If you find yourself running out of money before your next paycheck, it may be time to take another look at your budget. You can substantially lower your monthly expenses and save money without making sacrifices.
Start by taking a hard look at how much you spend each month or year on fixed costs such as your mortgage, entertainment and communications. In many cases, all you need to do is make a list of your monthly expenses to see where there is wiggle room to reduce those costs.
When adjusting your annual spending, it is important to understand how a budget works once it is set. If you write down that you will spend $100 each month on groceries and you continually go over budget, you should not bump up that amount unless you pull that money from somewhere else in your budget.
If you have been using a credit card that doesn’t give you any benefits, shop around for a card that offers money back on gasoline purchases, cash back on your monthly bill or points that can be redeemed for other products or services.
Another potential for saving money on utility bills is to purchase new, more energy-efficient appliances. “Smart” thermostats can reduce electricity consumption by learning your habits and putting itself into “night mode” or “away from home mode” and automatically lower the air conditioning and heating. According to Nest, which makes home automation devices, a smart thermostat can lower your cooling bill by an average of 15 percent, which might be something worth considering now that Spring is a few weeks away.
Better Business Bureau offers quick tips to help put more money in your pocket, bank account or retirement plan right away:
- Prioritize your savings. When you get your paycheck, instead of immediately putting it all in your checking account, pay yourself first. Put some of that in a savings account and forget about it. Even if it’s $50 or $20. That money will add up over time.
- Cut down on eating out. It may be tempting to stop at a restaurant for lunch when you’re hungry and don’t have any food in the office. Instead, plan your meals ahead of time and maybe only eat out during special occasions.
- Know where to find discounts. There are coupon sites, and you can find special offers on retailers’ social media pages and websites. You can also sign up for alerts for upcoming sales.
- On the flip-side, avoid buying something just because it is on sale. Buy what you need when you need it. A helpful way to determine that is by asking yourself whether you would buy the merchandise it if it was not discounted.
For more information on tweaking your budget, go to bbb.org/budget.