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Handling our money is no easy task. Everywhere we turn, we find people with products and services that they claim we cannot live without. How do we determine if something is necessary or unnecessary? What are some easy ways to save money? I am still working on this in my own life, but here are a few ideas that may be helpful.
1. Make saving money a priority. Saving can be a very difficult thing to do, so what I do is save it before I even see it. I have a small amount deducted automatically on a weekly basis, so that I hardly even feel it. But the monthly total adds up after a year. You see, even if you save $25 dollars per week (one meal out), you will save around $1200 a year. This has really been a helpful way for our family to save money.
2. Determine what is really important. Sometimes we have services we just don't need. If your husband is a huge football fan, then perhaps cable isn't the place to cut your budget. But you may realize that you don't need the full package. We used to have Netflix (and may use it again someday) but I realized that for this time of our lives, we were not really using it enough to warrant the expense. It wasn't much of a savings, but it adds up! If you are paying monthly for services you aren't using it may be worth checking into a smaller package or eliminating it all together. This applies to all of your services (phones, cable), your extras (coffee, manicures, etc.), and perhaps even sports and lessons for your kids. Go over your expenditures with a fine-toothed comb and determine what should stay and what can go.
3. Plan a menu. I know that when I take just a few minutes at the beginning of each week to plan my menu, I spend much less on food. It eliminates the quick trips for fast food or pizza. It also keeps me from picking up "just in case" items. You can use a hand-written menu form or you can use one of the many apps available for your smartphone.
4. Control your schedule. So, I know what you are thinking--what does my schedule have to do with my money? I have personally found that my busy schedule is the deadliest thing to my budget. When I am busy, it means I am too busy to cook or to track. If I am busy, I am usually too tired to care. We have to be careful to keep our schedule free enough so that we have the time and energy necessary to handle our money wisely. Sometimes we can't control our schedules and things are thrusted upon us over which we have no control, but if I am honest, most times I end up too busy, it is my own fault.
5. Take a little time to go over your bills each year. Most companies are in so much competition with each other that they usually have a good deal to offer you--if you just take the time to call. I found this out firsthand just this year when I called the phone company about something and then just happened to start talking about the bill for our business. When I was done with that phone call, I was saving over $1200 per year! After I got over my chagrin of not having thought to call them about it sooner, I realized that I should really be more diligent in checking up on my bills.
6. Wait 30 days. If you really want something, wait 30 days before you buy it. This is an invaluable idea. It will keep you from impulse buys and you may find out that you don't need it-or even want it -after 30 days. Of course, this isn't always practical, but in many purchases I have found this rule to be very helpful. It helps me determine what potential purchases are really important to me and what potential purchases were just an impulsive thought.
Money is so critical in so many ways. I hope these ideas have been helpful.