My tips to saving while still enjoying time with friends and family

Brett Klein |

Many people want to save more money but are in reality living paycheck to paycheck.  And, many times they are not sure where their money goes.  An essential first step to saving is to track your spending. Initially, it may seem too daunting. Start by tracking for a week or two at a time.  Be honest with yourself and track everything - bills, automatic payments, household  and food expenses, even the change you spend on a candy bar.  By writing down everything, you will readily identify ways to stop spending unnecessarily.

Some straightforward ways in which money can be saved are relatively painless and will become second nature. Consider the following areas to get you started.

Lunches:  Instead of eating out for lunch, pack your own meal.  Eating out is a costly expense.  Make your meal from the leftovers you’ve cooked at home or buy luncheon foods at the grocery store.  If you want to treat yourself occasionally, go through the drive-through instead of paying for delivery. 

Groceries:  When it comes to groceries, I encourage you to create a meal plan then write your shopping list based upon that meal plan and stick to it.  Be sure to include snacks, pop, etc., to the list to avoid non-routine stops at the store where you may be tempted to buy unnecessary items.

Entertainment:   Spending can quickly get out of control and sabotage your savings goals when it comes to entertainment expense.  Practical steps to create savings in this area include conducting a review of your subscriptions.  Genuinely evaluate your use of subscriptions to determine if you are getting the desired benefit.  Subscriptions to consider include:  streaming services – from TV to video to music; satellite radio; blog subscriptions; or, an unused or infrequently used gym membership.  Don’t eliminate all of the fun. Try to find creative ways to have some fun experiences. Many museums and zoos have free or reduced admission days a few times a year.  Community events such as free concerts, car shows, or festivals are another way to step out of the routine of day-to-day life and have some fun.  If you have children or grandchildren, a simple picnic and a day playing at a free park is a great way to have fun and build lifelong memories.  One option to eating out would be to host a meal or even a potluck with family or friends and include time for a movie or board games – more memories in the making.

Lastly, when it comes to significant, non-emergency expenses, stop and think before you make the purchase. Give yourself a day or two to decide. Categorizing needs from wants is vital in this process.  It may help to evaluate it in the terms of how long you have to work to pay for it…a week, a month, three months or more?  Is the item worth the cost in terms of your savings goals?

In whatever manner you move forward to improve your savings habits, examining your thought processes and having a plan are essential. Good luck!