Even with the economy on the mend and the job market picking up steam, people are still struggling to meet their monthly expenses. Many American households are on the brink of financial disaster, with many living paycheck to paycheck. The reasons for America's financial woes vary, but ultimately most consumers must cut their living expenses to survive. Here’s a look at four ways to reduce your living expenses.
1. Downsize Your Living Situation
Housing is likely your largest living expense. Whether you live in an apartment, single family home, recreational vehicle or cabin, there is a monthly cost for housing. Since housing expenses account for a large chunk of your monthly income, evaluate how to reduce your housing costs. For example, if you live in a one-bedroom apartment, consider moving into a studio. Similarly, if you're a homeowner, consider downsizing to a smaller or cheaper home.
2. Eat In More Often
We live in a fast-paced, frenzied world where families rarely have time to eat dinner together, let alone cook meals. For many people, it’s much easier to pick up takeout or dine at a restaurant. Americans spend billions of dollars eating out each year. Eating out isn’t cheap, and the cost can add up quickly, particularly if you dine out multiple times a week. A quick and easy way to free up some money is to eat in more often. If you don’t want to quit cold turkey, even cutting back to eating out only twice a week will yield you some savings.
3. Avoid Banking Fees At All Costs
Banks are supposed to be a way to save money, not spend it. Yet, far too often people waste money on the fees associated with banking. Think about this: banks make multi-billions of dollars each year in overdraft fees alone; not to mention the cost of ATM and e-transfer fees. Banking fees are expensive; however, a lot of consumers blindly pay these fees. Avoid extra banking fees by withdrawing money from your bank’s ATM only, having enough money in the bank account to cover checks and shopping around for low-cost banking fees. Competition is high in the banking industry so make sure you are going to a bank that doesn’t charge you a lot to do business with them.
4. Pay In Cash
In this credit-fueled economy, it is easy to charge it and forget about it, but it is those impulse purchases that get countless Americans into trouble. U.S. household debt is at record levels and plenty of people have credit card debt. Carrying a balance of any sort means you will be charged credit card fees, which will simply drain your income further. If consumers pay for everything in cash, they will avoid credit card fees and think twice before making a purchase. That $5.00 pumpkin spice latte may not seem so attractive if you are shelling out physical cash for it.
The Bottom Line
Racking up living expenses is easy to do, but covering them can be a struggle. Cash-strapped consumers have options when it comes to reducing some everyday costs. If you want drastic savings, you could downsize your living arrangements. That being said, there are simple, easier ways to save money like avoiding ATM fees, eating in or not using your credit card.