How to reduce your cost of living
The basic needs of man are food, clothing, shelter and circus (entertainment?). However, most of us have today graduated from needs to wants and luxuries.
However, when the headline inflation numbers hit 11.9% there is a serious worry about people not being able to meet even their basic needs – and that is a worry.
While shopping at a discount store instead of the mall generally takes care of the clothing issue, and living in a small apartment instead of a huge house, if you can live in a less fashionable area – like Vikhroli instead of Powai, can address your housing situation. Rising world food prices can lead to some significant challenges in the food department!
Everything from rising transportation costs to the development of biofuels, push up the cost of food and put a pinch on consumers’ wallets.
While reducing your eating to one meal a day is good for yogi’s and is a good way to cut down costs, that is not what I am suggesting. Instead, I am suggesting something much simpler.
1. Eat at Home
Eating out is expensive. Apart from food even coffee made at home is inexpensive. And you get the added benefits of nutrition, hygiene, etc. Small numbers do add up – if you are spending Rs. 200 a day eating out, and it costs you Rs. 50 to eat at home – you save Rs. 150 a day. A systematic investment plan of Rs. 150 a day done for 30 years can give you returns in excess of 5 CRORES! Toast butter, vegetable sandwich, Tea, coffee, curd rice, salads – are really simple to make 🙂
2. Know what you are buying
You need a plan for almost anything you do! Shopping is not very different – if you stumble around the grocery store and fill your cart with everything that catches your eye, chances are you will spend a lot more money that you needed to spend. Plan your meals for the week ahead, and make careful note of what you need to buy. Once the list is made, purchase only the items on the list, and avoid impulse buys.
3. Buy what you need and then put on Blinders!
Stores are designed to make you go through a long walk to get to the most basic items you need. ON the way you will pick up a lot of things that you do not need, and in quantities that you do not need. Though there is no research in Indian conditions, clearly people do not use all the things that they buy – refuse to be bullied into buying! Most necessities and basic cooking items are found along the outside perimeter of the store, start there and work your way around the edge of the store.
4. Shop on a full stomach
On a hungry stomach you are likely to pick up a lot of things that look like food! You might also pick up a lot of food – which is perhaps un-necessary. On a full stomach on the other hand, you will most likely
be tense and pick up unnecessary stuff.
6. Do you really need bottled water?
A water filter works far cheaper, compared to bottled water in terms of costs.
7. Shop sans the Kids
Hungry, tired, cranky kids increase the amount of time it takes to get your shopping done. Kids can really bug you into buying things which are bad for your health and for your purse – leave the kids at home / crèche / school before you venture out shopping.
8. Buy in Bulk
Bulk buying can save you a significant amount of money. Pay attention to the prices and pick up the family size package if the per-unit cost is lower and you have a place to store it. However, you need to realize that bulk buying has a dark side too! If you are not a big user of any particular product, and storage is an issue be careful of bulk buying – the Indian weather does require refrigerators for most products.
9. Use Store Reward Cards
If the store that you visit most frequently has a reward card, sign up. In some cases, stores raise their prices when they offer reward cards, and without the card your bill will certainly be higher. If the reward card offers other benefits, such as a preferred (or free) parking, some free schemes, etc. be sure to maximize your benefits before they expire.
10. Buy Local products
Whenever I step into a big branded store, they do try to push “American grapes” – I fell for it once, and realized only on billing that it was Rs. 400 a kg! The Indian variety is normally available for Rs. 40. Locally grown or produced food is often available at a cheaper price because you don’t pay for long transportation costs. In the place I live I also see farmers coming and holding an exhibition / sale of seasonal vegetables and fruits – common to see a mango mela or a fruit and vegetable exhibition. You cannot do your weekly purchase here but you get a good price indication.
11. Choose unbranded goods!
There is a huge, huge cost difference between a branded product and an unbranded one. Even in case of “expensive” items like dry-fruits if you buy it from a wholesale-retail shop you will find a 20% price difference. Some branded foods like cornflakes, hold your breath – are more expensive than dry fruits on a per kilogram basis J. If you thought potatoes were selling at Rs. 12 a kg., you are correct, but when it gets converted to branded chips, it becomes a little expensive – about Rs. 300 a kg!
12. Men are bad shoppers?
It is not so much a gender issue – but men do not have much patience and that shows while shopping. So if you are a man, realize that shops know and understand this. So things are arranged in such a way that when you are in a hurry you will find the most expensive items. So look in the corners, look at levels lower (and higher) than just at the eye level. To find less expensive items, look down. Also, looking around your brand-name food can find you a cheaper generic alternative.
13. Avoid Checkout Temptations
Normally you have some high priced crackers, chocolates, shaving blades – and the cheaper alternatives are just a little further away, so walk a few steps. Picking up things at the check-out counter surely spoils your health – like the chocolate that you eat on the way to the car! Most of the times it also spoils your wealth.
14. Compare Prices and Stores
I personally do not compare prices and stores but my wife has a doctorate in this! She knows which shop is good to buy vegetables, which shop for branded goods, and which shop for unbranded goods. And she plans her shopping accordingly.
15. Sales offers
In Indian conditions September to December are what we call “Festive season” when most of the buying happens. Surprisingly, Hindus, Muslims and Christians have some festivals for which they buy new clothes in this period. So shop keepers do a pre-festive sale in July-August and a post-festive offer in January. Use these sales to build your wardrobe – you can get good deals.
16. Shop less frequently
The lesser the number of trips you make to the shop, the lesser the things you will end up buying! So if you are making more trips to the store, it is time you reduced the trips.
17. Pay In Cash
When you buy your day-to-day requirements with your credit card, and do not pay off in full, you pay interest. Apart from this, when you see cash go out of your hand, you tend to be more careful about how much you spend. So paying by cash is a good option.
18. Check Your Bill
You should check all the statements which have a financial implication – whether it is your credit card statement, you mutual fund statement, your bank statement, your insurance statement or even your bill at the Store where you buy. Scanners are fine, but sometimes there could be a mistake. There could be one item scanned twice. Sometimes the prices are not changed – maybe carelessly but you MUST see the bill before you pay. Or go home, check and then scream if things are wrong.
19. Buy leather goods in monsoon and umbrellas in Winter!
During the non-season prices of goods are lesser. If you are in a monsoon area check out for sale of leather goods. There must be one going on somewhere near your office / house. Be alert to such offers. If you are buying things for your kids this is more true. So be awake.
Keep watching this space, i will keep adding points here….
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