10 Ways to Put Money Back In Your Pocket
Kim Eastin ( Contributor)

Several years ago, when the U.S. housing market and economy were in the midst of being upended, my family and I found ourselves in desperate need of a financial makeover. Living outside of our means, increased use of credit, and other poor choices (and a few circumstances out of our control) led to us sitting down and taking a very hard look at our budget. What we realized is that we didn’t really have a budget! Mistake #1.

Upon sitting down with pencil, paper, and calculator, we came up with a budget that we were able to live with. Yes, there were some sacrifices. But they were sacrifices that we should have made before we got into trouble. Mistake #2.

Setting up a budget was humbling, to say the least. We wrote down how much money was coming in (our employment income), and how much was going out (our bills, tuition, food and clothing, and entertainment). We were able to discern what we absolutely had to pay (electric bill) and what we could give up (our second cell phone line). We ended up cutting out all of the non-essentials, at first. This was humbling, as I mentioned, but necessary for us to get back on track. After the initial stage of getting ourselves sorted with a budget and a plan, we came up with many ways to cut corners. As we began putting our plan into action, we noticed our daughter (then a preschooler) was finding small ways that she could help! The small changes we made had a big impact on our financial situation.

Getting your finances back on track is going to take a commitment to change! Leave your pride at the door, and take an honest look at what you have the power to change!

1. Pay yourself first to give yourself something to make all the hard changes worth it. Giving your budget an overhaul can make you feel like you are giving up so many things. Your “allowance” could be $5 or $50, but paying yourself can give you something for YOU and help keep you from getting discouraged.

2. Use cash whenever you can. This will give you a physical reminder of how much money you have, and how much you can spend. This is especially helpful when you go to a special event or attraction such as a fair, festival, or even a weekend away. Using a cash budget can help you prioritize what you want to do first, and if there is cash left over you can do other things.

3. Make a meal plan each week and stick to it. Make a grocery list of things that you need, and do not stray from it. This decreases the chances you will make impulse buys. Our family has also discovered that if we go to the grocery after we have eaten, we buy less “junk.”

4. Research big purchases and wait 7 days before buying something more than $50 (aside from bills and necessities). If you still feel that you need to buy the item, plan ahead by earmarking funds for a big purchase, rather than buying on credit.

5. Cut back or go without the things that you do not need. This is one of the hardest things to do, because it can feel as though you are giving up a lot. Having the latest technology and the latest fashion items is expensive! When learning to live within our means, my family and I discovered that we could deal with not having 400 television channels and two smartphones with expensive data plans. By cutting these expenses from our budget, we were able to save ourselves $150 a month!

6. Look for the best deals. Use store and online coupons, buy generic/store brand products, and watch for store specials to save on the everyday items you buy. Many times you can get a great deal in a store by simply asking for a discount. Do not be afraid to ask! The worst that can happen is that they say No. Use websites such as to find coupons, price matches, rewards programs, free meals, and cash back programs.

7. Use your tax returns wisely! Pay down credit card and loan balances, make extra payments on loans, do home repairs you’ve been putting off, and then SAVE the rest. Prepare for unexpected expenses down the line, such as your washer suddenly dying, or emergency car repairs.

8. Switch to bi-monthly mortgage payments. Many banks and mortgage lenders allow you to split the month’s payments into two payments. This breaks a large payment into amounts that are easier to deal with. For example, if your mortgage payment is $1,000 a month, you will be making two $500 payments. This gives you more money to work with throughout the entire month, and takes the sting out of having to pay it all at once. It can also, over the lifetime of your mortgage, slash your interest payments, putting more toward the principal. Also, ask your lender for a reduction in interest rate. In many instances, if your account is in good standing, lenders will work with you to get a smaller interest rate and smaller monthly payments.

9. Pay more than the minimum payment on credit cards to pay down the balance faster. High interest rates on credit cards make it more difficult to pay off the debt, and you can end up paying two to three times the amount of the original purchase! It’s important to remember that credit card companies make their money off the interest; the longer you take to pay off a balance, the more you end up paying in the long run.

10. Make basic repairs yourself! Many basic home and automobile repairs can be done yourself, instead of paying someone else to do it. Shop fees and house call fees are outrageous and can be avoided with little know-how or help from a friend (but don’t forgot to pay your friend with a meal or a 6-pack!).

Now that you’ve got some solid ideas on how to live more frugally, what ideas can YOU come up with?