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10 tips: How to cut cost, stretch budget dollars pt 2

8. Cut your bills down [ cut waste ].

Sounds easy enough right: Just cut your bills.

I have always heard financial gurus tell the general public that all you need to do is cut down on your expenses. It’s a simple principal – you can’t deny that. I just never found a guru who actually told me how to do it. I mean in basic terms. You know? If I am totally broke living on the minimum, how can I cut my expenses – all I have is the Bills. You know – food bill, electric bill, water bill, cable bill, car bill [ payment] and so forth. How do I cut my expenses when I need to eat, I need electricity to keep the food I need to eat. I need my car to go to work in order to pay for the food I need to eat and so forth. How can you help me with that?
Well, I am no Financial Guru, but I can share with you what I have done to cut down the bills [ expenses ].

A.Food bill: you need to it, no doubt about that. So what did I do, I started couponing, I learned what local store had 2 for one deals and I visited those stores. I learn to buy the essentials and to figure out what was needed and do away with the extras. It sounds trivial, but I saved $101 dollars in one trip to the grocery store and I feed a family of four. Sometimes I save $60 dollars or $70 dollars – but it’s money I am keeping in my pocket. One particular grocery chain gives you money back on the purchase of gas for your car. Every penny counts right?

B.Electric Bill: if you are like most Americans you have a large electric bill. How do you cut down that, you’re not going to live in the dark right? No, but if you look around your house you are going to find that your home is filled with electronic devices. You have one or several TV’s, coffee maker, VCR, DVD player, clock radio and more. All of those devices use electricity even when you turn them off. My wife did not believe me, but when you unplug your TV you usually hear this faint “swoosh” sound – that is because the electronics in your TV is on to keep timers and other components working. So what I have done is, I put many of my electronic devices on surge protectors, and when we go to bed or go out I turn the surge protector off so there is absolutely no use of electricity. I unplug the coffee machine and so forth – really, why does my VCR have a digital clock, I don’t even set it because most people don’t even use it.

C.Electric bill: Air conditioner. I put the Air conditioner is a separate category because I live in Florida and it gets hot. You might live in the mid-west and it gets cold so the heater might be your problem. But this is what I realized. In the winter when it’s cool the air conditioner doesn’t go on as much and my electric bill comes very low. In the summer when it is hot – my bill comes very high. Why? Easy enough answer: usage. What we have started doing is: using more of the fans in my home – they are there so why not use them to circulate the air with less electricity and we set the air conditioner at a comfortable setting. I cannot speak for you but do you really need your house to be 30 below? My wife use to drive me crazy, she would make it cold in the house and then she would cover herself with a thick heavy blank to watch TV, Hello?

D.Water bill: I admit, I have a relatively small water bill. But, like the old saying goes a penny saved is a penny earned… Plus, I like to think I am conserving water and saving the planet and all that. So when it comes to cutting your water you can do the basics – fix any leaks, conserve water when you use it, buy a toilet that uses less water [ buy as in invest for long term benefit ]. Another one is, if you have a washer in your home, wash all your clothing together. My mother in-law is notorious for washing small piles of cloths every single day – she kills me when she visits.

E.Cable TV: now this one is tough. We went the extreme route. I got upset at my cable company and decided just to go without TV for awhile. You have to understand, I love watching TV, so it was difficult. But when I got my cable back [ thank God ] we took the package that best suited us. After all why pay for 3,000 channels of TV if you only have five that you watch day in and day out. Do you really need HBO, TNT, NetFlix, pay-per-view and all those other channels? Reduce your bill from say $100 to $70 and save the $30 dollar difference.

I could go on but I am not sure if you [ the reader ] would even care, like I said I don’t want to write a novel, just give some helpful tips.

7. Cut Cost as a family

Now here is an interesting tip: cut cost as a family.

Nothing destroys a plan faster than having one person in your group, office, business, and or family work contrary to your goals. What good is it to work hard on saving money, cutting cost if the people who live in the same home with you let the water run, never turn lights off, want to eat out every day and or do not understand what your trying to accomplish.

Besides, what better way to get something done – than by working together.
You may not be like me, I have a family of four and sometimes getting everyone on the same page can be extremely difficult. Especially with kids – hey believe every time you walk into a store your there to buy them something.

If you are in a financial crunch – don’t hide it from the kids or the spouse. Nothing good will come off it. Besides, they will find out eventually [ especially if someone drives off with the car – like say the repo guy... ] . It may be a tough subject to deal with and when it comes to kids – I understand – my daughter asked me once: Dad, are we poor? I was hurt, embarrassed, we weren’t but money was tight, she was just a kid back then. She didn’t know that we were struggling and that is why she assumed the worst.

Trust me, it just makes it easier. A family that works together – stays together and prospers together. It’s like recycling and my son. Grandpa came to stay with us for a while and he was really into recycling. He soon had us separating plastic bottles, tin cans and cardboard. The next thing I knew my son was helping him and even riding bike with grandpa [ a more than 2 mile ride ] to take the recyclables to the recycling bins.

You would be surprised: instead of the kids asking me why I don’t buy them this or that – when money is tight – the kids say to each other things like “ Don’t ask, dad doesn’t have the money right now” or “No not now, we need to save for this first”. It’s amazing. Ofcourse kids are kids and they forget, but don’t we all. That is why working together will help you save more money – because when your weak your partner will encourage you, when they are weak, you encourage them. Together things get done with less stress and less struggle.

6. Sacrifice something
Sacrifice can mean anything: I personally try to sacrifice impulse buying. You know, you walk in to a store or plan on doing something and instead of waiting you immediately act.

ie. We were planning our spring break camping vacation and while it is a good idea to reserve your lot ahead of time, my wife got upset at me because I told her to wait. Why wait? Because I wanted to wait until next payday to pay the down payment so I do not mess up any current plans I have set up for our money [ for bills, gas, emergency etc. ]. I know that she was upset that we might not have a spot available but considering that the camping trip was still almost 2 months away, I felt like I had time. After all I get paid next week- she can wait, we can wait.

So, the goal is to sacrifice: give up buying an expensive $5 dollar cup of cappuccino mocha chocolate cup of coffee every day. Give up cable if that is what you need to do. I know you are surprised – sacrifice? Why would I give up my cable? Well, if you can’t afford your bills and they cut off your cable anyway, what difference does it make? Wouldn’t it be better to cut the cable off when you decide and save that money than have a bill rack up, get cut off and then your scrambling to fix your credit?

You should try to sacrifice on luxury. Yes, luxury. If you’re cutting down on bills as #8 suggest, then it’s time to look at where you’re spending your money and cut that too. “Oh, but why rob me of the only few pleasures I have?” No, you can still treat yourself once in a while – just don’t make it an everyday thing. The goal is to cut your expenses and stretch your budget dollars because you’re in financial need: so do you sacrifice as in “I have the money to buy this but I won’t” or do you wait for “I wish I could buy this but I have no money”. Which option would you prefer?

I have a friend who taught me this lesson. He got into a bit of a financial bind, we all did when the economy went bust, but he decided to sacrifice in order to scrap up some cash for a family vacation. He realized that his baby, his sweet lovable 15 passenger van that he used to take his family everywhere was too much. He already had a mini-van he used to carry the family around. So he sold the van, got himself a decent used [ nice looking ] Truck and saved himself a lot of money. He no longer had a van payment – the money he received from the sale of the van was enough to purchase the truck clean with no monthly payments. The insurance was a little bit lower than the van, the amount of gas he used for the van dropped dramatically for the truck. All in all, he misses his van, it was his baby – but financially, this was better for him in the end.

So sacrifice, what is it that you have or do that is draining you financially that for now, while things are tough – you can do with-out?

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