Unemployment, reduced hours at work and medical issues can all cause a strain on your cash flow, making daily living expenses tough to manage. Becoming savvy with your limited income and reducing your daily expenses should be a top priority. Cutting back on your spending is common sense and you will soon realize that many of the things you buy, or services that you pay for, are really not necessary.
If there is no urgent need to buy something, don’t. Your compulsive shopping days are on hold — and you may get used to not wasting money even when your income starts flowing in a positive direction again. If you’re short on cash, do your best to stop using your credit cards unless it is an extreme emergency. The burden of added debt will just pile on more stress.
Aside from the obvious money-saving ideas like cutting coupons to lower your grocery bill, here are some tips to help you reduce your expenses:
Cut the Cable: Your cable bill may be the first cut you make at when it comes to reducing your expenses. Are you paying for package deals and features you rarely use? Do you watch one or two movies a month but pay for premium movie channels?
- Get basic cable service and rent a movie from for $1 per day at a local Redbox vending machine (get free Redbox codes here).Local libraries are also a great source for movies at no cost.
- Get a free month of Netflix and stream unlimited movies to your television (or PC) via a Wii, PS3 system or Xbox 360. After that, if you have room in your budget, it’s $7.99 a month for unlimited movies and plenty of television shows to keep you entertained.
- Get TWO free months of Hulu Plus (movies, current season TV shows). The basic Hulu is free, Hulu Plus has lots more programming. Stream to TV, Xbox 360, Roku, Mac, PC, and a variety of smartphone apps.
- If basic cable is still too much of an expense, cancel your service and grab a digital television antenna at Walmart or another discount retailer for anywhere between $10 – 30 and a conversion box for less than $50 and you will get a number of television channels and you won’t pay a monthly fee.
Do you have a house phone and a cell phone? Your cell phone more than likely allows you to make long distance calls at no extra charge so why keep both phones? If you work all day and are just home in the evening and on the weekend, most cell phone plans are free after 8pm and have free weekend hours as well. Use the cell phone and delete the land line from your list of expenses. More ways to save on your phone expenses: Ten Ways to Save Money on Your Phone Bill
Quit the Starbucks Habit: The daily coffee stop can really add up. Consider using that travel mug you got from your Secret Santa last year and make coffee at home. Pour it your travel mug and take it with you. If you can’t put a halt to your caffeine addiction, make sure you sign up for rewards programs at Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks.
Kick the Habit: If you smoke, it’s time to quit. Not only will you be healthier (which saves money long-term), you will save an enormous amount of money. With cigarette price rising and taxes on each pack increasing, someone who smokes a pack per day can save $1800 or more per year by quitting. That’s great incentive to get healthy!
Stop Driving Needlessly: Plan your errands accordingly so you do not have to make costly, short trips several times a week. Consider taking public transportation to work if you live in a city that offers it. Regular maintenance on your car is also very important including oil changes and keeping your tires inflated properly. A car that is well-maintained uses less gas. Read: Ten Tips to Help Save Money on Gas
Go to the Library. You can read magazines and newspapers while you are there and borrow books to take home. Most libraries now have a great selection of movies and music you can borrow at no charge. Children love having their own library card and it teaches them responsibility when they care for and return the books on time.
Stop Eating Out: Borrow some cookbooks from the library and cook at home more often. Make grocery lists and use coupons to stretch your budget. Cooking at home is a great family activity and planning your meals in advance will reduce the need for last minute take-out food. If you do go out to eat, check for freebies: Best Restaurant Freebies is a list of year-round freebies and make sure you check the Restaurant & Food Freebies tab for current offers that have short-term expiration dates.
Stock Your Pantry: These are the items that are most costly when you run out at the wrong time. Going the convenience store for sugar or paper towels will often cost you double what you would have spent at a large grocery store. Keep inventory, save coupons for these items (try Facebook for coupons for popular brands) and buy in bulk only when it is a great value. More pantry ideas: Five Money-Saving Pantry Staples.
Quit the Gym: This doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising but you may need to stop your gym membership if it’s an expense you can’t afford right now. See if you can put it on hold for financial reasons if you’re in the midst of a contract. Another alternative if you just can’t get fit without a ‘gym’ atmosphere: If you are unemployed or have a limited income, read more about the YMCA financial assistance program.
Free Wifi: Internet keeps you connected while hunting for a job or just connecting with friends to keep your sanity during tough times. If your budget says ‘no’ to expensive high speed internet, there are some alternatives. Read more here: Save Money with Free WiFi Resources.
Tightening up your budget might mean saying ‘no’ more often to the items you really do not need. Enjoy the basics and you will be surprised at how many things you really do not need!
Put some cash in your wallet — safely:
- How to Avoid Online Money Making Scams
- Make Extra Money: What to Sell on Craigslist
- Need Extra Cash? Sell Your Gift Cards
- Make Extra Money: Online Survey Sites That Pay
- Find Unclaimed Money Online: How to Find Missing Bonds and Unclaimed Property