Squeeze More Money from Your Budget

The following post is from Christina of Northern Cheapskate:

Roll of $1 bills

photo credit: TaxBrackets.org

I knew that becoming a stay-at-home mom wasn’t going to be easy.  We had three boys in diapers, and we stood to lose 40 percent of our income.

It was tough to figure out how to make ends meet in those months after our twins were born and I decided to stay home.   There were times when I wondered if I had made a huge financial mistake by leaving the workforce.

But I realized that putting two infants and a toddler into day care would have zapped most of any paycheck I could earn.  And I realized that our family seemed happier and our household just seemed to run better with me at home with the kids.

So instead, I learned how to squeeze every extra penny I could out of our budget. I made it my job to be a good steward of our money.

Here are a few places I “found” more money to live on during those tight times:

Insurance deductibles. 

We opted to raise our insurance deductibles on our home and vehicles and managed to save about $25 a month.  We then made sure our emergency fund was ready to pay those higher deductibles should we have to make a claim.

Tax withholding.

If you’re getting a great big check from Uncle Sam each spring, then it’s time to adjust your tax withholding.  Visit the IRS website to calculate your exemptions.  By adjusting your tax withholding information, you’ll get less of a tax refund, but you’ll put more money in your pocket each paycheck, when you need it.  In our case, this put an extra $78 a month in our pockets.

Coupon clipping. 

A novice coupon clipper can easily shave 30% off their food and household purchases with coupons. Learn how to take full advantage of coupons and sales, and you can save up to 75% on items you regularly use.

DIY projects.

Groom your own dog, cut your kids hair, mow your lawn, haul your own garbage to the dump, and paint your own house. All of these do-it-yourself projects are simple enough to do on your own and can save you some serious money.  Search the internet or check out books from the library to help with your projects..  You just might find you have skills you didn’t know you had.

Selling stuff.

Our garage was packed with stuff we didn’t need.  Our kids were outgrowing clothing at an alarming rate.  We had garage sales, we sold clothing on consignment and other odds and ends on eBay.

Internet.

The internet is a fabulous way to stretch your budget.  You can use it to search for the best coupon deals, find freelance work, complete surveys for money or gift cards, and learn how to cook inexpensive meals at home.

Question everything.

Watch all of your statements and question every little fee.  Be aware of automatically renewing subscriptions and resist adding any new financial commitments no matter how small. When I was really squeezing our budget during those early months at home, I equated everything in terms of diapers.  Those higher insurance deductibles meant I could pay for a box of diapers.

Squeezing money out of your budget is no easy task, and you won’t notice the changes overnight.  But focusing on the small things you can do can make the big things seem a little less scary.

Just keep a positive attitude and remember to work on your budget a little each day and you’ll start to find some breathing room.

How do you squeeze more money from your budget?

Christina Brown is the creator of Northern Cheapskate, a blog dedicated to frugal living through coupons, freebies, and money-saving ideas.  She lives in the rural north woods of Minnesota where she clips coupons, pinches pennies, and chases her three boys (a 6-year-old and twin 4-year olds) as a stay-at-home mom.