Five easy ways to spend less

Over the last couple of years families have seen most of their expenses skyrocket while income has remained flat or even declined. If more money isn’t coming in, expenses need to be cut. Fortunately, there are a few ways a family can cut back on spending without losing what’s really important.

When looking to cut expenses all family members should take a look at where they can cut back. There are a few easy ways to begin.

1. Spend less on food: Plan meals out ahead of time when going to the grocery and stick to the items on the list. Resist the temptation to impulse buy. Clip coupons out of the local weekend newspaper and match them with sale items at the store. Buy food that can be used for lunches and brown bag it to work and school instead of eating out. When it’s in season, shop the local farmer’s market for fresher produce at lower prices.

2. Spend less on utilities: Look for ways to improve energy efficiency throughout the house, such as CFL light bulbs and low flow toilets. CFLs use less electricity while putting out the same amount of light and last longer than regular bulbs. Low flow toilets use less water. During the winter, turn the thermostat down by 10-15 degrees whenever leaving the house for more than a couple of hours. Doing so can result in savings of up to 10 percent on the monthly heating bill.

3. Spend less on entertainment: Make good use of the local library to borrow books, movies or CDs rather than buying them. A nice night can still be made out of it, complete with cooking a special meal at home. If little children are in the family, take them to story time at the library rather than out for entertainment. Consider cutting back on cable or satellite TV by eliminating extra channels or features that are not regularly used. Get rid of cable completely and spend less money on a monthly subscription to an online streaming service like Hulu.

4. Spend less on insurance: Increase deductibles on insurance policies which will lower monthly payments, sometimes by as much as 10 percent. Be aware, however, this will increase out of pocket expenses if something happens and a claim needs to be made.

5. Spend less on travel: Plan vacations when tourist season is at a low point for the region. Air travel could be lower than normal and many hotels or resorts offer special packages at these times to attract travelers. This is especially easy if there are no children or if they are not in school yet because vacation time does not have to coincide with breaks from school.

Nobody likes to cut back on their spending but it becomes necessary when times are tough. By eliminating unnecessary expenses the family will be in a better position to weather the economic storm or save for a future major expense like a college education.

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