How to Stick to a Budget during Tough Economic Times

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 Unfortunately, a lot of Americans tend to live well beyond their means, and they have grown completely accustomed to this lifestyle.  During tough economic times they are hard-pressed to survive financially.  If you are among the many Americans who have no clue of how to properly budget to live within your means, follow these eight steps to learn a few tips on how to survive during tough economic times.

1) Forget about Cutting Coupons – I’m sure that clipping coupons seems like a logical thing to do when trying to live on a budget. Here’s the problem: It has been my experience that coupons are usually issued for products that already have a somewhat elevated price. Instead of trying to save 35¢ off of an already high priced item…just purchase the generic brand instead.

2) Read the Sales Flyers Religiously – This is different from cutting coupons because sales flyers will often advertise specials on store brand items. Since store brands are already discounted, it would be to your advantage to take part in any further discounts on those items.  Make sure to pick up the Sunday paper and make note of all of the budget friendly sales flyers.

3) Buy Less Expensive Cuts of Meat – Go ahead and buy that ever-popular three-pack of arm steak and doctor them up. Make sure to tenderize, marinate, and top with grilled onions & mushrooms. No, it will never taste as good as a T-bone or a rib eye, but it’ll still taste good if you know what you’re doing. Learn how to braise and smother all kinds of meats, and invest in a slow cooker because they work wonders on cheaper cuts, and they will help you stick to your budget without too much discomfort. 

4) Buy Whole Foods – Purchase whole chicken, whole vegetables, and whole fruits instead of pre-cut, pre-washed varieties.  Pre-cut and prepared foods are complete murder to a budget! The next time you’re in the grocery store, pay attention to the difference in cost between a whole chicken and chicken parts; the same goes for fruit and vegetables. You will find that you are paying extra money for the convenience of not having to do the work. If you want to save money, do the work.

5) Never go to the Grocery Store When You’re Hungry – This one is a no-brainer. If you go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, you’ll put yourself at high risk for spending too much money on unnecessary products.  What better way to blow your budget?  In most cases, the bulk of these products will only appeal to you because you feel like you’re starving. Making a trip to the grocery store while you’re hungry is a recipe for impulse purchasing.

6) Get Reacquainted with Brown Bags – Start a regimen of taking your lunch to work or school and you’ll save more money than you think. Most of us don’t realize how much money we waste on eating out every day. If you spend $4 on lunch every day for five days, you will have spent $80 a month, and almost $1,000 a year. Couldn’t you think of some better use for that money? Get into the habit of packing your lunch at home. If you don’t like brown bags, go online and buy yourself one of those good old Wonder Woman or Superman tin lunch boxes.  Either way, brown-bagging it is a healthier alternative for your budget.

7) Cut Down on Trips to the Salon– Shampoo and condition your own hair instead of paying to go to the salon – only make that trip when you need a trim or any kind of chemical process & make sure not to use the cheapest products on the market because they tend to strip your hair….thus making you more prone to necessary salon trips.  Remember, it is better for your budget in the long run if you take care of your hair instead of trying to repair damage later; it’s also better for your hair.

8) Kill the Gym Membership – Do you really need to work out at a gym to get the maximum results of your weight loss or health regimen? For some people the answer to this question will be yes, but not for most of us. Instead, make a one-time investment in a set of free weights, and learn to take advantage of the 100% free walking track… better known as the great outdoors. Also, there are many apartment communities and office complexes that have an exercise facility available for use by their tenants and guests at no cost. Likewise, some homeowner’s associations include management of a community’s recreational amenities, and they will usually include a well appointed gym for the use of neighborhood homeowners and their guests. Check to see which budget friendly options may be available to you.

There are a lot of other adjustments that you can make to ensure that you and your family will stick to your budget and survive during tough economic times.  In order to make it through you will have to go into “survival mode”.  Pin down all of the things that you absolutely need in order to exist on a daily basis. Then, try to think of creative and free or less costly ways to include some form of entertainment: picnics in the park, trips to the beach, dollar movie theaters, Netflix, etc.  Hopefully, some of these tips will be useful at helping you to survive tough economic times.

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