Personal Finance Article
Living Frugally to Survive
Sometimes it feels like you never have enough money. The strain of living paycheck to paycheck can take its toll. You're juggling your bills and debt, and it seems like you can't get ahead. Living frugally may be the answer, but that doesn't sound like the nice life you want. But, what it can give you is more financial security. It's possible to live the frugal life and be happy about it. Read on to learn how to stretch every dollar.
First of all, you need to prioritize your spending. Make sure your shelter, food, transportation, and debt costs are covered. Put whatever utilities you can on a budget plan and cut back on your use. Install a low-flow showerhead, or skip a shower on the weekend. Unplug appliances and electronics that aren't in use. Block leaks in your windows and doors to keep warm or cool air in. Turn down the temperature on your water heater. Only run your washer with a full load, and hang clothing in the sun to dry if weather permits.
Pay less for what you need. Start couponing, and combine them with sales on items you need. Switch to less expensive brands. Sign up for reward cards at your local stores, which can help you save more money on items and earn rewards for gas. Buy produce that is in season, which tends to be cheaper. Scour local yard sales for unique finds in clothing, toys and furniture. Buy seasonal clothing and foods at the end of the season, when items are marked down for quick sales. The Internet is also a treasure trove for finding things free or for cheap. You Tube has a selection of movies that can be legally watched for free. There are also many games and types of software that are free to use as well.
Try to build up your savings. Even if you only add five dollars to it on occasion, it's still a start. You'll never known when something will happen, and you'll need money you set aside for emergencies. If you're having trouble coming up with extra money, try selling personal items you don't need, or offer to do chores or favors for neighbors for a few extra bucks. Start a coin jar. When it's full, wrap your change and take it to the bank.
Don't neglect your debt, especially if it's credit card or student loan debt. See if you qualify for deferments or income-based repayments. Call the credit card company and ask for a reduced APR. Vow to never use your credit cards until your finances are more secure, or save one for emergencies only.
If you qualify for government benefits like food stamps (also known as SNAP) or welfare (better known as TANF), take advantage of them. These programs exist to help people get back on their feet. You've been paying into them, so you've earned your right to use them. These programs may also connect you with other resources to help you find a new or better job, or get training. There is never any shame in asking for help.
It's not always easy to make ends meet in this economy. Even if things won't get better right away, it doesn't mean you're not surviving. Living frugally will help make your paycheck go further, and give you the sense that you're doing everything you can. You'll set a sound financial example for your family as well.