How to Stretch Your Household Income
By Allan, a guest contributor.
Income disparity is growing, leaving many earners to make do, with less. But even if the middle class is shrinking, there are still ways to stretch a small income. With discipline and commitment long-term budgeting success is possible, regardless of income level and financial resources. Use the following tips to make the most of your household income, without sacrificing your standard of living.
Save Money on the Road
Transportation is a significant area of spending for most families. And since owning and operating a car involves several distinct types of expenses, it isn’t always easy to see the true cost of staying on the road. For the best results tracking transportation spending, record related costs in a budget ledger, until you have at least three months’ worth of entries to review. Your records should account for the following expenses:
- Purchase price of the vehicle
- Cost of fuel
- Insurance premiums
- Repairs and maintenance
- Parking fees – at home and your place of employment
- License and registration
- Cost of financing
Once you’ve determined how much you spend on transportation, and exactly where the money goes, it may be possible to reduce your driving costs. Start by looking at your motoring habits. Do you make the most of each trip? Or do you frequently travel short distances? By plotting an efficient course, you not only save money on gas, but vehicle wear and tear is also kept to a minimum, saving money on the cost of automobile repair and replacement.
Is your vehicle fuel-efficient? Long-range commuters can save sizable sums by driving economical cars. If fuel costs are dragging-down your monthly transportation budget, evaluate cars with better fuel performance, and downsize for greater fuel economy at the pump.
Don’t Pay Full Price
The cost of consumer goods is not set in stone. On the contrary, frugal families find ways to save money on nearly every purchase. Clipping coupons, for instance, shaves grocery spending, along with store cards, which also extend discounts to members. Similarly, sale prices lure cost-conscious shoppers, who take advantage of deep discounts whenever they are available.
Since retail markets respond to seasonal demands, merchandise is rotated continually – sometimes leading to substantial savings for savvy shoppers. For the best prices, shop during the off season, particularly for clothes and hard goods associated with a certain time of year. Buying winter coats as spring emerges or purchasing a grill in the fall are two examples of off season shopping.
Take Advantage of Rewards
Product marketing evolves alongside consumer demand and personal preferences. In recent years, retailers have committed to rewards programs, which offer discounts for repeat customers. Frequent buyer plans can yield substantial savings, provided you are versed on the rules and requirements of each promotion – and that you remember to take advantage of these oft generous incentives. Credit card companies also extend points or rewards recognizing customer purchases. Typically, each dollar spent represents a credit toward rewards, which can be used for future purchases. Commonly associated with travel and “air miles”, many rewards cards are actually not restricted to particular forms of spending. In fact, “cash back” may come in the form of a straight refund, once certain spending thresholds are met.
Manage Grocery Spending
Food costs can strain household budgets. Without a master plan in place, food waste and ill-advised grocery store purchases easily interfere with your financial health. Use these tips to keep grocery bills as low as possible, without sacrificing:
- Stick to your shopping list
- Clip coupons
- Don’t shop when you are hungry
- Plan ahead for each week’s meals
- Repurpose leftovers
Families serious about stretching their financial resources pay close attention to food spending. Dining out rarely provides the most economical meals, so those committed to frugal food costs stick close to home for sustenance. Stretching grocery budgets doesn’t necessarily lead to uninspired fare. On the contrary, with planning and a few substitutions, very little is off limits to the cost-conscious cook.
With so many demands placed on household income, stretching financial resources often calls for creative solutions. Frugal choices on the road, at the market, and in retail stores help make the most of each paycheck, regardless of your income level. And by taking advantage of frequent shopper programs, credit card rewards, and other special incentives, it is possible to keep costs low, without substantial sacrifices.