Living within Your Means
10:54:45 2024-02-16 313

 1- Create a budget. According to CFP Trent Larsen, the key to making a budget "is figuring out what you're actually spending your money on." It can be scary to total up all of your monthly expenses and to evaluate your total debt. But if your goal is to manage your monthly expenses so that you can become financially stable, then creating a realistic budget is an important first step. Larsen stresses that "it's important to understand what you're spending money on so you don't live beyond your means."

  • Make a list of all of your bills, including your mortgage or rent, transportation, groceries, child support. Include debt payments, such as student loans, credit cards and car payment.
  • Figure out your total monthly income. Include all income that you can use to pay your bills each month. This would include your paychecks, dividends from stocks, child support payments, gifts and inheritances and deferred compensation from a settlement or retirement plan.
  • If you are paid hourly, track your salary for a few weeks and calculate the average. This will give you an average monthly income figure you can use when creating your budget.
  • Subtract your expenses from your income. This will tell you whether or not you are overspending. If you are spending more than you earn, then your need to prioritize your expenses.
  • Make a plan to significantly reduce your spending. Reducing how much you spend will leave you with more money at the end of the month that you can use to get out of debt or to build an emergency fund.


2- Save on transportation expenses. According to AAA, the annual cost to own and operate a car is over $8,000 per year. Gas, maintenance, car payments and insurance contribute to this figure. Put some of this money back in your pocket by selling your car and using public transportation. If you really need a car to get somewhere, use a rideshare service like Uber. If you don’t want to sell your vehicle, reduce how often you drive it by carpooling.


3- Lower your utility bills. The average household spends approximately $2,200 per year on utilities. Most of this is on heating and cooling. Find ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home to reduce utility costs. Replace incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) or light-emitting diodes (LED) bulbs. Install a programmable thermostat to reduce heating and cooling use when nobody is at home. Unplug all of your devices when you’re not using them. Air seal your home, and lower the temperature on your hot water heater.

4- Reduce spending on entertainment. CFP Trent Larsen stresses the importance of understanding "the items that you can cut back on." Thankfully, it’s easy to cut entertainment costs without negatively impacting your lifestyle. Larsen comments that "cable TV is a common cost that people like to cut from their budgets." Replace these forms of entertainment with less expensive ones, such as running or biking in the park, borrowing books and movies from the library, and attending community cultural events. You can also cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions and read those items at the library. Eliminate other paid services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Netflix.

  • Practice intentional spending. Add in a budget for the entertainment or fun things that really bring you joy. For instance, you might opt to go out for an expensive dinner once a month with friends because you enjoy it, but then you decide not to travel or subscribe to magazines.


5- Save money on food. CFP Trent Larsen explains that "it may not be possible to go out to restaurants or bars every night of the week." With this in mind, make a meal plan and cook your meals at home. This will keep you from getting take out for dinner. Also, you can pack leftovers for lunch the next day instead of buying lunch at work.  Use coupons and buy generic instead of name brands. Purchase non-perishable items in bulk for a lower unit price. Start your own garden to give yourself a steady supply of fresh vegetables.


6- Start an emergency fund. This is different from a buffer in your checking account. An emergency fund is a separate account that holds anywhere from three to nine months’ worth of income. You need this in case of a major emergency, like an illness or injury, loss of your job or a major home or car repair. Your emergency fund should be kept in a separate savings account where it earns interest.

  • Keep your emergency account separate from your checking account so that you’re not tempted to use it.
  • Compare interest rates at different banks. Your local bank may offer as low as .25 percent interest on a savings account. Online savings accounts offer much higher interest rates because they don’t have to pay the overhead expenses of maintaining a physical location.


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