There are two ways to change any behavior . . . the hard way and the easy way. Sadly, most people choose the hard way. For example, a friend of mine wanted to lose weight, so he radically changed his diet and started training for a triathlon. Guess how long his diet and training lasted. About as long as it took you to read this sentence. Instead, there were 1,000 small, simple and painless things he could have done that would have helped him get into better shape more effectively.
I see this behavior trap when it comes to personal finances all the time. People immediately start looking at the most difficult and painful ways to cut their spending when there are often hundreds (if not thousands!) of dollars of painless savings right in front of them.
Here are five painless tips on how you can save money:
1. PERK System. This is one of the best money saving tips. Most people who do this simple exercise save at least a few hundred dollars every month. List all of your expenses and decide which ones you can "Postpone," "Eliminate," "Reduce" or "Keep." Don't let the simplicity throw you. It's easy but incredibly effective and helps you prioritize and get your spending in line. The rest of my tips focus on expenses you can "Eliminate" and "Reduce."
2. "Budget" Nights Out. A night out can be much needed, but dinner bills, movie tickets and parking fees each month can quickly start to resemble a mortgage payment! Don't skip the night out completely, but consider eating at home before the movie. You can even invite your friends over for a cooking night -- and they can return the favor the next time. I call this "frictionless reciprocation" in my book, The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth and Purpose.
3. Small Cutbacks, Big Savings. Don't forget about the small everyday expenses you rack up -- they add up to big savings. If you can cut out some coffees and brown bag your lunch a few times each week, you can save $150 a month or more.
4. Technology That SAVES You Money. It seems counter-intuitive, but there are ways to cut your costs with new gadgets and services. You can slash your cable bill by using video subscription streaming services, online DVD rentals and a HD antenna . . . you still get 90% of what you watch through cable/satellite providers for one-fifth of the price.
5. Cell Phones. The average family spends well over $1,000 a year on wireless service, and that's BEFORE you start adding in costs like extra lines and fancy phones for the kids, apps and song downloads. For anyone who has ever given their kid a smartphone, you know this can be a recipe for a financial disaster.
An easy and painless way to save money is to stick with a fixed cost, pre-paid plan where you can save hundreds of dollars each year, without sacrificing the apps, games and music that you can't live without. I'm a fan of Cricket Wireless and am working with them to help consumers save a few bucks each month, but do your own research and find a plan that is right for you.
When you are thinking about making a change, don't fall into the trap that change has to be hard or painful. Before you climb to the top of the tree, look for the "low hanging fruit" first!
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