There comes a time when many of us face financial hardship. Whether it is from losing a job, illness, divorce, etc., it can be quite difficult for some to make the adjustment when they are used to a certain lifestyle. During these times, however, one must bite the bullet and learn how to live on less. It really is easier than you think and eventually you will realize you didn’t need all those things anyway. In the end, you may feel good about gaining back a sense of control over your finances while helping the environment and most importantly it’ll be easier on your wallet. Below are some steps you can take to save yourself some money every month.
Step 1: Shopping adjustment. When shopping for food and over-the-counter medication, consider buying store brand. Most major retailers carry their own store brand version of food and OTC medication. Food items are often made by the same factory as the brand name. If they aren’t, they still usually taste the same or even sometimes better than their brand name counterpart. Store brand OTC medication contains the exact same active ingredient as the brand name and works just as well. But store brands cost much less than brand name because they are not paying for marketing.
Toiletries and household items are also available in store brand. But these items can also be found at dollar stores. If you have stores like Dollar Tree where everything is actually a dollar, you can save a great deal of money when purchased at places like these. These dollar stores carry toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo and conditioner, feminine products, cleaning products, toothpaste, toothbrushes and soap, etc. They even carry dishware. kitchen utensils, wrapping paper and greeting cards. Shopping at a dollar store can save you a small fortune.
The reality is, there will always be some items where the brand name simply cannot be replaced. However, if you want to save money, try not to be too picky and replace as much as you can with the less expensive versions. You may discover you enjoy them more than the higher priced ones.
Coupons are another great way to save money. There are some great websites that offer legitimate printable coupons that can be used in stores. Coupons.com, Coupon Network, SmartSource and CouponGeek are just a few that offer a great variety of coupons to save money with.
Making a shopping list can also help you save money. When you write down the items that you need and stick to your list, it will keep you from buying what you don’t need and prevent overspending.
Step 2: Electrical/Heating adjustment. If you have standard incandescent light bulbs in your home, switch them to CFL bulbs. They have become increasingly less expensive and can even be found in dollar stores now. Turn off lights when you aren’t in a room. Unplug electronics that are not in regularly in use. In winter, wear warmer clothing inside instead of turning the heat up. If your windows are poorly insulated, DIY plastic insulation repair kits can keep drafty windows from making your heating bill skyrocket. If you find you are in need of replacing appliances, go with Energy Star models. These are just some of the steps you can take to save energy, reduce your electric and heating bills and help the environment.
Step 3: The Bare essentials. There are so many things we spend money on each month. Of the list of bills we sort through, we must ask ourselves do we really need this. Let’s examine for a moment the monthly bills that can either be scrapped or reduced in order to save money.
The cellphone. If you are paying a lot of money every month for talk, text and data, you may want to rethink your phone usage. Do you really need the internet on your phone? Do you really need unlimited texts? And unless your cellphone completely replaces a land line, do you really need all those minutes? Consider reducing your monthly bill by reducing your phone usage. We survived 20 years ago without constantly talking to people while we weren’t home. We can still survive doing that today. Shop around for different providers or even consider a prepaid phone.
The land line phone. In this day and age it is becoming easier to lose the land line due to the cellphone. Think about whether or not you truly need your land line. If not, get rid of it and it is one less bill to think about. If you need to keep it, consider shopping around for less expensive service. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service providers like Vonage offer numerous choices in plans starting at a low rate.
The cable bill. Cable companies have made it increasingly difficult to cut the cord by recently scrambling their signals so you can no longer simply plug your TV into the wall and get local channels. However, there are still ways to enjoy TV at home without paying a small fortune to the cable companies for TV service as long as you are a little patient. Netflix, Hulu and Hulu Plus are great ways to watch TV without paying a fortune. The only thing necessary is home high speed internet to use these services which is still cheaper than paying for cable TV.
Entertainment. Instead of paying for a movie rental or a new book, try renting it for free at your local library. You would be surprised at the new titles they carry and that they carry eBooks for devices like the Kindle. Also, many libraries carry discount passes to museums, zoos, aquariums, etc. You can save a lot of money and still enjoy a day out with friends and family.
Car insurance. You may be able to reduce your rate by switching to another provider. Shop around and get quotes. If you have been incident free for a good amount of time, you would be surprised how much you can save.
Indulgences. Things like coffee, take-out or delivery can add up on a daily and weekly basis. Instead of going to your local coffee shop, try making coffee at home and taking it with you in a reusable travel mug. You can save over $10 a week or more just by making coffee at home. Making your own lunches and dinners on a daily basis can also save you a great deal of money each week. It is easy to give into temptation and place an order if you are tired and don’t feel like cooking but you can save yourself a lot of money by making a week’s worth of meals ahead of time and freezing them. Then as you need them, take them out and pop them in the microwave.
Step 4: Keeping a record of transactions. Every time you use your debit card or take money out of the ATM, keep your receipts. Writing all of your transactions into your check register can help you to know exactly how much money you have in the bank to spend and can prevent you from overdrawing on your account. By doing this you can help stay within your budget.
These are just a few of the many ways you can live on a budget without feeling like you are giving up a lot. It may take a bit to adjust but you will find it is worth it in the end.
NStar Energy Saving Facts
How to Live on Low Income By Deborah Waltenburg , eHow Contributor