Saturday, September 8, 2018

Taming the Family Budget

Having trouble making your budget fit your paycheck? Here are a few ideas that you may find helpful.

Small Purchase = Big Money

Money spent on little things - sodas, snacks, and impulse items of all sorts - can add up really quickly. A great example is a guy I used to work with who constantly complained about not having any money. Every afternoon he would head down to the break room and buy a Pepsi and a Snickers bar from the vending machine. It was only a $1.75, but he spent that money five days a week. Over the course of a year, that adds up to almost $450. 

We tend to dismiss small purchases as being insignificant - its only a couple of bucks - but when we make a lot of small purchases, those couple of bucks add up to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars over time.

Entertainment and Eating Out

 
We all have busy schedules, and eating out is quicker and more convenient than making a meal at home. But it can be expensive, and it really adds up over time. Eating out is a huge piece of most people's budget. A piece that can be easily reduced.

Taking a bag lunch of leftovers to work with you instead of buying lunch at the local fast food eatery will save you big bucks over the course of a year. How much? If you spend five dollars a day for lunch, that is over $1,200 a year. If you are a two-income family with both of you eating out at lunch, this doubles to over $2,400 a year. And we haven't even talked about family dinners out, yet.

Entertainment is a purely optional budget expense. Eliminate it. You can be entertained without spending much, or even any, money. Learn (or re-learn) how to have a good time for free or nearly free. Take a walk with your spouse or with a friend. Start a family game night. Play with your kids in the backyard. Invite friends over for a weekend cook-out, or a movie night (with the DVD checked out from your local library for free). Next week they can invite you over.

Read a book (checked out from the library for free, of course) instead of going to a movie. Libraries are a wonderful source of free entertainment. In addition to books and magazines, many libraries today also offer audio books, movies on DVD, music CDs, and even board games that you can check out. Many have story times for young children and lecture series for adults you can attend for free.


Telecommunications is THE Modern Budget-Buster

When I was a child (the 1970s) the only telecommunications expense my family, most families, had was the telephone, and that was a land line, of course. TV programs were free over-the-air, and there was no Internet. Today, many families pay for a land line, multiple cell phones, texting privileges, special ringtones, cable or satellite TV subscriptions, extra movie channels, Internet connections, gaming and movie subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), special apps for their $500 (or more) smart phones, even satellite radio subscriptions. For most families major savings can be found in this budget category.

Do you really need a smart phone? Do you really need the absolute latest (and most expensive) version of your smart phone? I have a regular cell phone myself, but it is the basic model that only cost me $19.99 (and I didn't have to commit to a plan). I can text and make phone calls on my cheap phone as easily as you can on your smart phone. A cell phone may be a necessity for many today, but all the expensive bells and whistles are luxuries you probably can do without.

We have allowed them to make us addicted to our smart phones and other electronic devices. Maybe its time to overcome our addictions and spend our money on getting ready for the future instead of funding those million-dollar bonuses of telecom executives.  

The same thing goes for cable or satellite TV. Do you really need to have all the movie channels? Do you really need all the HD channels? Do you really need the expanded package with all the sports channels and all the music channels? Or can you get by just fine with the much less expensive basic package?

Or better yet, do away with TV altogether. Radical idea, but somehow humanity survived for thousands of years before TV, so technically it is possible.

Drop the Vacation

Vacations can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Staycations are a hot new trend. Instead of heading for the beach, or Disneyland, or wherever, stay home. Spend a week visiting local museums, zoos, botanical gardens, historical sites, parks, or wildlife refuges. Go on a picnic or nature hike. Go fishing at a local lake. Play frisbee with your kids in the backyard. Or just relax at home, thinking of all the money you are saving.
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This article is part of an ongoing Prepper Financial Series. Here are the other articles in that series:


*** Foundational Advice: Eliminate Debt and Build Savings 
*** Quick Financial Tips for Preppers (and Everyone Else)
*** How To Raise Money For Your Prepping Activities
*** Precious Metals and the Prepper

Future articles in the Prepper Financial Series will come out on an almost weekly basis.

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