Many families are faced with making their income dollars stretch further than ever before in today’s economy. Whether you are out of work, forced to take a pay cut, on disability, or simply find that your paycheck doesn’t go as far as it once did, then consider some of these tips.
KNOW WHERE YOU MONEY IS GOING
First, you want to come up with a budget. Take out paper and pencil and make a list of all the bills that you know will be required on a regular basis such as rent, mortgage, utilities, cable, internet, phone service, insurance, car payments, credit cards, bank loans, and so on. Next, you need to calculate approximately how much you are spending each pay period on food, entertainment, fuel, clothing, convenience items, and any other expenses you have. Finally, you need to calculate how much you need to set aside each pay period for retirement and emergencies.
If you aren’t saving for your retirement, but are currently employed then you need to come up with a retirement strategy. Even if you are having financial difficulties at the present, you still need to be planning for your retirement. You also should keep at least $1000 in your bank account or set aside in some way for emergencies. Ideally, you want to eventually have the equivalent of three months of your salary saved up in case you are unable to continue working or find that your job no longer exists. If you are unsure of where to begin preparing for your retirement, then consider visiting your local library or doing research on the internet. You might also want to speak with your human resources department at work to inquire about available retirement plans.
ELIMINATE EXCESS EXPENSES
Once you have a list of expected expenses in front of you, look over them to see if there are any that you can live without. If you are paying for a gym membership, then consider cancelling it. You can always go walking at the mall or take a stroll outdoors and there are plenty of ways to get fit without spending hours in the gym every week. What about cell phone services? Do you have the basic plan or do you have added services that are costing more money? Price shop other cell phone providers to make sure you are getting the best rates available and eliminate any excess services that you can do without.
If you have both a cell phone and a home phone, then consider giving up one or the other. You might also want to look into the Magic Jack. It currently is available in the US for about $29.95 per year and includes free unlimited local and long distance calling and can be used with or without your computer. You can get more information on this product at www.magicjack.com.
Cable and satellite services are not a necessity for most people. If you have internet access then you can easily keep up with current events, download television programs, and find plenty of sources of entertainment. Personally, I love Netflix. There are literally thousands of movies and TV series that I can download to my computer or watch on my regular television through my Samsung Blu-ray player or my Wii and it is currently only about $8 per month. Go to www.Netflix.com for more details.
Are you paying for a membership to a gaming website? If so, then eliminate it and check out free gaming websites such as www.pogo.com or www.itsyourturn.com. I’m sure there are plenty of other free gaming sites out there, but I’m very familiar with both of these and feel comfortable recommending them to people of all ages.
If you are spending money on gambling, cigarettes, alcohol, or junk food on a regular basis, then you need to eliminate these expenses or greatly reduce them. If you’re having difficulty paying your bills, then it is safe to say that you need to eliminate them all together.
Do you often eat in restaurants? Most of us enjoy a meal out now and then, but if you eat out on a regular basis, then you are probably spending too much money on food. Dining out should be a luxury, not an everyday event. When you do dine out, avoid purchasing alcohol or soft drinks. Get water instead. Also, consider ordering one of the lesser expensive appetizers as your dinner instead of the more expensive entrees. Also, look in your local newspaper or on the internet for restaurant coupons in your local area. Sometimes the telephone book is a good source for coupons. You also might want to go to www.restaurant.com where you can buy restaurant gift certificates for a fraction of their face value. However, in most cases, your best bet is still to learn how to prepare nutritious and inexpensive meals at home.
When it comes to utilities, be sure that you turn off all lights and electronics when you leave a room. Also, if you aren’t using that VCR or alarm clock in the guest room, then unplug them. Look for any small appliances or electronics that are plugged in that do not get regular use. If you don’t use it at least once per day, then unplug it.
Take a close look at all of the other items on your list and think of ways to either reduce the expenses or eliminate them completely. Also, research on the internet for additional ways to reduce individual expenses.
This can be a little tricky and is not for everyone, but it is always something to consider. There are a few different ways to share expenses. First of all, if you have an extra bedroom or guest room that you aren’t using on a regular basis, then you might consider getting a roommate. This can provide hundreds of dollars extra per month, but it isn’t always easy finding a person you can trust who is a compatible roommate.
Another way to share expenses is to join a carpool. This is helpful especially for those who have a long commute to work or school each day. Not only can you save on fuel cost, but you can also help reduce air polution.
If you already have a roommate or friend that you can go shopping with, then you might consider buying certain items in bulk that you can share. Things such as coffee, laundry detergent, paper products, cleaning supplies, fresh meats, and all sorts of other items are often less expensive in bulk. However, it isn’t a good buy if you purchase more than you can use and end up wasting part of it.
Most importantly, use your own best judgement. Only you can decide what items you can afford to live without and which items you’re willing to use less often. What works for one person isn’t always right for another. If you focus on monitoring where your money goes each month and look for ways to reduce your expenses on a regular basis, then you are more likely to be able to better manage your money and make your dollars work harder for you.