Managing a Household Budget on Low Income
Living on a limited amount of money each week for your family can be difficult. Add in a failing economy or a jobs shortage and it becomes doubly so. Trying to decide how to get your family by on a limited budget isn't easy. While life can present these hardships to you, do be aware that there are help and resources available to you. These resources can either help directly with paying your expenses, or provide you with the information you need to become more financially independant.
1. Examine the expenses in your family. Keep a record of your electric bills, water bills, heating bills, mortgage or rent, car payments, insurance, medical bills, and grocery costs. Then, compare the total of these bills with the income of the household. Make sure that the expenses are not greater than the available income. If there is more money going out than coming in, make a list of the bills that are your top priorities. This might include items like mortgage payments and utilities, and then food. Then, find other ways to bring in extra income for the family.
2. Take a tough look at optional or luxury services and items in your budget. For example, you could cut back on optional items like movie channels on your cable bill, and live with basic cable until you are able to afford the additional cost. Similarly, cancel any extra cellphone, home phone or Internet services. You could purchase phone cards or prepaid cell phones to reduce phone expenses, and keep the payment amounts predictible. You could also use the Internet from your local library, or find cheaper Internet provider if absolutely needed work or school. Consider a bundled package where you can subscribe to phone, Internet, and television at an overall lower price.
3. Before you shop, create a pre-planned menu the week. Planning the menu ahead of time ensures that you'll only buy the food items you need for the next week. Also, browse coupons and sale ads to find out where you can get the lowest priced items to create those meals. If you are having difficulty affording food for your family, contact your area food pantries. Click here for more food resources.
4. Cut back on the amount of electricity and natural gas you use. Keep your thermostat around sixty eight degrees in the winter, and 78 degrees in the summer. In the winter, use extra blankets and wear warm clothing around the house. Use energy efficient light bulbs, like compact fluorescents and always turn off the lights when you leave the room. Learn more about the LIHEAP program and the Federal Weatherization Program. LIHEAP is a grant program that helps lower income families with their electric and gas bills. The Federal Weatherization program helps you both financially and technically with improving the energy efficiency of your home.
5. Shop at thrift stores for items like clothing and baked goods. Also be sure to check all of the garage sales in your area as well. Second hand clothing shops often carry great brand name or quality clothing at very low prices. See this article for a handy tool to help find a local bakery thift store.
6. Save all of your loose coins and change in a jar. Place those pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in a "fun jar". Don't forget to check in between the cushions of the couch, around the area where you do your laundry, and old coat pockets in the closet. When the jar is full ( or almost full ) , your family can use this for a treat of some kind. Maybe a movie, dinner out, or some item that the family would love.