This is precisely the time where going line by line through your spending can make the difference between skipping lunch in an effort to save and having a full belly plus a bit of money left over every week to plunk into your emergency fund.
Here is my line-by-line checklist to help you stretch your hard-earned money.
Renegotiate recurring monthly utility bills
Phone, internet, alarm system, home and auto insurance — all of these regular essential bills are negotiable. The approach to achieving better prices that I have found works best is to do research online for price comparisons. Then approach your current provider with a competitive offer and ask them to price match. If they don’t want to, or can’t for whatever reason, prepare to move your business elsewhere. Even things like banking fees should be negotiated or eliminated.
Renegotiating takes time and the process is kind of annoying. But, speaking from firsthand experience, doing this work can add anywhere from $100 to $400 per month back into your budget. So it’s well worth rolling up your sleeves.
Nice-to-have subscriptions and more
Waxing memberships, streaming services, cable packages or specialty channels, virtual and physical fitness club memberships — what do you really need right now? With high costs for essentials, every non-essential expenditure requires review. I like to ask myself what can I DIY or find for free that could help free up my monthly obligations. I’ve turned to YouTube for fitness tips, painted my own nails and so on. I’ve also narrowed my streaming to one for shows, one for music and one learning app for my kids — that’s it!
Hold off on any purchases that could add additional monthly financial burden
I know how anxious these high gas prices are making you feel. But trading in your vehicle for an electric car that’s twice the cost and will add a $900 payment to your budget is not the solution. Planning your routes more effectively and taking transit are far cheaper options. Eventually it could make sense to move to a more fuel-efficient car or go electric, but unless this big-ticket purchase was on your financial radar — and you have the savings to show for it — hold off. I must add that vehicles are astronomically expensive at the moment due to supply chain challenges. This same logic applies to big home upgrades like renovations or even buying something bigger, which will add costs to your budget. The name of the game is fewer monthly expenses.
Eat at home as much as you can
Been to a bakery or restaurant lately? It’s wild how prices have climbed. This is your nudge to make your coffee, lunches and dinners at home (you might benefit from learning how to cook if you’re stumped for meal ideas). Following this train of thought, you can host your friends and family versus going out, do potlucks or fire up that BBQ. If you find yourself needing to meet a pal for a meal, downsize the event to a coffee and a walk versus a full scale meal.
It’s key to note that eating out from time to time is totally OK! Just ensure it’s not at the expense of making rent or buying baby formula.
Plan your meals, trips and activities
Plan meals for the week to prevent overbuying at the grocery store. And read my latest column on nine ways to save on groceries. Use up your loyalty points for groceries and gas. Map out your routes and combine your errands before hopping in the car. Take transit where and when you can, or cycle or walk to your destination. Plan to participate in free concerts, training, kids activities and enjoy the outdoors — for free.
Embrace the second-hand and sharing economy
Clothes, furniture, kids toys, bikes — all of this can be purchased second-hand or borrowed. On the flip side, sell what you don’t need anymore by purging your home room by room and listing the items that have good value. Consignment stores for higher-end clothing and sporting goods are very popular because people want to save money and help the environment.
Coach yourself each day
How are you going to plan to have a financially successful day where you stick to your budget (yes, this means you need one)? Even though it feels like the economy is totally against you right now, make it a daily ritual to think about your spending habits for the day ahead and how you want to stay on track or even trim back. While you’re at it, e-transfer a few dollars into your emergency fund as a part of this daily ritual. You’d be surprised how quickly those savings builds up and how great you feel when you make your financial health a priority.
If you and your family are not doing OK financially right now, reach out to the resources in your community who are ready to support with food, clothing and shelter.
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