These days, it seems like the dollar stretches less and less. Oil scarcity (and the maneuvering of futures brokers) has not only raised the price of gas but effectively increased true household costs across the board. Even food staples like eggs and bread have seen their value skyrocket over the past year. Add to this rates of inflation that are approaching their late 1970s peak – at least, for the post war American economy – and it should be no wonder why so many of our consumers must struggle with even the simplest household expenses.

Of course, chief among the reasons that we find ourselves in this predicament has been the heedless exploitation of credit, and both our government and its citizens are to blame. As both a nation and a people, we simply owe too much. We have not properly invested in ourselves. And, now, we are reaping the consequences. A well thought out strategy of debt relief is essential for maintaining satisfactory conditions in any institution – political or familial – and, like so many things, reasonable governance starts at home.

Your authors have collected a series of tactics for corrective spending habits that any consumer would be wise to read and, when possible, attempt to accomplish. We understand that consumers who have grown accustomed to carefree purchases might find some of these steps difficult – even vaguely embarrassing – but bankruptcy or foreclosure would be far worse. It’s time to stop spending as if there’s no tomorrow and begin saving for an ever more threatening future. Here are a few tricks to get you started.

Where Does The Money Go?

When speaking with financial professionals, almost every single one of them agreed that the greatest hindrance to personal savings is the absence of a reasonable and realistic household budget. This involves two separate but equally important components – an accurate listing of expected earnings along with a compilation of all bills and expenses that may come. Most families at least attempt some sort of loose budget, but, unless the budget is taken extremely seriously, it is bound for failure. True and proper budgets are not shruggingly compiled during Sunday morning coffee. They take weeks to prepare and often require the services of experienced analysts in personal economy.

Expected income should be the easiest thing for individuals and families to figure out ahead of time, but they must make sure not to count any chickens before they are hatched. Annual bonuses, if they have been essentially guaranteed for the past few years, may be applied, but those seeking accuracy should always prepare for the worst – meaning that they should not count on an upswing in business or a turn of good fortune. Since so many Americans are currently self employed, it is now harder than ever to prophesize the coming harvest, we know. Even if they haven’t the capability to speak with an accountant or financial planner, though, they could at least look back on the past few years’ earnings, figure out trends from the most recent quarter, and then extrapolate an educated guess.

The next step is actually much more difficult. Although it may seem easy to calculate what should be spent by the household, a true history of purchases made should be essential to any accurate calculation of budgets. For a week or two, try carrying around a notebook and jotting down what you actually spend your money on. Then, after recording said costs in a register or spreadsheet (there are several software programs specifically engineered to facilitate household economies), these expenses should be multiplied over the course of the next twelve months. No point, after all, in budgets that only take into account August or January for families with children entering college or homeowners in the colder regions. The costs of lifestyle have to be planned for an entire year. Annual budgets are the only sort to attain any success.

Spend Wisely!

Of course, even once a budget has been calculated, consumers also must make sure that they have the discipline to maintain the spending habits as calculated. This is one of the most important benefits of the aforementioned register of everyday purchases. Consumers should know precisely how much that they spend, and, then, they should make attempts to lower the overall costs of their household expenses. We do understand that this may require an overall change of life for many former spendthrifts, but, at the end of the day, the benefits of eliminating debts and putting money into savings will blossom tenfold.

The easiest way for most consumers to start lowering their expenses is also the most cliché: clipping coupons. Most every municipality of any size abounds with retailers offering loss leading deals to vie for their patronage. Price breaks from shops and trade outlets can be of great use to consumers trying to find values for their families. Coupons – and ‘double’ and ‘triple’ – coupons are available for most every supermarket staple. They may even be found on the internet when folks search in the right way. This takes a different spin depending upon the region or the item, but, after five minutes punching Google or any search engine with potential codes, most everybody could find some discount for whatever products that they need.

At the same time, just because products are cheap does not mean their purchase will, in the end, save money. As just one example, the supposed bargains available from the giant warehouse discount markets are not always in a consumer’s best interest. Coscto and the variants may seem, by the economies of bulk pricing, to be a great deal, but the nature of such superstores also lend themselves to purchases far beyond what consumers could reasonably expect to, well, consume. This is yet another reason for a committed recording of actual expenses over the course of a month. No use in purchasing items at one half their retail value should you throw two thirds of them away.

At the other extreme, borrowers should beware of too quickly buying goods from garage sales or estate auctions. Once again, while that fishing pole may be easily got for a pittance of the replacement price, that should not matter to people who have not fished for years. Used or second hand stores have their place, no doubt. Home furnishings, wardrobes, reading material, workshop necessities: any number of things can be procured slightly worn from someone who no longer needs them. After all, many of the most precious good – from diamonds to homes – are more highly prized because of their provenance, and commodities such as cars sometimes explode in value as the years go by. Which leads us to our next topic.
Drive Toward Savings!

Almost from birth, Americans are taught both that used cars (and the accompanying used car salesmen) should never be trusted and that a new vehicle loses half of its blue book value the moment it leaves the lot. Contradictory truths, but common knowledge has it right about the blue book. Folks leasing cars or regularly turning in barely older models for something newly off the line end up losing fortunes. To be sure, consumers should find a reputable dealer or work with one of the better sites on the internet, but, with factory verified used lots, maintenance for pre owned vehicles should no longer be much of a concern.

Honestly, considering the current economic state of affairs, many consumers would be well advised to trade down their cars for something with lower gas mileage. Many sport utility or minivan owners that could previous afford the extra money are suddenly finding their vehicles a financial burden. In fact, much as they would like to replace their gas guzzler with a compact, a large number of consumers find that they can no longer get fair return for their less efficient automobile precisely because fashions have changed.

For those consumers stuck with cars that no longer make sense for their budget or lifestyle, though, there are still things they can do to help expenses. So many different household errands can be accomplished just by walking. Public transportation, much as proud or confused spendthrifts avoid the notion, is available in almost every area. Car pooling to work, however much it may irritate at the start, can save literally thousands of dollars each year. Gas is not going to get any cheaper, and it will be quite a while before hybrids are stocking the used car lots. As resources grow scarcer and technologies change, society has to follow along suit. Wasn’t that long ago that horse drawn carriages were in style.
The Wages Of Fun

Consumers continue to ignore investigating financial planning or debt management despite clear budgetary concerns for a number of reasons. Privacy and ethical misgivings should be respected, of course, but, as finance professionals regularly share, all too many average Americans avoid counsel from a sense of shame. They know that they have purchased badly, they worry that they have mortgaged their futures for momentary entertainments, and they do not wish others to recognize their failings.

Much like our (bizarre, if you think about it) envy of a neighbor’s ever larger vehicle, families insist upon high priced vacations despite their financial conditions. Obviously, hard working individuals should deserve some time away, but other alternatives do exist. Many families now search out off season price breaks for luxury rentals or spend the bulk of their money on plane travel to visit far off friends. For that matter, even though it won’t as easily impress acquaintances, there are great deals to be found through discovering lesser known areas which provide exactly the same experience (whether broadening or peaceful or simply ocean adjacent) as their more famous and more expensive cousins.

Author's Bio: 

Cole Collins is a free lance writer concentrating in the field of personal finance