Living the Dream Lean: Frugal Tips for Bill-Laden Homeowners

Owning a home can be a tough challenge for anyone, especially if you’re also balancing other types of debt. It’s hard to create a perfect budget that every member of the household can live with. Fortunately, there are all kinds of different ways to squeeze more buying power out of whatever money is coming in.

Here are some frugal tips for bill-laden homeowners:

Plan Ahead

Don’t wait until your next paycheck comes in to decide where it’s all going. Since you already know when you’re getting paid, it makes sense to start thinking about where it’s going long before you get it. If you get paid on the first day of the month and most of your bills are due within days, it’s safe to say that most of your pay will be needed to cover those. Don’t allow any expenses to catch you by surprise.

Set Your Priorities

If you’re in debt, you should be concentrating on your priorities. This means taking care of the basics (food, water and shelter) and making sure the situation doesn’t get any worse, due to foreclosure or repossession. Make a list of the most important items you need to pay for each month and cut off anything that isn’t an absolute necessity. Switch to prepaid cell phones to get out from under expensive contracts and look for stuff you don’t need that can be sold at a yard sale. If you’re still struggling too much, contact someone at Hamptons International about remortgaging your home.

Save Loose Change

Round all your expenses up to the nearest dollar. For groceries and other items that you set money aside for ahead of time, round up to the nearest ten dollar increment and consider it all spent. Put the change in a jar, along with any other loose change you find laying around. It adds up over time and you can either use it on a treat for the family, open a savings account with it, or use it to lower an account balance.

Pay With Cash

It can be tempting to rely on plastic when you’re hurting financially, but it’s better for your finances to resist. In far too many cases, this leads to higher balances that can quickly get out of control. The simple practice of taking cash out of your wallet serves as a solid reminder that you’re actually parting with that money. It can be hard to view it that way when the currency you’re spending is represented by a small plastic card with no specific value. Using cash also allows you to bring only what you need, instead of carrying thousands of dollars in purchasing power in your pockets.

Use Coupons

Look for coupons in newspapers, magazines and online. You’ll probably find a huge pile of them in your mailbox. While it might seem like you’re only saving small amounts here and there, it adds up over time. If you make three or four trips to the grocery store per month and save money each time, you’ll soon see the value in clipping coupons. Remember to also check packaging for mail-in rebates on items you buy. There’s no reason to pay full price for anything if you can get it for less.

Cut Back on Toiletries

This doesn’t mean you should cut back on showering or brushing your teeth, but rather that you can probably reduce the amount of soap and toothpaste you use without a noticeable difference. It’s not unusual to put too much toothpaste on your brush without even realizing it. Any expense you can cut back on is fair game. If you can get the same job done with less, the money you save can be applied toward something else.

Cut Back on Energy Usage

The last thing you need is to get hit with a ridiculously high electric bill when you’re already struggling. Fortunately, there are smart ways to cut back on energy usage. Turning off all lights when you leave the room is a start. Don’t turn them on at all during the day, if you can avoid it. Open the curtains instead and allow the sun to do the same job for free. Turn off appliances when they’re not in use and remember to unplug them, as well. Even when they’re turned off, they can be responsible for between 5 and 10 percent of the electricity you use, just because they’re plugged in.

Remember that you’re not the first homeowner to struggle with debt. The best thing to do is use the tips listed above and make whatever lifestyle changes are necessary until you’re back on track. Difficult situations often inspire people to think of creative solutions and you might surprise yourself at what you can come up with when the going gets tough.

Hubert Bowman is a financial planner who works exclusively with those at, or near, retirement age to ensure their finances are in order. He writes for a selection of personal finance and over-50s blogs sharing his advice for a successful retirement.