Everyone knows that saving money is a good thing. And everyone has little tricks they use on themselves to save the most. But not every tip will work for every family.
Take, for instance, the fact that I save money by cooking at home instead of eating out. That works very well for us because I have the time to cook and really enjoy it. Some friends of ours do not have that luxury. She works an hour and 15 minutes from home and doesn't get home in time to cook a nice meal every night and still be able to get the kids in bed at a decent time. And she doesn't really like to cook that much. But they both have good jobs and make good money, so eating out for them is an option.
For us, as a family, we really don't need that much stuff. We spend more on groceries than anything else. None of us are clothes hounds, we don't compulsively buy new "toys", we don't go out to the movies or dinner very often, and we don't just go shopping just to be shopping. When we do buy things, it is generally used DVDs. We watch a lot of movies at home. We won't buy them new. Why spend $20 on a movie that will be less than half that in a couple of months? We have a lot of movies, some of them really good, some really really bad, but most are just on the good side of average. Which is fine. There isn't really anything being filmed that is better than average anyway. And by paying $6.99 for a DVD instead of $7 each for movie tickets ($28 for the 4 of us) plus concessions, we are saving a ton of cash. And if one of us needs to take a break, we can just pause it. Much better than going to the theater.
I have seen lists of money saving tips all over the internet, and for the most part, it is good sound advice. And we do a lot of the things that make sense for us. But not everyone can grow their own food or make their own clothes. Or cut their own hair. Or bicycle to work. It just isn't possible for most of us.
The key is to be comfortable with it. Going from living large to being a tightwad over night is impossible. You will only make yourself crazy. Anyone who has lost their job will tell you that it is no fun living on pork and beans and mac and cheese. Work up to your savings goals. When you get comfortable with one change, then add another. Don't just stop spending cold turkey. You have to retrain your self to a new lifestyle. So work up to it. Slow and steady will work much better for long term change. If you feel yourself getting depressed or feeling deprived, have a treat. Just remember that it is a treat, and that you can't to do it all of the time.
So when you decide to start getting serious about saving money, study the tips. Make a list of your own. But keep in mind that if it isn't something that you can actually do, and will do consistantly, forcing yourself to do it will only make you feel guilty when you don't. Saving money should make you feel good, not deprived. I have found that having a goal in mind when you start trying to save money really helps. Something like, "I want to pay off this bill by the end of the year. How much do I have to save to be able to do that?" If you drink coffee shop coffee everyday, you can save 3 or 4 dollars a day my making coffee at home instead. That is around $80 a month you can add to your bill payment every month. Or if you go out every weekend and spend $30 at the bar, go every other weekend and save $60 a month. If you have a big dry cleaning bill, try to find clothes that don't need to be dry cleaned, or if you have to wear suits to work, try to wear them more than once as long as they pass the sniff test.
There are a million ways to not spend money, the secret is to find what works for you. Set a goal, add new tips slowly into your lifestyle, and if you start to feel deprived, splurge a little.