It’s no secret that millions of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and not having money enough beyond their own spending. According to GoBankingRates.com, some 57% of U.S. consumers have less than $1,000 in savings.
That’s simply not enough to protect against unexpected expenses like major auto or home repairs and healthcare deductibles (which by definition aren’t covered by insurance), not to mention employment status or income changes.
No matter how much you earn or how comfortable you are with basic money management concepts, you need to have a plan to address the unexpected. And, since increasing your income overnight probably isn’t realistic, that plan will necessarily rely on your ability to get your household budget in line.
Discretionary spending, or lifestyle spending, is an easy target. Use these four strategies to tighten up this portion of your budget and brighten your financial outlook.
1. Use Prepaid Cards For Budgeting
This is a modern twist on envelope budgeting, an age-old method for frugal householders. Instead of envelopes stuffed with cash, use prepaid debit cards to organize and control your expenditures.
Review up-to-date lists of the best prepaid cards on the market, then choose a card for each major discretionary category. Set a monthly spending limit for each category. When you hit the cap, you’re done spending in that category for the month.
2. Give Up Something Different Each Month
You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the concept of Lent, the 40-day period preceding Easter in the Christian calendar. (Other faiths have Lent-like traditions, too.)
During Lent, you’re supposed to forgo something that you normally can’t do without. It’s usually a material vice or guilty pleasure, like candy or alcohol. Your ability to resist temptation is a reflection of your faith, the thinking goes.
It’s also a reflection of your frugality. So why not make every month a mini-Lent? Make a list of small but potentially costly expenditures that you normally make without thinking: that morning latte, midday vending machine snack, takeout dinner. Create a calendar that finds you forgoing one such expense each month. Don’t forget to tally up your savings!
3. Cut The Cord Once And For All
Do you still have a traditional cable subscription?
Why, exactly? With all due respect to the legions of advertisers who rightly see it as a gravy train, the cable “bundle” is increasingly antiquated. Depending on your viewing proclivities, it’s likely that you can swap your bundle for an Internet-only package and a couple choice streaming service subscriptions at far lower cost.
4. Downsize Your Date Nights
Two words: stay in. Sure, it’s fun to occasionally rekindle the flame at the restaurant or theater, but the standard-issue date night is just as nice with a tub of takeout and a long movie queue.
If you’re not a homebody, that’s fine too. There are plenty of cheap or free date ideas that don’t require you to sacrifice romance to save a few bucks. Just make sure your partner is on board.
Live Outside the Moment
You’ve heard the expression, “live in the moment.” It’s sound advice for people waylaid by understandable preoccupations about what’s coming around the bend.
You don’t have to stop living in the moment to anticipate what’s coming, though. Even as you make time for life’s little pleasures, make sure you’re setting yourself and your family up for a stable financial future. Your prescience might just make it easier to live for today, tomorrow.
If you are interested in even more lifestyle-related articles and information from us here at Bit Rebels then we have a lot to choose from.