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How to be cheap (when you need to be)

Let’s face it: sometimes we go overboard on our budgets. It’s the middle of the month and you’re not getting another paycheck until the first. You don’t know how you’re going to make it. Fear not, for everyone can be a cheapskate when they need to be.

First off, food is the number one never ending and ongoing expense. Just by shopping at a cheap food store like Walmart or Winco, you will save a lot. Also, if you buy to-be-cooked food, you can make cheap meals. The added benefit of cooking at home is that you will be spending more time in the kitchen cooking which means less time for you to go out and spend money on anything else. Be smart about what you purchase.

A box of Macaroni & Cheese that feeds 2 adults can be as cheap as $0.39. Also, don’t be scared to go generic on some items. Many generic items have the same ingredients, especially over-the-counter drugs like Aspirin or cough medicine. And if you don’t like drinking Diet Shasta and prefer Diet Coke, every time you drink that Shasta soda, it will remind you how important it is for you to stay on budget next month.

The next thing you can do to save a few bucks is to drive less. If you’re within walking or biking distance to places of interest, make an exercise out of it. Again, you’ll be spending more time doing something for free so you won’t have the time to be able to go do something that costs money. And exercise makes you feel good so you might not even want to do something else that costs money afterwards.

No matter how broke you think you are, resist using credit cards. It’s very tempting to be deprived of your usual amenities and you think “I’ll just do a swipe here and a swipe there and I can have what I’m used to having.” This is dangerous for one reason: you will have to pay it back with interest!

So next month, you’ll be even more broke and then swipe your card more. And so on. Before you know it, you’re in debt way over your head and you can’t have anything that you were used to having. The goal for financial stability is MODERATION. Too much of a good thing is bad for you and your wallet. Why is Egg Nog only available during Christmas time? Because it’s so good! If you had it all year, you wouldn’t appreciate its deliciousness, not to mention the size of your gut.

Everybody deserves some treats to prove their success and make themselves feel good. But you can’t do that everyday, especially if you can’t afford it. In the end, you will be broke and miserable for a long time. Credit card debt begins with just one thought: “I know I shouldn’t but I want it anyway.”

When you swipe your card for something you know you shouldn’t, you have opened that door for the possibility of declaring bankruptcy in as little as one year. So just don’t open that door. Instead, live within your means.

When you go overboard, accept your situation and temporarily adjust your life accordingly. Make cheap meals, drive less, resist using credit cards, and indulge in free activities like playing a sport, playing video games you already own, volunteering for a cause, cleaning your house, working on your yard, having more “in nights” at home, and overall enjoying the many free things you can do for your health, your mind, and the people around you.