Lowering Your Living Costs

Many aspects of life are not easy, but financial obligations can be some of the most difficult aspects of life to cope with.

 

The rising costs of such expenses as food, housing and transportation may place a lot of financial stress on you. Yet, those expenses are not avoidable. Therefore, you must learn how to avoid spending more than you earn. There is nothing you can do to change the economic trends in the United States as a whole. Many factors beyond your control can drive the prices of such essentials as groceries up.

 

However, there are plenty of ways to improve your own financial situation and lower your personal living costs. Changing your spending and saving habits and implementing strategies for lowering your recurring expenses is essential. Doing so will provide you with more financial stability now and in the future. Below are several methods for lowering your cost of living.

Reduce Food and General Shopping Expenses

Food is essential for everyone. However, you do not need all types of food. In fact, you have a great deal of control over the types of food you choose to purchase. You can use that control to reduce your monthly food expenses. According to information gathered by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2017, if you are like most U.S. residents, you spend approximately 11 percent of your available monthly budget on the food you consume. That includes at-home meals, fast food and restaurant dining. You can take advantage of rewards programs that give you cash back, or other perks for frequent purchases. Some benefits can be applied to the purchase of gas, travel expenses or be redeemed each month for cash.

To reduce your food expenses, you must examine your approaches to dining and food shopping. By breaking bad habits and implementing positive changes, you can drastically reduce the amount you spend on food. Such bad habits may include:

  • Dining out or buying fast food too often
  • Purchasing expensive prepared foods because you do not want to cook
  • Buying food impulsively instead of in a planned, organized manner
  • Purchasing too much food, creating waste
  • Selecting food products based on brand names

You can reduce your food expenses by recognizing and reversing bad habits. Use smart shopping strategies to lower the cost of food and other household items. For example, efficient shopping strategies can help you avoid paying too much for products. Those strategies include:

  • Seeking out ads and coupons
  • Comparing product prices on store shelves
  • Purchasing foods on a full stomach
  • Comparing product prices online
  • Joining store loyalty programs

Lower Your Utility Bills

Like food costs, most utility bills are inevitable. Essential bills like your monthly electric and water bills may be contributing greatly to your living costs. You cannot completely eliminate those utility bills, but you can reduce your consumption of the related resources. According to 2016 data compiled by the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average amount of electricity used per month in residential homes was 897 kWh.

If you use several electronic devices in your home, it is likely your current energy consumption is higher than average. Making sure the electricity usage in your home stays near or below average will help you lower the amount you pay for electricity each month. You can do so by updating your appliances, insulating your home and taking other steps to maximize energy efficiency.

Similar efficiency strategies can be used to lower your other utility bills. For example, according to the United States Geological Survey, the average water consumption per day is 80 to 100 gallons per person. Finding ways to eliminate water leaks in your home, install low-flow water systems and change your own water usage habits will help you keep your own usage at or below average. You can also adjust your showering or bathing habits. An average bath contains approximately 36 gallons of water. An older-style shower dispenses approximately 5 gallons of water per minute. Therefore, as long as you intend to take a short shower, you will save more water by showering instead of bathing.

Create a Budget

Another method for lowering your living costs is creating a budget. You cannot control how much you spend until you take the time to outline and acknowledge that amount. When you think about budget creation, you may associate the process with spending set amounts each month for specific purposes. However, creating a budget can be used more as a monitoring tool than a system of control, at least in the early stages. There is no way to create an exact budget you can stick to with ease until you have tracked your spending. Doing so will help you identify how much money you need to designate for certain expenses. It may also help you find areas to lower your living costs by reducing your spending.

 

There are many methods for creating a budget, especially if you are trying to loosely track what you spend, as opposed to control where every dollar goes. However, they can all be reduced to the fact you need to create a list of your expenses and a list of your earnings. You must then do your best to make the earnings exceed the expenses by making monthly adjustments to your spending habits. For example, you may be able to reduce your entertainment budget to free up more money for essential expenses.

Implement Long-Term Savings Strategies

When trying to figure out how to lower your living costs, your current costs are not the only ones worth considering. You must also think about your long-term living expenses. If you are currently making ends meet with no money to spare, you need to use the strategies above to spend less each month so you can begin saving more for the future. Once you have some money available to save, you must designate it for specific future purposes. For example, you may want to create or increase your:

  • Retirement fund
  • College fund for your child
  • Emergency fund

Identifying the funds you wish to create is only half of the process. You must also determine the best type of savings accounts to use. It is important to decide what aspects of savings accounts matter most to you. To do so, you must examine factors like:

  • Minimum balance requirements
  • Interest rates
  • Ability to access the funds, as needed
  • Account fees

All of the above factors are associated with most types of savings accounts. However, some accounts have better rates or lower fees than others. They each also have other associated standards and regulations. Therefore, you must consider the benefits and drawbacks of each type of account before choosing one.

 

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