OK, so times are tough. I don’t know about anyone else but I am actually taking home *less* money in each pay check than I was back in 2008 when the credit was crunching and Lehman Brothers was collapsing, taking the housing market down with it.
Farewell, overtime…how I miss thee so… hello, soaring health insurance premium that I loathe! Couple diminished income with rising food, energy, and transportation costs and it’s enough to make any middle to lower income American family wonder exactly how they are supposed to get by.
The answer is one that has made spending-obsessed Americans groan since the dawn of the consumer era:
Don’t panic. Budgeting need not mean depriving yourself of all the joys of life! By thinking outside the box you can participate in virtually all of your favorite activities without breaking the bank. In our two-person household
The Fine Art of Frugal Dining
With purse strings tight, my live in boyfriend and I have given up on going out to dinner… but we haven’t sacrificed eating out entirely! Instead of going out for a lavish dinner at the local steak house we choose instead to go out to lunch, usually at a local pub or café.
Why are lunch menus in restaurants typically less expensive than dinner menus? Got me, I have no idea, but the fact of the matter is they are. Perhaps because lunch menus are often smaller and don’t usually come with all those dinner perks like soup and salad or vegetable and potato.
Do you really need those things?
And how about drinks?
Do you really need a fishbowl sized margarita with your Mexican food? Couldn’t you settle for a Corona? Or even a water? We found we save a fortune by cutting back, or cutting out depending on our current funding, alcoholic beverages from our out to eat expenditures.
Most important of all, we pay attention to the price tag as we’re ordering so we aren’t left floundering for a credit card in the aftermath of our meal. Because paying on a hamburger when you can’t afford to pay off the card is one of the worst budgeting moves you can make!
Cut Costs with Coupons
I’m fortunate. I happen to live with a man who would amaze most people with his crafty couponing. He’s seriously the poster-boy for that Extreme Couponing show. He pours over the Sunday paper coupon section as if it was a bestselling novel with a riveting story line.
We’re living proof that coupons really can reduce your grocery shopping bill. We save an average of $25 on a $100 order with coupons alone,G but you have to be careful!
Only clip coupons for foods you will actually use. If no one in your family likes tuna fish, it’s probably best not to buy 5 cans of tuna fish even if it you do have a “buy 4 get one free” coupon. Also, don’t buy more than you will use. You haven’t saved a penny on anything that you wind up throwing away!
Lastly, check for sales while couponing. Sometimes a sale item will ultimately save you more than a coupon will. All it takes is a little basic mathematics to figure out which items in the grocery store will get you the most bang for your buck.
Track your Spending
This is the real key, because your savings aren’t as important as your spending is. Some people get crazy and save every last receipt and then plug them into elaborate Excel spreadsheets with fancy macros and formulas that figure out the average monthly expenditure allotted to 300 different categories.
We don’t do that. By all means, if you have the time and energy to create a detailed itemized list of expenditures and figure out precisely what percentage of your free cash flow goes towards cleaning products vs. recreation spending go for it!
I do that all day at work… No need to do it at home as well. I’d probably suffer a nervous breakdown.
Instead, we devised a very simple spreadsheet with a few columns to tally: bills, food, gas, other. This sounds too easy, right?
It’s not. Just by being *aware* of your spending, even in a generalized manner, it enables you to figure out what you are doing right and what you need to work on.
Budgeting doesn’t have to be baffling… Sure, it takes a little work, but in the money you gain is worth the pain!