When you are living on a limited budget, it can seem like you don’t have enough money for all the things you think are important to living the way you truly want to live. While most people don’t have enough income to indulge their every whim, it is possible to live life in style while still living responsibly within your means.
Knowing Your Priorities
Beyond your basic needs and the bills that need to get paid every month, what things–tangible or intangible–are most important to your quality of life? Answering this question will help you to set priorities for the discretionary spending that can help you make the best possible spending decisions when you have to do so. Ordering your spending priorities sometimes happens naturally as you go through life, but being intentional about what you value most will ensure that you don’t end up spending too much on lesser priorities and end up short on funds for the things that matter most.
For instance, if your top priority is traveling, you should limit spending on other non-necessities like home decor upgrades or fancy clothes, or vacation time could roll around and you won’t have the funds you need to go anywhere. You may want to set aside a certain amount of money from each paycheck for each category that you have listed as a priority. This is a good way to save for larger priority items like travel and as a way to limit your spending in each category so more of your priorities can be satisfied.
Having a Positive Attitude
Instead of constantly feeling down about what you can’t afford, take some time to think about all the positive things you do have in your life. Chances are, what makes your life worth living isn’t stuff, but people you love. The reality is that you probably already have what you really need to be happy even if you can’t afford to buy everything you wish you could. Being grateful for what you already have will help you put all the wants in perspective and help you say no to things that aren’t really important.
Finding Bargains and Discounts
Once you have put your spending priorities in order of importance, the process of getting the most for your money can begin. There are tons of ways to save money on the things you need and want, and every dollar you save can be put toward that next priority on the list.
Waiting until an item you want is discounted can be difficult in our instant gratification society, but you can save a significant amount of money by resolving never to pay full price unless there is no way to avoid it. Checking newspaper flyers, most of which can now be found online, and Googling the item to find out prices online are the basic ways to get discounts on items, but there are many other ways that can get you even better bargains on most items.
Buying Off Season
Clothing, shoes, household items, and other things are usually sold in certain seasons, and you can get items for half price or less if you wait until the end of the season when unsold items are put on clearance. Buying off season can take some planning to anticipate next year’s needs, but many items are predictable (kids’ shoes and coats, Christmas gift bags, and wrapping paper, etc.).
Discount Stores and Outlets
Some stores sell items that are deeply discounted because they are overstock from another store. Some of the larger chains include Ollie’s, Big Lots, and Five Below. These stores offer bargains that can make it easier to live on a tight budget. Many upscale chains like Nordstrom’s and Macy’s also have outlet locations that offer discounted merchandise as well. Buying items at these stores can offer significant savings compared to original prices.
Using Online Reward Programs
Swagbucks, Ibotta and Ebates are examples of programs that will give you cash back or points that can be redeemed for gift cards at many retailers. When the online price is the lowest, using these programs can give you an even better bargain by making future purchases a better (or even free) deal.
You can get items for pennies on the dollar by shopping used, and there are more ways to do so than ever before. Yard sales and estate sales often yield quality items for just a few dollars as homeowners just want to get rid of their unwanted stuff, and thrift stores can also be a way to get what you need on the cheap, especially if they are in upscale areas.
Craigslist and local Facebook groups are other sources of used goods–and often they are barely used or have sat unused in someone’s closet or garage until they are put up for sale, still brand new. If you can wait for the right item to come along, you can get furniture, jewelry, and electronics for a fraction of what they would cost you in a store.
Big Items, Bigger Discounts
One rule of thumb on large items is to buy the least you can, but buy quality. A smaller house will be more affordable and will allow you to maintain it better and decorate and renovate it to your liking. Buying a quality car used may even hold up better than a new car from a less expensive but less reliable brand. This principle can also hold true with smaller things like home decor and clothing–fewer high quality items may give you more satisfaction–and less clutter–than snapping up every bargain at Target, as fun as that is.
Traveling for Less
A little investigation will reveal off-peak times to travel at greatly reduced prices, and being willing to travel last minute can be another way to get plane tickets and accommodations for practically nothing. Cruises will often sell unused tickets for very low prices at certain times and at the last minute.
Be sure to make use of memberships that offer travel discounts if you have them, like AAA, SAM’s Club, and even some insurance companies. Don’t just assume those memberships offer the best rates, however; do your due diligence and you can sometimes save even more with a different method. Many online sites also offer tips and discounts and are worth checking out as well.
By telling others about items you want to buy or asking if they know of any good deals, you may find out about opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise know about. Just about everyone is flattered to be asked for advice and will be glad to share any deals they know about. Sometimes one of your friends or family members will even have what you need and be willing to give it to you for free rather than donate it elsewhere.
By keeping an open mind and investigating all your options, you should be able to get pretty far down your priority list and live in style while staying within your limited budget.