Unless you’re planning to move to a new and more expensive city, you probably don’t give much thought to the cost of maintaining your lifestyle – or your personal “cost of living.” But your cost of living can change without a cross-country move. You might buy a car that’s more expensive than your last one. Or you might start spending more on clothes or electronics or dining out.
Often times, these upgrades are rewards we give ourselves when our income goes up, such as after receiving a raise at work. But sometimes our expenses and spending creep up without a corresponding increase in income. This can be due to lifestyle choices, such as buying a larger home with a more expensive mortgage payment, or factors that are completely outside of your control, like inflation. Either way, if your living expenses are rising faster than your income, you may need to make some adjustments to get your finances back on track.
Lower Home and Work Expenses
Many of your living expenses are fixed. But you still may be able to find some cost-cutting opportunities. Here are some suggestions:
- Pack a lunch to take to work and bring drinks from home.
- Lower your utility bills by turning down the thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer.
- Replace broken appliances with energy-efficient models. (You might spend more initially, but you’ll realize long-term savings.)
- Use energy-saving lightbulbs and programmable thermostats.
- Save on transportation costs (and be environmentally friendly) by walking, riding your bike, or carpooling to work.
- Shop around for deals on a cell phone, cable and Internet service.
- Shop carefully when doing home improvements. Get multiple quotes to ensure you are getting the best price.
Shave Interest Payments
Reducing your debt means you’ll pay less interest. Following these suggestions can make a big difference over time:
- Think twice about buying non-essential.
- Leave your credit cards at home and pay with a debit card or cash.
- Pay off credit card balances one at a time, beginning with the card with the highest interest rate. Alternatively, see if you can consolidate your debts on one credit card with a low-interest rate.
- Pay yourself first by building up an emergency fund to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses.
Reduce Food Spending
You have to eat, and eating well helps promote good health. Still, there are some opportunities to save money. Here are a few:
- Make a grocery list and stick to it.
- Don’t take the kids food shopping (if possible).
- If you go out to eat, try ordering water to drink and skipping dessert.
- Learn to cook.
- Plant a garden.
By following just a few of these simple tips, you’ll keep your spending, and the cost to maintain your lifestyle, in check.