Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Money is the number one cause of stress in the developed world. If you’re stressed out because you’re finding it tough to get from one month to the next, you’re certainly not alone. The good news is that there are lots of ways you can cut household costs and get more for less. If you’re looking to boost your budget and alleviate money worries, here are some straightforward solutions to try now. 

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Reducing your monthly bills
Even if you have a stable income, it can be difficult to make your monthly paycheck stretch far enough. Most of us have a list of outgoings, which takes up the majority of our salary. If you’re left with virtually nothing after you’ve paid your bills, there are ways to try and get more for less and to reduce spending. 

Take a look at what you spend each month, and aim to bring each figure down. Start with your energy bills. Are you paying too much to heat your home or keep your TV running? The first thing to do if you can’t afford your bills is try and bring them down. There are many ways of reducing energy usage, including swapping older appliances and light bulbs for modern, energy-efficient versions and making a concerted effort to save energy at home. You don’t need to have the lights on all the time or the TV, a DVD player, a games console, hair styling tools and portable heaters running at the same time. Use what you need, and try and be more frugal. If you don’t already have one, it may be a good idea to invest in a smart meter. Smart meters are designed to provide you with a visual display, which shows you how much energy you’re using and how much money you’re spending. If the figures are abnormally high, this may alert you to the fact that you left appliances running, and it may also encourage you to try and use less energy. If you can see the numbers, you may make more of an effort to cut your usage, just like people who count steps are more likely to be more active. 

The second way you can try and decrease your energy bills is shopping around for a better deal. Have you been with the same energy provider for years? Do your bills seem to be going up even though you’re trying to use less energy? If you have been with the same company for a long time, there’s every chance that you could be missing out on incentives and cheap electricity plans offered by competitors. Have a look online and compare prices and contact your current provider to see if they would match deals from other firms in a bid to keep you on board. It may also be possible to switch to a different tariff to lower costs. If you’re out all day, for example, it’s best to have a tariff with lower unit prices in the evening. Many of us tend to assume that switching provider is a hassle, but most companies will handle the process for you.

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Switching energy company is not the only way to make a dent in your monthly bills. You can also use the same measures to try and lower other bills. If you have an insurance premium that is due for renewal, for example, don’t just ignore the letter or email and automatically roll your policy over. Check the new quote and then go online and see if you could get more for your money. This applies to everything from home and health insurance to pet and auto insurance. It’s also worth comparing prices for TV, broadband and cell phone packages.

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Saving on getting around
Are you spending half your wages on actually getting to work? The cost of commuting can really eat into your monthly budget, but there are ways of saving money on getting from A to B. If you drive every day and you’re forking out for gas and parking, consider approaching colleagues about sharing lifts or talking to your boss about a scheme, such as a carpool program, which could save everyone money. If you’re only driving twice a week and getting lifts the other days, for example, this could save you a huge amount over the course of the month. Other options may include walking or cycling to work if you’re only covering a short distance. Some employers are really keen to promote cleaner ways of commuting, so speak to your manager about making this a more appealing option. You may find that you’re more inclined to cycle if there are showers at work or you have more flexible working hours that mean that you don’t have to be at the office at the crack of dawn, for example. If you use public transport, you can almost always save by bulk-buying tickets or getting a frequent travel card that reduces the risk of single journeys. A monthly pass for the train or tram, for example, should cost you less than paying for a ticket every day.

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Eat well for less
How much do you spend on a weekly grocery shop? Most households spend a substantial amount of money on food. In the US, for example, the average household spends 6 percent of their income on shopping and a further 5 percent on eating out. Food is an essential item, but you don’t have to spend a lot to eat well. There are lots of ways you can reduce the cost of food shopping without compromising on quality or taste. The first thing to do if you’re one of those people who fill their cart with all sorts of things you don’t need because they’re on special offer, is start shopping online. If you’ve got a list, a virtual cart in the top corner and a running total, it’s much easier to make sure you buy what you need and stick to a budget. When you’re not in the store, it’s easier to swerve discounts and avoid temptations. Shopping with a list also helps to prevent overspending.

If you don’t like the sound of buying groceries online, avoid visiting the store when you’re hungry, stick to the items on your list and add up as you go so you don’t get an unpleasant surprise at the checkout. If you’re buying meat or fish, look for deals on frozen food, as these products tend to be a lot cheaper. You can also save money by buying foods that are close to the best before date and visiting towards the end of the day when prices fall.

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When you’re doing your weekly shop, it’s a fantastic idea to buy items you can take to work with you. Make sandwiches, wraps and salads the night before and don’t stop at the coffee shop every morning. Instead, boil the kettle and have a cup of coffee at your desk. The average American spends over $1,000 per year on takeout coffees, and in London, employees spend an average of over £6 per day on lunch.

Shopping online is not just a good way to save money on food. It can also help you gain access to offers on everything from clothing and gifts to electrical items. If you’ve got a particular present in mind or you’ve chosen a specific make and model of TV, for example, use the Internet to find the lowest prices.

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Affordable socializing
Many of us want to spend time with friends, but socializing can blow the budget. Nights out, meals, activity days and weekends away all cost money, and if you’re trying to save, invitations can become an unwelcome temptation. If you’re struggling to keep up, there are lots of ways you can spend time with family and friends without breaking the bank. If you enjoy eating out, but you can’t afford to keep going to restaurants, start a supper club or host an evening in and ask everyone to bring something with them. If you love going to the movies, but your film habit is costing you too much, invite friends or your other half over for a movie night or go to a drive-in cinema and split the cost of entrance for a car between you. Swap drinks at a bar or a club for a dinner party at home and split the cost of a rental home or a home-swap between you instead of paying for expensive hotels if you’re going away for a couple of days.

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Do you wish you had a bit more money left over at the end of the month? Do you spend almost all your income on basic living costs? Many of us would love to have a little extra to treat ourselves and those closest to us. The good news is that there are lots of ways you can save money and try and make your salary stretch further. Take a look at your monthly budget and consider how you could reduce spending. Compare prices to save on energy bills, insurance and shopping costs, try and be more disciplined when it comes to energy usage at home and consider cheaper ways of commuting. Prioritize what you need over what you want, embrace online shopping and prepare lunches to take with you to work. If you’re on a saving drive, talk to your friends about trying to save on socializing and try out some different, more purse-friendly activities. All these minor changes will make a huge difference come the end of the month. 

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