With the economy in the doldrums, more people than ever are out of work, or dealing with a loss of income. While it can be extremely hard to budget on $2,000 a month in today's economic climate, it can be done. If you are serious about personal budgeting and making things work, follow along as we explore the black belt ways to live a fulfilling tightwad life, either permanently, or to get through a tough spot and save money.
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The first thing that you need to deal with is housing. Unless your home is paid off, you will likely be looking at a rental. Your goal is to keep your housing costs around $500 a month. This may entail using tips for budgeting that allow you to think outside the box. You might want to look at an apartment, trailer house or subsidized housing. In rural areas, there will probably be more options that are safe for children. Don't negate creative techniques like house sharing arrangements or temporarily moving in with family.
The next budget item you will pay attention to is food costs. Groceries are the number one budgeting expense after your housing costs. In some instances, groceries may exceed mortgage or rent! However, this is also the area that has the biggest potential for finding budgeting tips.
- Cut out all convenience food; cook all meals at home, and from scratch.
- Drink water; it's free.
- Look for creative ways to save, such as using a food co-op or buying in bulk.
- If you live in a metropolitan area, consider developing a coupon system. Some smart shoppers eat for almost free.
- Eat out only on special occasions, when you have the cash on hand.
Your grocery budget should be around $500 as well. If you have a small family, you can cut it down further.
Basic utilities are necessary in order to budget on $2,000 a month. You can save money on utilities, however. Here's a few easy steps.
- Heat with wood. Use the furnace only in emergencies.
- Turn your water heater temperature down, and take fewer showers. Every other day is sufficient for most people. If that doesn't work, double up. Shower with your spouse, and throw a few kids in together.
- Wash all laundry on cold, except for the whites.
- Hang out laundry on any day when the sun shines.
- Wash dishes by hand, or only run the dishwasher when it is completely full.
Having reliable transportation is advised, even when budgeting. Work needs to be completed, errands run and appointments kept. However, this doesn't have to be costly.
- Drive older vehicles, purchased used, preferably with cash.
- Do your own maintenance. Refer to your driver's handbook until you get the hang of it.
- If you live in the city, you may be able to get by just fine by using public transportation.
- Organize errands so that you take less trips per week; this will cut back on gas expenses.
- If your family can get by with only one vehicle, do it. One spouse can drop the other at work, while the vehicle is left available for the other.
Finding tips for budgeting doesn't mean that you have to live a boring and drab life. Look for creative ways to entertain your family.
- Revisit your DVD collection. See what free activities you can find online. Use what you have!
- Most towns have free entertainment possibilities. Consider things like concerts, parades and church sponsored functions.
- Picnic or hike; most areas have beautiful scenery that you are probably taking for granted.
- Grow a garden; adopt a puppy. Look for creative activities to do together.
- Use it up; wear it out; make it do; or do without!
- Keep all clothing in good condition, so you can pass it down to other children as they all grow.
- Washing frequently wears fibers faster. If it's not dirty, air it out and wear it again.
- Mending and simple repairs are easy to learn.
Getting Past Your Situation
While budgeting tips are always useful, regardless of your financial situation, nobody wants to be stuck with an income crisis forever. Actively look for ways to earn more income, and increase your skills.
- Win in the margins! It's almost always the small things that make the biggest difference.
- If both parents need to work, try to find an at home job; this will cut expenses such as daycare and transportation.
- Above all, focus on your attitude and be optimistic. A bad attitude can drag you down; a good attitude can change every part of your life for the better.
- Don't be embarrassed that you're budgeting. In fact, use it as a tool to help others. Most people, even those who appear to have it together, are deep in debt and could use a helping hand.
By nature, these suggestions are extreme. Desperate times can call for desperate measures. Your ability to get through an income crisis is largely determined by attitude. Look for the good things. Pick and choose what works for you when developing your extreme budgeting plan.
Stop using your credit card. Cut it up. Cancel it. Do whatever it takes, but get out of debt!