Needs vs. Wants
The first rule of budgeting and getting your finances under control is figuring out your needs versus your wants. Sometimes we simply mix up what are necessities and wants. A need is an absolute must such as food, clothes, and shelter. A want is a luxury such as brand names, entertainment, and cell phones.
Cable is expensive no matter what plan you have. Even if you have a satellite dish service you are still paying over $30 for the cheapest TV channel lineup. Other options are Netflix, and Hulu. Basic Hulu is absolutely free, but you don’t get access to a lot of shows. Even if you choose to pay the service is still under $10. A big advantage to Netflix is that you can add people to your account. Considering Netflix is around $8 you can split the cost with the people you decide to add to your account. If you add one additional person then you cut your cost by fifty percent, $4.
Internet is expensive as well. Even if you get the introductory price it will normally only last for the first six months. However, check with your cellular company to see if you can use your phone as a modem especially if you have unlimited data usage. Cell phones are also a luxury; I never pay for a phone. Most companies offer a new phone credit for keeping the same phone for a year. So I just wait until my year anniversary with the same phone and use the credit towards a new phone. Also feel free to call your cell company to ask about a cheaper plan that you may qualify for. Prepaid cell phones seem to offer the same benefits without the worry of being locked into a contract. So if you have commitment issues or have had horrendous issues with your cell company, ditch them and go prepaid. Most cell company’s offer prepaid plans such as Verizon and T-Mobile.
Housing and Housing Expenses
I always encourage people who rent an apartment to search for more bang for their buck. Sometimes apartment prices are stipulated by the amenities that you may not use year round, such as the pool and tennis courts. However some housing communities have the exact same amenities and you get the benefit of living in a place almost three times bigger. I am currently living at my first house, and the community offers a swimming pool and a pretty good size back yard to top it off. Yet I am not paying too much more than what I have paid in the past for an apartment.
Housing expenses can be lowered by taking a few simple steps. Use the dishwasher only when needed. Wash full loads of clothes. I personally open the blinds and allow natural light to shine and will not turn on a light until night time. I tell my kids there is no need for a lamp when you can just open the blinds. I am guilty of taking a shower and finding myself overly enjoying the hot water. So now I time myself for five minutes in the shower and won’t use steaming hot water. I made it a challenge by making my time to beat five minutes. However, I have learned to only go in the shower to bathe and to bathe only. If I want to relax I take a bath, instead of standing in the shower for fifteen additional minutes just to feel the water.
Brand Names vs. Generic
This is a big debate, brand names vs. generics. As a mom I know better than to always aim for brand names. However generic isn’t always the best depending on the item. At baby showers I make it a point to get an off brand pack of diapers. I tell the parents that I know they won’t waste their money to try it on their own. But Wal-Mart brand diapers worked perfectly with both of my kids, so why not give it a go? There really is no brand name for fresh food, such as vegetables and fruit. So if a generic brand is good enough to be fresh and organic food then it is good enough for me.
Brand names can be found at your local Salvation Army or thrift store. I went to the Salvation Army a few months ago in search of long sleeve work shirts. There was a bounty of New York and Company brand shirts. I am convinced that there is some lady losing tons of weight who keeps donating all her Donna Karen, Ralph Lauren and NY&Co. clothes to the Salvation Army. Needless to say majority of my work shirts are NY&Co. and were bought for pennies on the dollar. Starting a new job? Try Salvation Army on Wednesday for fifty percent off all clothes.
I recently read an article about a man who says he is struggling on a $100k a year salary. He then listed a bunch of non necessities he has, besides college education for his children. Let’s take a minute to truly look into our budget. Simply print out your bank account statement and highlight all the fast food, unnecessary shopping, and any other unnecessary charges. If your statement looks like a coloring book, then you need to reevaluate big time. Save your money for something worthwhile like a vacation, a weekend getaway even if it’s just a few cities away.
Deal of the week: Planters Big Nut Bars $1.50, with a $1 coupon. Total after coupon was .50 per box.