There are thousands of tips out there for saving money, from the ingenious (like cooking two batches of a meal and freezing one) to the absurd (like separating two-ply bathroom tissue to create two rolls from one). The thing is, belt-tightening isn’t a one-day event. It’s a process—a change in habits. Here are five over-arching ideas to keep in mind as you begin the adventure of paring down your spending.
Every family is different, and someone else’s cost-cutting techniques might not be right for you. That’s okay. Try focusing on:
- Your biggest expenses. Reducing them even a little bit could free up lots of dollars.
- Stuff you won’t really miss. Magazines you subscribe to but don’t read are a prime target, and so are extra cable channels that you don’t watch often.
- Unconscious daily spending. Your morning coffee and paper might only cost $3, but over the course of a month that adds up to $60—enough to pay the phone or cable bill.
This can make more of a difference than you think. Maybe eating out is a normal routine for your family. Have you considered that you could save $20 to $40 a month by giving up just one restaurant dinner? That's enough to pay a small bill or make an extra payment on your credit card.
Make that homecooked meal a nice one, and you might find the ifice is actually a treat.
But do use their ideas! Make friends with folks who are also cutting down, and trade tips with them. Two minds are better than one, and you're bound to both get and give valuable advice. Plus it's great to have friends who understand and appreciate your goals.
Trying to squeeze your family's habits into a tiny budget in one shot won't turn out well. You need time to get used to new ways of doing things, and so do your spouse and kids (especially if the cost-cutting ideas aren't their own).
The one exception to this is if you're in an emergency situation and need to free up a lot of cash right away. In that case, you'll definitely want to use this next tip.
Having everyone on board with the decisions you make will make your life a hundred times easier. A family is a team, and this should be a team effort. Even young children can be made to feel like they're helping. If everyone pitches in now and does their part, they'll also be able to share in the triumph later.
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