Our financial life started to change when we got sick and tired of being sick and tired. When we finally figured out that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
For years and years we tried and tried to increase wealth and decrease debt but it was a constant fail. Why? Because we were doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.
My friends, life just doesn’t work that way.
If you want something different, you’ve got to do something different.
My friend “B” is a perfect example of this. “B” is one of the most caring and beautiful women I know. She’s also about 75 pounds overweight. When I saw her last week she had a new gleam in her eye. She looked….different. Her skin was rosy and glowing. Her smile was bigger than usual. Whereas she often looks tired, that day she looked abounding in energy.
“Guess what I’m doing!” she asked me.
The answer shocked me.
“B” is the second week into a 10-week challenge at a local gym. Participants are taking a kickboxing class six days a week for ten weeks. The one who shows the most vast improvement in their health wins a hefty cash prize.
“It’s really difficult, but I feel SO great when I’m done with the class,” she told me.
“B” is doing something different. And the effort is already paying off big time, only ten days in.
The same “different” is needed for true and lasting change in your personal finances. So today I’m sharing twenty “different” things you can do that I hope will help you catapult your finances from “meh” to “woohoo!”
Twenty “Something Different”s You Can Do With Your Money, Starting Today
1. No Eating Out for Thirty Days
No fast food runs, no daily lattes, no takeout and definitely no sit-down restaurants. Just for one month. Try it and see how much lower your expenditures are for the month. Before we started our journey to debt freedom we were spending $275 a month on restaurants, snack bars at big box stores and fast food drive-thru stops. How much money are you wasting on eating out that could be used to help you achieve your financial dreams?
2. Track Your Spending, Starting Today
Tracking your spending helps you have accountability for your purchases and helps eliminate the all-too-common question of “Where does the money go each month?” Until we started spend-tracking, what we thought we were spending and what we were actually spending (we found out by going back over our expenses for a year) was a difference of nearly $600-$700 per month.
Guess how much money you would have if, for ten years, you invested the $600 you’re wasting each month.
Yep, nearly $100k. This is why spend-tracking is so very important. It’s often those little purchases that make the difference between financial freedom and a life laden with debt. Spend-tracking (recording every purchase every time you spend) helps you to have a quick overview of the month’s expenditures so that you can plug up spending leaks before they sink your financial ship.
3. Start An Automatic Savings Plan
Call your bank TODAY (or contact your employer to have it done through your paycheck if possible) and set up a recurring weekly, bi-weekly or monthly deposit from checking to savings. Treat your savings account just like a bill and watch it grow every day. If you have to, put the money into a separate bank to avoid the temptation to use it.
The amount doesn’t matter so much as developing the habit, but be disciplined with yourself when choosing the amount. In other words, don’t pick $10 a month if you can easily afford to put $50 or $100 into savings. Here’s a book that can help you to truly grasp the power behind the automatic savings plan.
Recommended Reading: The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich
4. Spend on Needs Only – Just for Thirty Days
This is taking the “no restaurants” something to the extreme. But I dare ya. Just for one month, only buy things that are true needs. Only buy clothes if you seriously don’t have ANYTHING to wear. Only buy food that coordinates with your menu plan, but make sure your menu plan includes dinners that cost $5 or less. And no junk food; chips, pop, ice cream, etc.
Work to make your purchases like they did in the days of the Great Depression. I’d be willing to bet you’ll spend a boat load less money than you usually do. 🙂 If you need some help discovering what it’s like to buy only needs, click on the Great Depression link above and read some powerful stories from people who lived through that time in history.
5. Go “Extreme” On Energy Reduction
Here are some ideas.
- Keep every light off except for the one in the room you’re in.
- Turn the water on just a bit when rinsing dishes/washing hands/brushing teeth
- Turn the heat down much lower than you’re used to. I have a (wealthy) friend that keeps his at 58 degrees during the winter – 58 degrees!
- Cut your TV viewing time in half and read books or play board games, do puzzle books or put together puzzles
- Line dry your clothes
Work to diagnose where your energy is being used up and then make a serious effort to use less – much less.
6. Get Crazy Frugal With Your Food Budget
Just for thirty days. What can you survive on that is super cheap and relatively healthy? Brown rice and beans with some veggies mixed in? Buttered noodles with broccoli? A lettuce salad with only lettuce? (the warehouse clubs have great prices on bagged lettuce salads and on heads/stalks of lettuce).
Just for one month, see how little you can spend on your grocery budget by eating cheap and using what you have in the house (not including your stockpile, of course 🙂 ).
Here are some more tips for getting crazy frugal with your food budget:
- Drink only water and forego the juice, pop and milk (get your calcium from dark leafy greens instead)
- Plan your weekly meal menus around what’s on sale
- Go meatless
- Avoid processed foods and start cooking from scratch
7. Go to Personal Finance Wealth-Building “School” for Thirty Days
Turn off the TV (more money savings!) and commit to reading a serious amount of books on budgeting, paying off debt and wealth building for one month. Studies show that 86% of the wealthy believe in self-education for the purposes of self improvement and as such are always reading some type of non-fiction, self-improvement book. Only 5% of non-wealthy believe the same.
Here are ten non-fiction books that have made the biggest difference in my financial life. Buy them by clicking on the links below or see if they’re available at your local library.
KJV, The American Patriot’s Bible, Imitation Leather, Burgundy/Gray: The Word of God and the Shaping of America (the Bible is full of powerful info about managing money)
The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant: Twelve Keys to Successful Living (told in story format; fun for fiction readers and kids too!)
The Richest Man in Babylon: Now Revised and Updated for the 21st Century (Paperback) – Common (another one told in story format for entertainment, yet very powerful)
See how many of these books you can read in a thirty day period and then watch as your view on money is transformed. David Bach and Jean Chatzky are two other authors that have some awesome personal finance books.
8. Sell Your Newer Car and Get a Quality Older Car Instead
Put the money towards something that will help improve your finances, such as paying down your consumer debt or mortgage, or putting the money into an HSA or IRA.
Then start putting a designated amount of money each month into a new car fund/car repair fund. If you’re not good at picking out older used cars, find a friend who is and have him/her help you make the trade.
9. Get Rid/Lower of Your House Payment
Is your house sucking your budget dry? Is your house payment and the money it costs to maintain your house taking away all of the money that you could be using to build wealth/retire early? Do something extreme and consider downsizing. I’m not saying you’ve got to trade in your house for full time RV living like some extremists do, but work to consider whether a different, more inexpensive house might be a better option for achieving your family’s financial dreams.
Don’t want to move? Get a second job or go “frugal extreme” and put all extra cash toward paying off your mortgage in record time.
10. Change How You Clean Your House
You can stop spending money on expensive cleaners and still have a squeaky clean house. Here are some of our money-saving, house cleaning tips.
- Make homemade laundry detergent. It’s much cheaper and cleans just as well
- Instead of store bought window cleaner, get a spray bottle and mix 50% water, 25% vinegar and 25% rubbing alcohol
- Use rags made out of old towels instead of buying paper towels (better for the environment too!)
- After you’re done washing dishes/cleaning the counters, use the leftover dishwater and a rag to clean the floors in your house
11. Stop Using Your Car So Much
If you can, bike or walk to work, or use public transportation or a carpool. Combine trips to the grocery store and other places so that you’re driving less. If you do it right, you might be able to cut your mileage usage down to the amount where your insurance company only counts your vehicle for minimal usage (for ours it’s less than 6k miles a year) and get yourself a lower insurance rate.
12. Stop Spending So Much on Cell Phone Service
When we switched from a big name cell phone provider to Republic Wireless, we cut our cell phone bill by nearly 75%. One of my very favorite things about Republic Wireless is that they pay you back for data you don’t use. Woohoo! Also, their phones use wifi whenever it’s available so that you’re not using data if you don’t have to be. Click on the box below for special offers on Republic Wireless phones and plans.
13. Dump the “Extras” In Life
You know what they are. The cable TV. The magazine subscriptions. The gym membership. The energy drinks. The lattes. The trips to the local theatre or the opera. Just. Stop. Calculate how much money you spend on those things each month, and after you stop doing them, put the money toward something more important to you, like becoming debt free or retiring early.
14. Learn to DIY
Learn to do your own house/car repairs when possible. Cancel the maid service and clean your own house. Yep, I said it. Do your own manicures/cut your own hair. I’ve been doing my own manicures, cutting my own hair and plucking my own brows for four years now. I’m saving roughly $1,000 a year and man does it feel good!
15. Stop Buying New
Yep. Only used. Okay, maybe with the exception of socks and underwear. That could be gross. But mostly used, anyway. Need new jeans? Hit the local thrift store. Need something for the house? Check Craigslist. Need a tool for a DIY repair? Borrow it from a friend. Re-think what you need to buy and figure out if there’s a way to get it cheaper by buying used. Or free.
16. Only Do Free Entertainment
Take a year and commit to spending nothing on entertainment. No movie theaters. No dinners out. No bowling, or golf, or spa weekends or whatever it is that you do. Instead, choose free forms of entertainment with family and friends, such as:
- potluck dinners with family
- game nights with friends
- movie nights at home
- enjoying nature with hikes, bikes and walks
- taking advantage of local free entertainment such as concerts, etc.
There is plenty to do for free if you’re willing to get creative and take the time to think about it.
17. Sell Your Stuff
Go through your house and sell EVERYTHING that doesn’t bring you joy, get regular use or that isn’t more important than your financial dreams. That might be a boat, a classic car or a Prada purse. Maybe you’ve got exercise equipment in the house that you haven’t touched in years. Or gaming systems. Or golf clubs. Or fancy clothes. Take a serious look through the house and determine what can go in the name of reaching financial freedom.
18. Get a Side Hustle
Commit to working extra to reach your dreams. Think about what types of jobs you can do or businesses you can start that can bring in extra money that will help you pay off debt or build wealth quickly. For some it’s delivering pizzas or wait staffing. For others it’s online work such as freelance writing. Make a list of your skills and interests and get to work. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Pet or babysitting
- Office cleaning
- Retail sales or stock work
- Starting your own biz using your skills, such as handyman work or computer repair
The possibilities really are endless. The money is there to be earned; you just need to commit to going out to earn it. Personally, I made over $14,000 last year by working online at blogging and freelance writing. Check out this post on How to Start a Blog in 15 Minutes and start making money blogging. I currently make over $1,000 by blogging very part time.
Recommended Reading: Hustle Away Debt: Eliminate Your Debt by Making More Money
19. Choose to Commit
We live in a non-persevering, often non-committal society. A society that encourages people to cater to their every whim. I guarantee that when you start doing something different to change your financial life that some people in your life will start giving you flack. They’ll shake their heads, roll their eyes and walk away, baffled by your efforts to achieve what sounds like an impossible dream.
Choose today that you won’t let others’ naysaying determine your course in life. Choose to commit. Choose to persevere until you cross the finish line that is your financial goal.
20. Re-Think Gift Giving
I know; that’s a hard one, but there’s huge money to be saved in some families by re-thinking gift giving. Re-thinking gift giving can mean several things. Here are some ideas:
- Cut out Christmas gift exchanges with the adults in your family. We did this years ago and everyone is SO much happier.
- Give services for gifts. Every Christmas I give my stepdad certificates for free haircuts. Being a cheapskate, he’s thrilled, and it doesn’t cost us a dime.
- Give time together as gifts. Aunts and uncles can give certificates for sleepovers to nieces and nephews. Parents can give certificates for a special day together or free activity. Kids really do value time together more than gifts anyway.
- Give parents service gifts such as painting their homes or mowing their lawns for a year.
- Look for high quality used items for gifts for your kids instead of new items.
- Choose to spend less on kids’ gifts but still get great gifts by shopping sales and being creative. For instance, we just got a $50 gift card from a local farm store when we bought new tires for the car. That $50 gift certificate will be a Christmas gift for one of the kids who loves to shop at that store.
You can still make gift-giving fun and cut down on the amount you spend at the same time. Just be willing to think outside the box.
To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen. -Jim Lovell
Success comes to people who are willing to step out of the world of “normal” into the world of “doing what it takes to make it happen”. There is and should be a balance here; don’t forego all contact with loved ones or make your family live on the street so you can be wealthy. However, for big results to happen, it does take a willingness to put in the work to get those results. It takes sacrifice and perseverance. In today’s world, those qualities are not the norm. Most people want to have success without doing the “different” it takes to get success.
Be the one who breaks the mold, does something different and achieves your dreams.
When have you stepped out of the norm and done something different to get better results?