If you need to reduce your spending in order to meet your goals, you have to focus on the BIG 3: lodging, transportation and food. These three categories typically make up the bulk of your expenses.
We didn’t always make the “smartest” decisions on these three–we own a stupidly big and expensive home, we bought new cars, and we eat in restaurants and buy expensive groceries on occasion.
But I think we were smart about a bunch of little things and those little things helped us grow our wealth and reach financial independence in our 40’s (me!) and 50’s (Mr. Ms. Liz!).
Save your money and the earth:
Don’t light up areas where you aren’t. We have so few lights on, our neighbors probably wonder if we’re home. This goes for exterior lights too–we turn them on when guests arrive and leave but they are otherwise off.
When we do need a bit of ambient light in an area–like when we’re running back and forth to the laundry room–we choose the switch that runs two lights rather than the switch that lights up the entire room. Mr. Ms. Liz narrows it down even further by not using puck lights that are expensive to replace and burn a lot of electricity in favor of using our pendant lights.
Turn off your fireplace pilot in the summer. This saves natural gas and that little sucker generates a surprising amount of heat.
Don’t drive to exercise. I’ve broken this rule recently with my pickleball obsession (it’s 23 miles round trip) but typically we don’t drive to exercise. We are fortunate to have asphalt and dirt trails for walking, hiking and mountain biking within a mile of our home. But I have neighbors who drive 40 miles a day to exercise at a club–every day of the week–even though there’s a club within biking distance from their home.
Don’t drive for coffee etc. I don’t drive the three miles to town to get coffee in the morning–I have a perfectly good coffee maker just a few steps away. Again, I have neighbors who are like clockwork–open garage door–pull out car–drive to pick up coffee–back in 20 minutes–close garage door. Every . . . single . . . day. Oh, and we don’t buy coffee out unless we are traveling.
Combine short trips and bike if possible. Now I’m not going to go all Mr. Money Mustache on you with his 20+ mile bike errands. But, I did bike 10 miles for the grocery store and 6 miles for a business meeting last week. When I have to drive somewhere, I think about all the errands I can run at the same time.
Filtered tap water is delicious. We camp four or five times a summer–off our boat or with our car. We used to go to the store and buy gallons of water before heading out on each trip. Now, we keep the bottles and refill them with delicious, filtered tap water.
Have water and a snack in your car. I always have individually wrapped fig bars in my car (thank you Costco) and I almost always fill a thermos water bottle before I leave the house. Even if I’m just running a quick errand–I don’t want to find myself thirsty and have to buy a drink.
Pack your lunch and maybe even your breakfast. One of the things I look forward to on our roadtrips are breakfast burritos on the road. It’s easier to make a quick exit if I make these ahead of time–a quick heat-up and we’re ready to go. We also pack a cooler with lunch stuff and snacks so we’re not stuck eating crappy, expensive food on the road. We’ve eaten some yummy pb&j’s in some beautiful places.
Take care of your stuff:
Have you ever bought something at the same time as a friend? Then one of you is still wearing that thing seven years later where the other got rid of it within a couple years? Yeah, I’m that girl wearing the Napa winery jacket seven years later. I may push this a bit farther than I should but if there’s nothing wrong with it, I’m still wearing it.
We bought a boat 15 years ago. We then bought all the stuff we needed to enjoy the boat–skis, life jackets, camping stuff etc. We’ve been diligent about putting the stuff away properly after each use–cleaning it, folding it up etc. Much of that 15 year old stuff is still in use. Replacing little things add up–take care of your stuff. Oh, we’ve taken good care of the boat too.
So think ahead, can you come up with 10 little, painless things to save a bit of money? Those bits add up each year. And when you save those bits, that’s more money you can invest and less money you’ll need for your retirement.