Do you count every day until payday arrives? Are those last few days always a struggle? If this is a familiar scenario, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle to get by on a regular basis. Not having enough money to do what you want can be frustrating, but if you can’t cover the essentials, life can soon become very difficult. From time to time, we all have those expensive months when it seems like we’re constantly spending. If this has become a pattern, however, it’s time to do something about it and to learn how to cope when life gets too expensive.
Dealing with household costs
Whether you rent or own a home, there are costs you have to cover every month. You’ll need to factor in a rent or mortgage payment, your bills, and the money you’ll pay out on food, getting around and keeping your home in good repair. Sometimes, it’s impossible to reduce bills, for example, your mortgage or rent will be a set payment. However, in other cases, it may be viable to bring the cost of living down.
Have you ever sat down, got your phone out, and added up how much you spend on monthly bills? If you have, the total you’re presented with may come as a shock. Even if you have a no-frills TV package or you’re on a basic phone contract, costs can soon add up. Whatever figure you get, it’s almost always possible to reduce it. Even if you can only bring that number down slightly, you could make huge savings over a period of time.
Lowering your energy bills
Start with your energy bills. How much are you paying each month for electricity and gas? Would you like to bring the sum down? If so, there are two things you can do. Firstly, you can try and use less energy. You can make your home more efficient, and try and save more energy on a daily basis. Using a smart meter is beneficial because it shows you how much energy you’re using at any given time. If the figure is higher than anticipated, you can attempt to reduce it by keeping the lights off when you’re not using them, showering instead of bathing, making sure you fill up the washing machine and dishwasher and switching old appliances for new, smart technology. The second thing you can do is fire up your laptop and check out energy comparison sites. Doing this enables you to see the deals offered by different suppliers in your area. You can tailor your results based on your current usage and your location. You may think that there’s no point in switching, but actually, there may be significant variation in rates and fees. Many energy providers reserve their best prices for new customers to outperform the competition, so if you do change, you could get a really good deal.
Paying less for entertainment
Are you paying for channels you never watch? Are you overspending on broadband? If you’re keen to trim down your monthly outgoings, think about what you need, what you want, and what you’re not fussed about. There’s no point in having hundreds of channels if you never watch them or paying for super-fast broadband if all you do is send a few emails and check Facebook once a day. If you do want everything you’re currently paying for, see if other providers can offer you a better price for the bundle. As a new client, you may be able to take advantage of introductory offers.
If you don’t pay a flat fee for water, it’s advisable to try and reduce the amount of water you use to lower your bills. Taking a shower uses much less water than having a bath. It’s also helpful to turn the taps off when you’re brushing your teeth and to fill a bowl full of water to do the washing up, rather than leaving the water running. If you’re conscious about rising water bills, keep an eye on the clock when you’re showering. Sometimes, after a long day, it’s nice to have a long shower, but you only really need to stay in there for 5 or 10 minutes.
Eating for less
We need food to survive, but most of us are guilty of loading our trolleys with items that we really don’t need and may not even use. Those 3 for 2 offers that draw us in usually result in us wasting food and money. Try and be disciplined when you go shopping, and avoid throwing things in that aren’t on the list. Visit the store close to closing time to get discounts on bread, fish, and meat and don’t be afraid to swap fresh produce for frozen. It’s much cheaper, and it still provides you with the same vitamins and minerals. Collect vouchers, and don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. If you’re hungry, you’re much more likely to spend more.
When you’re tired, and you don’t have the energy to cook you may reach for the phone and order a takeout. You may think that this is a cheap option, but if you add up the cost of eating out or ordering in over the course of the month, you might be surprised at the total. Cooking at home works out much cheaper, especially if live with friends or you have a family. If you do find it tough to muster up the enthusiasm to cook when you get home, search online for 15-minute recipes or defrost meals that you’ve made at the weekend. You can create salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches, wraps, and plates of meat and vegetable stir fry in no time at all. Cooking will save you money, and it’s also a healthier option in most cases.
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Learning to budget
Learning to budget is a really useful skill. Many of us have months that are more expensive than others, and budgeting enables us to identify areas where we could save to cover those extra expenses. If you’ve got an eye on your finances at all times, this can help you control spending and prevent debt. When you’re budgeting, add everything you normally pay on a monthly basis plus additional costs you expect to incur in the month ahead. Are you going to a wedding, for example? If so, you may need to incorporate a hotel stay, a gift, and some spending money for drinks on the day. If you know you’ve got a deficit, you can try and save in other areas. You could reduce your food bill that month, for example.
Socialising on a budget
If you like to go out for meals, see new releases at the movies or enjoy a night on the tiles at the weekend, the cost of socialising can soon add up. You can easily spend £50 in a night if you’re out at a fancy restaurant or you’re going to a bar for drinks with the girls. If you don’t have the funds to do this, consider cheaper social activities. Instead of going out for food, stay in. You could cook a meal, get some drinks in and split the cost. You could have a DVD night at home instead of going to the cinema or set yourself a budget when you go out. Instead of ordering cocktail after cocktail, pace yourself, have just a couple of drinks, and then switch to soft drinks. It’s also worth checking out websites that offer vouchers for restaurants and hotels. If you can’t keep up with your friends, be open and honest with them. Ask if you can try some cheaper places or swap expensive days out for inexpensive activities like a day at the beach or a picnic at the park. If they’re true friends, they’ll understand, and they’ll do everything they can to help you out. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, as long as you’ve got good company.
Covering unexpected costs
We all dread that moment when the car starts making screeching noises, or the boiler stops working. Sometimes, we get hit by unexpected costs. If you are able to save each month or even transfer a bit of money to a savings account now and again, this can really help with costs that come out of the blue. If you don’t have any savings, and you need money, consider your options carefully before making a decision. It may be possible to borrow from a family member or friend or to take out a small loan from the bank. If you do take out a loan, seek advice first, and make sure you can cover the cost of the monthly repayments.
We all have moments when we panic about money. If you’re finding it tough to survive on your salary from month to month, hopefully, these tips will help you spend less, save more, and get back on an even keel. Try and identify savings you can make at home, cut back on social activities, and keep track of spending with a monthly budget.
*This is a collaboration post