Monday, December 18

How to Manage on a Limited Budget

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This article is written from my own experience as a woman that lives on a limited budget each month. I am writing from my own experience as a frugal shopper. I live from month to month just like everyone else, and I had to make some changes to feed my family. With the economy the way it is, you shouldn’t have to choose between eating and buying gasoline to get to work. So many families have to do without now, because they don’t know how to buy good food and still have money for the mortgage, bills and transportation back and forth to work.

Food shopping isn’t all that hard if you know what you are doing. It just takes a little ingenuity to shop smartly. You can learn to shop smart on a budget, and you can learn to be a wise shopper. Look for specials. Many grocery stores will mark down meats, fruits and veggies that will otherwise go bad. The store would rather mark these foods down to sell them, rather than toss them out. I shop for food bargains at Publix when they have food items that are marked down. I’m 60 years young now, and I love it that Publix gives a 5 percent discount to their senior shoppers on Wednesdays. So I try to shop on Wednesdays when possible.

Don’t be afraid to haggle

Yes, you can haggle. If you ask a store if you can haggle prices, they will most likely say no; however, I have found that store managers will allow you to haggle when they stand to make a good sale. I was shopping at Save-a-Lot a few weeks ago. I wanted to buy a case of Manwich Sauce, but I didn’t want to pay full price. I went to the manager of that section and asked for a better price. The manager gave me $5 off on the case from the original price. Haggling doesn’t make you look cheap or dumb, and makes you a wise shopper.

Shop the Dollar Stores

Don’t be too proud to shop at the Dollar Stores. I get some really good bargains on food and merchandise at the Dollar Store. I buy lots of my non-food items at the dollar store. I can get laundry and dish detergent, deodorant and other non-food items lots cheaper than I can get them at the grocery store.

Save money on cold cuts

Do you buy a lot of cold cuts? Instead of buying packages of cold cuts, but a ham or roast and slice it yourself for sandwiches. I like to buy a turkey every month. I roast it and slice it off for sandwiches, entrees, and sandwiches. I buy ham in the can and slice it for sandwiches. When considering the price of a pack of sliced ham or turkey, it makes so much more sense to buy smarter and cook, and repackage the meat in serving sizes for your family. I package, label and date the meat that I cook and then freeze them. Invest in a meat slicer. I got one at SAM’s Club. It was a good investment, and has paid for itself many times over in the last few years. You can prepare inexpensive meals if you are creative. Shop smart, and spend smart.

Examine your spending habits

Before you determine how much money a month you can spend on food, take a look at your spending habits. What can you do without? Do you eat out frequently, or order pizza delivery? If you do, there is nothing wrong with that once in a while as a treat, but if your budget is so tight you have problems buying food; you might better rethink how you spend. If you work, and buy your lunch every day, consider bringing lunch from home. If you stop at a coffee shop every day you could save at least $60 a month just by bringing a thermos of coffee with you. The grocery store has some really great international coffees that you just add water and milk to, and they are just as good as the coffees for which you spend $2 to $3.

Do you buy tobacco products? I’ve lost track of the price of cigarettes. I’m told that the premium brands are up to $7 a pack in some states. Sure you can buy some off brands for about $2 or $3 a pack, but when you consider the cost to smoke for a month, that adds up to a lot of money. When I smoked I spent about $50 a month on cigarettes. I have not smoked now in 3 years, and from not purchasing cigarettes was like giving myself a raise.

Is money leaking out of your budget? Stop the leak!

We can often find where the money is leaking from our budget. I used to count cigarettes and soda pop as things I needed. These are not necessities. Eating out, stopping at Starbucks, and ordering pizza is not a necessity. Living on a budget, it is important to prioritize. What are your needs? What are your wants? Write them down in separate sheets of paper.

Where else is money leaking from your budget? Are you paying more than $80 a month on your satellite or cable bill? If you are, you may be paying too much. If you can’t pay your mortgage, rent, utilities as well as buy food and put gasoline in the car, you might better rethink how much you pay on your satellite or cable bill. It might behoove you to scale down, and ask for a smaller package to lower your monthly bill. You won’t have as many channels, but how many channels can you watch at once anyway? A lot of money is wasted on cable and satellite service.

Where do you get your Internet provider from? Some folks pay up to $150 a month for Internet service that is either connected to your phone, cable or Internet. Again, here is an opportunity to scale down. Call your provider and ask for a plan that will work for your budget. Chances are if you contact your provider and explain your situation they will lower their fee to accommodate you. For example, when my family’s Internet provider was AOL, we was having trouble making ends meet. We asked them to lower their fee, and they said they couldn’t do it. Then we said,  okay, turn off our service. Do you know they lowered our payment by $10 a month? They didn’t want to lose us as a customer, so they lowered their fee for us. We were on dial-up at the time. The payment was lowered from $27 a month to just $17 a month. We don’t use AOL anymore; we have DSL though our phone company. We also saved money with our phone company. Since we don’t use the house phone to call out, we had it “put on vacation.” We don’t pay a phone bill as long as we don’t call out on it. We can receive calls on the house phone for free. We use our cell phones for all outgoing calls. You don’t have to pay for service that you don’t’ use.

Live below your means

You would be surprised at how much you can save when you cut back on your spending. Speak up when you feel you can strike a deal. Most shopping establishments will allow you to haggle to keep your business. Use coupons for the things you buy anyway. Shop store brands when they are cheaper than any savings you could get with coupons.

If you like eating out, save your money for a special occasion instead of eating at the fast food joints all the time. If you are frequently hungry on your way home from work, bring an apple or a snack with you for your drive home. You don’t have to constantly buy something to eat or drink while driving home. Save that appetite for a home cooked meal when you get home. The key to having enough money to meet your needs is to live below your means.

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