Let’s face it: the economy is a little bit unstable. It seems that no career is immune to wages that aren’t rising in accordance with inflation or the rising cost of living in certain areas. And while there’s no better time to be a nurse, it can be difficult to make ends’ meet on a nurse’s salary, especially if you have a family that relies on your income. We understand what it’s like trying to make your paycheck last a bit longer, so we’ve gathered up a few tips that’ll help you stretch that paycheck just as far as it will go.
Identify Your Monthly Bills
It’s a good idea to make a list of your monthly bills, the ones you need to pay each month and that don’t usually vary from month to month. This will include things like your rent or mortgage payments, car payment, any student loan payments, etc. Once you see how much is non-negotiable, you’ll know what you have left out of your paycheck to use for other areas where it is easier to cut costs.
Plan Your Meals and Cook at Home
Once a week, before you do your grocery shopping, plan the meals that you would like to make. Making your own food instead of going out for meals is one of the simplest single changes you can make to your lifestyle that will have a positive impact on your paycheck. If you eat out a lot, you know just how quickly those costs can add up.
So, on your day off, figure out a few simple dishes that don’t require a lot of time or ingredients. Focus on whole, fresh foods like vegetables and whole grains. A simple roasted medley of vegetables and a chicken breast is a simple and cheap meal. Whatever you decide to eat, make the plan for the whole week, covering all your meals that you usually eat, including meals you eat at work. Take note of what you already have in the kitchen, so you don’t over-buy and let things go to waste.
Once you have your list ready, it’s time to shop!
Don’t Shop While Hungry!
One of the things that can ruin your grocery budget (and your paycheck) is impulse buying. They are the things that aren’t on your shopping list, but they just look good, so you throw them in the cart. This is made even worse if you go shopping while you’re hungry. If you’re hungry, you might be susceptible to certain cravings, like packaged cookies or ice cream. While these likely won’t break the bank, it’s a good habit to stick to your list. Avoiding shopping while hungry will mean that you aren’t sidetracked by hunger pains.
If you can’t avoid shopping while hungry, because the only time you have to do it is after a long shift before you’ve had dinner, do your best to stick to the list. If it isn’t there, you shouldn’t buy it. And remind yourself that you’re not going to open a package of cookies right there in the store, anyway! You have to wait to eat whatever you purchase anyway, so you may as well just stick to that list.
Buy in Bulk (But Beware!)
If there are certain long-lasting food items or household products that you know you like and use/eat, try buying them in bulk. Prices are often much lower if you buy a larger quantity, so you could see a lot of savings in the long run.
However, you need to be careful with this method. It can be tempting to buy in bulk because of the lower price, but it’s still more expensive than buying one thing at a time. For instance, a bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce might be $3. A pack of five bottles might be $10. You’re saving money in the long run, but if your funds are running low, it’s better to spend $3 instead of $10. When you are more stable, go ahead and buy the pack! The same goes for bread or fresh produce that could go off quickly. Only buy in bulk if it’s stuff you know you like and will use in time.
Thrift stores are gaining a lot of popularity in recent years, and with good reason. They are excellent places to find great items of clothes for incredibly low prices. If you need a new outfit, check your local thrift store first. It might take more time than you’re used to in order to go through everything and find what you like, but when you get lucky, you’ll be really surprised at the great pieces you can find. As you visit different shops, you’ll quickly see which ones have the best selection or the best prices for your needs. Plus, you can often find brand new items with tags!
Know What You Need (And What You Don’t)
Essentially, if you’re trying to save money and make your paycheck go further, you need to be able to distinguish between wants and needs. If you’re ever tempted to make an unplanned purchase, ask yourself if it’s something you need or something that would be nice to have. If it’s something you need, is there a less expensive option? Can you find the item used, or can you buy a generic brand instead? If it’s not a need at all, write it down on a wish list. When you have excess funds, go through your list and see what you still want. You might find that you aren’t as drawn to certain items any longer, and the ones you still want, you will now have the funds for!
Saving money is simple, but not really easy. Treat yourself gently as you learn to make good financial choices. Don’t forget that your sacrifices now can lead to more financial freedom in the future!