right up. A well-constructed emergency fund can really help with this. Just budget a certain amount each month to put into an emergency fund, then try to avoid using it until a major cost comes along.

7. Research value, quality, durability, and multiple use
Basically, look at total cost of ownership when investigating an item, not just the up-front cost. It’s fine to pay more for an item that will be reliable and durable over the long haul, does its job effectively and efficiently, and has a longer lifespan. It is this logic that often points towards buying more durable but more expensive automobiles and appliances.

8. Get it for less
This section blatantly pre-dates the internet, but the general maxim is still true. Look at lots of different places where you could buy an item and then go for the one that’s cheapest (but still secure). I usually am very slow with a major purchase, watching prices carefully to see if it’s an item that goes on sale regularly – and then I pounce when the opportunity comes. This doesn’t really take much time if you just look for a specific item once a week, and it can save quite a bit of cash.

9. Buy it used
Be willing to own and use things that have been used by others, particularly clothes, toys, books, and automobiles. Many people get rid of these long before their lifespan has expired, so don’t be afraid to get the remaining value out of them at a very inexpensive price. Yes, this does mean hitting garage sales and thrift stores – check your ego at the door.

10. Follow the nine steps of this program
Wow, a paragraph of promoting how good the book is! Skip.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue chapter six, “The American Dream – On A Shoestring,” focusing on the first half of the section “101 Sure Ways To Save Money.” This section appears on pages 181 through 197 in my paperback version of the book.