Most families struggle with having too little money at the end of the month, live paycheck to paycheck, and wonder how to fit college and retirement savings plans into a shrinking budget. If increasing your income is not a possibility, making changes to your regular expenses and money habits can make a huge difference in your monthly budget. Mindful choices now can yield long-term financial benefits.
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It is impossible to cut groceries out of your budget, but taking the time to shop instead of picking up fast food can drastically cut your food expenses. As an added bonus, cooking at home is healthier. If couponing and discount stores do not appeal to you, try cutting out meat and alcohol from your shopping list for a quick budget fix.
Ready-made convenience foods are pricey, but making the same items from scratch can cost pennies compared to the premade versions. Buying items in bulk, like beans and oats, is another way to reduce costs without feeling deprived. Planning your meals in advance and writing out a shopping list will help keep you on track at the store along and answer the question, “Mom, what’s for dinner?”
Though your kids may disagree, what children really need is to spend quality time with family. A little creativity can go a long way when planning inexpensive family entertainment. From Friday pizza and game night to a scavenger hunt at the park, kids look forward to special planned activities. For outdoorsy types, try biking, disc golf, camping and stargazing.
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If you family prefers life indoors, write your own play, visit a local museum or aquarium on a discount day, or plan a movie marathon in the living room. Giving your kids an allowance will force them to take some responsibility for their entertainment. For example, if they spend all of their money at the movies with friends, they have to wait until next month to buy that video game.
Pay off Your Debt
Nothing can limit living like feeling trapped by debt. Make it a priority to become debt-free. Financial expert Dave Ramsey offers a debt snowball plan in which you pay off your smallest debt to the largest. Paying off small bills helps create momentum to move toward larger debts like student loans and credit cards.
If money is tight, make sure that you always pay a little over the minimum payment to start making headway on your bills. Selling items around the house, such as unused electronics or video games, can help generate extra money to make your payments.
It may seem obvious, but regardless of how much you make, you will never have enough money if you always spend more than you have. Think about your dreams and goals, and make a plan to achieve them. Saving for a house down payment or an island vacation starts with that first dollar you set aside. Write down a budget with all of your income and set expenses, reduce every payment that you can and commit to set aside savings every month. Self-control and focused effort will get you where you want to be financially. -motherhood