We’d all like to save money each month, but how to go about it is another story. Start by making a budget; that scary, imposing, restrictive plan that keeps you in line. Only it doesn’t have to be that way, a budget is really only putting down on paper your priorities and recognizing you absolutely cannot spend more than you make in any given time period. It also, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t have to come together in one sitting, start the first month with just writing down general categories and amounts. Over time you can refine and fill it out more completely. It took us three months to get a good handle on our budget, each month getting more and more detailed, even today we are constantly adjusting the numbers.
Once you know where you money is going it is now time to start trimming the fat. If you look at your monthly expenses, looking to saving $500 it will seem overwhelming and impossible. But what if instead you looked at shaving a few dollars off each item? As we began looking at our budget we decided to go through and renegotiate each item we could. After knocking out the cable and downgrade our cellphone plan – saving $65, reviewing our car insurance and changing our coverage – $25 less and changing our restaurant habits to only twice a week. This all totaled approximately $125 a month in savings. Besides the mortgage payment, food and general merchandise are our biggest expenditures.
Even with the constant coupon clipping and avoiding the pricier groceries stores we couldn’t make the budget numbers and the real world numbers agree. That’s where web surfing finally began to payoff. There are plenty of websites out there that can multiply you efforts. The blogs that track specific stores rewards programs, letting you know what items are free or worth the most rewards points/bucks, will give you an edge. Lots of promotional programs let you trade your name and email address for free samples and /or coupons.
Look to farmer’s markets and co-ops. Buy what’s on sale and make meals for the week. Read our post on once a week cooking and once a week cooking recipes.
We stated our marriage with some credit card debt and this is a dangerous lever, waiting to dump us over the edge at a moments notice. We headed it off by finding a low APR, zero interest on balance transfer offer and moved everything we could onto that card. Then we proceeded to cut up our physical cards except for one emergency card and have begun applying the snow ball methodology. The snow ball theory has you paying off the lowest balance card while making minimum monthly payments on the others, as you pay off a card you roll what you had been paying on it into you payment on the next one. With this consolidation we erased about $50 a month in additional interest fees.
Lastly, we began looking at efficiency around the house and in our travel habits. By lowering the thermostat by 3 degrees and running only full loads in the dryer, we cut $15 off the electric bill. Using public transportation and walking for quick trips to the nearby store translated into more than half a tank of gas saved every two weeks; which at today’s price means $50 a month left in our pockets. Together we have identified our spending priorities, changed our spending habits and challenged ourselves to find fun and rewarding ways to save a little bit in each category on our budget. This has tallied up to savings of almost $400 a month, which comes in handy when saving for the next rain day.
Written and posted by Carol Martine; blogger, student, foodie.