by Larry Wiener
My friends were attending a convention in a hotel with a very overpriced restaurant. They invited me to an expensive buffet breakfast that wasn’t going to be that good. I wanted to see my friends, but I was not interested in paying $18 for so-so food. I ate at home and got a $3 drink with my friends. I also found parking a few blocks from the hotel and saved myself about $5 by walking two blocks. Overall savings. about $20. I got to see my friends without paying through the nose for it.
* * *
Later that week, I went to the LA Airport to spend some time with family members that had a long layover. I know the area well enough to find free parking less than 1/2 a mile away. Savings, probably about $5 over the most expensive lot.
One of the principles of Black Belt Shopping is to make good use of the money you save. Rather than frittering away money on parking, overpriced junk foods, and the like, you save the money and then use it for something meaningful. It didn’t take that long for those everyday savings to add up to the $127 I just paid for a PDA on ebay. Given the pace of my professional life, that purchase will help me remain sane. Knowing that saving on overhead helped me buy that PDA motivates me to save more.
Of course, if I were in debt or if I weren’t saving for the future, I would use the money saved to make myself financially stronger by getting out of debt, building a reserve, and save for long-term goals.
Then I thought about someone I know who has been living in his current apartment for more than three years and still has not used his stove. Why? Because he eats out almost all the time. He’s in debt. I know that if he could shave hundreds of dollars off of his overhead and apply that money to his debts.
One time, just for the fun of it, I kept track of how much I saved on groceries by using coupons and watching sales. It was about 40%, or $20 a week. That would be about $1000 a year. I’m single, so imagine what you could save as a family if you worked to save on groceries. Keeping track of that savings could motivate you to save more.
So what are some of the areas of overhead that you can save on without compromising the quality of your life?
Here are a few that come to mind:
You can save big on food by using coupons and timing your buying around sales. Many of the articles on this site will help you do that.
Save on gas by going to less expensive stations well before you are about to run out and have to go to the closest station in a hurry.
Look at what you are paying for Internet service. There are good deals to be found.
If you pay for your own prescriptions or pay a percentage copayment, look to see if you can get the same prescription for less money at a warehouse store.
Check out the dollar stores if you haven’t lately. You can get amazing buys there on grocery and cleaning items.
Check the close-out stores. Big Lots is great for everyday items and stores such as Marshalls, AJ Wright, and Ross carry items you would find in a department store.
Look at discount sources for printer ink. If you do a lot of printing, this can save you big.
Consider using people in the informal economy to provide services. Use independent garages rather than dealers for car service, for example.
Meanwhile, cut those expenses, keep track of your savings if that helps you, and use that money to strengthen yourself financially and improve the quality of your life.
* * *
Return to Budgeting Article Index
Copyright © 2005 by Larry Wiener. All rights reserved.