If money is tight, there are traditionally two ways to loosen it up: spend less, or earn more.
If you take the spend less approach, it’s easy to devolve into guilt over your $2 daily coffee or an internal debate about whether you can afford lunch out with coworkers.
However, says Colin Drake, a Certified Financial Planner and head of Drake Wealth Management in Sausalito, California, agonizing over those little costs aren’t the most effective way to save more money.
While analyzing the budget of a Portland woman who is living beyond her means on LearnVest, Drake advised narrowing down the top three most expensive areas of your spending — 10% or more — and focusing on reducing those, not sweating over every little purchase.
“You don’t want the kind of life where you’re at the checkout going, ‘Should I buy People magazine or not?’” he told LearnVest.
While he gave the Portland woman a pass on one of her most expensive categories (child care) because it was an unavoidable necessity that allowed her to work, he suggested finding a more affordable place to rent to decrease her housing costs, and postponing buying a house until the family earns enough to comfortably afford the type of home they want.
“People end up putting too much stress and energy into the little stuff that doesn’t make an impact,” Drake says.