Seven Top Tips for Managing Your Day-to-Day Finances

Managing your finances can be a challenging task, particularly if you are living on a limited budget. It may seem as though you have already spent each paycheck before you even receive it. Fortunately, there are seven simple strategies you can use to more effectively manage your finances and avoid the stress of financial emergencies.

1) Forecast Income and Expenses at the Beginning of Each Month

Documenting income and expenses may seem like a common sense way to manage finances, but relatively few consumers take the time to complete this task each month. Forecasting your bills, discretionary expenses, and earnings at the beginning of each month will give you a clear picture of where your money will go. Use a spreadsheet to document household income, including dates when you or your spouse will receive online checks order.

Income documentation should also include money derived from sources other than a job, such as rental income and self-employment earnings. Maintain separate spreadsheet columns for employment and non-employment earnings.

In a separate column, document each of your household bills, such as your mortgage, utility, credit card, and loan payments. Include the date when each bill is due, so you can ensure that you will have the funds available to make timely payments and avoid late fees.

Use another column to document other expenses, such as groceries, entertainment, dining out, gas, and parking or toll expenses.

2) Use Printable Vouchers to Save Money

Printable vouchers can help reduce costs on non-bill expenses, such as dining out and entertainment. You can purchase vouchers online for a fraction of their face value. For example, you might purchase a $25 voucher for a restaurant meal for $10. You would then present the voucher to your server to reduce your check amount by $25.

You can also obtain printable vouchers for a variety of other things, such as concert tickets, groceries, movie tickets, and spa services. Take note of any expiration dates on vouchers to avoid missing out on savings.

3) Buy Non-Perishable Items in Bulk

Purchase the largest quantity of non-perishable items available to reduce household costs and keep your finances in check. This includes canned vegetables, dried beans, paper towels, canned soups, spices and other items that you can store for long periods of time. Generally, buying larger quantities of these items will reduce the price per unit, which helps stretch your income.

Some stores offer memberships that can save you even more. These stores offer special prices on bulk items, and do not make these prices available to non-members. The savings you realize by buying in bulk can easily justify a store’s membership fee.

Non-perishable items can be easily stored in a pantry, basement, or closet, so you can use them as needed without reducing your usable living space.

4) Plan Vacations Several Months in Advance

An impromptu vacation may give you a sense of spontaneity, but taking a last minute trip can cost a small fortune. By planning several months in advance, you give yourself time to find the best deals on hotel rooms, airfare, attraction tickets, and rental cars.

Hotels and airlines commonly offer lower rates to vacationers who book at least two months in advance. You could save a substantial amount on these costs compared to what you would pay if you booked only a few days in advance.

Planning a vacation in advance also gives you another advantage. You can build part of your anticipated vacation costs into your budget, so you can save the money you will need over several months. This can help you avoid the stress you might experience if you tried to come up with money to cover your vacation costs all at once.

5) Reduce Your Utility Costs

Utilities such as gas, electric, and water make up a substantial portion of most household budgets. Taking simple steps to reduce these expenses will free more money for getting out of debt, paying other bills, or saving for a vacation or special event.

Lower your thermostat by two or three degrees in the winder, and raise it by two or three degrees in the summer. This can have a dramatic impact on your electric bill. Also, run your clothes dryer during off-peak hours when electricity rates are lower. Because a clothes dryer uses more electricity than most other items in your home, using this appliance during off-peak hours can substantially lower your electricity costs.

Opt for quick showers instead of baths to conserve water and lower your monthly water bill. You can place a simple kitchen timer near your shower, and set it for five minutes after you turn on the water.

6) Cut Your Entertainment Expenses

If you and your family have a standing movie night every week, try buying popcorn and other snacks at the grocery and renting a movie at home instead of going to the theater. Watching a movie at home costs a fraction of what you would pay for tickets, soft drinks, popcorn, and candy at a movie theater. As an added bonus, your family can enjoy movie night without having to listen to people talk on their cell phones or discipline their children during the movie.

You can also find free or low-cost activities for your family instead of shopping or visiting expensive theme parks. For example, find a local park with walking trails, and have a nature hike with your family. Parks also typically feature charcoal grills and picnic tables, so you and your family can enjoy a picnic after your hike.

In many cities, art and science museums reduce admission prices at least one day a week. Some museums even feature free admission on certain days. Check your local museum’s website to find out which day you can visit and pay less than full price. If you are a student or senior citizen, ask about discounts that can save you even more.

7) Save Unused Discretionary Income

You may set aside a certain amount of money each month for discretionary spending, but nothing says that you have to use all of the money. Save back money you don’t spend on entertainment, dining, and other discretionary expenses. Putting back a little extra will help you manage your budget if you have an unexpected expense in a future month. It can also help you get through a financial tight spot if you have a temporary reduction of income.

Although managing a budget is not always an enjoyable task, it is necessary to prevent financial setbacks that can cause stress and worry. By using these tips, you can effectively manage your finances and make your income work harder for you.