While I was thinking up ideas for this article on how to save money, I realised that there were already a lot of tips out there on the Internet to help you save on your monthly expenses, but almost all of them required you to ditch your car, ditch your holidays and ditch your kids (in no particular order) for you to actually cut down on your expenses.
In other words, it seemed like you had to give up all your worldly desires, live like a veritable pauper and somehow attain spiritual nirvana along the way just to scrimp away a measly sum every single month.
So as I sat there caught in a mental loop whether to join some hermit religious sect to forsake all my material desires so I could save the money I needed to buy all the expensive things I wanted, I had my Eureka moment and went: "Bah!"
Who wants to save so much money until it impedes on your lifestyle and practically sucks the living joy out of living your life like an absolute douchebag who wants to throw money down a shopping mall just because you can?
I needed to find ways that could reduce your monthly expenses AND not affect your lifestyle one bit. Now that's really saving money!
Because who really wants me to tell you to save money by taking the train that's packed worse than a sardine can that even the train platforms are FULL when you could be cruising down the highway in your pink Hello Kitty Audi R8 in style! I'd pick the R8 any time. And I think YOU would too.
So let's quit beating around the bush.
Here are six ways you can reduce your monthly expenses without having to comprise on your awesome lifestyle:
1. USE CREDIT CARDS WHENEVER YOU CAN
Now don't get me wrong on this. Wanton spending on your credit cards is a sure way to get yourself into a black hole of debt that you might never get yourself out of.
If you're the type that can't control your spending, charges everything to your cards and only pays the minimum sum every month, you can't use this tip.
But if you're the responsible type that pays off your credit card bill in FULL (regardless of how much you spend), then credit cards are a great way to save money.
How is that so?
Well, when you promptly pay off your credit card bill in full every month, you incur NO interest charges. In that case, it makes no difference whether you pay for all your stuff using cash or credit, so you might as well use your credit cards because:
- You rack up the points. The more you spend on your credit cards, the more reward points you accumulate which you can redeem later for all sorts of free stuff and those return air tickets to the Maldives before global warming claims the last chance you have to bring your wife/girlfriend to the most cliched tropical paradise honeymoon destination everrrrr.
- You get bonus perks and discounts. Using credit cards at certain outlets sometimes entitle you to special perks or discounts; an instant way to save money! Taking your time to whip out a snobby-looking black coloured credit card while simultaneously scanning the cashier counter for the discount cards they accept is a great way to look expensive by being cheap at the same time.
- It's like getting a two-month interest-free loan. Think about this: When you use a credit card, you're using the credit card company's money first for 30 days, after which they will send you a bill for the month. Then you have another whole month to pay your credit card bill in full. Essentially you're getting a two-month interest-free loan from your credit card while racking up your points, perks and discounts. Not bad at all.
Remember, you can't use credit cards as a way of spending beyond your means. If you do, I have to let you know that credit card interest charges are some of the very highest around at 24 per cent per annum.
Those are the sort of annualized returns that made Warren Buffett a multi-billionaire - and the credit cards are earning those rates off you.
You must treat spending with your credit cards as if you are spending your own cash. As long as you pay your credit card bill in full every single month, credit cards are a very smart way to start saving some money right now.
2. MUSIC IS FREE. KINDA,
If you're still the type that wanders around the Jurassic era chomping on ferns and buying the latest CDs of your favourite music artists, then I have news for you… whisper it: "Music is free…"
Just so you didn't already know, YouTube is the largest living repository of music in the world. Ever. You can even find every single damn tune there is and ever was there.
Hmm… If only there was a way to turn all those video FLV files into MP3s (hint, hint). Anyway, I could say more but I won't and don't get me started about movies either.
In any case, if you want to support your favourite artistes instead of ripping off their music for free like the scrooge you are, then head to their concerts, shop for their tracks on iTunes/Amazon, or buy their memorabilia like that Justin Bieber boyfriend singing toothbrush you need to finally validate you as a true belieber.
3. CUT SPENDING ON BOOKS
Before I begin on this, I want to state that I love books and that the printing press is one of the most important inventions ever invented.
Without books, I'd never be able to learn as much as I'd like about the wonders of the stars, galaxies, and tantric sex. But books can be expensive - I can go on a binge tour around a bookstore, pick 4-5 books and spend $150-$200 at the drop of a hat.
So how do I quench my insatiable thirst for knowledge about black holes and tantric pleasure (both unrelated topics) while spending much less money? By heading to the most popular place to snog someone while pretending to study for an exam - the library.
Instead of buying a book, borrow it from the library first. If you really enjoyed the book and plan on keeping it for good, then buy a copy from the bookstore for your personal collection.
You'll realise that only certain books are worth keeping while the rest can simply be borrowed from the library, saving you a lot of money in the process. Plus if you couple this tip with buying digital books (which are mostly cheaper) instead of old-fashioned print, you'll save even more.
At the end of it, you still get to read all the books you want to read and satisfy your fascination with all sorts of black holes - here and light years away.
4. KEEP YOUR TYRES PROPERLY INFLATED
Here's one perfect example of using something that's absolutely free - air - to save money. Under-inflated tyres increase drag for your car and reduce your fuel economy.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, you lose 1 per cent of fuel economy for every 2 PSI drop in tyre pressure. A US Department of Energy report showed that at $3 per gallon for gas, you're spending $432 for gas each year you don't need.
Since everything's more expensive in Singapore, where petrol costs around $2 per litre (or $7.4 per gallon), that roughly translates to spending $1,065 extra for petrol each year if your tyres are under-inflated.
Even Barack Obama got in on the act back in 2008 when he called for Americans to reduce the country's need for foreign oil by keeping their tires properly inflated.
Well, he won his 2008 presidential campaign and he's the President of the USA twice over, so he must be right. (Please, Donald, don't screw this office up. Ok, you have.)
By keeping your tyres properly inflated, you help reduce oil consumption, slow down global warming, and save the fate of all future sappy honeymooners in the Maldives. Plus imagine all the millions of innocent dinosaurs listening to their audio CDs that had to be sacrificed 65 million years ago just to feed your oil habit today, it's time you picked up the air pump.
Add to the fact that under-inflated tyres put more pressure on the tyre sidewalls and cause them to wear out faster, which means you'll be spending even more money replacing your tyres more frequently, it goes to show that something as simple and as free as air can save you a lot of money in the long run.
5. UNPLUG ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES NOT IN USE
There's a vampire in your house and, unfortunately for you, his name is not Robert Pattinson. Any electrical appliance that's simply plugged in sucks energy even when they're switched off and not in use.
Called vampire power, standby power, or phantom load, it accounts for at least 10 per cent of your home energy bill. That's a whole lot of waste for something that's not being used.
If your electricity bill runs up to a few hundred dollars a month, the power that's lost can add up to quite a bit over the course of a year.
I know it's going to be a hassle having to plug and unplug an appliance you use every day (like your computer), so an obvious solution is to simply unplug any electrical appliance that you don't regularly use like that vibrating Justin Beiber boyfriend singing toothbrush that you should only need to charge every few weeks or so. Unless…
6. BUY CHEAP CLOTHES THAT LOOK REALLY EXPENSIVE
Here's some news for you: You don't need expensive clothes to look fabulous (and conversely, you don't look fabulous just because your clothes are expensive).
I don't have a single branded item in my wardrobe, my shirts and tees all cost $50 or less, and my jeans for about the same - and I look great (ask my mum).
What's more important in looking good is to make sure you match the right items together so you always look stylish like Beckham, Gosling, or me.
The easiest way to do that is to simply copy the outfits celebrities are wearing and go shop at relatively inexpensive high street brands like H&M and Zara to achieve a similar look. Heck, there are even websites that show you how to copy a celebrity's look for cheap - both for men and for women.
So why spend a thousand bucks to be decked out in branded designer wear when you can create the same stylish look for two hundred or less?
For the same amount of spend, you get to have five different looks instead of one and your co-workers will stop wondering why you never seem to go home for a change of clothes every weekday.
This article was first published in The Fifth Person.