Budgeting for Your Future: You’ll Thank Me Later

So I’ve recently seen an online post about ways you can trim your budget without making a huge impact on your daily life. That inspired me to come up with some of my own ways to trim a budget. This year is the year I will be moving out of my parents’ house, so these are the things I’ve been thinking of.

Credit Cards are great commodities, but when you’re on a budget, they might turn into your safety net. Using a credit card instead of cash or a debit card because you don’t have the money at the moment can lead to bigger problems down the road if you aren’t good at balancing a check book. Personally, I know someone who uses his only credit card just for gas. He knows that he has a terrible handle on money, so he limits himself while still building credit. I would suggest the same–if you are trying to balance a budget, chances are you should use only what you have in the bank instead.

This leads me to my next suggestion: If you’re balancing a budget, cut out the extra shopping trips to the mall. This is one more source of stress (that extra baggage) that you don’t need. Instead, think about the necessities: groceries, doctor visits (if applicable), taking care of your car or home, etc. Looking at the big picture, you don’t need a new shirt if your car needs maintenance. Think before you buy.

Another thing you can do to downsize monthly bills is to cancel your subscriptions. Some magazines charge per year, so some might already be paid for. However, there are other monthly subscriptions that cost $10-$20 each. For example, I used to subscribe to Julep.com’s Monthly Maven box. I’m saving at least $25 per month now that I cancelled it. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but coupled with my other trimmings, this is significant.

You can also cut out your monthly visit to the salon ($10-$50). Don’t get me wrong; everyone deserves to be pampered, but instead of getting my hair cut and colored at the salon ($50) I asked my friend to cut it and my mom to color it. This cuts at least half of that cost. Hair dye at the store is $5 a bottle and developer is about the same. I don’t mind paying my friend to cut my hair because she does a better job than any pro and I know I would be paying a stranger the same price. I also find that giving myself a manicure is cheaper than going to a salon. A whole bottle of nail polish is cheaper than sitting in a chair for an hour for someone else to do it.

Besides the obvious things we can cut out of our lives, there are also some things that we can change that affect our families, too. For example, you can switch phone carriers or television service providers to downsize those bills as well. Verizon charges about $190 per month for two cell phones on a 4GB plan. Not all services offer the same coverage, so I’ve stuck with Verizon for the past couple years. But AT&T’s identical plan is $150 per month, T-Mobile’s is $100, and Virgin mobile’s is about $90 (no contract). All phone plans range in coverage, so if you’re looking to change carriers, make sure you read the fine print.

There are so many television service providers out there that I’m not sure which ones to suggest. I do suggest doing research before switching, though. Some providers aren’t available in all areas, various packages are offered for a limited time, “$50 per month for six months”… but what happens after that? When the time comes for me to pick one, I’ll call each customer service line to talk to an actual person to see what packages are offered in my area.

Another way you can cut costs throughout the month is to go grocery shopping each week and cooking meals instead of eating out. According to the Boston Globe, eating out is double the price of making meals at home, plus you’ll have leftovers for the rest of the week. For instance, if you’re cooking for two people, a pound of ground beef or turkey might last two dinners. That’s roughly $6 for a package of meat and $1.50 per burger patty (if you divide the meat into four burgers). If you just make one burger patty each, you can separate the other two into meatballs, for example, and make them another night during the week. Buying in bulk can also help you save money. See my blog post on Wholesale Stores and Loyalty Cards.

Cut out extracurricular activities. There are many great websites that offer discounts on movie tickets, dinner at fancy restaurants, and even vacation packages (I’m looking at you Groupon and Living Social). There’s also something called How About We for couples that offers one free date per month for registered couples (registration is free). They offer dates in New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago. You can also buy booze to drink at home instead of going out to bars (if that’s your thing). I don’t have that problem—I’m happy with a bottle of wine any day.

I know it isn’t easy for everyone to cut their budgets. Some things just have to stay in the budget because one thing or another. If you have kids, chances are they participate in extracurricular activities outside of school, like sports or what-not. Kids have to be driven everywhere, too, which takes a toll on gas money.

I’m personally cutting my budget down because I’ll still have to pay my massive student loans after I move out. I was able to consolidate all my loans into one that I can pay off sooner than later. Since I’m still living at home, I can afford to pay more than the minimum payment. (I don’t really have many other bills to pay (thank goodness), since I’m not paying rent, car insurance, etc.) In an effort to pay it off quicker, I put as much money as I can toward my loan every month and pay it via online bill pay through my bank (no extra charges, and I don’t have to pay to mail it). This will minimize how much interest I pay on the loan, making it seem as though I’m paying it off quicker.

So if you break down your monthly bills and think about what you can eliminate or consolidate, it will be easier for you to make a decision. It’s also important that you make a list of things you spend your money on. It will put your spending into perspective for you.

For those of you with homes and children, you can find more help here. This was also a useful site.

Related articles:

http://katylouisededman1993.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/budgeting-and-surviving-a-night-out/ [It’s a Student’s Life for Me]
http://abeautyandabudget.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/budgeting-how-i-live-on-a-ta-stipend/ [A Beauty and a Budget]

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