For most of us, the cost of living has risen more quickly than our income. In many cases, consumption has increased, as well. If you are looking for ways to control both rising expenses and increasing consumption, here are some timely suggestions.
Saving Begins at Home
You may be using more of your income for housing than in the past. Make sure you are getting the best rates available for both your mortgage and any equity loans, and that you are deducting every penny allowable under current Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. Shop around!
Review your home heating fuel consumption for the last 12–24 months. Create a budget that reflects current prices. Regardless of fuel prices, conservation is essential. Check your insulation and turn down the thermostat!
Check your local electric and water departments for free conservation programs and tips. Expect their rates to continue rising, and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. As with heating, remember to adjust the thermostat during the summer.
Telephone companies have added untold extras over the past several years. Are you really using all the services you're paying for? Cell phone bills can become exorbitantly high due to overages or roaming charges. Review your phone use periodically to be sure you're using your services effectively.
Shopping By the Numbers
Going to the grocery store? Make a shopping list, get a store card for specials, clip some coupons, and grab a supermarket circular for weekly deals. This may reduce your weekly food bill by up to 20%.
Clothing prices may seem sky high, but you have the power to bring them down to earth by remembering that the name brand on the garment does not necessarily mean that the clothing will wear any better or last any longer than the "no-name" variety.
Health and Fiscal Fitness
A regular fitness program may lead to better health and fewer visits to the doctor or chiropractor. In many cases, the sidewalk outside your home will work just as well as the fitness club down the street. Talk to your health care provider about ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine.
If your doctor agrees, choose "generic" medications and look for pharmacies that offer reduced rates. The same store may also offer reduced prices on prescription eyewear.
Pizza and DVDs
The "necessity" of cable television is a wonder of the modern age, and the cost continues to increase. Assess your cable usage to see if all those "must-have" channels are really necessary. It may be time for fewer channels and more trips to the library.
The cost of an afternoon or evening at the movies is another increasing expense. Enjoy Friday nights at home with the family making pizza and watching DVDs. Family game nights are another economical option.
A meal out at a restaurant is not always a luxury. There are times when busy schedules make eating out a necessity. But restaurant dining does not need to have a luxury price tag. "Two-for-one" specials and "kids eat free" offers are more common than ever.
All the "little" expenses - banking fees, subscriptions, personal care, lottery tickets, etc. - can gradually grow until they devour the best-laid spending plans. Analyze all these expenses and see which are truly necessary.
The final budget-busting monster of the modern age is the credit card, with its associated annual fees and finance charges. High interest, long-term credit card debt is expensive, so develop a "pay-off" plan to strategically lower this costly burden until you're debt free.
We may not be able to control rising prices, but we are not powerless either. If you have fallen prey to runaway spending and increased consumption, you are not alone. Develop a budget today to help control your runaway expenses - and still have fun!