Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stretch Your Paycheck

In an economic downturn, people need to do all they can to ensure that they can survive. Although it can be very difficult to maintain a certain quality of life, there are a few things you can do to still do most of the things you love doing and make your paycheck go further.
One of the easiest ways to make sure that your paycheck goes further is to cut down on an expensive beverage habit. Bottled water is extremely expensive, even if you buy a generic store brand. If you can't stand the taste of your tap water, try buying a filter system. Even the most expensive filter systems will eventually help you to save money over buying bottled water. If a filter system seems a bit too expensive, try pouring tap water into a jug and then making sure the water gets extremely cold. The temperature difference can help to mask off-flavors. Likewise, if you have a Starbucks habit, try to cut back as much as you can. Brewing your own coffee at home and taking it with you in a travel coffee cup or mug can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
Another easy way to save a bit of money is to cook from scratch and buy less prepared food. Although you might feel that your busy schedule prevents you from making fresh meals on a regular basis, several delicious dinners can be cooked in under 30 minutes, and you can always make meals ahead of time and freeze them for use later. Although it might be extremely convenient and tempting to buy rotisserie chickens and other pre-made dinners from the grocery store, you'll be able to stretch your paycheck a bit further if you don't.
Speaking of grocery shopping, there are several ways that you can stretch every dollar a little further at the grocery store. Buy as many products as you can in bulk, especially the ones that you use most often and you know will be consumed. Also, be sure to clip and use coupons as often as you can. Although most coupons that are in circulars seem to be for junk food or highly processed foods, you can still find good deals for fresh, healthy foods a majority of the time. Buying generic products and foods will also help to save a bit on your grocery bill. You'll find that there are certain brand-name products that do taste a bit better than their generic counterparts, but you shouldn't be able to tell the difference most of the time.
Even though you might be tempted to cut back so much that you eliminate entertainment expenses, this is a bad idea. Everyone needs to be entertained in some way, and taking the time to do something enjoyable and relieve stress can help you live longer and be a better person. Luckily, there are a few ways to stretch your entertainment dollar. If you are the type of person who absolutely can't live without travelling and going on vacation, an easy way to get the thrill of travelling while staying on budget is to check out the wide variety of vacation deals on websites like groupon.com, livingsocial.com and travelzoo.com.
Going out less often is also a good way to cut back a bit. This doesn't mean you can't have fun with your significant other though. Instead of going out to dinner and a movie, why not stay inside instead? You can buy steaks for a fraction of the cost you'll pay at a restaurant, and you can rent a month of movies from Netflix cheap. To save even further on entertainment, you can rent movies and books from the library for free.
If you can afford it, an easy way to make sure that you're not bleeding money every month is to try to pay your bills in lump sums. If you're only making the minimum monthly payments on your credit card or on another expense, you might be charged monthly interest or monthly fees for extending the time of your full payment. Likewise, be sure that you're not bleeding money at the bank. Several checking and savings accounts issue fees if minimum monthly standards are not met, so do your best to make sure that you don't get charged extra.
If you're really going to take a hard look at your finances, see if you can increase your insurance deductible. People who pay higher deductibles on their insurance policies pay lower premiums. Although this can backfire if you're involved in an accident or an incident where you'll have to pay more out-of-pocket, raising your deductible can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Using an insurance comparison service like Kanetix can also help you scout-out the best value in coverage.
Following some of these tips can result in a significant amount of savings over time, which might allow you to or to start putting extra money in the bank or spend on things that you refuse to compromise on. It might take a bit of time to get used to doing things a different way, but you can be sure that you'll be able to do more with your paycheck.
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