Have you been joining me on Mondays over on Instagram? We’ve been reading through my book, Getting Good with Money, and discussing various components of managing our money well. This past week we talked about the different kinds of struggles we can have with money and next week we’re going to talk about expenses! We’ll be discussing how to figure out which expenses matter the most to us and which ones don’t matter at all.
And since inflation is (at least for my family it is) making it hard to stretch our dollars this summer. I thought I’d share with you a few ways we’re trying to keep our budget in check this summer.
1. Review Your Regular Bills
One of the best and fastest ways to help beat inflation is to look at what you’re paying out every single month (or year) in the way of reoccurring bills.
- Has your property taxes gone up? Have you appealed it? It doesn’t hurt to try to reduce this burden. Ours went up over $1,500 since just last year! We appealed and got it down $131. Granted I can’t buy groceries for that anymore but it’s still something!
- Pay $100 or more a month for your family’s cell phone plan? Consider switching to another cheaper company! I use Mint Mobile and couldn’t be happier! Even when we went up to Gatlinburg (where historically I never have reliable cell service) I never once lost service! I have the Unlimited plan. Head here to check the coverage map.
- When’s the last time you compared service rates for things like electricity and natural gas? Spend some time this weekend looking and comparing the different companies and plan options. Do the math and determine if/where you can save and then take action and switch/change plans.
- Are you paying for unnecessary services/plans? Are you paying for an umbrella policy that you don’t actually need? (Believe it or not, a lot of people pay for this without realizing that their other insurance policies adequately cover the same things. It’s important to pay attention to what’s actually in your policies. Talk to your agent to get a better understanding to determine if you have adequate insurance or not.) Are you paying for a warranty you don’t actually need? Are you paying for credit monitoring services (you can get this for free from Credit Karma and even many banks offer this for free for their clients)?
2. Review Your Discretionary Spending
Just like we need to review our monthly/yearly spending in terms of the things/services we need, we also need to review our discretionary spending. This goes beyond the morning coffee run and lunches out. We gotta dig deep!
- Are you paying for a bunch of streaming services that you hardly watch? Get real with yourself here. Is your family actually watching the 15 + different streaming channels that you currently pay for? If you aren’t sure start to track it! I did this with Netflix. I tracked our Netflix watching specifically and guess what? We only watched about a week’s worth of Netflix in one year. And we were paying over $15 a month for Netflix! Just get real with yourself and cancel those services you aren’t actually using.
- Do you really use it? Are you really going to the gym enough to justify that $50 a month? Or are you wishfully hoping that you’re going to finally make it to the gym? No shame. Just get honest with yourself and your current season of life. Maybe it would make more sense to pay $50 a year for an app that you can use to workout at home instead of paying $600 a year for something that you’re only using a couple of times a year. Use this thought process to weed out the various expenses that you’re paying for.
3. Stretch Your Grocery Budget
Trust me. I know. It’s expensive right now to shop for food. It’s stressing me out too. So let’s stretch our grocery budgets!
- Only buy what you know will get eaten. This is not the time to buy all the new shiny foods that you’ve never tried before. Stick with the basics that you know your family will eat.
- Scan all your receipts in Fetch to earn rewards to get gift cards in order to further stretch your budgets!
- Consider buying a whole or half cow. We actually just did this. Buying meat at the stores has become so hard! But we found that buying a half cow it knocked our price per pound to $3.99! The lowest I’ve found in the stores nearest me lately is $4.13 a pound! If you have the cash on hand and a freezer to store it in, consider buying a whole or half cow in order to stock up and bring down the burden of purchasing meat in the store every week.
- Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. Seriously. Meal plan. It can save your budget so much! You don’t need a complicated meal plan (heck, I’ve got one right here for you already made!). Make sure you always have in your rotation an “easy” meal for those nights that you just simply can’t make dinner. In some seasons in my go-to has been frozen pizzas. This season of life it’s sheet pan nachos.
4. Stretch Your Budget in Other Ways
It’s not just groceries that are up -heck, it seems like everything is more expensive these days (because it is)! So let’s stretch our budget in other areas as well.
- Use Rakuten when shopping online to earn cash back. I’ve been using Rakuten since it was Ebates back in the day! I’ve earned over $3,000 back on my online purchases in the years that I’ve been using them! And yes, it’s actual cash not points!
- Use the gift cards we get from Swagbucks or Fetch towards our summer fun so our household budget doesn’t have to pay for them! Hey, it doesn’t help stretch your budget just to scan in your recipes or take surveys on Swagbucks if you don’t cash out those rewards and use them!
- We decided to move our Emergency Fund from Captial One 360 to CIT because they have the highest APY we’ve seen in a while! So look at the bank you have your Emergency Fund or Sinking Funds at and decide if you should move it to another bank to earn more money on your money!
- Back-to-School/Kid Sinking Fund. Speaking of sinking funds! If you don’t already have a kid or back-to-school sinking fund set up to help offset the upcoming costs of the new school year, set one up today! Head here to learn more about Sinking Funds.
5. Stick to Your Priorities
If you’ve read my book, you know that I firmly believe that the only way to ensure you achieve your goals when it comes to your finances is to live into your priorities and to make your money work for you. For my family, our priority right now is to save for retirement (we’re 100% debt-free including the house). In other seasons the priority has been paying off over $50,000 of debt. It’s also been saving up our 6-month Emergency Fund. And the season of life you’re in is going to dictate what your priorities are. But remember that there can only be one priority. Did you know that the word “priority” wasn’t even plural until after the second industrial revolution? That’s because there can only be one thing that trumps all the others.
We need to live into that. So spend some time this week really thinking about what your priority financial goal needs to be. Maybe for you, it’s simply sticking to your budget. Or maybe it’s saving your Emergency Fund. No matter what it is, write it down and make it a priority.
Okay, those are some of the ways we’re stretching our household budget this summer. Not everything above will work for you but I wanted to share them so they can help you create your own ideas!
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