Effective personal financial management is more about finding balance than it is about learning to live without things you can’t afford. So while it may call for managed expectations, success handling household cash flow needn’t leave you feeling deprived. On the contrary, it is possible to keep costs in-line, without sacrificing your quality of life.
Each person’s spending habits are unique, so cutting costs takes different forms, depending upon where your money goes in the first place. Are you a slave to fashion, devoting big bucks to your wardrobe? Is travel a personal priority, draining your recreational budget? Does your car payment drag you down each month? Each of these financial conditions reflects monetary values, guiding your spending priorities. But just as these obligations can interfere with your personal cash flow, they also present opportunities to cut costs, gain control of spending, and strengthen your financial health.
For immediate cost-savings, turn your attention to spending in these household budget categories:
Food and Dining
Recurring costs deserve extra scrutiny because spending missteps risk being repeated, again and again. Food waste, for example, is a problem facing consumers from all walks of life, resulting in a substantial share of food production going to waste. In fact, some estimates indicate as much as 40% of the US food supply is wasted. Household food waste directly undermines spending efficiency in a fundamental budget category, so reducing food costs is a priority, yielding tangible cash flow improvements.
Use these strategies to address waste and overspending:
- Stick to a shopping list
- Plan weekly meals
- Repurpose leftovers
- Select versatile ingredients (cuts of meat, rice, pasta, etc.)
- Coordinate with family members – dine together whenever possible
- Preserve and freeze food
Using a mixture of freshly cooked and prepared foods (including your own freezer meals) can’t be beat for convenience and time savings too.
In addition to money wasted on spoilage, family food budgets are inflated by restaurant meals and carry-out alternatives. Dining out comes with a stiff price – particularly for large families, with many hungry mouths to feed. For immediate savings on restaurant fare:
- Dine out only on special occasions
- Take advantage of “kids eat free” specials and other cheap dining options
- Eliminate your bar bill
- Learn to cook
Personal mobility is a costly modern convenience, built-in to monthly budgets. All told, maintaining a car entails regular spending, from its initial purchase price to the cost of ongoing care and preservation. Insurance, fuel, and parking further inflate the total tab for staying on the road, resulting in significant monthly transportation spending. That’s why our family is a one car household. And for those few days a month when we both must be somewhere at the same time, we have Uber.
Consider these money-saving measures to reduce transportation spending:
- Alternative modes of transportation – Peddle-power and other low-cost alternatives drastically reduce transportation spending. Are you a good candidate for public transportation? By taking a bus or train to work, you’ll sidestep parking costs at your place of employment and save on fuel and automobile wear and tear.
- Buy used – Cars lose a substantial share of their value during the early months of ownership, depreciating rapidly once driven off the dealer’s lot. As a result, pre-owned vehicles present a substantial value, when compared to the cost of buying new.
- Ride sharing – Carpools have been around for decades, economizing transportation for cooperative drivers. By sharing rides, it may be possible to shave 70% off the customary cost of commuting to your workplace.
- Keep it on the road – Cars are expensive, so squeezing a lengthy life from your vehicle is like putting money in the bank. Regular maintenance, conservative driving, and garaging your vehicle will extend its useful life and reduce your transportation spending.
With so many demands coming-down on your family finances, money-saving moves furnish welcomed relief. But to be effective cutting costs, it’s important to focus your efforts where they’ll do the most good. Transportation and food costs eat-up a substantial share of your monthly spending budget, so these two categories present are a great place to start saving – before expanding the same frugal philosophy to other financial responsibilities.
How do you save money each month?