10 Ways to Spend Less and Save More

Money is tight for most of us in international relationships.  In addition to normal costs of living, we are saving up for airplane tickets and other travel expenses.  We may also be buying international phone cards and sending care packages abroad (a 2 lb. box sent to Malaysia costs me $35!).  Finally, when things are looking up and you’re preparing to end the distance, you’re saddled with many other expenses.  Here are 10 ways to stop spending and start saving your money.  Your next visit might happen sooner than you thought!

George is Keeping an Eye On You!
Creative Commons License photo credit: peasap

1. First, take a look at your spending.  Keep a notepad with you and document your spending.  When you see everything written out, you will see some obvious places to cut your spending.

2. Save money automatically.  Have your bank take a percentage of your paycheck and put it in to your savings account each time you make a deposit.

3. Stop eating out.  Going to a restaurant is expensive!  Save the trips out for special occasions and learn how to cook instead.  This also goes for buying specialty coffee drinks.  Do you really need that $4 caramel latte?  If you buy a latte Monday through Friday, that’s $20 per week ($80 per month) on coffee alone!  Eating out costs even more, so try taking a bag lunch to work.  If you tend to eat out at night because you’re tired after work, try slow-cooking with a crockpot.  Set it up before you go to work and you’ll be greeted with a hot meal when you get home.

4. Cancel your cable television.  There’s no question that cable TV is nice, but do you need it?  These days, many television shows can be streamed online.  You can also go to your local library and check out movies and TV series on DVD for free.  If you can’t stand to cancel your cable, you may want to try canceling any premium channels you have.

5. Disconnect your land line and/or downgrade your cell phone plan.  If you already have a cell phone, do you really need a land line?  It’s probably just an extra expense.  On the same note, do you need 2000 minutes, unlimited texting and unlimited data?  You may be able to scale back your cell phone plan and save money each month.  Be aware, though, that you provider might force you to extend your plan when you make a change.

6. Start a coin jar.  It may seem silly, but this is a great way to put money toward something special.  I empty my purse nightly and throw all the change in my jar.  When the jar is full, I take it to the bank and deposit the money directly in to a special account (travel expenses, my husband’s next birthday, etc.).  They key here is putting the change in an account for a specific purpose, not a general checking account.

7. Avoid impulse buys.  Most of the purchases I’ve regretted in my life have been on-the-spot impulse buys.  When you see something you want to buy, give yourself some time to think about it.  If it’s small, sleep on it.  If it’s big, take a week or even a month to be sure you’d like to make the purchase.

8. Shop smart at the grocery store.  Shop with a list, don’t go to the store hungry and avoid convenience foods.  If you shop the outer rim of the store, you’re going to be better off.

9. Group your errands.  Save money on gas by grouping your errands together instead of running out of the house for every little thing.

10. Take on another job.  Last but not least, we have the most obvious option.  Get another part-time job if you have the time available.  If you have writing/design/coding skills, try to get some freelance work on a site like Elance.  Many retailers are beginning to hire holiday workers right now if you’d rather add a temporary second job.

Have more tips for spending less and saving more?  Please share them in a comment!

International LDR Essentials: Budgeting for the Big Move

Love isn’t practical.

Let’s face it – everyone in a long distance relationship can attest to its ‘impracticalities’. Would we have willingly chosen to be 7-30 hours away from the person we love, knowing the additional burdens it places on a relationship? Relationships require enough hard work and sacrifice without the added stress of being physically apart. And yet we would all argue it’s worth it. I know I would. Our partners make all the work worthwhile.

And I hate how much money plays into the equation.

Out of all the things that shouldn’t matter when you love someone is money. Love may be free, but cost of living isn’t. When it comes to closing the distance, you have to shove emotion aside to make room for practicality. Much to my boyfriend’s amusement and occasional dismay, I’m a planner. When we started talking about my move to Australia, I realized a few things:

1) It isn’t a process for the flighty or half-committed.

2) This was going to take a LOT of organization to minimize emergency situations.

3) Holy crap, I have to have what done and how much in order to move?!

Here are the things I listed in my budget:

  1. Emergency Fund – If something can go wrong, it will. Cars breaking, illness, canceled flights, being unable to find a job… life happens, and you have to be prepared for it. An emergency fund turns a crisis into an inconvenience. Generally, you want 3-6 months of living expenses for the country in which you’ll be living.
  2. Moving Costs - For some people, it’s hiring a moving truck. For others, this includes shipping overseas and the many options available, selling/storing leftover items, and airline tickets.
  3. Debt Load – I didn’t want my debts hanging over my head and creating stress while trying to move overseas, so I paid it off. If you’re not paying it off, be prepared to have the cash to pay it off when you move.
  4. Establishment Costs – I think this is the kicker, the one-time costs. Deposits for living space, turning on utilities, switching licenses, furniture, linens, and so on. Setting up your new life eats into your costs, even if you skip getting a couch and eat off of milk crates.
  5. Cancellation Fees – Will moving cause you to break your lease, cancel your cell phone contract, pay membership fees? Personally, I had sticker shock about cell phone cancellation fees.
  6. Monthly Living Expenses – Figuring out where and how to cash flow your new life can be difficult, especially if you don’t go with a job in hand. This is where that emergency fund comes in handy. Figuring out where and how you’re going to live will help determine how much you need to make in order to live comfortably.
  7. Visas/Immigration – It’s not just the application fee, but the required cost to get the requested documentation which can add up. Don’t forget the passport pictures!
  8. Insurance – I know some people think car/life, but my first concern was actually medical. As an outsider, I’m not covered by Australia’s healthcare until I’m a citizen or permanent resident. Check to make sure you’re covered. Price plans.
  9. Work – That is, cash flow. How am I bringing in money to care for myself? Living off of savings versus bringing in money are two different things, and almost everyone will need a cash flow at some point. Researching job possibilities and making sure you’re prepared for however long it takes you to get a job, and learning about the tools you’ll need to be a marketable person.
  10. Farewell Fun – Now that I’ve moved to Australia, one thing I wish I had given myself was more of a fluff fund for my last days. I spent so much visiting family, friends, and getting last minute items I wanted to take overseas that I ended up spending more than I realized I would.

Since some things are unavailable or can be expensive due to importing, make sure you have things you want or need from home. I brought Aleve and all of my personal grooming items because they’re double the price in Australia. And Aleve? You can’t get it here. Painkillers are expensive – $7 for a 16 tablet pack when I checked.

Some items may be easy to work out, others not so much. But it’s worth looking at each category and really thinking about how you want to approach it. Because let’s face it – it’s not all going to go smoothly. And you want to give your relationship as smooth of a transition as possible. Your relationship deserves it.

Marisol Dunham has been a freelance writer since 2007, and now lives with her once long-distance boyfriend in Australia. An American wandering the bush, she writes about her life and writing ventures on her blog at http://www.madunham.com/. You can find her on Twitter at @maridunham.