The cut back month

March has always been about battles! The Romans named the month after Mars – God of War, and centuries later, here in India today, it is still the month of battles… financial battles! March has become synonymous with target completion, last minute tax saving schemes, short term loans to cover deficits…. basically everything that spells ‘monetary conflict’.

With a lot happening in March, what better way to reduce expenditure than the good ol’ cut back trick! Frugal or smart, watching and trimming your expenditures this month will take a lot of stress out.

In lean times, you’ll need to rethink some of the things you take for granted:

  • List – Don’t underestimate this seemingly geeky habit! A to-do list will help you plan and prioritize. Putting things in writing will not only give you a perspective and but also help instill the feeling of pursuit. A list also ensures you make fewer but combined trips, whether to the supermarket or to run errands or for anything else, saving you precious time and money.
  • Needs Vs Wants– Stop keeping up with the Joneses! Excessive consumption is the easiest way of falling into a trap of financial stress. If you find yourself coveting your friend’s/ neighbour’s glamorous lifestyle, it is time to re-evaluate your own spending pattern. You may be buying yourself into debt without even realizing it. This month reassess and cut back on entertainment and shopping expenses; and steer clear from those too-good-to-resist sales.
  • Do the new – It’s easy to fall into predictable patterns of everyday life, not realizing what you take for granted. If you have been driving or riding to work, your fuel expenses is a significant part of your monthly spend. This month, why not try something new – perhaps you could utilize public transportation on a few days, carpool or walk short distances for running errands. Likewise, if eating out is a regular activity, reduce the number of times you visit a restaurant. Cook more at home; make potluck plans with likeminded people to break the monotony.
  • Optimize – If time is money then optimization is wealth! Relook at every aspect of your everyday life and assess what you can do better – more productively. To save on fuel, drive at speed limits of 40 km per hour. Switch off at major signals and fuel up at night. Keeping the tyre pressure at optimum levels also helps in saving fuel expenses. Use your credit card reward points, loyalty points, cashback points as much as possible for regular expenses.
  • Be mindful – This is as applicable for an eco-warrior as to an able financial manager. Reduce, reuse and recycle what you can. You can cut back on electricity bills by putting off unnecessary appliances when not in use. Do remember that any appliance in standby mode still consumes electricity. Based on usage, you may also want to switch your mobile plans to better efficient packs to reduce your expenses. Recycle your old things – whether it’s paper and plastic or that not in use music system which is collecting dust. There are several flea and barter markets for this.
  • The little things – We’ve all learnt that little drops of water make an ocean. But it’s often not applied to financial lives. Whether it’s debt or savings, it will become a huge pile before you realize it. Pay your bills on time to avoid any penalties.

Knowing that you have fewer debts reduces your stress levels. Finding and plugging the leaks will help in building wealth.

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