During trying economic times it can be difficult to see where to cut expenses to make ends meet. Often by the end of the month there might still be minimum payments to be made and not enough cash on hand and make them. By making some slight adjustments to spending habits you can go from worrying about which bills to pay and start thinking about saving money and possibly planning for the future.
In the past, clipping coupons may have been viewed negatively and had a certain social stigma attached but nowadays that's completely changed and reality shows often promote the benefits of saving money when buying groceries. Between using coupons and price matching from competing grocery stores, significant savings can be realized when purchasing food for the family. It might also be worthwhile to purchase a membership in order to purchase commonly used items in bulk.
You may also find from doing an analysis of where your money is going that the family is eating out 3 to 4 times per week. By cutting that to only a couple of times per week significant savings can be pocketed immediately. Even if eating out with the family only cost $20 each time, hundreds of dollars could be saved per month by going out or ordering takeout less often.
When trying to save money on utilities it is not so much about cutting out certain activities but more about using resources less. Turning off lights when they're not being used and closing vents to certain rooms means it takes less electricity and less heat to maintain the same standard of living. Slight modifications of behavior such as running the dishwasher less often or reading a book instead of watching TV can easily trim 20% off of electricity and water bills.
Instead of cranking up the heat in the winter put on a sweater and some wool socks and instead of using the air conditioner in the summer open some windows to let a cool breeze through the house. More long-term solutions that might require an upfront expense could be pulling out the lawn and planting xeriscaping and planting more trees to provide shade to block summer heat. While initially more expensive planning on a longer term time horizon can lead to increased savings over the years.
Saving on automobile expenses usually revolve around using a vehicle less often which means carpooling with coworkers, friends or relatives. Not only does carpooling reduce wear and tear on the vehicle leading to lower maintenance costs but it also reduces gas consumption which can lead to hundreds of dollars per month if you are driving less.
If you have to drive your vehicle because you don't have the opportunity to carpool then make sure your vehicle is in tip top condition. Having a clean air filter and properly inflated tire pressure can increases gas mileage. It may also be worthwhile to reevaluate your current deductibles and coverage on your automobile insurance because as time goes on cars become less valuable due to depreciation so it might be worthwhile to have liability coverage only if appropriate.
Budgets are often viewed as bad because it usually means sacrificing those things which make you happy but that doesn't necessarily have to be the case if you're wise about. Instead of getting a gourmet coffee every morning try skipping a couple of times a week and putting that money you would've spent into a shoebox. Instead of going to the mall every weekend try looking for deals at thrift stores and discount retail outlets and take the savings and put that in the shoebox.
A dollar here and a dollar there tend to add up quickly and it's not about completely eliminating those things which you enjoy but just cutting back slightly. After a month, look in the shoebox and add up the total and you might be surprised how much money you've saved. Enjoy what life has to offer but be smart about where your money goes and getting the most value for your hard work.
For most families entertainment normally consists of going to the movies or sporting event. With today's ticket prices however that can put a huge dent in a monthly budget. Instead of keeping everyone at home try picking various events that you may not normally do but still may enjoy. Going to a movie on the weekend it opens can be an expensive endeavor ranging from $50-$60 for a family of four. If you wait a couple months it may be in a bargain matinee or dollar movie before you know it and you could take the same family of four for $10.
In reality, movies and sporting events may be the least interesting thing that a couple or family could do. By being more creative you may find other more interesting opportunities readily at hand for free or little expense. Go to the local community center and see if they have any family specific activities for a nominal cost that both adults and kids can enjoy. Also, outdoor activities tend to have minimal expenses but lengthy returns both in time spent and in being healthy by getting activity as opposed to sitting in a dark movie theater.
Hopefully the above suggestions can help you trim some expenses here and there which will make a significant impact on your monthly budget without sacrificing too much. More often than not, when you cut a little bit here and a little bit there it can become a game to see where else the family can save. The key to reducing expenses and working within a budget isn't about sacrificing fun and happiness but about using limited financial resources wisely and thinking about both the long-term in the short-term.
Once you have a budget in place then you can start planning for the future by allocating those save resources to more worthwhile endeavors like planning for the future by setting up retirement accounts, college funds and building emergency cash reserves. Reducing your expenses and working within a budget is a means to an end to getting what you want. It's not necessarily hard to do but it does take a concerted effort to stay on top of monthly expenses and living within your means.