Written by Trent Hamm, The Simple Dollar is a popular personal finance blog that chronicle's one man's road back from overwhelming debt to financial security. Hamm declared the contents of the blog to be in the Public Domain in 2008 and available for sharing when attributed properly. We will share a couple of posts a week.
Want some action points today that can change your financial situation pretty rapidly? Willing to make a few big changes to your life?
Here are four things you can do starting right now to make a radical shift in your finances and set you on a better track.
1. Cancel your cable or satellite service.
Cancel it. Pay the termination fee if you have to. Get a small antenna and a converter box (if you need one) and just watch what you can get over the air.
The average cable/satellite bill, last I heard, was around $86 a month. That’s a pretty sizeable chunk of an average American family budget, adding up to above $1,000 a year. There’s energy savings here, too – if you’re not powering up a cable box, your energy bill will drop a bit.
The average American watches 2.8 hours of television a day. Without television to constantly watch, you’ll suddenly find that you have more time to do all of the things that you’ve been meaning to do but somehow haven’t had the time for.
2. Pull everything out of your pantry.
Pull every single foodstuff you have in your pantry out on the table. You’ll probably need the floor, too. Empty out your cupboards as well, and even your refrigerator and freezer.
The goal is to get a real look at all of the food you already have on hand in your home. For most Americans, it’s a lot of food.
Now, start planning meals and finding recipes that use all of this stuff. If you have tons of spices and flour and canned vegetables and soups and other things, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with ways to use all of this food for meals. Whenever you come up with a recipe for a meal, set all of the ingredients for that meal aside with a sticky note that indicates what the meal you’re going to make with it actually is. If you’re splitting ingredients, note that on your sticky notes.
You’ll probably be able to come up with dozens and dozens of meals by doing this. After that, come up with a meal plan using all of those meals. Make a long list of all of the meals you have stuff for, then put the ingredients back in your pantry with the ingredients for the meals you plan to make soon near the front and the other ingredients further back.
Then, just follow that meal plan list. On a given day, look at the top few, choose one, make it, and cross it off the list.
You should be able to go a very long time without having to go to the grocery store for anything other than a handful of perishable staples, like milk or eggs or fresh fruit and veggies. For the next few months, you just slashed your grocery bill by more than half. Now, let’s slash it some more.
3. Drink water.
Stop drinking all of the non-water beverages that you consume on a daily basis and stick to water. Water is basically free, it’s good for you, and it quenches your thirst. It doesn’t add calories to your system, either.
When you finish up your current batch of soda or sports drinks or coffee or tea, don’t just go out there and buy some more. Just drink water. Whenever you’re thirsty, get a cup of water instead of the beverage you might crave.
Sure, you might get a few caffeine withdrawal headaches. Don’t worry – they’ll go away soon enough.
In the short term, you’ll have a smaller grocery bill. In the long term, you’ll have improved health, too.
4. Turn off your climate control and open the windows.
If the temperature outside is between 50 F and 90 F, we turn off all climate control, open up the windows, and let the breeze blow through our house. For us, this covers all of the year except for a couple months during the winter and perhaps a week or two at the peak of summertime.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to toss open the windows right now. Even if that’s not your situation, I’m willing to bet that you’ll be able to do this at some point in the very near future.
I’ve found that if you do this for a day, it becomes very tempting to do it the next day… and the next day… and the next day. The fresh air and the breeze flowing through your home makes everything seem lighter and more enjoyable.
These changes sound hard, but each of them has significant upside. They each trim your monthly spending in a significant fashion and they each bring other benefits to your life – better health, more time, more fresh air, and so on. Give one of these challenges a shot today.