This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com
I don’t know about you but my finances have been feeling the pinch lately. I’m not even talking about all the dire economic warnings, but on a personal level, it feels more of a struggle this year than last year. For one thing my paycheck is smaller: health insurance premiums as well as taxes increased. When I go grocery shopping, the same budgeted amount of money buys less food – beef prices have increased due to the drought, and so have fruit and vegetable prices. On top of that, gas prices are higher too. The economy does not seem to be getting any better, and we can all feel it.
What’s a person to do, having to cope with these financial difficulties?
Downsize your lifestyle before you are forced to.
Lowering your monthly expenses will ensure you are in a better position than you may have been, in case things get worse. And if things stay the same you won’t feel as financially stressed.
- Consider moving to a smaller house or apartment. When your lease is up, evaluate whether it’s a good time to move to a smaller, less expensive space. Your payments will be lower, allowing you to have more money at the end of the month. At the same time, your electric bill and gas utility bills will be lower as well, since you are not having to cool or heat a large space.
- Give up the “hundreds of channels but nothing to watch” cable plan. Cut out cable, or do it gradually by switching to a lower plan. If you are on a one or two year contract that charges high penalties for leaving, here’s some good news. I had one of those contracts too, but I called the company and found out the contract is to stay with them for the specified number of years, not stay on the same plan. If you switch to a cheaper plan, you will not incur any penalty. As long as you stick with them until the end of the contract term, even if you downgrade to the lowest plan, you won’t be charged the penalty for early out. Talk to your cable or satellite provider and see what you can arrange. Another thing you can do is negotiate a lower rate just by asking.
- Shop for a lower cell phone plan. Once your contract ends, go month to month for a while and shop for a lower rate.
- Shop in your own closet before heading to the mall. We recently went through all our stuff and found so many unused items and duplicates even though we try to be careful about that.
- Lower your food budget Opt for cheaper cuts of meat, and buy produce in season. Dust off the cookbooks and search for simple recipes that don’t need a lot of unusual ingredients. Avoid waste in the kitchen. Quit buying bottled water and use filtered tap water instead.
- Review all your insurance policies and find some discounts. I recently got a renewal statement for our renter’s insurance and it was $200 higher than last year’s. I called the agent to discuss ways to lower the premiums. I opted for lowering some of the coverages and also found a few discounts. The call resulted in a lower premium overall.
- Use less of your household and personal care products I remember my grandfather used to use masking tape and a Sharpie to note the date he started using each item. I didn’t understand it when I was a kid, but it to keep track of how long the item would last with normal usage, so he could adjust his habits accordingly.
- Stop using credit It might be tempting to use credit to make ends meet, but charging up the cards only compounds the problem. Your debt obligations will only increase, adding to your stress. Instead, use cash for all your purchases and start lowering those balances.
- Choose free or low cost entertainment We used to go to the movies at least once a month, but now that DVDs come out just three months or less after the movie originally came out, we just wait. Now we have movie night, complete with popcorn, candy and snacks (bought on sale) Read the community bulletin or paper for events such as school plays, events at the park such as Easter Egg hunts, etc. Having fun does not have to cost much, and for even more free fun, check #10.
- Get a library card. I used to buy books all the time, but found they just add to the clutter once I’m done reading them. Sell your used books and make some money. The library also carries music and magazines. Make the most out of your library visit by checking your book’s availability online first. Most city or county libraries allow you to place a hold on a book, and they email you when the book is ready for pickup.
- Take less expensive vacations Many frugal families splurge on the family vacation. However, now is not the time to wipe out your savings for short term enjoyment. It’s good to take a break – don’t forgo your vacation, but try something closer to home. Consider camping and hiking – you get to experience nature, and learn a few skills at the same time.
- Make things last longer Try to repair before you replace something, and find a way to repurpose your items.
- Let go of wasteful habits Turn off appliances when not in use. Guilty of this one – I have a bad habit of leaving the light in the closet on. You don’t need to wash towels and sheets after just a couple of uses. Unless you sweat heavily, you may not need to wash your hair everyday. Combine your errands into one trip instead of spreading them out. Stop eating out for lunch everyday and start bringing lunch from home. These are only a few ideas to get started. Don’t just do things because that’s how you’ve always done it. Evaluate whether your hobbies are costing you way too much, and find more economical ways to get your materials. Once you really think about your habits, you will find lots of ways to save.
- Find ways to lower your tax bill There is no “one size fits all” advice for lessening the tax bite (legally of course), but we can all use a few tips. See this article on how one couple manages their taxes
- Put the brakes on “lifestyle inflation” If you are fortunate to get a nice raise this year, don’t increase your expenses in proportion to your income. Put your new higher earnings to good use – pay off debt, add to your emergency fund or buy emergency supplies.
Do the above tips only if they make sense to you, and if they fit in with your overall lifestyle. Keep up your prepping efforts, because they also help you in the long run.
© Apartment Prepper 2014
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