A big part of downsizing is downsizing your wallet and budget too. Often, the downsizing issue is confronted simultaneously with a reduction in income, and is part of the motivation to choose to downsize. Even if its not a necessity, downsizing your spending leaves you in better financial condition to meet the future, as well as inevitably shrinking your carbon footprint. So what are some ways to do this?
- Do it yourself. Most repairs on your home, RV, or vehicle can be accomplished yourself. A lot of the work at getting permits and so forth for property can also be accomplished by doing the legwork yourself. No matter what needs done, doing it yourself is likely to really reduce the cost of getting the job done. Some exceptions? Complicated vehicle repairs that require special tools may be accomplished more speedily by a mechanic shop. Certain repairs to plumbing, electrical, or gas lines may need to be signed off by a licensed contractor. Find out what has these requirements, and from your contractor, find out what portions of the job you can do yourself to reduce costs.
- Reduce your waste. It’s good for the environment and its good for your budget. This goes from time to money to groceries. Think of each thing as money flying out the window, whether its because of sitting in a traffic jam at rush hour or at your doctor’s office waiting for your appointment, vegetables that spoiled or a meal left on a plate…it’s waste that cost you money.
- Don’t buy it, rent or borrow it! If you can avoid buying it, so much the better. Tools, equipment, a long list of things that you don’t need often, but you may need on occasion. Avoid the pitfall of shooting for convenience and buying it when you use it once or twice a year. Many companies rent a long list of tools and equipment by the hour, day or week. Try there first. The same goes when you need to have the space for a party or reception, and your downsized home won’t do…if you can’t do it outdoors, rent the space. It will save you a lot of money compared to building additional space to accommodate that annual holiday party! If your yard isn’t big enough or there is inadequate parking, consider renting the outdoor space too. Often, park pavilions are available very inexpensively and come with tables, benches and often even a fireplace or barbecue pit.
- Don’t pay full retail price. Search for bargains, sales, discounts, and coupons. Look for options. Shop online using some of the price comparison sites, be patient…few purchases have to be made THIS week. It may take as long as six months to find it at the price you are willing to pay, but you will find it at a substantially lower cost in that time span. The worst month for bargains? May! The best months for bargains (depending on what it is) are August, September, November and December. Even with those rules of thumbs to add to your anticipation, bargains can be found any month of the year. Be diligent in searching for the bargains and have the money on hand to make the purchases.
- Buy used or reconditioned. Used or factory reconditioned are excellent ways to save money. Both can save you as much as 90% of the retail price, yet deliver a fully functional piece of equipment. Don’t want to extend your cell phone contract but want that super smart phone? Buy a used one! A prime example was the Blackberry I coveted a few years ago…new, it would have set me back $400+, with the discount offered by my cell phone carrier and a two year contract…it still would have run me over $100. I bought it used via Ebay, ready to use with my carrier (important for most phones) for less than $80, including shipping. It worked well for two years. I bought my KitchenAid mixer as a factory reconditioned model, shaving off over $200 from the full retail price, yet still had a warranty! Cars & RVs are notoriously less expensive buying used, and can be super bargains if you are patient, saving you thousands of dollars on that travel trailer (ours is an example, but we regret the floor plan on this model) or vehicle. One trick I learned from my car dealer father: when looking at used cars, trucks, vans, RVs, etc., spreading out the purchase price in smaller bills and making the remark about the lower price can often make a seller commit to a much lower price–there is something hypnotic about the greenbacks in person. Be careful though–you don’t want to be a statistic either. I normally employ this method with inexpensive items, such as lawnmowers, tillers, bicycles, and the like. $5 and $10 bills are VERY effective displays for the under $400 items.
- Don’t try to compete with your friends and neighbors for the trophies of commercialized consumerism! Just because they got a new car does not mean you need one…or want it. So they have more “stuff” to take care of? They get to pay the bills for that stuff and maintain it–you have other uses for your valuable time!
- Before you buy, think about it. Do you really need that item? How will it enhance your life? Where will you put it? How often will it be used? Do you have an alternative for this item already? Is it REALLY necessary to buy this item? Recently we had a dilemma about purchasing a laptop. Did we need a second one? How were we going to use it? Was it necessary? What was it replacing? We decided that yes, it was necessary. It was replacing one that had been destroyed months ago in a lightning storm. We had been given an older desktop to fill in, but time and time again, the desk top failed. Technology had advanced too far for it to be a viable solution for the job it needed to do. Space wise, it was incredibly bulky as well. We are getting much better at asking ourselves the “do we really need that item?” question, and GM’s naturally frugal nature helps a lot, as does our restricted space.
- Can you honestly afford the item? It is important to live within our means, and avoid debt. That means waiting to buy things until we have saved the money to do so. It means cutting corners sometimes to speed up the saving process, by eating less expensive food and staying home more. I really WANT a new Day 6 bicycle, but we can’t afford it right now. That means waiting, saving, and hoping a more pressing need doesn’t come up first. I may ultimately opt to purchase a less expensive Trek pedal forward bicycle in lieu of the one I really want, due to the difference in price. (Trek‘s is about half the price of a Day 6‘s, roughly, plus there are Trek dealers not too far away.)
- Don’t shop ONLY for price, consider value too. Value includes some intangibles such as customer service, product support, reliability, and overall performance. Purchasing a cheap used car may save you money now, and leave you sitting in the rain alongside a highway later. That’s not a good value! Buying a used item that is unreliable isn’t a good value for your money, and neither is buying a product notorious for poor product support and customer service. Warranties are only worth something when the company honors them too! Research your purchases to ensure that the product on your shopping list can perform the tasks you are purchasing it to perform. Get a report on that used car, read reviews on that coffee maker’s company, pay attention to ratings on Ebay seller profiles, etc. All of these items make a difference in the value of a product. There is more to a bargain than merely a cheap price, so don’t let that low price leave you with a white elephant and a bad case of buyer’s remorse. Just like shopping online, pay attention to price, shipping costs, extended warranty prices, etc. Recently, after purchasing that laptop, we were overcome with buyer’s remorse the next day at another store, where they had a computer on sale for the same price with many more features…until we found out about the difference in prices they charged for their extended warranty. It turned out that their extended warranty was over double the price we had paid for the one we had bought, and still didn’t include “accidental damage” coverage. (That’s the coverage you need when you spill that cup of coffee into your laptop…which I have done, by the way!) It LOOKED like more for the same money, until we investigated further. In reality, it would have cost us about $100 more to purchase the fancier model, and we could have done that with the store we had made the purchase from. I was very relieved to find worms in THAT apple, and my case of buyer’s remorse was quickly cured.
- The most critical rule of all is to develop patience. It may take a considerable amount of time to avoid debt and find the item you are searching for at a price you are comfortable with in a condition that is worth buying when you have the money to spend and truly need the item…but all of that should be true each and every time you make a purchase. Don’t fall into the impulse purchase trap, and don’t fall for the “It’s the last one” sales pitch either. Making your purchases as a couple allows at least one of you to be the “bad guy” on each and every purchase, sticking it out to get the best price possible. At the same time, that patience and best price policy needs to account for immediate or urgent needs. Sometimes, we don’t have the luxury of the time to really search and destroy in terms of shopping for that best price. That’s when we are forced to make a decision quickly, using our best judgement.
- So when is it an urgent need? If the item is needed within the next 24 hours for your health, job, or safety. On occasion, we may overlook a need or not anticipate it soon enough. At those points, we may be forced to buy with little time to shop around, such as your job requires steel toed boots, and yours just died. You may have only a single outlet and be forced to buy whatever they had at whatever price they offer it. It hurts the budget, but that’s why we try to anticipate our needs. When we need a prescription, we often can’t wait for it to be mailed from the discount pharmacy–we need it now, today. Then, we are stuck with whatever local options are available. Our best defense against these urgent needs? Planning ahead. Don’t forget to plan ahead.
So plan ahead, and get to work on downsizing your budget to make it fit your new, smaller lifestyle. It doesn’t matter why you want to downsize it, whether its reduced income, an upcoming expense, or a dream vacation…when your budget is under control, you have the means to do whatever you need to. It reduces your stress as well as prevents disputes with your significant other over budget deficits. It gives you the freedom of free will, as your budget will no longer be controlling your actions, but rather you will be in control of it. It removes you from the rat race of consumerism too, allowing you to choose when and how you spend your money.
Besides winning a lottery, what more could you wish for?