The basics of your family budget might have changed in recent years. Families of all shapes and sizes have face unprecedented money struggles as the economy continues to slowly recover from recession. You may have already tried trimming grocery lists, cutting back on outings, and even reducing the amount you drive every month. But what are the most major things you can do to save money? A lot of people overlook significant steps they could be taking to improve their finances or simply don’t understand how important they could be. If you’ve thought about investigating your options for debt repayment, housing, and other expenses, there could be no better time than now.
1. Your Mortgage Payment
You may have also heard that there has never been a better time to remortgage your home, and in many ways that is true. Remortgaging is a very competitive business, and it’s only gotten more competitive in recent years. If you put some effort into digging around the internet to find good deals and reasonable interest rates, remortgaging can be nearly as great an idea as it sounds and save you hundreds of dollars every month. You need to be careful when researching your options, and you might want to enlist the help of a financial advisor. Remortgaging is essentially looking for a better deal on your payment, and the odds are that you can find one. But make sure you intend to stay in your home for the foreseeable future, or else the process won’t be worth it.
2. Credit Cards
The average family spends an unprecedented 12 percent on credit debt, a figure that has climbed enormously in recent years. Most of this money goes to paying large interest rates, which is why transferring your balance to a single account with a lower rate can save you money. It might be tough to consolidate your credit cards completely, especially if certain cards come with ridiculous balance transfer fees, or if some put limitations on what you can transfer and when. If you run into difficulties when you research consolidation, you can always call the credit card company and request a lower interest rate. Sometimes, they are willing to work with you in order to keep your business. You can also save money if you make sure you’re using your credit card rewards points on a regular basis, but don’t rack up extra interest just to get more points.
3. Reducing Other Bills
One of the most expensive monthly payments your family makes is almost guaranteed to be your cable bill. Cable companies are often changing their prices or offering bundled services with phone and internet, but they don’t necessarily advertise that to their current customers. Besides researching what kind of deals are available for your entertainment expenses, you can also try cutting back on your cell phone bill. Evaluating how many minutes you use and how many features you need can help you trim that bill, as well. There might even be more options for gas and electricity in your area than you realize. In general, all utilities are becoming much more competitive than they were in the past, and you can take advantage of that. Your bills, including entertainment and utilities, usually add up to 15 percent of your monthly spending.
4. Reduce Bank Fees
Many families are finding that they save money by choosing a credit union over a big bank. Banks can charge you monthly fees, ridiculous overdraft charges, and all kinds of extras. You should get informed about what exactly you are being charged. Even if you stick with the bank, many of them will be very accommodating about consolidating accounts or switching to accounts without fees because they are working hard to hold onto their customers. Make sure you direct deposit your paycheck and plan ahead for all your cash needs. Paying 5 dollars per transaction at an ATM that isn’t from your bank can add up if you do it all the time.
Usually, you will stay in good financial shape if you keep your housing down to less than 35 percent of your income and don’t pay more than 10 percent on credit cards. Of course, that can be easier said than done. Really sitting down and evaluating your monthly budget can be an overwhelming undertaking. You should talk it over with your spouse and not be afraid to enlist professional help if you need it. It’s never a bad time to start teaching your kids good spending habits while alleviating some of your own worries at the same time.
Amie Gottschalk is an avid tech blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @amiegottschalk.
Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to manage their finances.
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