Managing Debt

6 Simple Ways to Stretch Your Income

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Ever sat and thought about all the things you could do if you had more money? You’re not alone.

But when it comes down to it, there’s probably very little spare change lying around. So, the first step is to figure out where you stand in terms of disposable income and make spending cuts.

But deprivation is not the answer. If you’re hungry, eat. It doesn’t make sense to starve yourself and justify it by saying that you need to save money. You get my point.

Here are a few realistic ideas to help you get started:

1. Stop Swiping

Is your debit card getting you into trouble? Perhaps your balance is being dinged by overdraft fees, or maybe impulse buys mean you run out of money before your bills are paid.

If so, put away the card and use cash instead. Also, take care of yourself and your household first before you tend to any other nonessential items.

If the credit cards are a problem, put them where you can’t easily get at them, and pay off the balance due. Call the credit card company and see if it will work out a repayment plan for you.

2. Say Goodbye to Dining on the Fly

Way too painful to do? Well, you may have to do so at least temporarily until you make cuts elsewhere or increase your income, because this area is arguably the most common budget buster of them all.

When was the last time you sat down and crunched the numbers to see how much you really spend on food? If the number is relatively low, kudos to you. But I can assure you that this isn’t the case for most of us. If it were, a number of dining establishments would be out of business.

I completely understand that prepping food at home can be quite time-consuming, but it can also save you a ton of cash. Isn’t that the objective here? To help streamline the process, set a weekly budget for food and use a meal planner that incorporates coupons. Also, cook large portions and don’t be afraid to put the microwave to use the following day.

3. Bring the Party Home

We all need to unwind on occasion, some more than others. But if you’re going to dig yourself in a hole doing so, that’s no fun. Instead, save yourself the heartache and have your pals bring over a covered dish, their beverage of choice, and their favorite board game.

4. Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

It may be time to have a utility audit done to determine what’s driving up the monthly bill. Also, do you really need a cable box in every room, if any at all? Netflix and online television are always an option. And as for your well-manicured lawn, is there a way you can cut back on the number of services per month or do it yourself?

Renting a place and the lease agreement is due to expire soon? You may want to consider downsizing to give your pockets a break. But be sure to weigh the costs of moving and doling out cash for a security deposit against the benefits of a lower monthly payment.

5. Park Your Ride

Give your car a break and tag along with someone else. Not only is this less stressful because of the convenient HOV lanes, but much cheaper. You can also walk or ride your bicycle to work if your residence is in close proximity to your place of employment to cut costs and stay fit.

And while you’re at it, if your car is eating up a large chunk of your monthly income, you may want to look into finding a cheaper alternative.

6. And for All Your Other Expenses …

Depending on how severe the situation is, you may have to cut out a ton of other lovely little pleasures that I haven’t mentioned.

Need a few ideas? Let’s start by shaving down the hair and spa appointments, trips to the car wash and late-night runs to the convenience store for your favorite snacks. Once you implement these cuts, you will more than likely be able to make your income work for you and even save a little cash while doing so.

This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.

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