Are we rich?
A few weeks ago I ran into a friend of mine that I have not spoken to in a few years. We got to talking, and when I mentioned to him that my wife and I are planning a year-long trip around the world he asked me if I recently got a new, really high paying job. I haven’t. I work a middle class job and until a little over half a year ago I was still paying off my car loan. Yet come September, Katie and I will be embarking on a yearlong trip with enough money to cover our expenses throughout and have a little nest egg for when we return. So what gives? Simple, we began to save, save and save money.
When we first decided to start saving money for our trip we knew that we did not want to compromise on our lifestyle either. What is the point of dreaming of a wonderful, happy future when we are nothing but miserable in the present? We began looking for ways to save money and still be healthy, happy, and excited about life.
Here are a few unconventional ways to save money, tested and tried by yours truly:
1. Be Healthy
We believe in living a healthy lifestyle. To many people this means going to the gym every day and buying the newest high-tech protein shake. If you think about it there are actually a lot of really awesome ways to be healthy and not throw money away.
For starters consider buying real fruits and vegetables instead of vitamins. Your body has a much easier time extracting value from actual food than from manufactured pills. Plus you’ll get the caloric benefit as well.
Furthermore why use a gym when God made the world we live in as one big exercise machine. Going on walks or running will not only give you a workout, but help you be more creative and focused in life. A bike allows you to see the scenery much quicker, while extreme sports such as rock climbing allow you to work out your entire body while making it more likely you’ll be able to survive a zombie apocalypse.
2. Be Creative with Food
A very large part of our budget is food expenses. Eating healthy is not cheap. Eating in restaurants is not cheap either which is why we limit our eating out to once a week. Pretty much any good budget advice will mention cooking at home, and packing a lunch for work. If you’re not doing that, I’m not sure you can even math.
In addition we have discovered a few hacks that help us save money. We buy our imperishable items in bulk at Costco. We also freeze meat, snacks, and fruit for use as needed. The Asian market is our friend, where many items can be found for around half the price of anywhere else. The biggest thing though is to buy groceries before you need them. Don’t buy the store out but make sure your pantry is well stocked. You’ll be less tempted to eat a meal at a fancy restaurant when you can fix something up real quick at home. Plus if you don’t eat it, it’ll go bad.
We have a simple philosophy for eating out. Go to new places. Every person has an inherent need to have new experiences in their life. If you always eat at the same restaurant you’ll want to go to a really fancy one when you get tired of it. Oops there goes your budget! There are hundreds of places to eat at in your city, and without spending any extra money you can have some amazing experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise.
3. Samples for the Win
Go ahead and get that Costco card, even if you don’t plan on buying a single item. Each visit is about ¾ of a meal, and they have good gas prices. New Seasons has unique samples and coffee. So do Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. If we are near one, we walk in just because. Check out your local Farmers Market for awesome samples of local products, and really cheap flower bouquets. Oil and Vinegar stores offer samples, along with many jam stores, olive stores, and etc. I always make a quick stop at See’s candies if I’m at the mall and about half the times get a free piece of chocolate.
4. Get Artsy
Visiting a museum, listening to a symphony orchestra, or hopping from café to café (insert own favorite beverage consumption location) can be budget busters, and most saving gurus will want you to get rid of them. That’s because those budget gurus are silly. Having a good life is very important, and new experiences make us feel alive. Look for free museum days, tasting events or passports your city might offer, or free community events paid for by your tax dollars.
In case you didn’t know you live in an awesome area. You have amazing mountains, a beautiful river, a mesmerizing desert, or picturesque farmhouse scenery really close to where you live. Pack a lunch and watch city traffic from a parking structure downtown, or take a scenic hike. It’s amazing how many fun activities don’t cost more than a couple bucks in gas and the price of groceries.
5. Pamper Yourselves
No, I don’t mean go to the spa or salon. I don’t know why but for some reason our bodies are always complaining. Give your significant other a back massage and a foot rub and watch your life value go up. Seriously I did the math. If you pay a masseuse $60 an hour, he only sees like $30 of that. The rest goes to taxes, paying rent, owners pocket, etc. If you and your spouse give each other a massage, you would hypothetically pay each other only $30 for a value of $60, netting an increase of $30 value in your life. This is one of the reasons why married people are richer. They get the opportunity to serve each other without paying overhead. You’re welcome.
6. Ask for Deals
Your cell phone company will let you know that you qualify for an extra gigabyte of data, if you threaten to leave. Your car insurance price is based on an algorithm that takes into account the chance that you will switch if they raise the price. CenturyLink will try to rip you off unless you call them and double check all your charges. Keep track of all your auto-pay accounts and make sure they are still only charging you what you signed up for. BestBuy will price match any of their competitors and mattress store managers are more than willing to give you a good discount. If you are purchasing any big ticket item, be willing to shop around, haggle, and walk away from a bad deal. With a little bit of time you can easily save money.
7. Get That Free Money
I like Dave Ramsey and all, but really there is no need to cut up all your credit cards (unless of course you have a problem). If you can manage your spending I highly recommend having one. You will earn points and discounts for travel, and be covered by the insurance that comes with a good credit card. You can expect a good card to offer car rental insurance, purchase insurance, and limited travel insurance. My credit card management consists of paying off my credit card every week. If you’re going to be spending money might as well get a kickback. If you can’t control yourself try doing debit for purchases, and only put your utilities on the credit card, because you might as well. We have used Barclaycard and Chase Credit Card to receive over $2000 dollars for travel.
Bonus: Fight Inflation
One thing that people rarely think to factor in to their financial forecasting is inflation. Like it or not our money is being slowly and steadily inflated every year. This means that what you could buy last year for $100 dollars now costs $102.5 give or take some. This will vary item by item so that you don’t notice it too much. Overall, however, if you have your money in the bank at 0.01% you are losing money. The problem in trying to get a better percentage is liquidity. In order to keep pace with inflation you almost always need to lock up your money for years.
That isn’t a big problem usually unless you are going to go on a huuuuge trip in a few months and you need that money available. The one thing that I have found that helps with this is the High-Interest Savings Account. Our account at Synchrony Bank gives us 1.05% and we can take out money at any point. They’re able to give better rates since they’re online and don’t pay the costs of running a brick-and-mortar.
Now I know that not everyone is saving their money for a huge trip, and jumping at samples doesn’t appeal to everyone. You will, however, be amazed at how much money you can avoid spending on unnecessary items if you do some jimmy-rigging in your life. We hope that these tips of ours get you thinking on how to live a better life while keeping more of your money in your pocket, so that you can spend it where, when, and how you want to.
Life is Short, Eat Gelato