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How to Squeeze More Out Of Your Budget

Mar 01, 2017 - Posted by: Kelly Fleiner

Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  In fact according to the Financial Security Index, 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. So if you consider yourself to be one of the currently 76% and wondering how to squeeze the most out of your budget, this post is right up your alley. The first step for many people in that 76% is to put your budget under the microscope to identify what expenses are important and what is not. By doing this, you can learn how to prioritize the things that matter and cast away everything that does not. Below are a few ideas. Some may apply to you and some may not. But the idea of this blog post is to help you understand how small changes can make a big impact on your financial health. 

Expense Cutting Ideas

Cable TV

Do you really need that epic cable package, or could that be trimmed down a bit? Ask yourself why you have cable. Is it for sports, exclusive content, news, etc.? If you are in it for the news, good news (no pun intended!) - you can just go online for it! And that exclusive content is often not so exclusive, as you can find it on other websites and services that are, more often than not, a better value than an expensive cable package.

Mobile Phone Plans

What about your cell phone plan?  There is always a cheaper option out there.  Look at the pay as you go options, limit the amount of data in your plan, etc. Everything you can do to cut out unnecessary expenditures on your cell phone plan will make a pretty big dent overall.

Turn Down The Heat

Even a single degree of heat loss could save a non-trivial amount of money in your monthly bill, and you are not likely to notice.

Eating Out

How much do you eat out - and be honest now! Eating out can take a big chunk out of your budget. Try limiting yourself to three or four meals out a month. If you know how to do it, cooking is an awesome way to cut your food budget even further, as very often buying the ingredients and making your own homemade food is cheaper than buying the products ready to eat

Your Caffeine Fix

Do you have a daily coffee habit?  As much as you might enjoy your caffeine fix, it is a sneaky expenditure that you very often forget about. Try brewing your own coffee and using that cute travel mug that has been sitting in the cupboard for a while. The coffee that you make at home is just as good as the stuff that you can buy at the Starbucks or McDonald's, but at a fraction of the cost. Maybe invest in a single cup coffee maker so you don't have to brew a whole pot for a couple cups. 

Take Control of Your Bills

To start, analyze the whole picture when it comes to your finances.  Look at your budget, your bills, and your spending habits. Tweak the process when needed. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get your monthly bills in order.

Prioritize Bills

You should prioritize your bills - figure out exactly which bill is most important, which bill is least important, and which bills you could ultimately do without. Obviously the home you live in, your transportation, and education should be at the top of the list. After this, you work backward from there.

Pay Off Credit Cards

Get those high interest credit cards paid off as soon as you can or look for alternative credit cards with lower interest rates. Freedom from credit card debt can be a huge boon for eliminating unwanted expenditures from a person's budget, especially allowing these regular expenses to linger only worsens them. The sooner the credit cards are paid off, the sooner you can get on track (just make sure that you do not go down the same dangerous path!).

Online Bill Pay

Pay your bills online.  They usually get applied right away, and as  such you are not waiting for a check to clear your account.

Stay On Top Of Your Credit Score

When was the last time you checked your credit report? will give you your report for free.  Check up on it and see if there is anything reporting that should not be. There could be something on your credit report costing you money in interest that you do not know about.

Improve Your Savings and Spending Habits

Planning for the future will help you save for things that you want to purchase.  Saving for a few months is better for you than buying with a credit card and telling yourself you will pay it off (only to make the mistake of forgetting about it, or otherwise neglecting your payments). Here are some other savings tips to consider:

Start Small

Small savings can add up and add up fast. Even a little bit put away every week can help. Five dollars a week does not seem like much, but it will when you have saved 250+ dollars by year's end. And once you are doing better financially, you can put away 10 dollars, and then 20, and watch just how much of a savings you have created.

Take Advantage of Price Matching

Price match, price match, price match.  It might call attention to you, but being a price matcher is perfectly okay! Places like Target and Shopko not only allow it, but in fact encourage it.

Control Gift Spending

Limit your gift spending.  Set up expectations with family and friends early on so you are not breaking your budget for a birthday present or Christmas. That way, you do not overspend, and you do not get more value than you are giving.

Automate Your Savings

Set up auto transfers into your savings account every time you get paid.  This works the best when you cannot see the account you are using for savings.

Employer Savings Programs

Take advantaged of matched savings in your employer sponsored retirement program.  If you do not, you are leaving free money on the table!

Additional Tips

On a final note, we have sa few additional tips and tricks for you. 

  • Try saving your loose change.  I have a mason jar at home to collect loose change and when it's full it is about $75. Just like putting five dollars away per week, putting a handful of change into the jar whenever you can adds up pretty quickly.
  • Track your spending. Whether it's electronically or on actual paper.  The more you track, the more control you have over your finances.
  • Try not to purchase anything on impulse.  I get it - it is tough - but if you limit yourself to what is on your list, you can greatly cut your spending.

Start analyzing your spending and tracking what you purchase.  This will help you squeeze the most out of your budget and you will be amazed at how quickly it happens.  I hope you enjoy these tips and can apply some of them to your every day life!

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