Thriving on Less

February 13th, 2009. Filed under: Finance & Fitness Fridays.

Another installment from Leo Babauta’s Thriving on Less, the companion ebook to his The Power of Less.

Chapter 5 – Make Small Financial Changes First

“Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.”    

– Saul Bellow

While it’s important, when scaling back, to try to eliminate non-essential expenses as much as possible, you can’t change everything all at once.

And even if you tried, you’d be less likely to be successful – drastic changes don’t stick as well as small ones do.

So start small when you start changing your financial habits. Want to save money? Cut back on eating out a bit –

if you currently eat out 5 times a week, for example, try doing it only 2-3 times and save the difference. That’s a great way to start.

Look for the things that are easy to change first: eating out, entertainment, non-essential purchases

(magazines, shoes you don’t really need, more clothes, gadgets, stuff like that), subscriptions you

don’t really use much, things like that. Change one at a time, maybe two at the most. Slowly start to

cut things out, and you’ll adjust to your new lifestyle each step of the way. In six months, you’ll have

a lifestyle that’s scaled back greatly, but you won’t feel it as much because it was small steps, one or

two at a time.

Some small changes you might consider:

Cable TV. This might be a drastic change for some. I cut it out and don’t miss it though.

Online website subscriptions you pay for. Various services charge $5, $10, $20 per month – if

you’re signed up to a few of them, they can add up.

Eating out. Reduce the number of times you eat out per week or month. Cook at home more.

Convenience food. Microwave or pre-cooked dinners or lunches are more expensive than buying

the ingredients and cooking them yourself.

Entertainment. Many people go to the movies a lot or other types of shows or entertainment. But

you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun.

Drinking. Do you go out with friends and drink a lot? That can really add up. Find healthier ways to

have fun.

Driving. Consider driving less in order to save gas (and maintenance) costs.

Online shopping. It’s easy to order something out of impulse. Put yourself on a 30-day freeze

and try to live without buying online.

Mall shopping. Going to the mall or similar places is a guaranteed way to spend money. Stay

away from these places – have fun at home, at a park or beach or trail, at a free event, at a friend’s

house, and so on.

Coffee. Do you buy a $4 cup of coffee every weekday? That’s $80 a month or $260 a year. And

much more if you buy more than one cup, or buy a snack to go with it.

Magazines, newspapers or books. I’m a fan of reading, but you can read most magazines and

newspapers online. And you can check out a book at a library or buy a used one for cheap.

There are, of course, many other types of smaller expenses you can change, but this list should give

you some ideas. Again, don’t change them all at once – small changes every couple weeks should be

enough. Over time, you’ll have save thousands of dollars.

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