No matter how hard we try to get ahead, money always seems tight when you have a family. Parents often find themselves drowning in monthly expenses, even when both are working. But with a little planning and sacrifice, you can take control of your household spending. Below are some tips that will help you find a little extra cash each month.
Prepare a Budget
To take control of your finances, you should always start with a budget. By listing out your monthly expenses and comparing these against how much income you bring in each month, you can get an idea if your spending is under control. If you find your monthly expenses are higher than your take-home pay, you need to make some decisions. Perhaps that means cooking more meals at home and brown-bagging lunch for work, going with a lower cost childcare provider, or finding a cheaper car insurance option.
Shop with a List – and stick to it!
Impulses buys drain your pocketbook. Those one-time deals, clearance items, or bargains that we just can’t miss may look like a great way to save money, but they will add up over time, especially if these aren’t essential items.
Avoid going to the grocery store on an empty stomach – impulse buying happens when we are hungry. If you had a rough day at work, stay away from the stores. For some of us, buying things makes us feel better. Take the kids to the park or walk the dog to raise your spirits. Know what triggers your impulse purchases.
The best defense against impulse buying is to know what you want to buy and don’t get anything else. That may sound harsh but if you really needed that it, we would have included it on the list.
Coupons and promotions
Before you shop, take the time to clip a few coupons for items that you include on your list. It may only save you a few dollars each trip, but it will add up over time. Look at store ads for promotions and try to shop during the sales to save a little more money on things that you would typically buy. Just remember to stick to your list.
Technology can do wonders for your utility bills. Consider investing in a programmable thermostat, which allows you to automatically change the temperature in your home when no one is home. You’ll see the savings on your utility bills.
onserve energy by changing to LED lightbulbs. Not only are they more efficient and can reduce your current energy consumption, they can last for many years. While these lightbulbs may cost more initially, you will find that you are purchasing less light bulbs over time. Plus, you can save yourself the time of changing them when they burn out.
Look for other places in your home that can help you save a little on your utility bills.
- Turn off lights and appliances that you aren’t using
- Install timers to automatically turn off electrical devices that you don’t use at night
- Seal up drafty areas in your home that allows cool air, or heat in during the winter, to escape
- Most of us keep the temperature settings in our water heaters too high. The higher the temperature, the more energy used to warm the water. Dropping the temperature, even a few degrees, can save you a little money each month.
Look for hidden or forgotten charges
You can often find ways to save your money by scouring your bills and bank statements for charges that you’ve forgotten about, late fees, and other random things that you didn’t realize you were paying for. If you are being charged late fees, consider paying those bills first to keep that money in your pocket. They may seem small, but those $10, $20, and $25 can add up quickly. For monthly services, such as internet, cable, and phones, review those invoices closely for services that you don’t need or could scale back on. Just knocking off $25 each month can save you $600 a year.
Your bank and credit card statements can reveal charges for things you don’t need or forgot about. Look for charges, such as;
- Remember that free trial you signed up a few months back, but forgot to cancel? Work on eliminating those unused charges.
- Cancel memberships to gyms that you don’t use. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise – you may find a brisk walk or a bike ride just as effective and less taxing on your wallet.
- Look at the subscriptions that you do want to keep. Do you really watch Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime – or can you drop one? Or perhaps you signed up for a special football package but forgot to cancel it. Now is the time.
Kick a habit, or start a new one
If you find yourself dropping a few dollars every day on a habit, it might be time to stop. Whether it is picking up Starbucks on the way to work every day, smoking, or that beer on the way home from work, these $5 - $10 charges every day can really add up. While some habits won’t be easy to kick, the savings will make it worth the while. Plus, it’s better for your health.
Just for fun, consider taking the money that you would spend every day on these items and drop them in a jar to see how quickly this adds up. Over time, you could build up a little nest egg to take the family on a trip or buy that new TV.
If you are struggling to pay your bills every month or are just looking for ways to save a little money, looking at what you pay each month toward household expenses is a good start. Keeping a budget, sticking to a plan, and making good choices when you spend will help you to keep more of it in your wallet.