Living on a budget is the key to financial freedom, but getting started can be frustrating. When we look at our expenses and see all of those bills we’re paying every month, it’s easy to throw our hands up in disgust. But what about all those little expenses we incur? You might be surprised to find out just how much they amount to.
It’s easy to dismiss cutting back on little things. A few dollars a month won’t make a significant difference in the big picture and you won’t be able to retire on those small savings. But a few dollars here and a few dollars there will add up each month. When you cut back in a lot of small ways, you could end up with a lot more money at the end of the month than you used to.
Waste Not, Want Not
One thing we can do that is good for the budget is stop wasting so much. This can apply to many areas in our lives. From eating to home heating, waste equals money going down the drain unnecessarily.
Cooking for the family instead of eating takeout or dining out is a great way to save money. But if you’re throwing food out, the benefit is reduced. So if you have leftovers, don’t let them end up in the trash. Some dishes freeze well, and this makes for easy dinners when you don’t have time to cook. You could also eat dinner leftovers for lunch the following day.
If your home is not well insulated, you’re probably wasting lots of money on home heating and cooling. Insulating will cost some money up front, but it will pay for itself quickly. If you have drafts around windows and doors, weather stripping can help maintain the temperature of your home.
I’ve lived in some drafty and cold apartments and houses through the years and one thing that really helped was putting plastic on my windows. It kept out a lot of cold air and kept in a lot of the heat. It was a win-win for me and my purse each month.
Most households waste an unbelievable amount of electricity. This can be prevented in part by using energy efficient appliances and light bulbs. Turn lights, televisions, computers and other devices off when you’re not using them, and open blinds to take advantage of the sun’s light during the day so you don’t even have to turn your lights on until later in the day.
Do It Yourself
Any time you pay someone else to do something that you could do yourself, you’re spending money unnecessarily. This applies to little things like buying coffee instead of making your own, as well as to larger expenses such as home repairs, house cleaning or yard maintenance.
Many of us buy coffee or a soft drink from a convenience store or coffee shop on the way to work in the morning. This can really add up over time. Instead, make your own coffee, or buy soda in 2-liter bottles and pour some into a smaller bottle or cup to take with you. The same applies to lunches. Instead of springing for fast food, take a sandwich or something microwavable to work.
While we’re not all good at all types of repairs and maintenance, most of us can do some things for ourselves. If the walls in your home need painting, consider recruiting friends and family to help you do it instead of hiring a painter.
Painting and other cosmetic “repairs” to your home can easily be completed by you. And if you don’t feel like you can manage something just because you don’t know how to do it then look it up on YouTube. You can learn how to do most anything watching the videos on there. I know, I’ve done it!
Rather than hire someone to clean your house do it yourself. Not only will you have a clean home, but you’ll benefit from the exercise when you do it. If you don’t want to spend the weekends cleaning like some people do, you can try what I do.
I have a “do one thing a day rule” that I have found I can live by. When I come in from work every day I do one thing to get my house in order. If its laundry that day then I put it in the washer, dry it and fold it. That is considered one thing. Some days it’s nothing more than cooking dinner and cleaning up the kitchen (completely) when I finish. That does include sweeping and mopping.
If you have kids the best thing you can do for yourself and for them is start giving them age appropriate chores. It will help you out and it will teach them responsibility. Make them a weekly list with their “one thing a day” and have them mark it off as they go. It will make them feel good to know they are being helpful.
When you make small changes to have just a little more money, it really can add up and make a difference in your budget each month. Go through your budget and see what you can eliminate or what you can reduce. It will make a difference.
If you feel like you need a little help getting started with your budget consider getting my eBook, Creating a Savings Plan. It’s full of information to help you get started and it will show you SO many ways to reduce your bottom line without feeling deprived.