In the past year, we have seen prices for everything go through the roof. Fears about a coming recession are mounting, as it could to cuts in pay or job losses, and the US once again hit the debt ceiling last Thursday. Now there’s a debate about raising it. Last time, this led to a government shutdown, which lasted for weeks, and many government employees were not paid during that time. Eventually they were reinstated with back pay, but in the meantime, many found it difficult to pay their bills, because they had no emergency savings. So if you’re preparing for the worst or just trying to squeeze more money out of your paycheck, because things are so much more expensive right now, don’t wait for a raise or someone to bail you out. There are things that you can do on your own.
One – Pay off debt
I know I sound like a broken record, but paying off debt will put more money back into your pocket than anything else. Last week, we talked about retail store credit cards carrying an average of 26.72% interest. Have you ever been offered that kind of raise?
Two – Change Your Withholdings
If you’re getting a tax refund each year, you’re giving a tax-free loan to the government. You can put that money back in your pocket by changing your withholdings and keeping more money from your paycheck throughout the year. Be careful with this, so you don’t end up with a tax bill at the end of the year. IRS.gov has a withholding calculator to help you figure out how much you can change your withholdings and how much extra you’ll get from each paycheck, without owing Uncle Sam at tax time.
Three – Cut Subscriptions or Services
If you have a budget, it’s easy to see who and what you’re paying, so you can carefully think through what you want to cut. If you don’t have a budget, or a list of subscriptions and services you’re paying for, go through your checking account or credit card statement and find out. Start with the ones you’ve forgotten about. You might be surprised to learn what you’re still paying for! Cancel them and take back your money. For the ones you’re still using, is the money you’re spending worth it, or could benefit you more someplace else? Even if you don’t want to completely cancel the subscription or service, there might be levels of service you no longer need. And if you don’t understand something on your bill, call the company and keep asking questions until you do! Then you can make an educated decision about whether to keep paying for it. Don’t forget to ask about lower cost services or promotional offers!
Four – Meal Planning
Write out what you want to eat for the next week or two, then make a grocery list. Commit to buying only what’s on the list. Before you go to the store, shop your pantry. You might be surprised at how much of what’s on the list is already there! This will save you money at the grocery store, and could save you from eating out as much, because a lot of times it’s easier to get take-out than to plan dinner in the moment, then make sure you have what you need to make the meal. Less trips to the grocery store can also save you gas money. For more ideas, listen to the podcast episode “Saving Money on Groceries.”
Five – House Hacking
This can be seen as a dramatic step, but it could also save you a ton of money. Take on a roommate, rent out a room in your home, rent out your garage for storage, rent out your driveaway as a parking space. Look around your home, see what space you’re not using and get creative about how to make money with it. Housing is your biggest monthly expense; anything you can do to cut it will put more money in your budget.
It’s not forever!
These lifestyle shifts can be as temporary or permanent as you need or want them to be. So while you’re doing these things, make sure the money you’re saving is going toward your goal; otherwise your efforts are in vain. The best way to stay focused and on track is to create a plan, then use your budget to monitor and follow that plan.
Got ideas for boosting your budget without a raise? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org