Sticking to a budget can be difficult, but with so many demands on your finances you have to be extra cautious. TV ads are constantly bombarding the airwaves with messages that you need to buy this or you must have that. Usually, if you just wait a week or two, the urge to buy that new gadget will pass. But, what should you do if you have already spent more than you have? The following are several real world ideas that can help you save real dollars.
First of all, consider refinancing high interest-rate loans and credit cards. Obviously you would like to pay as little interest as possible, sometimes by shopping around and transferring a balance to a low-interest rate card, you can save hundreds of dollars. Even better, if you can find a lower rate on your mortgage, you will be savings thousands of dollars. Just make sure to get your debts paid down as quickly as possible.
Secondly, change the deductible on your auto insurance to $500 or $1,000. This change can save you up to 40%. The insurance company will make money no matter what. If you file a claim they are likely to raise your rates to make up the difference so you end up paying no matter what. It makes sense to cover the first $500 or $1,000 yourself and enjoy a lower monthly premium in the meantime.
Another idea is to trim some small expenses. For example, if you get your haircut every 6 weeks, see if you can go 7 or 8 weeks instead. This will save you the cost of 1-2 cuts per year. Check out that book from the library instead of buying it. Try renting a video instead of going out to the movies. Purchase a ready-made meal at the grocery store instead of going out to eat. Be creative and see what little expenses you can trim that will add up to big savings over time. Other ideas include clipping coupons, taking your lunch to work, carpooling (or walking, biking, or taking the bus), stop smoking, and finally just don't even open up that catalog. Toss them out immediately. If you peek inside you're bound to find something you like.
In order to make sure that you stay on track with your budget, it is important to know where you stand. To get an idea of how your spending compares to a typical budget and see where your money is going each month, take a minute to use the free budgeting tools available at http://www.trimyourdebt.com/welcome_budget_short.aspx?src=art
Don Blackhurst is the co-founder of TrimYourDebt.com (http://www.TrimYourDebt.com), which provides free budgeting tools, debt planning, and credit help. He has been working in the banking and finance industries for over 16 years and has an MBA with an emphasis in Finance and Econometrics.