While the economy is better than it was a few years ago, it still feels uncertain. One of the best ways you can provide security to your family is to be financially solvent. Ideally, you’ll have an emergency fund of three to six months (though some financial advisors suggest as much as six to twelve months). That number can be overwhelming, especially if you’re still paying down student loans and credit card debt.
If there isn’t any extra money in the budget to start paying down your debt or building an emergency fund so you can be more financially secure, don’t despair. There are ways you can “find” money in your existing budget:
Learn to Save on Regular Expenses. You may think of groceries and toiletries as non-flexible budget items, but there is an amazing amount of flexibility in these categories. For instance, shopping the loss leaders only and frugally building a small stockpile can help you slash your grocery costs. You don’t have to be a super couponer, but you can also use coupons to help you save money on items you frequently use.
Toiletries offer an even greater savings. If you have a little one, have you taken advantage of the many ways to save on diapers or get them for free? There’s no need to pay full price for diapers. Rather than buying paper napkins and towels, consider switching to cloth.
Curb Your Entertainment Category. Everybody likes to go out and have fun, but you can likely do so on less than you’re spending now. If you like to go out to eat, why not buy a discount or coupon book for your area? Most are filled with buy one/get one free coupons, so you and your spouse could have date night for half the cost. Groupons and other social sites also offer ways to have fun for less.
You can also change your definition of fun. Maybe instead of hiring a babysitter and going out every weekend, you can spend every other weekend at home watching a movie and cooking a meal to enjoy together.
Reduce Utility Expense. Utilities might seem like another inflexible category, but you can save here, too. See if your local energy provider will come to your house and do a free audit. The company will be able to tell you where you’re wasting the most energy. Invest in power strips and turn them off at night. Lower the temperature in the winter to use less heat and raise it in the summer to use less air conditioning. Pile on the blankets at night in the winter and wear sweaters or sweat shirts to help you remain comfortable.
Other ideas include lowering the temperature of your water heater, especially since most are too high anyway. Also, use water from washing fruits or vegetables to water your indoor or outdoor plants instead of using fresh water.
With some perseverance and research, you’ll find that there are plenty of ways to meet your long-term goals without having to make more money.
What are your favorite ways to reduce household expenses?