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There are really only two ways to improve your financial picture. These are some ways to fix your budget without moonlighting.
There are two distinct sides to your financial balance sheet: Incoming and outgoing. Having more income (incoming!) is always great, but an easier way to increase the amount you have for savings and investments is to decrease your expenses (the outgoing). Why? Because most professionals, dentists included, simply have more day-to-day control of what they spend versus what they earn.
That’s not to say that there aren’t ways to maximize income; there certainly are, and we’ll take a look at a few of them in a future column. But for a tangible, immediate, and lasting impact on your balance sheet? Let’s take a look at 10 ways to spend less, over two parts.
1. Increase your efficiency.
Are you the type of person who wants the maximum data plan for the cell phone, or every single channel as part of the cable package? There’s something to be said for having it all, but you can’t possibly watch 2,000 channels at once, and there’s nothing on anyway. Take a look at your actual usage, and think about cutting to a plan that more efficiently meets your needs.
2. Become a workout fiend.
What’s this doing here? How can exercising regularly save you money? First, you don’t need sessions with that expensive personal trainer to get a good workout. Find some shoes that fit and get busy. Working out is inexpensive, and it can be beneficial to the bottom line in other ways. Time spent working out is time not spent in other, potentially more expensive activity. And it may also likely lead to lower healthcare costs over the course of your lifetime.
3. Pay attention to the fees.
$5 to use an ATM not affiliated with your bank. Overdraft fees. Toll roads taken when they could have been avoided. Broker and advisor fees. Each fee on its own may be a minor nuisance, but fees are insidious, and they have a way of adding up. Go out of your way to avoid them; doing so can make a surprising difference to the bottom line.
4. Do something charitable.
This is good life advice, because it makes you feel good and gives you a sense of purpose. Dentists, of course, have no shortage of opportunity to do charitable work—either inside or outside the practice of dentistry. But how does it help you save money? Like with the workout strategy above, engaging in charitable activity means time not spent at the movies, at the casino, and shopping for another pair of shoes you don’t necessarily need. There is an extra potential benefit for dentists as well, who can take advantage of some networking opportunities associated with being out in the community.
5. Turn your grocery bill into a challenge.
Weekly grocery shopping is a big expense for most, but there are many ways to save. Buying in bulk, for example, for nonperishables will lead to big savings over time. So will clipping coupons and regularly using your shopper’s card. It may seem silly to someone raking in a 6-figure income, but you can turn the grocery store routine into a challenge to keep the bill under a certain figure, without necessarily buying less. After the shopping is done, resist the urge to dine out while the fresh groceries transition to spoiled. Eating out is expensive as it is, but it’s a double whammy when fresh vegetables and meats go to waste while you hit the steakhouse.
In Part 2, we’ll look at some hidden costs that catch many savers off-guard.