So your employer has everyone under a pay freeze and nobody’s getting a raise this year. Maybe you got a 2% cost of living raise but the cost of meat, bread, and gas have risen by 20%. You’re squeezed, stressed, and overwhelmed, and the only way out of this mess is to cut your budget and save money somewhere, somehow. Here are six places to look for cutting the fat from your budget:
Cable TV. Experiment for three to six months without cable and you may be surprised at the options you find. A friend of mine cut out cable by replacing it with Netflix. She watched many good movies and enjoyed watching several series of shows she’d never seen before. She reported that the biggest problem was her husband’s love for football, but even this was surmountable by listening to college football on the radio and by arranging to watch the games with friends in exchange for bringing snacks or beer (which she bought on sale.)
Dining out. Make it a practice to eat out only on special occasions, and go for lunch instead of dinner. When family or friends ask about your preferences for gifts, point them to gift cards for your favorite restaurants. Order carryout pizza on special or with coupons instead of eating at a sit-down spot. Enjoy an alcoholic beverage at home after dinner; it’s much cheaper, and you model safe alcohol consumption for your kids.
Snacks. Your family loves their chips, candy, and donuts! You can save on snacks, though. Try baking from scratch instead of using mixes. The goodies will taste better and you save money. Substitute fresh fruit or homemade yogurt with fruit for store-bought snacks. Make your own popsicles using fruit juice in the summer.
Kids’ birthday parties. When my son was young, the most common birthday bash took place away from home, at Chuck E. Cheese or at the bowling alley. Save money on games by doing it the old-fashioned way, at your home. Let the little darlings run, scream, yell, and play in the hose in the backyard. Trust me, kids these days don’t get much time just to goof around and be kids. Summer parties call for water balloon fights. Winter parties beg for cocoa and indoor games. If your kid is in the tween years, he or she may want to do something special with only one or two friends rather than have a big bash.
Fitness. You don’t have to join the gym to get fit. Walk or run through your neighborhood. Jump rope with your kids. Check out a yoga or exercise DVD from the library-free of cost and by the time you get bored with it, you can hand it in and get another. Walk the dog. Chase your kids around. Play Frisbee. Ride your bike. Climb the stairs at a nearby high-rise. Getting fit doesn’t mean you need a whole new wardrobe of cute clothes, either. Check out options in used equipment to keep the cost of sports down.
Gifts. Try buying gifts all year long on sale for the people you love. I haunt thrift shops for cool, kitschy items for my friends who adore the unusual. If you’re good at it, make something to give as a gift. My son received a beautiful homemade baby quilt which he (and we) cherished from a dear friend of ours. Tasty cookies are always well-received in our family. Homemade candy-peanut brittle, fudge, divinity-or homemade jam in a pretty basket make for a lovely and tasty gift.
Cutting your budget doesn’t mean you have to live a joyless, miserable life. Try these tips and watch the savings add up!