5 Simple Ways To Reduce Your Budget

Tips to help you reduce your budget so you can breathe again.

In a time when layoffs seem like they are lurking around every corner, when gasoline prices are so high you have to take out a second mortgage and when people are forced out of retirement to work odd jobs just to make ends meet, sitting down to look over a household budget can be a daunting task. How many of us let the receipts pile up in our wallets just so we don't have to see how much in the hole we are at the end of the month? For how many of us does the phrase "too much month at the end of the money" ring too loud and clear? Fortunately, there are some simple ways to reduce your monthly budget that you can get started on right away.

Food

You've had a long and tiring day at work and you're hungry. Your fridge and pantry are brimming with food you've bought the day before, but the thought of cooking is too much, so you pick up the phone and dial out for a pizza or Chinese food. I doubt many people can deny they've done this more than once in their lives. Let's break this down so you can see what this costs your family. Just say you succumb to this desire to order food or eat out only once a week. For a typical family of four, this meal can cost anywhere from $30 to $60, depending on where you choose to eat. Even if we lowball it and go with $30 a week, that amounts to approximately $120 a month that could go to many other places that would benefit you more financially. Shave off at least two of these eating out excursions a month and you will see your budget greatly reduced.

Entertainment

Many couples or families go to the movies for their Friday night date to catch the latest flick. That's not a big deal, right? Wrong! Again, for a family of four you will need four movie tickets, at least two buckets of popcorn, four sodas and some candy, right? This little two hour excursion has set you back at least $60. Even if you go to a matinee, instead, you're still looking at over $50. If you don't want to give up your movie time, watch a matinee and skip all of the snacks. Eat a meal at home beforehand so you don't get cravings. Better yet, wait just a few more weeks and catch that same flick at a discount cinema where you can pay one or two dollars for a ticket instead of eight or ten. You can even go one step further and rent a DVD for the whole family to watch AND the snacks are free, because they came from your own pantry. Search for places in your town that you've never been to that are free of charge for your family or couple nights. There are often festivals, live concerts, parks and pools that you can go to without having to shell a dime. Be creative.



Car

If a co-worker lives nearby or if you husband drives past your work place every day on the way to his own work place, why not car pool? With gas prices being as high as they have been, you can save up to $100 a month on gas and maintenance on your car AND you're helping the environment at the same time by eliminating the number of cars on the road. Check with your work place to see if you can schedule a car pool with other colleagues.

Utilities

Little things make all of the difference. In the summer, keep your thermostat a few degrees higher where you are still comfortable but your air conditioner won't be running constantly. Invest in solar screens for your windows that receive the most direct sunlight. It may cost a little extra money up front, but it will save you money in the long run. Wash only full loads once or twice a week, instead of running your wash with small loads every single day.

Luxury Items

That expensive cup of coffee on your way to work or those manicures you pamper yourself with twice a month do add up, even though it doesn't seem like they do. If you don't think so, stop doing them and start putting that money you were putting towards the coffee or manicures into a jar and see how much you have at the end of the month. It adds up. Buy gourmet coffee in bulk and grind it and brew it yourself at home before work. Invest a couple of dollars in those cuticle cutters and do your own manicures yourself at home.

What do you do with all this money you've saved? Save it for yourself and your family. Instead of letting it get sucked into your normal monthly budget, start up a retirement fund or add more to the one you already got, open an emergency fund, begin college funds for your kids or use it to pay your debt off quickly.

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