Making ends meet is getting more and more difficult in this economic environment. People who were middle class are finding themselves falling closer and closer to just hanging on. Corporate downsizing, outsourcing, frozen wages, reduced benefits, and other factors combine to make it difficult to make ends meet. Individuals and families are not able to meet current financial commitments, much less put money away for a rainy day. Here, I’ve compiled ideas; things I know and things I’ve been told to help families make ends meet and even get something into savings for those things that come up like unexpected car repairs or visits to the doctor or dentist. Depending on where you are financially, you can’t get better if you don’t stop spending.
Some things that work
FIRST: Do you really need it? You have two white blouses in your closet, do you NEED a third? I know the price is irresistible, but if you continue to fall into the trap of buying an awesome bargain just because it was an awesome bargain, you will never have the financial freedom you want.
If you aren’t sure whether you NEED it or want it, put the purchase off for a week or two. If it’s a need, the need will arise in that time and you will get it. If it’s a want, the item will likely become a dim memory.
SECOND: Use coupons. When I first got serious about coupons I was a bit overwhelmed. But, saving thirty, forty or more dollars on one shopping bill motivated me to master this quickly. That’s thirty or forty dollars on a bill for a family of one. A couple of tips: you will need to take time each week to clip and organize your coupons. After you’ve clipped, organize; you can organize by category, i.e. cleaning supplies, staples . . . or put your coupons in the order in which you will find the item in the grocery store that you visit most frequently. Find a system that works for you and use it. Put your coupons in a coupon organizer or a binder. One person I know uses a four or five inch binder filled with baseball card organizers. Take your coupons with you into the store. Don’t overlook clearance shelves. When you have a coupon for a clearance item you can often get the item for next to nothing.
Before you go shopping, if you have access to the internet go online, do a google search for coupons on items that you know you want and you can often find manufacturer and store coupons to take with you. Also, visit allyou.com and click on “Grocery Circular Roundup.” You type in your zip code and grocery list and they tell you the local store with the lowest price on that item for that day. Armed with this and your coupons, you’ll be socking money away in no time!
THIRD: Pay cash. Put your debit card away. When you figure your budget for the month include what you expect to pay for groceries. Take that amount of money out of the bank and take it to the grocery store. Do not spend more than your cash. Prioritize your grocery list, what do you NEED and what do you want. This will also help cut some of the costly but really unnecessary treats we often buy. Save money and save calories. If you need a calculator to help you stay within the amount of cash you have on hand, then use it. This rule applies to your grocery bill as well as other monthly bills like gas for the car, trips to the restaurant. Plan how much money you have for each category, put that money in cash in your wallet, once it’s gone, you’re done for the month. For example, you budget $40 for restaurants for the month, that’s all you spend. When it’s gone, it’s back to home cooking until the next month. It’s good discipline.
FOURTH: Don’t forget to pay yourself. Every month make sure you put a portion into savings and leave it there. It’s called savings, comes from the word SAVE.