With the start of a new year many of us are evaluating part of our lives that may need an overhaul. We want to start eating healthier, many of us join a gym to start working on our health and expanding waist lines, we may even make the choice to eliminate other bad habits. What we as families sometimes fail to evaluate is our financial health and are okay with bleeding excess funds from our household each and every month. If you are like our family, we operate on a single income household and we look to do more than just survive. You may be left wondering how you can maximize a single household income each and every month. Here are some great ways to take advantage of every penny earned.
Keep More of Your Hard Earned Money
January is a great month to evaluate your W-4 form. This is the form you filled out with your employer when you started that lists your total number of exemptions. Most folks do not even bother to complete the worksheet and by doing so you are putting more money into the government kitty than in your own household. Ask your Human Resources representative for a W-4 and take the time to read through each line and complete the calculation. A lot of folks do not realize they can claim more exemptions based on only one parent or adult working in the home. Adjusting your W-4 will adjust the total taxes deducted from your paycheck thus increasing your take home cash.
Evaluate Your Expenses
When my husband was laid off from his job in 2010 we really took inventory of what was a necessary household expense. $200 on cable television, internet and a home phone was excessive when we were paying almost that same amount for our cell phones. Our kids weren’t old enough to need a home telephone and I was always home. With free mobile-to-mobile minutes as well all the communication options were unnecessary. We also found that our kids only watched a few channels on cable and we did the same; everything was seen as frivolous. So we canceled our cable subscription, home telephone, adjusted our cell minutes, and invested in Netflix. By making these changes, which seemed drastic at the time, we were able to save an additional $250 per month in expenses that were causing us to run in the red.
In addition to cutting out cable we were able to negotiate a lower rate for our cable internet. We advised the cable provider we were looking to reduce expenses and cut out unnecessary charges. The representative offered us a 12-month discount of 25% on our monthly internet bill.
Utilities are another great way to maximize your household on a single income. Depending on your income level many utility companies offer a discount service to folks. Some discounts do seem rather small, ranging anywhere from as low as 7% to as high as 25%, depending on your area, income bracket and utility service provider. Don’t be ashamed of this discount and or service, your utility provider offers this for a reason. Look at pay as you use utilities or easy payments (flat rate monthly utility bills). Some utility service providers offer a flat monthly rate all year round for utility customers who may struggle with the higher summer or winter utility bills depending on your location. This eases the burden of having your utilities disconnected when the bills run high that month. Additionally they offer in home utility boxes to help you manage how much you spend each month which requires conservation by turning off lights and other vampire plugs and appliances.
Have Dinner as a Family
An expense that is overlooked and taken for granted is food. One of the most debated expenses and one of the fastest ways to bleed your wallet. After my husband was laid off we categorized our expenses on our bank statement and we were shocked at how much money we were spending unnecessarily on take out and going out to eat. Some months were as high as $1000 on take out which included lunches while we were working. Those small charges begin to rack up and before you know it, you are flat broke with no money to eat out for lunch of dinner.
So we began to make a menu of the various meals we ate as a family. By doing so we were able to tailor our grocery shopping based on these notes, utilize more leftovers for lunches and other dinners during the week and we cut out eating out altogether. While our grocery bill increased slightly we were able to save ourselves hundreds of dollars by avoiding takeout. You can save on your grocery bill each month by using manufacturer coupons, in-store coupons and loading electronic coupons on your frequent grocer shopping card. Apply those savings by timing them when your store issues these same food items on sale to coincide with your coupons. Find lots of money saving ideas on CouponMom.com.
Need Versus Want
When considering money savings in your household, step back and look at your home as a business. Utilize more cash as opposed to credit cards or bank cards. Spending comes so easily when we use our bank cards as opposed to using cold, hard, green cash. We tend to err on the side of caution when using cash as opposed to our bank cards, as consumers spending is not as liberal with cash as we can be with our bank cards or credit cards.
With all that being said, spending should also come down to need versus want. Do you need it or is the item something you want? Considering the weight of need versus want is huge when shopping or spending your money. Apply need and want when grocery shopping. Imagine how much lighter your shopping would be if we avoided those want items because we happened to head out while hungry. Take into account all your other shopping with need versus want, by doing so you can save hundreds of dollars on unnecessary and sometimes frivolous spending that we take for granted.
Surviving on a single family income should not leave you struggling or feeling on the edge of destitute. Use your resources and get creative. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. By making adjustments and cutting out what we think we really need in our life can make huge differences. Eliminating cable offered our family more time to connect, get outside, be active. Above all else we found ways to maximize our single income that continued to enrich our lives without breaking the bank. What ways have you looked to make big changes that improved your family life and budget?