Becoming a millionaire just got that much easier.
How often do you find yourself going through the motions of daily life — spending on this thing here, or that subscription there — without ever really assessing how it’s impacting your monthly (or annual) budget? Pretty often, we’d guess. Well, it’s time to switch it up. Take a minute right now and ask yourself two questions: “Is everything I’m spending my money on this month completely necessary?” And, “For those things that aren’t necessary, do I really (really) want them?”
If the answer to both questions isn’t a definitive “yes,” it’s time to take a look at where your money is really (really) going. Sometimes those things we buy without thinking about them can get in the way of our futures. We get it — it’s not easy to be thinking about the future in the present. But it’s important to consider what you want your life to look like 20, 40, or even 60 years from now. Why? Because the $10 you invest today in your retirement account at an annual return of 8%, will be worth $34 in 20 years and almost $110 in 30. And if you invest $10 every day — just $300 a month — you’re looking at a retirement account that will, in 30 years, be worth almost a half-million dollars.
Where can you come up with that money even if you feel like you can’t save at all? You swap for it. Even if it feels like you’re only saving pocket change, the payoff down the line will be well worth it, explains Carrie Rattle, CEO and founder of Behavioral Cents. Here’s a look at 10 easy-to-make swaps that can have you well on your way to millionaire status.
1. The gym
How much are you spending on your gym membership every month? Do you even like going to the gym? Figure out what you like about going to the gym, and decide if it’s really worth the price you’re paying, Rattle says.
The Swap: Nature is your best friend. Go out for walks or hikes, and invite your friends to do these outdoor activities with you so that you can get your social hour in, too. If you live in a larger metropolitan area, try walking between meetings or out to lunch rather than taking public transportation or an Uber. You’ll get your steps in without spending a cent.
It is so easy to suggest or agree to meet someone for dinner or drinks, but the cost of these meetings can really add up.
The Swap: Try meeting clients, friends or colleagues for coffee instead of drinks or dinner. Or, again, packing your exercise into this swap. If you like to run or walk, this is a no-brainer: You’re getting fit and spending nothing while also conducting business. If running isn’t your thing, offer to meet a client in the park and enjoy the nice fall weather, or keep it simple and just meet in one of your offices.
How often are you too tired to cook dinner for the family after a long day of work? It’s so tempting to reach for the phone or an app to order in some takeout that’s delivered right to your door — but it comes at a cost.
The Swap: After a trip to the grocery store, employ your partner and/or kids to help you make meals for the week, Rattle says. This way, you’re not inclined to order in when your job runs late because you already have something in the works, plus you’re getting quality time with the family.
If this seems overwhelming, don’t stress. Even a partial meal prep will save you time and money during the week. For example, you could simply chop all of your veggies on Sunday. This will cut out so much prep time later, and make the task of cooking seem much easier to do, Rattle says. (Or, make a filling big pot of soup for the week. HerMoney’s Jean Chatzky swears by these two oh-so-filling and cost effective recipes: Ina Garten’s Winter Minestrone and Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Mushroom Barley.)
4. Being social
Birthday drinks. Holiday dinner. Bachelorette party. Money gets away from us all too easily on a big night out, when we’re tempted to throw financial caution to the wind, and may wind up splitting checks with friends.
The Swap: Ask your friends if they’re down to ditch the bar for a wine night on the couch. Heading to the liquor store for a couple of bottles of pinot is always cheaper than vodka sodas at the bar. Or, try a meal prep night. Rotate houses each week and make one friend responsible for each ingredient, Rattle suggests. You and your squad will love catching up while cooking and saving money at the same time. Then, divvy up the leftovers so that each of you goes home with an extra night’s dinner or day’s lunch.
5. Shop the sale racks
Smart Shopping Expert Trae Bodge says she’s often shocked how much her friends spend on designer-label clothing and shoes for their kids. When kids grow up with these habits, they expect those standards as an adult, too, and the cycle of over-spending may never stop.
The Swap: Instead of wearing designer duds, talk to your kids about getting a cheaper look-alike version of the item they want, or compromise on an item from a less expensive designer, she says. This will not only save you money that you can put away, but will also teach your kids good habits that will stick with them into adulthood. Or, if you or your kids are super-label conscious — and sometimes they are — hit up your local consignment stores or websites like threadup and kidtokid.
The number of streaming subscriptions are growing, but your bank account isn’t.
The Swap: Check in with your subscriptions every so often and assess if you really need all of them, Bodge says. For example, you might have subscribed to HBO to watch “Game of Thrones.” Now that the show is over, do you really need to pay that monthly fee? If you’re not using it, get rid of it, says Dr. Jane Thomas, a professor of marketing at Winthrop.
If you still use cable, it might be time to cut the cord. If you’re already an Amazon Prime member, Prime Video is included in these devices, and offers many shows streaming for free. If you’re still feeling like you need several of the services out there, talk to your friends and family about communal accounts, Thomas says. You may be able to share an account with your parents or a roommate, and thus split the cost between two households.
We know you’ve had your eye on that cute new SUV since you started browsing for a new vehicle, but have you really thought through the monthly price tag, or the cost of gas to keep it on the road?
The Swap: A car that gets better MPG will save you tons on gas in the long run, Bodge says. Or, consider an electric car. The initial price tag will be higher, but the amount you save on gas in the future will make up for it, she adds.
If you live in a major metropolitan area and use Uber frequently, when’s the last time you added up how much you spend per year? You might be appalled at just how much those rides are costing you.
The Swap: Talk to the friends you go out with most regularly, and get together an old-school designated driver rotation, Thomas suggests. If you rotate the responsibility among friends, everyone will be able to get their fair share of partying in, and no one will get stuck with a $100 Uber bill at the end of the night.
Yes, Amazon. When’s the last time you really considered the value and necessity of all your Amazon purchases, Thomas asks. Would you have even gotten them if you couldn’t buy them so easily, with just one click?
The Swap: Force yourself to go to the store to get what you need. If you can live without it and you’re too lazy to go get it, then you probably don’t need it. If you don’t need it, then you’re spending money that could have been saved.
10. Things you can do yourself
Some of us treat ourselves to little luxuries, like hiring someone to do the gardening, clean the house, or do our nails … but how necessary are these things, really?
The Swap: Just do it yourself, Bodge says. Take the kids to Home Depot to pick out flowers for the front yard, and have yourself a fun family Sunday. Or assign chores around the house to keep it clean. Alternatively, just grab your favorite nail colors at Target and check out some instructional nail-painting YouTube videos.
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