One of the best ways to stretch your dollar is to get purposeful on how you spend it. The opportunity to buy something new or get tempted into spending money you don’t have is always following throughout the internet. One of the most difficult challenges is trying to stretch your dollars while breaking negative spending habits. That’s why it’s so important to stay the course and stay purposeful when deciding on how to spend, save, or invest. These are the sacrifices we all have to face when trying to save and stretch our dollars as far as possible.
While sticking to your budget during good economic times may feel hard, sticking to your budget during times of uncertainty is even harder. I know that the mere thought of spending $1 over budgets mentally and physically kills all of your budgeting momentum. That’s why it’s important to know how much wiggle room you have in your finances. The easiest way to dictate that is with a budget that’s implemented with the High-5 Banking Method. Again, we can’t stretch a dollar if we forget to prioritize our needs and cave into our wants. That’s why I want to share a few tips on how to stretch your dollars with purpose, especially during uncertain times.
1. Create an SOP Gameplan for your Finances
During times of difficult money conversations, everyone needs to make sure they’re on the same page. It’s easy to switch the conversation to something light when the discussion gets deep. I recommend transitioning into this conversation by creating a Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, for your finances. This strategy will help you get clear on which budget items you need to cut, keep, or reduce. The SOP will also help resolve some unspoken money fears and triggers that you may be holding on to. It’s a deep conversation starter that should probably be discussed over wine and with some time.
Now you may be wondering after this uncomfortable conversation, how is an SOP going to help you during uncertain times? The reality is you have a lot of difficult decisions to make when it comes to your expenses and how to prioritize them. The SOP covers how to attack your expenses from most difficult to the easiest, by separating them into categories of similarity and importance. By having a game plan of how you’re going to handle your expenses during hard times you’re able to move with logic instead of emotion.
2. No-Spend Challenge
A great way to get a hold on your money is to do a “no-spend challenge” for the month. This challenge is set up for you to get in the mindset that you won’t be spending any money this month outside of your mandatory needs. So for the month, you challenge yourself to pause all spend within your lifestyle expenses. Those expenses could be for entertainment, eating out, or any subscriptions for that month specifically. A close friend of mine, Brittany from According to my Calculations on Instagram, loves making numerous witty no-spend challenges every month. She will mix it up and either add a few cheat days or cheat purchases that won’t ruin your no-spend challenge. This way you don’t go crazy and continue to hold yourself accountable during the month.
3. Tame your food
A great way to stretch your dollar during uncertain times is to tame your food budget. I know a lot of us are used to eating out, ordering Uber Eats, or go to the taco shop for a quick bit. But these expenses can add up fast. One of the best ways my family has been able to tame our food budget is by focusing on how we manage our grocery budget and food waste. During certain times we all can get a little careless and buy more food than needed and throw away a lot of money. The biggest game-changer for my family is to actually create a meal plan before buying groceries and then actually cook the meals. This way when we get tempted to just buy food we remember that we have food at home that just needs to be heated up.
When it comes to meal prepping, I want to recommend two tips that have helped me to not go insane and tame my food budget at the same time. The first is to split the cost of home-cooked meals with your family members. My mom always comes over to spend some quality time together and make a cost-effective family meal. This allows us to both save money and have a good time, which adds to the whole experience. The second tip my family does is to pre-make sazon, a wet seasoning, for our dishes. Dominicans are known for seasoning their rice, meats, and beans with sazon to easily and quickly complete each meal with an amazing taste. These two tips combined will stretch your dollars and curve your eating out temptations.
4. The Art of Negotiating
No matter what your reasoning is to stretch your dollar, it’s important to stay clear on your priorities. When it comes to re-evaluating your expenses looking at your Debt is good places to start. If you’re going through a hard time financially, you can call your creditors to negotiate a lowered or postponed payment. You can do this for your student loans, credit cards, car loan, and home loan. These are some of the prime expenses to reduce or postpone during difficult and uncertain financial times.
Aside from your debt, you can also look for government or state programs to help you lower other expenses. Some options you may have not considered is a school-based internet program, healthcare programs like Medical in California, or even lowering your cellphone coverage. I want to bring this up because these are all options if your living expenses are over your income. These programs and services might be just what you need to stretch your dollars as far as possible during uncertain financial times.
5. Turn your Skillset into a Side Hustle
Sometimes stretching your dollars includes adding more dollars to the pot. We all know about the classic side hustles like Uber, Postmates, and Airbnb. But you have to ask yourself, “what other side hustles can I do to make more money?” I say lean into your hobbies to discover side hustles that you enjoy and can get paid to do. Some examples of this can be like cooking and selling meals or using your teaching skills as a virtual tutor. You have a lot more options than you think when it comes to how you can bring in some extra cash in the door. Don’t close your eyes to the less obvious side hustles, because those can get the opportunities you need to advance. I also recommend investing in your soft and hard skills. This will better position you for that promotion you’re looking for or even a new job.
6. Save in a High-Yield Savings Account
Saving for your Emergency Fund is one of the most purposeful reasons to save money. During hard times, having money set aside for emergencies is a true blessing when trying to make ends meet. This is something a lot of us can relate to after experiencing the COVID -19 pandemic and 2008 recession. If you don’t have an emergency fund, I highly recommend that you save for one in a high-yield savings account. This way your emergency savings can make a little more interest compared to a regular savings account. I know it’s not an easy thing to do while trying to stretch your dollars during hard times. But, once things calm down, make this your next priority.
I would push any money from your tax return, stimulus check or additional income to fund your emergency fund. Using your extra money for lifestyle expenses won’t be the best move once you’re in a better financial position. Save your emergency fund with purpose and avoid old shopping habits to stretch your dollars. If that means saying no for a while to some wants, then do that. Having purposeful savings is one of the most reassuring investments in your peace of mind than any materialistic wants.
7. Consider a 30-Day Credit Card Buffer
I usually advise everyone to use their credit card like a debit card, but I have one more tip. One thing that a lot of businesses do to get a bit of a breather with their expenses is to use their credit card to give themselves a net 30. This grants them an additional 30 days to pay off a bill or contractor by putting the expenses on their credit card. Now, this 30-day buffer works well if you then pay the credit card off in full and you stay under 30% of your credit limit. I say this because I still want you to be extra cautious when using this strategy, so you don’t accidentally fall into debt. The reasoning behind this credit card hack is to give you more time to pay your mandatory bills without getting hit with high-interest rates.
During your journey of stretching your dollars, try to stay positive, save money, and most importantly staying healthy. As the economy starts to open back up, I want to promote you to stay cautious and save with purpose. Don’t let the economy or the government tell you how to value your peace of mind. Save your money in your high-yield savings account for your emergency fund and cut unnecessary spending. Things can go right or left during these uncertain times and it’s always best to have more saved than less. Stay safe and save on!
- How to Prepare your Finances for a Recession with an SOP
- The High-5 Banking Method
- Emergency Fund: What is it and How much you need?
- Should you save or pay off debt?