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Living on a small budget is usually something one has to learn. Most people want, and in the past have been able, to buy what they want when they want. Unfortunately, when the economy began a downward spiral many individuals and families found it was necessary to drastically change their spending patterns. Fortunately, even people who have only recently begun to understand the benefits of a frugal lifestyle there are several easy tips that can help ease you into the thrifty mindset.
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Make a Budget
Creating a budget is the single most popular piece of financial advice regardless of the size of the budget. Mindless spending accomplishes nothing. Regardless of one’s debt to income ratio, budgeting income is always a good idea. It allows people to set and reach financial goals such as paying off bills, taking vacations, and living debt free. When trying to implement a budget first look at the things that are needs such as food and shelter. Move on from there and remember to put something into savings, even if it is only a few dollars, every month.
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Cook and Reuse
One of the easiest ways to reduce expenditures each month is to prepare the majority of meals at home. To accomplish this menu planning is a necessity as is allotting additional food preparation time. If time is limited, consider preparing a roast, or other meat, early in the week and then using the leftovers is stews and casseroles for the remainder of the week. This will slash grocery bills, because meat is one of the more expensive grocery items, and time because the primary ingredient has been previously prepared.
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When you are suddenly faced with a smaller monthly budget it is often necessary to put bills on the backburner, at least temporarily. It is important to let those companies that will be receiving late or partial payments know what is going on. It is sometimes possible to reduce monthly payments or negotiate lower rates in order for the company to continue to receive something from you, the client.
Communication is also important within the family. Relatives and friends who are accustomed to you being able to spend freely will likely be understanding and supportive as you strive to reduce your overall monthly expenditures. If there are children in the home they too should be made aware that spending is going to be more controlled and given a chance to help prioritize the items they spend money on. By clearly communicating the new situation and budget with all parties who are directly or peripherally involved it will be easier to create, and stick to, a trimmed down budget.
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Living on a small budget doesn't have to be boring. In cities and towns of all sizes there are free activities scattered throughout the year. Public parks have hiking trails the entire family can enjoy and many towns have fairs, parades, and holiday events that are offered for free or a very minimal cost. Because entertainment often takes up so much of a family budget it is important to seek out these free or low cost activities to replace more expensive alternatives. Local libraries often sponsor book clubs, have internet access, story time for children, and other hobby clubs in addition to the free books and videos that can be checked out. The local tourism office, city hall, or parks and recreation offices are a great place to inquire about free and inexpensive local activities.
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Living on a small budget doesn’t have to mean having to deny yourself, or your family, of fun activities, favorite foods, or even special items. It means you may have to be a bit more creative and patient, but that is a good lesson for people of all ages to learn.