In the first Living with the Budget You Have I addressed the purpose of creating a budget. This article contains how to stretch the money you have.
Step Two: Making it Stretch
You’re either one of two types of people: someone that is optimistic and enjoys a challenge or someone that doesn’t. Usually personality and attitude can make or break you when you are “making” money stretch. Apart from this, societal pressures and cultural taboos provide us with challenges that are hard to overcome. Living in a materialistic world, we are bombarded with advertisements that tell us we need to spend more in order to be more successful. New clothes, luxury foods, electronic gadgets—all of this is offered to us (usually at the not-so-low price) to fill a void in our lives we didn’t know we had.
Regardless of how much we spend or don’t spend, we will always be consumers. Yet how we consume and our attitude towards consumption is the most important part in making it stretch.
Going back to Step one, what did you write in your luxury category? What did you write for necessities?
According to Uthman bin Affan, Allah’s messanger (pbuh) said, “There is no right for the son of Adam except to these (four) things: A house to live in, a cloth to cover therewith his private parts, and a slice of bread and water.”
Now I want you to revisit your necessities list again. Do you need to spend 5 dollars a day at Starbucks for a latte? Is it necessary for you to purchase electronics immediately as they are released? I am not asking you to live a state of complete austerity, but to approach the way that you view your spending in a different light. Since budgeting and spending affects each of us differently, those who are struggling to pay off debt or make ends meet may be having a particularly hard time. We may be afraid to be stigmatized as “poor” and therefore to keep up appearances to our family and friends, we hide our financial struggles or pretend that we do not need to re-evaluate our budgets. Below are some practical solutions that may help to ease the burden if you are struggling financial. These methods are not “begging” nor do they compromise your honor and integrity. I offer them as helpful suggestions but remember: nothing will help until you are able to change your attitude towards consumption.
1. Avoid using credit cards. Make your purchases with cash (using the envelope method as recommended by Adam T. [[insert link here]]. Put excess change from your transactions in a box and count it monthly. People rarely use change to pay for items and often forget that they possess real monetary value. Last week, my husband and I were able to wrap our coins and pay for $40 worth of fruits and vegetables…in change we forgot about!
2. Consider buying in bulk or with coupons. Every week, regardless of where you live in the US (some places overseas as well) your doorstep is bombarded with mailers advertising the latest “sales” and “discounts” a store has to offer for the week. If you do not get them delivered, then they are certainly available online for free. Use these mailers to steer you where to shop for the week, but do so smartly. Only purchase the items on sale or with a coupon for things you would normally buy. Do not buy items simply because you are enticed by the “savings”! Think of your house like a pawn shop (weird analogy, just go with me on this one). You buy items to put in your “store”. Every time you consume an item, envision it like a sale. Yet when items just sit there for long periods of time or expire, you’re losing money. Similar to a store, when their product continues to sit in inventory without selling, it runs the risk of being damaged over a long period of time or tossed out with lost profits. Certain items like toilet paper, paper towels, and laundry detergent have a longer “shelf life” than milk. Take this into account when you utilize coupons.
3. Similarly with using paper coupons, remember to check online for discounts before making purchases on the web. Almost every well-known store on the internet has at least a few special orders or a certain percentage off coupled with free shipping. Make a search before you check out to see what you can take advantage of. Remember that these offers are not always advertised on the company website.
Good luck! Stay tuned for Part 3: Fun on a Budget.