8 Things That Can Make or Break Your Budget

By Jane YoungLifestyle and BudgetCredit.com

The first step toward saving money is making a conscious decision to devote the time and energy required to focus on saving money. You can save a tremendous amount by creating a spending plan, making a list of what you really need and taking the time to shop and compare. It can take lot of time and discipline to save money. Let’s look at some suggestions to help you budget in eight key areas.

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1. Stay Out of Debt

One of the most efficient ways to save money is to avoid going into debt.  You will save a lot of money on interest by paying your credit cards off at the end of every month. If you are carrying a balance, prioritize paying off your credit cards as soon as possible. Most of us need a mortgage to purchase a home, but you should avoid going into debt to purchase consumer products such as vehicles, appliances, furniture and electronics, if possible. For loans that you do have to take out, avoid having to pay higher interest rates by managing your credit responsibly and keeping your credit score high. Checking your credit score regularly — using any of the free credit scoring tools available online (like the one Credit.com offers) – is an important part of building and maintaining good credit, and to saving you money when you do need to take on debt.

2. Save Money at the Grocery Store

There is no getting around the need to spend a large portion of your budget at the grocery store, but there are ways to trim this expense. Make a list of what you really need and stick to it! Try to reduce impulse purchases by sticking to your list, shopping less frequently and eating ahead of time so you don’t shop while you’re hungry. You can save by purchasing store brands, buying durable goods in bulk and selecting items from lower shelves – more expensive items are usually placed at eye level. When comparing prices, check the unit price, not the total cost of the package.

3. Spend Less on Eating Out

Most of us spend way too much on eating out. The logical solution is to eat at home more often and pack your lunch. However, if you want or need to eat out, there are some tricks keep your expenses down. Most restaurants serve large portions, so consider eating half of your meal at the restaurant and taking the rest home for lunch the next day. Limit yourself to a single drink or order tap water instead of coffee, tea or soda. Enjoy drinks, appetizers and dessert at home before going out for dinner. If you are going out to meet friends, eat before you go and limit your restaurant order to a side salad or appetizer just to be sociable. And rather than celebrate at a restaurant, organize a potluck or take turns hosting dinner parties.

4. Spend Less on Clothing

There is a huge mark-up on retail clothing, which allows for tremendous savings opportunities. Clothing is seasonal; if you are flexible, you can save by shopping at the end of the season when everything goes on sale. You can also save by shopping online. Online shopping makes it much easier to shop and compare.  If you aren’t looking for something specific, consignment stores can be a great option. Some excellent deals can also be found at outlet stores.  However, keep an eye on the price and quality; many items found at outlets are not actually overstock from the full price store. Don’t be fooled by marked down price tags, they may not be legitimate. Several companies create separate lines of clothing just for their outlet stores.

5. Reduce Holiday Spending

Save on holiday expenses by starting early, making a plan and creating a gift budget. Save by shopping for holiday gifts throughout the year. If you have a large family or a large group of friends, consider drawing names rather than purchasing a gift for every friend and family member. Save money by gifting homemade gifts or a gift of your services such as babysitting, home maintenance or music lessons.

6. Save on Travel

Frequent flier miles can be a great way to reduce airfare expenses. Earning miles on credit card purchases can be a good way to earn frequent flier miles, but be sure to pay your credit card off at the end of each month.  You can also save by avoiding travel during the peak season, and staying off the beaten path.  There are several websites that can help you find the best dining and lodging values.

7. Take Care of Yourself

In the long run, you can save a tremendous amount by getting plenty of exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep and managing your stress. Health care and medication is very expensive. You can minimize these expenses by taking care of yourself. Additionally, if you are healthy and energetic you should be more productive, which should lead to greater income potential.

8. Save Money on Vehicles

Avoid purchasing a brand new vehicle. Most cars drop in value by thousands of dollars, as soon as they are driven off the lot. Cars are a depreciating asset, so focus on safety and functionality. If your goal is to save money, don’t buy more car than you really need. If possible, try to save enough money to pay cash for your new car and avoid paying interest on a loan. Finally, be sure to perform routine maintenance; this may save you from expensive repair bills in the future.