Learning to create and stick to a budget requires some thought, preparation, and discipline. Stretching your money doesn’t have to be terribly difficult, but it can require a certain level of trial and error.
Whether you’re looking to pay off your debts or just start building your savings, learning to stretch your money is an important skill to have at your disposal. Let’s take a look at a few simple ways you can make the most of your paychecks.
1. Eat at home
Grocery shopping and cooking can both be tedious, but once you get good at them you can save yourself a ton of money each month by eating in. When cooking for one or two, it’s going to take some practice to fine-tune your shopping, storage, and meal-prep skills to make sure you aren’t allowing groceries to go to waste.
If you absolutely must order takeout, be smart about it. While convenient, third-party delivery services like Uber Eats and Seamless, tend to charge additional transaction and delivery fees. Keep the use of apps like these to an absolute minimum, and when using them be sure to keep your eyes peeled for promotions, discounts, and restaurants offering zero-fee deliveries. Better yet, avoid delivery entirely—it’s more cost-effective order food directly from the restaurant and pick it up yourself. You might be surprised to find that a meal that would cost $30 through an app might cost as little as half that when picked up directly.
2. Forget about your credit cards
Pay off your credit cards and then just stop using them (but keep them open!). While using your credit is important for boosting your credit score, it can be counterproductive for the purpose of saving money.
When buying things on credit, you might put an unnecessary strain on your finances by purchasing things you can’t actually afford or might not need without realizing. By dealing exclusively in cash, you’ll be much more cognizant of where your money is going and less likely to engage in frivolous spending.
Credit card debt (or any debt, really) comes with the risk of artificially inflating the price of your purchases. If you overextend yourself and can’t pay your balance, you’re automatically overpaying for your original purchase in the form of interest and late fees. You can avoid this entirely by buying everything outright with cash.
3. Reevaluate your monthly expenses and subscriptions
Consider everything you get automatically billed for each month. The first things that come to mind might be cable and internet, car insurance, your cell phone, and subscription streaming services.
Obviously, you aren’t going to forego having a cell phone in the interest of saving money, but definitely stop to take a look at your plan. Are you paying for features that you don’t use? Examine plans from other providers to see if you can get a better deal. The same goes for your car insurance. It’s often quick, painless, and free to get an insurance quote online.
As for entertainment, drop streaming services that you rarely or never use. Make sure you aren’t paying for a cable package that includes channels and services that don’t interest you. If you don’t watch TV a lot, it might even be cheaper to cut out cable entirely and pay for just internet and streaming services.