Once you reach adulthood, you realize that managing money is often about making small but consistently smart choices. After all, money affects so many aspects of our lives — our jobs, where we live, our stress level, etc. — why wouldn’t we try to fit managing it into our everyday lives? With that in mind, here are 14 ways you can easily start living smarter without even having to think about it too much.
1. Never underestimate the power of DIY home decor. It might be tempting to treat yourself to an expensive accent piece for your living room, but it can be way more satisfying to spend three dollars to make something yourself with a step-by-step guide.
2. Subscribe to the various discount/coupon apps that are literally available at your fingertips. A simple search for discount apps can really help you save on various purchases.
3. Remember that there are also apps you can sign up for that will do things like round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and then invest that change so that you are saving little by little without even realizing it.
4. Buy things in bulk — cleaning products, cereal, soap, rice, light bulbs, whatever you can think of. If it’s something that will last for a long time, it’s worth it to buy in bulk for a way better price.
5. Let “meal prepping” become your best friend. Pick a day of the week where you get all of your cooking and food preparation done at once; that way, you’re set for the whole week. Instead of being tempted to splurge on takeout after a long day because you’re too tired to stop at the grocery store, you’ll already have an inexpensive meal waiting for you at home. You might even find that it’s also a great way to lose weight or just generally improve your health.
6. Buy birthday or holiday gifts for your loved ones during the off-season. Why not think about Christmas presents in July? You can buy someone a really beautiful sweater during a summer sale that would typically be twice as expensive in November.
7. Do the same thing for yourself! Buy your bathing suits in October and your beautiful new boots at the beginning of May.
8. Pay attention to the everyday “disposable” items that you usually throw out, and figure out if there’s a way to find a reusable option instead. For example, rather than always purchasing more sandwich bags and/or lunch bags, try using reusable food storage containers. Although “snack baggies” seem cheaper, reusable food storage containers actually make more sense over time.
9. And if you don’t want to purchase actual food storage containers, make your own out of stuff you’d typically throw out — like that empty butter container or that reusable box that your leftovers were sent home in.
10. Buy cheap fresh fruit. You can always freeze it to use later on, or you can just throw it into a smoothie that will be both delicious and filling.
11. Walk as much as possible or take public transportation. If you’re used to driving, public transportation can give your eyes (and the ozone layer) a nice break. If you’re prone to relying on rideshare services, walking can be a nice change of pace and a good benefit to your health. Either way, your wallet wins.
12. Be smart about air travel. There’s a lot you can do to purchase more affordable flights: Shop around, wait for sales, look out for the discount airline options, sign up for a frequent flier program if you travel often, buy early (or, occasionally, super late), and remember that Tuesday is often the best time to purchase because that’s when a lot of airlines launch sales.
13. Try some “fun nights in” with your friends or your significant other. A lot of people tend to forget that being responsible with money doesn’t mean that you can’t also have a social life. It can be just as fun to have your friends over (and have everyone bring a simple snack or drink) as it is to go out to an expensive bar or restaurant.
14. Consider a personal financial management service. Some of them are free, and although it sounds complicated, it’s just a way to see exactly where your money is going every month. If you’re unsure of where to start, ask around to your friends and coworkers. It’s highly likely that someone has used one of these services before. And if they haven’t, you’re still bound to hear one of their own helpful pieces of financial advice.
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