Sometimes when we look at ways to adjust our budget, we see long-term goals. You can make some budget tweaks immediately, however, and see immediate gains. Here are four ways you can adjust your budget today and see the savings within the next 30 days (sooner with some).
1. Insurance Policies – Are you paying too much for your car insurance? You hear that question all the time in commercials, usually for companies that will charge you just as much as you pay now. You can save on your car (and other) insurance. Shop around. Even if an auto loan makes you pay full coverage, that does not mean that you have to go with the most expensive provider. Shop carefully as well. Discount insurance companies that specialize in lower coverage have very high rates for full coverage insurance. If you own your home, shop bundles to see if you can lower the overall bill for home and auto insurance. Some of those bundles will also combine life insurance, which can lower that cost as well.
2. Utilities – We think of utilities as being the unchangeable bill. You will always have to pay for gas (if you’re not all electric), electricity, water, sewage, cable, etc. You can still look at ways to reduce those bills.
• Train your kids to turn off lights when they leave the room.
• Change out incandescent bulbs for low wattage CFC bulbs. The bulbs are less expensive, last longer than most incandescent bulbs, and use less power when they are on.
• Do you leave your computer on all day? Turn it off and only turn it on when you need it.
• If you stay at home, utilize natural light for your rooms during the peak of the day.
• If you do not stay at home, set the thermostat before you leave so that you’re not wasting the AC on cooling a house when no one is there. If you are out of your house more than 4 hours, set your thermostat 5-degrees higher than you have it set at home. If you worry about your pets (they will just seek cool areas of your home if they feel too warm) be sure to fill the water bowl on your way out for the day.
• What about your cable bill? Do you actually watch TV or do you just have it on in the background? Is cable TV that important to you compared to saving for something important? More and more families are ditching cable TV packages for less expensive streaming options like Hulu or Netflix. Compare an internet only budget + streaming with internet + TV. You can save a lot of money, especially if you splurge on the big movie channels or sports packages. A digital HD tuner will get your local sports coverage and you can always indulge your partner with a combination trip to the park and old-fashioned sports on the radio on the weekend. Better yet, he can host his friends over for a cookout, enjoy outdoor activity, and listen to the game on the AM dial.
3. Groceries – Unless you are already super-frugal, your grocery budget can be smaller. Replace brand names with generic brands on food, over the counter medication, and non-food items like paper towels and detergents. Use less meat. Meat is a big part of the grocery budget, but you can get away with using 1/2 pound instead of a whole pound if you are making pasta dishes and watch your budget go farther. Are you making a stew in the crock-pot? Cut that roast in 1/2 for 2 meals and make up the difference with vegetables instead (healthier and less expensive per pot). Clip coupons and shop store deals. Make a quick stop on the way home from work if one store has a weekly special mid-week. Give the list to the person not responsible for cooking, or use that day as your crockpot meal day so that you don’t have to shop and rush to cook (or worse cook more expensive and less healthy processed food meals or order in).
4. Pets – If you have pets, you can probably cut costs.
Don’t pay premium for name brands. Unless your vet has specifically directed you to a diet (and don’t be afraid to discuss cost with your vet to look for less expensive alternatives) you can cut your per container costs on food for your pet by a lot of money. If you need to or prefer canned food to dry, go with less expensive store brands. You can mix wet and dry as well to help lighten the budget. For example, if you want to control your cat’s weight, can food is better than hard food, but more expensive. Go with two meals of canned food and one of dry food to help even out your budget while still helping kitty keep a good weight.
• Do not overfeed the animals. If you have multiple animals, train them to feed from separate bowls so that you can feed them evenly only what they need. This will save you money. Do not graze your animals. This leads to left over, uneaten food that is just a waste of money (and a bug lure. Anything you don’t have to spend for extra bug treatments for your home is a money saver too!).
• Ditch the groomers. Fido may smell nice when he comes home from the groomer, but you don’t need the budget sink. Get a pet brush, pet shampoo, and do it yourself. If you don’t want the smell of wet dog in your house, get a quiet blow dryer to dry your pet with.
• Take advantage of preventative care. Just as you are healthier with regular doctor visits, your pet is healthier with regular vet visits, when potential problems can be found early and nipped in the bud. Talk to your vet about plans for twice a year visits (for most pets twice a year is recommended) and about longer lasting vaccines when they are available. Figure out of pocket costs for your visits and compare that to pet care plans.
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