The economy is growing again, but, stagnate incomes and increasing living costs are still forcing many people to squeeze more from their budget to meet expenses. Reducing debt is the quickest way to free up some money, but that often requires getting more control over spending. If increasing your income is not an option, there are several ways to squeeze more out of your budget to accomplish both.
Get Your Debt Under Control
If you can’t find a way to increase your income, reducing your debt may seem challenging. However, by focusing on reducing wasteful spending and making a couple of moves with your debt, you can begin to get it under control.
Refinance high interest credit card debt: If you are paying more than 15% APR on your credit cards, it’s difficult to make much progress paying down your balance, especially if you are making minimum payments. If you have decent credit, you could consider swapping out your high interest debt for lower interest debt. Personal loans are now being offered with rates as low as 6%. If you qualify for a personal loan with an APR one or two points below the APR on your credit card, you could put a serious dent in your debt.
Balance transfer: Transferring your high interest credit card debt to a zero or low interest credit card can be a great strategy, but you need to have a plan to pay off the debt before the end of the promotion period. If you don’t, your default APR could be higher than your original credit cards and then you’ll have just kicked the can down the road. Take advantage of low or no interest costs to pay off the balance within the promotion period and then you will be home free.
Request an interest rate reduction: If you are unable to qualify for a lower interest balance transfer or personal loan, you could consider contacting your credit card issuer to ask for a rate reduction. In many cases, if you have a long history of on time payments with an issuer and your credit limits are not maxed out (your chances improve if your credit utilization is below 30 percent), credit card issuers are sometimes willing to reward their customers for their loyalty – especially if there is a chance of losing a customer. The worst that can happen is you get turned down, but you’re no worse off for trying.
Stop Wasting Money
Finding ways to stop wasting money can have the most immediate effect on your budget. Most people can easily find an extra $100 to $300 a month in savings by cutting out needless expenses. Here are a few ways to start realizing savings today:
Cancel subscription services: With so much content available on line, there is no need for paid subscription services. Some families pay hundreds of dollars a year for services they really don’t need or use. Rather than try to figure out what you should keep, go to AskTrim.com and let them evaluate your use of subscription services. They’ll objectively tell you where you are wasting your money and cancel the subscriptions for you. Possible savings: $200 to $500 a year.
Stop paying for a land line: Telephone landlines are going the way of telephone poles – extinct. The exception might be for families with young kids or seniors, but most families and individuals can do without while relying on their mobile phones and computers. Annual cost savings: $200 to $500.
Stop buying brand name foods and goods: We challenge anyone to be able to tell the difference between Cheerios and a store brand’s “toasty oats”. And, if there is a slight difference, is it really worth the extra $2 you pay? The average savings during a shopping trip could be as much as $20, and over the course of a year the cost savings could reach $1,000.
In looking at your budget you can probably find at least a dozen ways to reduce your spending without cramping your style. Be creatively frugal and you can pay down your debt more quickly while freeing up even more of your monthly budget.
The views expressed herein are those of Small Business Resources, as of the date above and are subject to change. This publication is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as a recommendation for any specific insurance product or service. Information has been collected from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been verified for accuracy. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Bryn Mawr Trust, its directors, officers, affiliates, and/or any/all of the contributors to this site. It does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described herein and assume no liability for your use of this information.