In an effort to eventually be financially independent, I try to save as much money as I can. Conventional personal finance wisdom holds that there are two main ways to save. One is to make more money. The other is to cut back on expenses. I’ve considered both, but a lot of my focus right now is largely on the latter.
Right now, if I wanted to make more money, I’d need to get a different job (which I’m looking into) or work more. I’m somewhat disinclined to take on a great deal more work, though. I already work a lot – possibly more than I should, many days – and I think adding to that just to put more money in the bank wouldn’t be healthy and would likely turn me into a very unhappy person. Given that we’re currently able to live within our means, I probably won’t be going this route in the foreseeable future.
The other way to save is to cut expenses. We’ve already made most of the major recommended cuts. We’ve dropped the landline and signed up for a less expensive Internet. I’ve never owned a car or had cable TV or a cell phone plan. Other than for groceries and the odd medication, we do little shopping, and what shopping I do tends to be secondhand. The rent is inexpensive, I have reasonable rates for our tenant and extended health insurance, and our cell phones are rarely used and pay-as-you go. Other than that, we don’t really have a lot of ongoing expenses.
This means that the things I have left to focus on in terms of saving money are fairly minor, but I enjoy the challenge of seeing how much I can save in a month just by making what appear to be very small changes to how we live. I can save two dollars each time I walk or bike to campus instead of taking the bus. We conserve energy at night by turning off the microwave, TV, and computers which are all plugged into power bars. I stock up on dried beans, canned tomatoes, and anything else we use regularly when they’re on sale. Growing veggies and sprouting beans cuts back on the amount of produce that we need to buy. I round up all of my purchases to the next dollar and save the change.
These are all very small things, but they do add up. I figure that even if I only save twenty or thirty dollars per month, that’s a few hundred dollars a year extra that I can put away. In November, walking instead of taking the bus has saved me over $40. The electric bill’s down a few dollars. Buying on sale has saved us $24 on toilet paper, plus a few dollars each on dried beans, canned tomatoes, and other staples. I’ve probably gained another $5 or $10 by rounding up purchases. This may seem awfully detail-oriented or too small to bother with, but to my mind, it makes enough of a different that it’s worth doing and it hardly takes any time once you’re in the practice of doing it. As the old saying says, “save the pennies and the pounds will follow”.