Paying off debt isn’t easy. Everywhere you go, ads are trying to convince you to spend money. We’re even sold on the idea of “retail therapy”, which says the act of buying things will improve your mood and life. Materialism is so ingrained in our society that *not* spending money can feel weird and sticking to a personal budget can be even more challenging.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to enjoy life without spending. Below are some strategies to help avoid feeling deprived while saving up money to pay off loans and other debts.
Have you ever looked at the prices of a gallon of milk at a convenience store? It’s double what it costs at the grocery store down the street. Ever compared the price of the pre-cut vegetables to the price of whole veggies? You’re likely paying a much higher price for less food.
Convenience items are sold under the guise of making things easier or being more accessible. What you’re really paying for is the marketing and packaging. Planning your purchases and buying in bulk will greatly save you money.
This concept isn’t limited to groceries; avoiding convenience saves money in other ways as well. For example, many people spend money when they are bored. If you have the ability to do things society encourages you to pay other people for, you should do them. You won’t need to spend as much money on entertainment if you are too busy accomplishing things and being self-sufficient.
The one exception to avoiding convenience is when it comes to finances. You should do everything you can to streamline your budget creation and recording processes. There are tons of finance and budgeting apps that are available for free or offered at affordable prices. Find one that is simple and enjoyable to use. The more convenient it is to record your spending and saving goals, the more likely you are to stay on track.
Build Your Assets
One of the reasons that avoiding extraneous spending can be difficult is that it feels like you’re denying yourself. So instead of focusing on not spending money, focus on building your wealth. There are lots of ways you can do this, including finding side gigs that earn you money, and actively researching investment opportunities.
If you own a home, that is a huge asset that you can work to improve on. Home improvements increase your property value. Remember, there’s a difference between the market value and the assessed value of your home. It’s important to know what financial terms and numbers mean and what they say about your current and future finances and assets.
Even if you’re not planning on selling your home anytime soon, most improvements that raise property value do so because they make your home more appealing. If you’re looking for affordable DIY projects, consider that most dated rooms can be improved with a fresh coat of paint and some furniture rearranging. See if your town has any second-use home improvement stores where you can find building materials for discount prices.
Make an Event of Finding Affordable Entertainment
Of course, even if you have fun with DIY projects, you’ll want to find other things to do to entertain yourself. Many town businesses host free events, such as beer and food festivals to art shows with local vendors. These events provide a great opportunity to meet people and learn about local businesses without spending much money. Even cities like New York have fun, free entertainment options like Shakespeare in the Park and live television showings.
In fact, finding free and affordable local events can be fun in itself. Check social media and online classifieds to see what’s going on in your area. Businesses will often share events that they’re involved in, even if they’re not hosting, so be sure to check the social media profiles of businesses that you like. Public bulletin boards and city websites are also great places to hunt down things to do. Set aside time to research events you might want to do each month.
Remember What You’re Working Toward
When feeling down and tempted to splurge on a fancy coffee drink or a fun night out, think about why you’re budgeting in the first place. Debt inhibits a lot of personal freedom and keeps people from reaching other goals. Will that little purchase now really benefit you in the long run? Or will reaching your savings goals have a larger impact on overall happiness? When you budget for happiness and focus on your long term goals, you not only save money, but also avoid filling your life with meaningless clutter.
Do you have any tips for saving money without depriving yourself? Share them in the comments!
Jeriann Watkins Ireland blogs about books, life, and her random thoughts at dairyairhead.com. She’s recently noticed an increase in how many misunderstandings her friends and family members have with their doctors regarding their healthcare. She hopes that by writing about these experiences and health issues, people can be inspired to be more informed about their bodies and health.