by David Riedel
Many times when we create budgets, we don’t count on the unexpected. Why? Because the unexpected is…you get the idea. That’s why I think adding a contingency to your budget is smart.
But let’s say you forgot to add the contingency. Or you went over the contingency number because you were in a car accident and had to pay the deductible on repairs before the insurance kicked in. Here are five ways to not make your financial woes worse by avoiding overspending.
- Ease up on gifting. Mother’s Day is around the corner, and while I’m all for letting the moms in your life know how much you appreciate them, don’t shoot the moon on gifts. (Maybe show said moms how much you appreciate them in small ways all the time instead of one day a year?) But gift spending for any occasion is a great way to add debt when you don’t mean to. (See: Christmas)
- Look at your credit card bills before you pay them. In the past year, two of my friends have had bogus charges of the small-enough-to-not-notice variety pop up on credit card bills and only discovered them when checking their year-end summaries. By that point there were two unpleasant possibilities: Someone was using their identities (or just the credit cards), and it was too late to have the charges removed. (Ask me about the time $1700 worth of costume jewelry showed up on one of my cards.)
- Use coupons and look for bargains online. I know! You hate coupons. So do I. Comparing prices online, however, doesn’t bother me much, but it can be time consuming. I use Honey (this is not an advertisement, by the way), and link it to my Amazon account so it always finds the lowest price of the item I’m about to buy. If you use Prime, there may be longer shipping times, but waiting an extra day for that leg massager probably isn’t the worst thing in the world.
- Stop smoking. When I quit (almost 15 years ago), for one year I put half the money I spent daily on cigarettes in the bank, and the other half under my mattress. With the mattress money, I bought a round-trip ticket to Paris (I smoked a lot). I know other people who have done similar things—stopped buying drinks at bars; cut restaurant visits to once a week; quit going to Starbucks—and have found themselves with a boatload of extra cash. It’s amazing how much we spend on some things and don’t realize it.
- Constantly check in with your cable and Internet providers for better rates. There are some providers out there who raise monthly fees without telling you. And there are companies out there that, when you threaten to leave them for someone else, lower their rates. I’ve done it countless times. Give it a shot.