Many factors can weigh on a budget. For example, you might lose a source of income, or rising prices might mean your dollars don’t go as far as they used to. Unfortunately, you may hit a point where your budget is stretched to the breaking point, and you still aren’t covering expenses. If that sounds familiar, the following seven tips may help you get a little more stretch without anyone else realizing it.
1. Skip the Brand Names
While you may be used to grabbing name-brand products off store shelves, the store’s in-house brand is often just as good. In many cases, the two products are made in the same factory. However, store-brand products are often considerably less expensive than their brand-name counterparts, making it an excellent way to save without compromising quality.
2. Ask for Help
Even though it can be difficult to do, there is no shame in asking for help when it comes to finances. There are numerous public and private programs available for low-income households. Some will even bend or waive income restrictions if you can prove unusually high expenses, such as medical bills. Here are just a few ways you can take advantage of free assistance:
- Ask someone to help you build a budget and stay on track with it
- Learn how to apply for food stamps and other assistance programs
- Ask your school district about free before- and after-school care or pre-K options to help with childcare costs
3. Try Meal Prepping
Grocery bills seem to be growing everywhere you look, and a few trips through a fast food drive-through each week can easily take the food budget over its limits. You can often eliminate those last-minute stops by prepping dinners before you leave the house.
Meal prepping can take several forms. You can spend one day a week (or each month) chopping, dicing, and packaging your family’s meals for the freezer. However, if that seems like more than you want to take on, try working with what you have instead. Prepare dinner for the night ahead of time, so you only have to cook it once you get home. Better yet, have your crockpot do the work for you.
4. Cut Down on Unnecessary Trips
Fuel costs are rising almost everywhere, so filling your car can quickly empty your wallet. Combining trips reduces the amount of gas you need each week. If you have a set routine, like driving to and from work or dropping your kids off at school, plan stops along those routes.
5. Make the Most of Consignment Sales
Children’s consignment sales are an excellent way to stretch your clothing budget. Many allow consigners early access to the sale, so not only can you clear out your closet and make some extra cash, but you’ll also have the first choice for other’s gently used items.
6. Shop for Quality
When your budget is tight, it is easy to grab the cheapest item on the shelf every time. However, that strategy can often cost you more in the long run. After all, you tend to get what you pay for, and cheap items like clothes, furniture, and home goods generally don’t stand up to the test of time.
Instead of shopping strictly by price, look at the quality of what you buy. If you select quality items that can potentially last for decades, the value increases by not having to replace these items as regularly as their cheap counterparts.
7. Cancel Automatic Renewals
Automatic renewals are common in subscriptions but can also appear on things like insurance policies or utility contracts. Companies push them because it is easy for customers to forget about an upcoming renewal and end up with another year-long commitment. First, go through your credit card statements and find any renewals. Then, consider if you want to continue with them. If not, cancel the renewal now, so you aren’t hit with a surprise later.
A budget can only stretch so far before everyone in the house notices changes. However, strategies like swapping brands, shopping for quality, canceling unused subscriptions, and combining trips can help you cut costs without the kids catching on. It is also good to remember that help is often available if you ask for it.