Better Ways to Budget: Tips for Saving Money

 

Managing your savings plan goes beyond the basics of saving a buck here and there; it involves planning for life’s essentials and creatively balancing the rest. Discovering the secrets of saving can make a difference in paying off debt and saving without going threadbare.

1.Housing.

Living in a safe and comfortable environment with amenities is important. Your rent or mortgage is first priority –  consider the value/benefits ratio necessary for your lifestyle. Buying a home may be ideal, but maintenance, repairs, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, and taxes can squeeze a budget – especially when homeowners are hit with high power bills. Renting your home can create additional funds for non-essentials.

2. Vehicles.

Think about the operational expense of your vehicles: Are they gas guzzlers? Using public transportation or ride sharing, opting for a less expensive car with an extended warranty, and even organizing trips geographically can save gas. Don’t forget: Budget for oil changes and tune-ups. Preventative maintenance saves money over costly repairs down the road.

3. Retirement.

Your Social Security benefit alone won’t be enough, say most investors. Pensions, 401K plans, and investments can help ensure a comfortable retirement. Contribute your maximum allowance to options at work or invest in your own plan – even if you can spare just a small amount each month.

4. Healthcare.

Preventative care can reduce spending out-of-pocket on trips to the doctor and/or medicine. The New England Journal of Medicine recommends seeking effective/cost efficient preventative measures, which can be determined by healthcare providers and insurance allowances. In addition, making room in the budget for healthful choices for things like food, supplements, fitness, and doctor-prescribed medications can help keep healthcare costs down.

5. Groceries, Supplies, and Medicine.

Here is where you might find your biggest savings. First, make a flex list. A flex list is a basic list of supplies that allows trades for sale items. For example, your weekly menu may consist of spaghetti with tomato sauce or rice with red beans. You get to the store and Alfredo and black beans are on sale, so you make substitutions based on the savings. Another example: You need to buy over-the-counter painkillers and the store brand offers ‘buy one, get two free’: the obvious choice is store brand (which are often equal in quality to name brands). Other ways to save include buying in-season fruits and vegetables, clipping coupons, using in-store discount cards (avoid cards with hidden fees), and shopping at warehouse and discount stores. A good rule of thumb for savings is to compare price-per-ounce, which is usually found on the lower left corner of price signs.

6. The Rest.

It takes creativity to save money for non-essentials without feeling pinched, but one of the most valuable things to know, says the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), is that Americans are spending one-third of total food allowances on “away-from-home meals and snacks.” This means that the average American spends about $33 out of every $100 eating at restaurants, picking up carry-out, and stopping for coffee. Knowing how much you might typically spend each month for convenience foods, in addition to convenience services, can put savings possibilities in perspective. Some simple remedies are:

  • Brew your own java
  • Pack lunches and snacks for work and outings
  • Cook your meals
  • Opt for potluck dinners, cocktails at home, or movie rentals instead of evenings out
  • Cancel expensive cable/satellite services in favor of streaming web services
  • Look for the best deals on mobile phones and networking

Gains.

Though these tips can be the solution to saving money, making a clean break can be a challenge. Begin by prioritizing your bills, then it will be easier to visualize a plan that’s tailored to your needs and expand your savings potential.

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