The small things sure add up!
Many of us are aware of what a budget is and how it can be a very useful tool when it comes to managing our household income versus expenses but studies show that only about one third of Americans actually use them. Even fewer are have a long term plan in place to save for the future.
If you’re like the majority of people not e utilizing a budget and find yourself struggling to either make ends meet or to save money it’s not too late to start making some positive change to your cash flow!
Here are a few areas you can assess to determine where you can save money based on your current expenses that don’t create massive changes to your lifestyle. These seemingly minor changes can free up dollars that can help you build your savings or pay down debt. The great thing about paying down debt is that once an account is paid off you’ll have more to apply to either savings or to the next bill in line.
- Cable or Satellite Television Packages – High cost packages are easy to get pulled in to. Typically the cable or satellite service offers the first year of a multiyear contract at an attractive and affordable rate. These incentives offered usually include free programming and reduced equipment costs for the first year; in some cases they will even give you money in form of gift cards to get you to authorize the contract. Then once your year is up and you still have one or two more years left you can find your bill nearly doubling and the only way to get out or cancel the service is to buy the contract out which can add up to several hundreds of dollars. Streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu can be a much more affordable alternative and with online streaming services ramping up exclusive programming the content is remaining fresher than ever. Most mainstream sports have streaming capabilities as well that you can look into as well. I’ve seen a recent example of a gentleman that used a national satellite TV service for his families viewing purposes. His bill was over $110.00 per month after his first year incentives were over. He now uses Netflix and Amazon Prime for his families TV viewing and only pays a total of $25.00 per month, effectively saving $85.00 each month or $1,020 for the year!
- (Not so) Free to Play Gaming – A recent trend of free to play gaming on cell phones and tablets such as Game of War is quickly becoming quite an expensive form of entertainment. The lure is that you can download the game for free on your phone or tablet using services such as iTunes or Google Play. These are often social games in which to keep up with fellow gamers you can purchase in game boosts and items that give you an advantage over other non purchasing players. It can lead gamers to a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality and really wreak havoc on their credit cards. Stories are emerging with more frequency of gamers racking up thousands of credit card debt just to stay on top. One solution for gamers would be to purchase a game, or better rent one from the library (we’ll get to that in a moment) so that they can avoid the micro-transaction pitfalls altogether. Many of these “micro” transactions aren’t so micro after all with many game developers luring gamers with incentivized purchases until capping out at $100 purchases with no ability to spend less. While not a typical monthly budget item I felt this was worth mentioning as the numbers of gamers spending with these free to play games appears to be increasing drastically.
- Public Library – Many public libraries have shifted to having current digital entertainment for checkout as times have progressed in the digital age. I was surprised to learn that you can checkout current Blu-ray movie and television series titles from our local library as well as Xbox and Playstation video games. Also, instead of having to go to the library to only find that what you want isn’t available many libraries offer online reservations and have a network of other libraries that they can pull your book, DVD, CD or video game from. By getting in the habit of using your public library for your entertainment needs you can find yourself saving a bundle each month as it they are free to access and use.
- Eating Out for Lunch – Not packing a lunch can drastically impact your monthly budget. According to Forbes the average American eats out for lunch 2 times per week for an average of $10 per day. This comes out to about $1,000 per year alone. If you eat out every day you’re most likely spending around $2,500 per year. Bringing leftovers or packing a lunch can considerably reduce your lunch expenses as well as give you the opportunity to take more of a hand on approach to the types of food you consume and create a healthier you!
- Grocery Shopping – Being prepared before you go shopping is a sure fire way to save money. Make a list at home by taking an inventory of what you need and stick to it. This practice leads to unnecessary spending. Don’t be afraid to try generic brands. You will find some generic brands that cost half of the price of the name brand items without sacrificing much in the taste department. If you’re not too keen on the idea of generic brands I’d recommend trying at least one alternative brand each shopping visit, you may find you actually like it better or find that the generic item is comparable to the name brand item. There will be some products that you will find the name brand product to be far superior in taste and those items would continue as part of your regular shopping list. Pay attention to when the items you want are on sale and you can save even more. Having a shopping list in hand is your best line of defense when it comes to saving money grocery shopping but other practices can really add to those savings!
Following these tips can help you free up money for savings or paying other bills but really this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to identifying areas in which you can save.
If you have any questions or would like one of our Certified Credit Counselors to help you work on a monthly budget give us a call at 1-877-688-3328 or fill out a contact request on our website at www.debtreductionservices.org.