Living from paycheck-to-paycheck can be excruciating because the money usually runs out long before getting paid again. This means there is no cash available to handle those unexpected emergencies or enough money to make that extra trip to the grocery store if you forgot something on the initial trip. If you have kids in school, you may even be familiar with those times when the kids tell you they need money for something at the last minute. When money is tight, you may find yourself borrowing that money off of someone.
If any of the above sounds like you, you are most likely tired of it and ready for things to change. Fortunately, the changes are around you right now waiting to be made. These aren’t changes that involve switching careers or taking on a second job. Instead, these are changes in your spending habits and lifestyle that can make a dollar bill go a long way.
Start With The Grocery Shopping
Your grocery shopping habits are among the first that need to change. You have to have food in your home, so this is an expense that you cannot eliminate. However, you can change how much your groceries cost you each month. You simply start with your list and try to shop for the entire month rather than go to the store once per week or once every couple of weeks.
When making this list, write down the necessities and plan meals in advance so you know what ingredients and items to purchase. You will also have to think about how much you use of each item in a week so you can figure the correct quantity. You will find that buying larger sizes monthly is cheaper than buying smaller sizes each week. If you need something that costs you $4 per week but you can get a larger size that will last you the entire month for $10, you are saving $6.
Once you write down the list, it is time to search for coupons. Couponing is the craze right now. Stores are doubling coupons and allowing store and manufacturer coupons to be stacked. You can even have a cashier perform separate transactions if buying multiples of one item with coupons will save you more money than simply buying a larger size. To get these coupons, buy your local Sunday newspaper for inserts, check manufacturer websites, check store websites, and join couponing websites and social networking pages.
Other things you can do when grocery shopping are:
- Stockpile necessities when prices are low or when there is a coupon deal that makes the cost next to nothing;
- Buy generic items when the contents are exactly the same as the name brand;
- Look at what is on sale when planning meals;
- Take advantage of the store’s raincheck policy when a sale item is not available;
- Shop at dollar stores, grocery outlets, and other discount marts;
- Don’t deviate from the grocery list;
- Take advantage of rebates at drug stores.
Save On Utility Bills
Now that you know how to save on your food costs, it is time to learn how to save on utility bills. You may be amazed at how much your electric bill can go down just by unplugging the items you are not using and turning off the lights during the day or as you leave a room. Also adding energy saving CFL light bulbs, frequently referred to as “squiggly bulbs,” will consume less electricity and result in less frequent light bulb replacement.
The next way to save is to line dry your clothes on a warm and sunny day, use your shower rod to hang wet clothes on, or use dryer racks within your home. You can also save by washing clothes in cold water since using hot water requires your water heater to replace the hot water that was used. Because hot water production requires more energy, the family can shorten showers as well and this will also reduce water consumption costs.
And you’ve probably heard this one: turn down the thermostat and dress a little warmer in the winter. Turn it down lower at night since everyone will be cozy in their beds. People sleep better at lower temperatures anyway. In the summer, turn the thermostat up a little and dress cooler. You may even wish to open windows on cool summer nights, which will allow you to turn the air conditioning off until the next morning.
Last is your cable bill. Ask your family what they are watching and what they aren’t. You may find that the premium channels you pay extra for are not being watched. If the cable is not being watched much at all, you may be able to cancel the cable and take advantage of online streaming of movies and TV shows that can cost less than $10 per month. If you have cable Internet service, you can opt for a standalone package without the television or go with another broadband service.
Lifestyle Changes That Save Money
You will be amazed at how much money you will save up until this point. You can also do such things as save on fuel costs by carpooling, staying home more often, riding a bike, or using public transportation. When shopping for clothing, make sure you buy what you need and not something you may never wear. You can shop garage sales, thrift stores, and take advantage of sales when the seasons change. When one child outgrows something, pass it down to the next child if you can. There is nothing wrong with hand-me-downs, especially when the children are young.
But don’t think that any of this is restricting you from having fun once in a while. You can still have family outings or have dinner with your friends. Just be sure to limit how often you go out. It is not necessary to go out every weekend or every day of the weekend. Set aside one day a month to do something fun. In some instances, a picnic at the park may suffice or maybe you can take advantage of a “free day” at a local museum. A little research into what is happening locally will reveal ways to have fun without spending a lot of money.
All in all with all of that money you save, you will find that you will be more likely to have money in your pocket when an unexpected expense comes about. It can be easy to go about our lives from day-to-day and not think about how much money can be saved by making small changes in everyday tasks. It is when those changes are made that steps are taken toward no longer living paycheck to paycheck. Really, it all comes down to making every dollar stretch.