There are two main roads to improving your personal finances: increasing income, and cutting costs. Increasing income is the harder road to travel. After all, you can't always get a raise or a new job when you need one. But cutting costs, that's a different story! You're in complete control in this area. And all it takes is some imagination and discipline-both of which are free. Below are five major ways to save money in the basic areas of food, shelter, clothing and transportation. They're major expenses in your life - and places for major savings.
1. Home Cooking
Food is a major expense in everyone's budget. But, in today's convenience food society, it's easy to overlook how much money can be saved by cooking meals at home. Plus, it's fun, creative, and healthier to make your own meals. The key is to cook in "bulk" to stretch the food you buy over several meals. If you're a busy person with little time to spare, a good investment is a slow cooker (or crock pot). Generally, they run from $20 to $80, depending on the size. With a slow cooker, you can set aside some time on the weekend to cook stews, soups, and other delicious meals that can be frozen for weekday use. After a hard day at work, all you have to do is pop the meal in the microwave! More than likely, you'll enjoy an additional benefit - your taste buds will wake up from mass produced food and thank you for the delicious taste of a home-cooked meal!
2. Drive less, exercise more
Is owning a car expensive? You already know the answer to that question, don't you? Gas, maintenance, insurance costs. Plus the mental aggravation of being caught in traffic jams! Why not carpool or take public transportation-the bus, train, or light rail? Or, if you live close to work, walk or bike. You'll lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and see the world at a slower pace. And, oh yes, you'll save a couple of thousand dollars in the process.
3. Cut housing costs
This is an easy and fun way to cut costs. Instead of paying a contractor to come in to make changes or repairs, make them yourself. Local hardware stores love your business and will help you with tips and tricks on home repair. Also, do your own decorating and painting. You get two benefits by doing your own changes and repairs - you get the pride of accomplishment and you save money.
4. Cut clothing costs
This can be another major area of expenses, especially if you have a family. So, try buying used clothing... dry clothes on the clothes line instead of in a dryer... learn how to mend clothes...well, you get the idea!