Last year was tough and this year hasn’t gotten any easier, with rising costs in many spending categories and consumers struggling to make ends meet.
Budgeting has been even more necessary than ever before. Some readers haven’t had to do it before but reduced hours at work or a job change has meant they’ve needed to economize for the first time. Others have slacked off in the last few years, but now money is tighter, they need to renew their efforts. Whatever your situation is for tightening your purse strings, it’s good to have you here.
Here are 9 tips to balance the budget when there’s too much month left at the end of the money.
Refinance Your Credit Card
Previously, you may have not even looked at what your credit card providers are currently charging you. Both the interest tacked on monthly and the interest rate may take the breath away if you’re seeing them open-eyed for the first time!
One option to quickly reduce the cost of this consumer debt is with credit card refinancing. The Tally app can help keep you organized to pay credit cards on time every month. But they also have options to refinance or obtain lower interest rates too. So, they’re worth checking out to cut credit card costs until you can clear the balances entirely.
Stop Adding to Your Credit Card Balance
As the old saying goes, when you’re in a ditch, stop digging. The same goes for any credit card debt too.
Please stop adding new items to any of your credit cards. It reinforces the idea that you have more money than you have. Yes, it’s possible to save some money on cashback offers or receive points for spending on plastic, but when needing to wrestle your spending habits and control them, credit cards create an unwanted distance between you and your money. That distance can encourage you to ignore what’s available and to spend money that’s not.
Use a debit card to only spend what’s in your checking account. Or better yet, spend cash only.
Spend Cash and Avoid Plastic
As we just touched on, distance from the dollars that you’re spending means you lose touch with it.
Simply put, handing over $50 in greenbacks at the supermarket instead of swiping your plastic feels different. You’re far more aware that’s fifty dollars you don’t have available anymore. It’s a reality check each time you go out to spend money.
The reality check is useful when needing to reduce expenses to stay within a smaller budget now. It’s very necessary to have a closer relationship with each dollar you receive because it needs to last at least until your next paycheck.
Beyond that, the goal should be to live below your means, so you can save for a rainy day or a potential emergency.
Look at Your Regular Bills
What are the regular bills that you’re covering now?
Is there a better deal to be had on your energy costs, the cell plan, or the water bill?
Trying out apps like Billshark or Truebill might prove useful to get lower costs on your regular bills. They can save money on insurance estimates, cable, internet, and other regular expenses.
When you’ve got sizable bills, there are even more potential cost savings. So, see what can be done to reduce them today.
Rent a Room
If you’ve got a spare bedroom or a completed basement that’s available, consider renting it out for a few months.
A room can easily fetch you $500+ per month. When it includes bills and the internet comes free with the room, it’s particularly attractive to a renter. They look for a bills-included option to avoid overspending. Also, because most rentals are not pet-friendly, if you’re open to pets then you might be able to charge a premium too.
While it will be inconvenient to have someone renting a spare bedroom, it’s a substantial amount of extra money for little to no extra work involved. When time is limited to drum up extra money elsewhere and you’ve got unused space, it’s another option to make ends meet.
Reduce Energy Usage to Save Money
While getting better deals on bills is a good idea, reducing energy consumption is directly under your control and can also cut costs down.
Do whatever you can to reduce energy usage. This might include:
- Adjusting the heating thermostat down a few degrees and wearing an extra layer of clothing.
- Opening the windows instead of running the fans or AC.
- Turning off PCs, TVs, and other home electronics overnight
- Switching to LED lights everywhere.
- Add low-flow showerheads and faucets to use less water.
- Insulating the home or weatherstripping the windows and doors to prevent air drafts.
These small steps in combination can lead to a reduction in total energy usage without affecting your lifestyle.
Got a Storage Unit? Get Rid of It
Many Americans have a rented storage unit for all the stuff they’ve bought that they no longer use or have space for. Rather than sell the item off, it’s costing additional money to continue owning the items by paying for a monthly storage unit.
A storage unit is a luxury item when your budget is under threat. Go through the items stored there, prepare to sell what’s no longer needed, and bring the rest back home. Give the keys back to the storage company, settle up, and free yourself from another bill.
Entertain at Home
To cut costs, skip the night out with friends and invite them over.
Cook up something special and have a few drinks or ask friends to bring their own. Explain that you’re cutting costs and this helps to do that.
If your friends aren’t overly happy with the idea, then look at what money is spent elsewhere on entertainment. Reduce costs by finding alternatives. For instance, borrow books from the library rather than purchasing them from Amazon. Consume less and make it a point to learn new things from free sources. Or choose less expensive hobbies or ones that can eventually pay you.
Careful Reconsider Every Item of Spending
We go through life mindlessly spending. It’s not always intentional because life moves at such a fast pace now that it’s difficult to keep up.
However, the situation has become more urgent for you when your expenses are higher than the present income. That’ll just lead to sliding into debt (or deeper if you’re already there).
Carefully reconsider everything that you’re spending on. That can be done before spending or in real-time. Ask questions like:
- What value does it bring to your life?
- Is it essential?
- Is there a less expensive alternative?
- Can you give it up for six months while you get a better handle on your financial life?
Do whatever is reasonable to get your spending level to match your income. But don’t stop there. Now put effort into creating slack between the income and what you spend because that’ll allow you to save for emergencies too. They will eventually arrive whether you like it or not. So, it’s best to prepare for them ahead of time by having money set aside. It avoids you needing to reach for your credit card the next time it happens.