The age-old problem of trying to stretch your household budget is a challenge nearly everyone grapples with at one time or another. If you’re confounded by the fact that your paycheck(s) seem to disappear within days of depositing them, it may be time to examine your spending habits.
Creating a written budget is often an eye-opening experience, especially if you haven’t taken the time to do that recently — or ever! Itemizing all your monthly and periodic expenses can not only help you realize where the money’s going, but it can also give you a greater feeling of control over your life. As an added bonus, reviewing your household budget a couple times a year will also increase your awareness of your debts, your income, and your spending habits. Once you know how tight your budget is and whether you need to reduce expenses or increase income, you’ll be in a stronger position to effectively manage your family’s finances.
- Creating a budget: Whether you prefer to use spreadsheets, software, or just a simple income-versus-expenses chart, setting up a budget will help put you in the driver’s seat of your cash flow situation. While there are many distinctions between running a business and managing a household, there are probably more similarities than differences!
- Identifying “money leaks”: If your family’s budget seems tighter than you’d like it to be, one possible reason is that you’re spending more than you need to on some expenses. The perfect examples are homeowners’ and automobile insurance. You’ve probably seen and heard countless ads for well-known insurance companies that say they can save you hundreds of dollars a year on your insurance policies. If you’ve been dismissing those claims as mere hype, consider the possibility that you may actually be paying more on your insurance premiums than necessary. It may be worth your while to have your insurance agent review your policy with you to make sure you’re getting all the coverage you need and the discounts to which your entitled. The best way to remove any doubt is to get two or three quotes from other reputable insurance companies. You can often do this through email or online, so you shouldn’t have to go to time-consuming office appointments just to get a few insurance quotes. To compare “apples to apples,” make sure to use identical coverage amounts and deductibles for each estimate your seeking; hopefully the agents you deal with will remind you of that. It’s also possible to save hundreds more dollars a year by contacting your cable TV company, Internet service provider, and cell phone service (It might be one company) to discuss ways your bill can be lowered. The first step would be to examine your latest invoice and determine whether you’re paying for services you don’t use or need. If you see charges that are excessive or confusing, don’t hesitant to get on the phone and have those issues clarified. If inconsistent utility bills are a problem, then switching over to a monthly budget plan will make your expenses more predictable and manageable.
While there are many strategies for reducing your expenses and regaining control of your household budget, information and a healthy sense of skepticism can often be your most valuable resources.