When you're already living on the edge of your means, it may seem impossible that you'll ever get ahead. The majority of each paycheck disappears into rent, utilities and other necessary expenses, and at the end of the month there simply isn't any left to put into savings. Before you lose hope, look into taking some more extreme measures to cut your costs, then dedicate yourself to a financially healthy manner of living that will gradually help you save up some extra funds.
Cut out unnecessary expenses. Many services taken for granted as needed for survival simply aren't. You can cut out either your cell phones or your house phone and pare down to simply one. Get rid of your unlimited cell phone data plan and work with fewer minutes each month. Cancel your cable and Internet services and use a digital antenna for local television. Go to the library to check your email.
Get your entertainment for free. If you're spending any amount at all for magazines, books, movies and music then you're spending more than you need to. Get a card at your local library and you can have all these forms of media at your fingertips for free.
Make your meals from scratch. If you're pressed for time, set aside one afternoon a week for cooking in bulk and freeze casseroles, cookies, breads, breakfast burritos and waffles for use throughout the week. Avoid fast food, gas station treats and restaurants at all costs, as these will drain your budget and potential savings at an alarming rate.
Walk, bike or use public transportation. If you live in a city where these options are available for all of your traveling needs you can even sell your car. If not, you'll at least save on gas. Be sure to update your insurance and let them know you're driving much less often, as this may sometimes lead to a discount.
Take advantage of programs available to help the needy. If your income is low enough, you may qualify for food stamps, WIC, reduced income housing, free school lunches, assistance with school book rental fees and Medicaid or Medicare. These options can help ease the strain of everyday expenses and free up more of your income to pay off debt and get your family into better financial standing.
Focus on paying off debt. Every month that you hold a balance on your credit cards you're losing money in interest. Funnel everything you've saved from using the previous measures into getting rid of any debt that you carry. When your debt is gone, lock up those credit cards and start using cash to avoid paying more than your purchases are worth in interest over the long-term.
- "The Complete Tightwad Gazette"; Amy Dacyczyn; 1998
- "America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money"; Steve Economides, et al.; 2007
- "The Total Money Makeover"; Dave Ramsey; 2007
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