Anyone that has tightened up their purse strings in order to pay off debt knows that cutting down on eating out, entertainment, and other purchases can be really difficult to adjust too. But there is no need to lead a boring life stuck at home when you have little or no money left in your budget.
We have a goal to pay off $58,000 by April 1st, 2008. We have about 7 1/2 months left to reach that goal. In order to reach our goal and get rid of this debt in our life we’ve cut down on a lot of extras in our life. Things like Netflix (which I’m still mourning the loss of) and eating out. We also have stopped buying new clothes, toys, CDs, and movies whenever we felt like it. Activities and trips have also been cut out or cut down on.
So how have we found ways to still have fun without spending wads of cash?
What I learned pretty quickly after we came up with our first budget was that creativity could help lessen the pain of a strict budget. We chose a strict budget because of our desire to get out of debt quickly. Others have a strict budget because of necessity; there is no extra cash left from their paycheck after all the bills are paid. Whatever category you fall in; read on. Hopefully these ideas will help you stretch your dollar (or help you when there isn’t a dollar to stretch).
Find a free or cheap substitute for the things you like. Instead of buying a new book at Barnes and Noble check one out for free at the library. Or trade in books you no longer want at a used book store and use the store credit to purchase new (to you) books. Like music or movies? Trade in DVD’s, CD’s or games that you no longer want at stores like FYE or other music and game stores that will offer cash or store credit for your trade-ins.
*Find it free!
Need some furniture? Clothing? Or other items? Check out Freecycle and Cragslist.
Freecycle is a free service that offers local groups where members can give away items for free, or post a “want” for items they are looking for. I’ve been able to give away magazines to a homeschooling mom, a working computer monitor and other things. I was also able to get a computer monitor for free when mine blew up one day. All the boxes and and packing materials (except tape and sharpie markers) that we used for our move 2 years ago I found for free on Freecycle.
Craigslist is a bigger site that offers a free way to post items for sale, look for jobs, a place to live and much more. There are local websites for cities across the United States, Canada and many other countries. If you look in the “for sale” listings they have a “free” section and a “wanted” section. Not to mention many other sections where you can find thousands of items listed for sale in your local area for dirt cheap.
This might go without saying, but instead of “needing” a new item, can you fix what is broken? Do you have a friend or neighbor that might be willing to help you fix it if you don’t have the skills to do it all by yourself?
Do you need an item for your house but don’t want to spend the money to buy something to fill that need? What do you already have that with a little creativity, paint, or fixing up could possibly fill that need? In our office here at home my printer sits on an old microwave cart we bought years ago. It has a drawer, cabinet and shelf underneath to store much of our office and printer supplies.
My youngest child is 15 months old and growing out of his clothes quickly. I’m keeping the clothes that are in good condition for another child, but we don’t have enough rubbermaid containers to store them all. By decluttering and rearranging items in the ones that we do have I have *found* more containers to use.
Two years ago we bought a dining room table and chairs. We had outgrown our first dining room table that we bought at Kmart 9 years ago. Instead of throwing it away, my husband sawed off more than 12 inches of the table legs and the kids now have a kid-sized table for their playroom. A brand-new kid size table at Pottery Barn Kids would have cost us $200+.
A good friend has worked out an awesome trade with a friend of hers. Her friend is a hairstylist. The hairstylist comes over to my friends house and cuts her family’s hair in exchange for a wonderful dinner that my friend cooks for her and her family. Two families get to share a wonderful dinner together and they are both able to save money.
What skill or item do you have that you could trade with others?
For clothing don’t forget to check consignment stores, thrift store and yard sales. You can often find clothing in excellent, if not brand new condition. Have clothing you no longer need? Sell them at a consignment store and use that money to purchase new items.
Food- Don’t forget local farms and farmers markets for yummy, fresh, and cheaply priced fruits and veggies.
Give coupons a try- Before you head to a local retail store check your local Sunday paper to see what coupons are available. Stores like Michaels, Joanne’s, Macy’s, JcPenney’s, Bed Bath and Beyond and more often have coupons in their weekly ads.
*Have Fun for Free
Check our the website of your town or city. What events do they have planned? Many are free or low cost. During the summer, cities across the United States often offer a summer concert series on the weekend that is free to the public. Only things you need to bring are a blanket or chairs to sit on and picnic if you want to eat.
Are there any local museums? Many have free admission, and if they don’t, usually have one day a month that they do.
Check your local library. Most offer free programs and activities for children and adults.
*Get Fit- For Free
Explore local parks, walking trails and riding trails. Not only can you get exercise by exploring the outdoors but you can have a good time, for free.
Trade exercise videos with friends, or borrow them from the library.
Still really want to keep your gym membership? Those that have a reduced income might qualify for a lower or free membership rate at the local YMCA.
So how is all this creatitivity going to help you get out of debt?
Because it will help you stay motivated and keep you on track with your goal of becoming debt free.
Making a dramatic reduction in your spending money, or not using your credit card like you have been used to for all the little wants in life can be a shock to many. It may feel like you are strict diet and can be hard to follow 100% of the time. But if you can still get out, have fun, and find ways to fill your needs (like clothing and food) and wants (like movies, house decorating and books) without spending any money or very little at all you will be less likely to go back to your old spending habits.
What creative things do you do to spend little or no money?