The expenses involved in taking care of a loved one with multiple medical conditions can add up very quickly. According to the Family Caregiving and Out-of-Pocket Costs: 2016 Report conducted by AARP, approximately 78 percent of family caregivers incur out-of-pocket costs as a result of providing care. In fact, caregivers incur an average of $7,000 a year in costs related to caregiving.
It’s only natural for family caregivers to look for ways to be more frugal when it comes to everyday expenditures. However, some money-saving suggestions, while seemingly logical, really aren’t worth one red cent. The following common budgeting strategies are ones that you should ignore:
- Cease All Luxury and Convenience Purchases ASAP
For the same reasons that crash diets don’t work, trying to stop all of your unnecessary spending at once is likely to be ineffective, especially over the long term. In fact, you may end up spending more money on future impulse buys if you try to significantly curtail your spending cold turkey.
What to do instead: Try tapering off your inessential purchases gradually. For instance, start small by skipping your daily trip to the coffee shop for a pick-me-up or no longer eating lunch out. Brewing your own coffee is much cheaper, and many café recipes are surprisingly easy to replicate. Bringing your own lunch to work even a few times a week can free up quite a few dollars here and there as well. Instead of simply doing without, focus on creating new routines that are more budget-friendly.
When it comes to resisting larger purchases, like a new TV or kitchen appliance, give yourself a waiting period of a few weeks before taking the plunge. Chances are that, after some time and distance from a shiny potential purchase, you won’t feel such a strong urge to buy. You may even forget what you wanted or why you wanted it in the first place.
- Buy in Bulk and Take Advantage of Sales Whenever You Can
While sales promotions can be budget friendly, deals like “buy one, get one free” and “10 for $10” don’t always offer the level of savings that they appear to. It’s very tempting for shoppers to snag a bargain, but the true value of a sale often depends on a person’s unique needs and budget.
What to do instead: Always think twice when you see sales promotions. Is this an item that you truly need and will use? Furthermore, is it something that you need more than one of? For example, a bulk discount at the grocery store may seem like a good bargain, but if the sale is on perishable goods that can’t be frozen for later use or things that your family doesn’t typically purchase, you should resist the temptation to buy.
However, it does pay to stock up on certain items. Trash bags, tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, cleaning supplies and soap are items that you and your loved one will always need—and they have long shelf-lives. If you see these kinds of things on sale, don’t hesitate to nab them before someone else does.
- Cheaper Is Always Better
Typically, items from budget retailers like your local dollar store are inexpensive because they are cheaply made. This often means that quality and efficiency are lacking in their products. Therefore, it probably won’t be long before you have to spend more money to replace a bargain buy, or you may end up using more of a particular item in the long run because it doesn’t work as well as a pricier brand-name version (think laundry detergent and toilet paper).
What to do instead: Exercise discretion. Low prices don’t always indicate inferior products. As with buying in bulk, the key to bargain hunting is being selective. For example, grocery store generics are generally of the same quality as the brand name products they sit beside. Sometimes they’re even the same product in different packaging. Do some research to see where it’s worth cutting costs. Comparing prices, ingredients and container sizes/serving sizes/number of uses per container is often a good place to start. Be sure to check the expiration dates on bargain items from variety stores as well.
- Skip Regular Maintenance/Upkeep
Let’s face it, regular dentist checkups and car maintenance can be super expensive. It’s tempting to put these things off and save a few bucks until a problem arises, but, over time, putting them off can end up costing you more. When you take good care of yourself and your belongings, they tend to last much longer.
What to do instead: Be smart when spending money on upkeep for yourself and your largest assets like your car and home. Regular maintenance may not cost as much as you think or be required as often as you think. For example, most vehicles don’t need oil changes as frequently as your local mechanic recommends. You can save money by checking your car owner’s manual to see how often the oil should be changed to keep your vehicle running smoothly.
When it comes to dental care, being without health insurance may mean forking out anywhere from $75 to $200 for a biannual tooth cleaning. But forgoing dental care, even for just a year or two, can end up costing you way more when you eventually get back to the dentist. Excessive plaque buildup, gum recession and tooth decay are all costly (and potentially painful) problems to fix. If you’re really strapped for cash, consider scouring deal-a-day websites or local dental schools for deals on checkups and x-rays.
Prioritize maintenance tasks that, if neglected, may lead to long-term or irreversible damage. (Your health should top this list!) Do some research to see exactly how urgent a particular task is, learn the risks and costs of not following through, and find potentially cost-effective solutions.
Saving money isn’t just about limiting expenses. It’s about creating a realistic budget that works for you and your lifestyle. If you have a lot of difficulty sticking to a spending plan, then chances are it needs to be adjusted. Books on personal finance and even some free and low-cost phone and computer applications can help you put together a practical budget. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is an excellent resource for free information on savings strategies, managing debt, improving your credit score and much more.