For years now, people on low and medium wages have found that their income has stagnated or fallen relative to the cost of living. Today even those we consider professional people, such as teachers, have found that the economic situation, and changes in their terms of employment, have made it harder to earn a living wage.
Assuming that you do not want to change your career or take on a second job, what can you do to make ends meet? There are many ways to control your expenditure, and some of them can be quite satisfying.
Are You Paying for More Than You Get?
Many people have contracts where they are paying for more than they are using. Cell phone contracts are amongst the culprits. It is easy to get into an attractive-sounding allowance of calls and texts which you do not actually use. So have a look and see if you are getting what you pay for. If not, check when you can get out of the contract without penalty and note it in your diary.
Can You Get the Same for Less?
Take a look at your household bills. You may not be with the cheapest electricity, natural gas, or oil supplier. New deals come on the market all the time and more often than not it pays to switch.
Are you sure you are getting the cheapest gas available? It may be worth driving a little further for a few cents less per gallon. It also pays to learn the driving tricks for getting more miles to the gallon.
Can You Get More for the Same?
Interest rates on savings are lousy at present, but some are better than others. If you do have savings, keep checking to see if there are better rates available and switch. Note if the new rate is a time limited deal and make a note in your diary.
Look out for grocery coupons and use them when you can get the best deal. But don’t be tempted by bargains you don’t need.
Have You Been Auto-Renewing Your Insurance?
Don’t. You will almost always get a worse deal if you let your insurance roll over to another year. The deals to get new customers are better. When renewal comes up, find out what else is available and haggle with your insurer. If that doesn’t work, switch.
Can You Increase Your Income?
You may want to stay in your job, but can you make yourself more valuable? For instance, if you are a teacher you may want to look at teacher recertification courses. Extra qualifications can bring extra responsibilities and rewards. This is a long term goal and you need to weigh initial investment against hoped for returns over a number of years.
Can You Cut Your Debt Servicing?
If you have a mortgage, it is almost certainly the biggest financial commitment of your life. Looking at alternative deals is scary and will take a fair investment of time, but it is possible that you will find substantial savings.
How much is your credit card costing? As one of the most expensive ways to borrow, shop around to see if you can get a better deal. But don’t apply if you are likely to be turned down, as this can affect your credit rating.
Can You Cut Corners on Daily Spending?
Look at all the little ways you can cut your costs. If you are in the habit of going out regularly, cut out one of those trips in five. If you have a creative hobby, use that as a source for birthday and Christmas gifts—you may be no expert, but people will still appreciate them.
Make your own food more often; and if you do get takeaways, don’t eat more than normal because it is there—keep it for tomorrow. The same goes for that enormous restaurant pizza.
A good way to control what you spend on drinks and snacks is to decide your allowance for the month and put it in cash into a section of your purse. When it is gone, it is gone. Generally there is a lot to be said for using cash provided you keep track of it—sometimes it can even get you better deals in-store.
Make It Fun
Some people manage to make a hobby of saving money. You don’t want to become the water-cooler bore about it, but don’t be ashamed of finding imaginative ways to cut your costs. By taking a positive attitude, and by enlisting the support of family or housemates, saving can become almost as good as spending.
Joseph Baca is a 20 year veteran of the public school system, in middle school and high school settings.