Many people are finding it necessary to stretch the family budget and cut back on spending to reduce their cost of living, pay their bills and put a few dollars in their savings account. Reducing the cost of living requires some compromises, some cutbacks and some more affordable choices. To reduce your cost of living, start with the basics – food, clothing and shelter – and continue from there.
It isn’t that difficult to cut back on your family’s food expenses. Buy on sale, buy in bulk, use coupons, choose foods that can be stretched into several meals and make good use of your leftovers. Eliminate that trip to the coffee shop every morning. Brew your own coffee at home and invest in a good travel mug for the road. Take your lunch to work rather than grabbing an expensive sandwich or salad from the food truck. Prepare your children’s lunches for school to save on cafeteria expenses. Limit your dining out and take-out to special occasions.
Cut back on buying new clothes and accessories. Good quality clothing and accessories for your entire family can be found at tag sales, church sales, consignment and thrift shops. Invest in a sewing machine and make your own clothes. Depending on your income level, many towns offer free clothing to families in need. Check out your local social services agencies and religious organizations for help.
Many communities are sponsoring programs similar to The Princess Project started in California. That program provides gowns and accessories to high school girls free of charge to wear to their school prom. Other national organizations such as The Women’s Alliance are also popping up in many areas to provide both professional clothing and career skills training to needy women in an effort to encourage self-sufficiency.
Another good way to reduce cost of living expenses is to cut back on your monthly rental or mortgage payments. If your monthly payments are too high for your income, move to a lower rent, a more affordable home or a less affluent neighborhood. If you own your own home, consider renting a room or two out for the extra income. Check your local zoning regulations first.
If you commute to work, join a carpool to save on gasoline expenses and wear and tear on your vehicle. If your commute is a long one, consider moving closer to your workplace. If you live close to work, consider walking or riding a bicycle to work. If you drive a gas-guzzling vehicle or one that constantly needs repairs, consider replacing it with a less costly, more efficient one.
If possible, work from home. Many companies are flexible and allow their employees to telecommute. This works especially well for employees with young children so they can avoid expensive day care and for employees who live far from work and can’t afford the expenses of a long commute.
Look into alternative home heating and energy sources that may save you some money. During the winter months close off rooms not in use. Unplug appliances and turn off lights when not in use. Make sure your furnace, water heater and major appliances are energy-efficient. Insulate your home. Repair or replace drafty doors and windows. Cut back on heat and air conditioning as much as possible. Contact your phone, cable and Internet providers to get the least expensive package that meets your needs.
Do as much of your own housework, laundry, home maintenance, car repairs, day care and yard work as you can. Hiring outside professionals can be very costly. You can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars a year by doing the work yourself.
To reduce your cost of living you will need to make some changes in your spending and lifestyle habits. You will need to conserve resources where possible, cut back on unnecessary spending and consider more affordable options. You may have to forfeit your present cell phone or cable TV plan. You may have to go with movie rentals rather than trips to the local theater where popcorn costs as much as a homemade meal. With some belt-tightening and a diligent effort to curb expenses, you can easily reduce your cost of living, gain better control over your life and enjoy a great sense of personal satisfaction.