Life is unpredictable and sometimes we need a little extra cash to deal with unexpected expenses. Maybe you have a birthday or anniversary coming up, or perhaps your car is going to need a tune-up soon and you haven’t exactly been budgeting for that. Either way, there are ways you could stretch your income without having to overextend your budget.
Evaluate Your Utilities
One of the first things you can do is evaluate your utility expenses. Do you leave your lights on or your electronics plugged in all day when you head out to work? Is your AC blasting on 70o even when you’re not home? Do you have an internet plan that gives you way more usage than you actually need? These are all things that can help you save a little here and a little there. That ‘little bit’ adds up and suddenly you’re finding yourself with a bit more cash left in your wallet at the end of the month. Even satellite or cable services are becoming unnecessary; especially if you’d rather binge watch Netflix or Hulu.
Furthermore, it’s important to review your cable and phone plans in detail. Often when you sign up for a new plan, you’ll receive “free” trials to extra services. Once the trial expires, you’ll automatically be billed for these services unless you cancel them. You may be paying for channels or phone services you didn’t even know about!
Spend Less on Recreation
Nowadays, it seems vacations are turning more into a competition than they are about relaxing and enjoying your time with your family. Social media fueled this trend as families are spending extravagant amounts of money for luxury vacations to “keep up with the Joneses.”
Instead of playing the social media game, plan activities that provide fun and memorable moments for your family that won’t break the bank. Will your five year old be heartbroken if you spend the day at the local water park or pool versus swimming at the beach in the Bahamas? Not likely.
A family trip to the movies or visiting the zoo is often just as memorable to children as taking in the sites several states away. You don’t have to spend a small fortune traveling half way around the world to create great family memories.
Review Your Current Loans
One of the most commonly overlooked areas to save money is reviewing your current loans. Whether it’s an auto loan, home mortgage or credit cards, these monthly expenses usually provide the biggest opportunity to save money!
Market conditions are constantly changing. You may qualify for lower rates, have the ability to consolidate debt into a single loan or be able to receive more flexible terms – all providing the ability to possibly lower your monthly payments.
When Possible, Pay-in-Full
Certain companies provide discounts when you pay-in-full for their products or services. Car insurance companies, for example, often provide substantial discounts if you pay for 6 or 12 months at once. When it’s time to renew your policy, you may want to shop around for the best quote and see what type of discounts you can get for paying upfront.
Plan Your Shopping Trips
You can save a lot of money by planning your shopping trips. If you know you eat a certain amount of fish, chicken, or other protein monthly you can buy it ahead of time and freeze some of it. Vegetables and fruits can also be purchased in bulk, but only if you use proper containers and don’t exaggerate. If you buy fruits or veggies ahead of time, don’t buy more than 2-weeks’ worth. Check out the local grocery ads and plan your shopping around the sales.
In addition, you should always make a list before you go shopping. Whether you’re out grocery shopping or buying presents for the holidays, stores are designed so you’re tempted into making unnecessary impulse purchases. PRO TIP: Never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry!
Don’t Forget to Save!
If you haven’t started setting some money aside, start today! Put a little aside every week or from every paycheck and soon enough you’ll be able to build up a decent emergency fund. The easiest way to save is to set up a small portion of your paycheck to go directly into your savings account. These automatic transfers take only a few minutes to set up at the credit union. You can also put your money into a higher-yielding account like a money market or a certificate to help you grow your savings even faster.
It Just Takes a Little Effort
Be smart with your money and don’t live above your means. Hold yourself accountable for any purchases you make that aren’t a necessity; you’ll begin looking at your savings differently.