I am sure you have noticed our paychecks getting a little smaller in 2013. With the end of the payroll tax holiday, the average household will see about $83-$140 less per month. To ease the impact on our budgets I wanted to find ways to reduce expenses. There are hundreds of suggestions out there, and I have chosen four of them to try and close the gap in one month with grocery shopping, gas, electricity costs, and cleaning products. Here is how it went…

Grocery ListGrocery Shopping

Just a little back story on this…I am the worst grocery shopper EVER! I am classic for spending $200, leaving with only 4 bags of groceries, forgetting what I went there for, and still not having all of the ingredients to make one complete dinner. Needless to say, I had some room for improvement! So, I started with what was already in the pantry and built 2 weeks of meals. Then I made a list of only what I needed for those meals and went on my local grocery store website to get the grocery store and manufacturer’s coupons for the items on my list and then…sent my husband to the store. At the end of the month we had saved about $45.18.

 Gas

This was a tough one. We live 16 miles from my office, 8 miles from my husband’s office and 9 miles from the nearest grocery store. Planning errands was the only way that I could really cut back on our family’s gas consumption. So, I avoided going anywhere unless I could get something accomplished while either on the way to work or home. Planning everything in one trip worked out really well. Then, around the middle of the month, gas prices jumped about .40 per gallon in 4 days. So compared to last month, we spent $2.27 more on gas. On the bright side, we would have spent even more had we not been watching our amount of driving. The demands on travel and the cost of gas will always be changing. So if you save on the months you can, you will have a little extra when gas prices go up.

Electricity Costs

Well for this task I had to get the family involved. Making sure that lights are off turned out to be a really good task for my 3 and 5 year old daughters. Because they were the usual culprit of the light being left on, this was a win-win. They both took their light patrol jobs very seriously. Of course they still needed our help and along with unplugging electronics we were able to bring down our bill by $14.48 for the month.

Household Products

This was a shocker. I was able to make almost all of my household cleaning products with only a handful of ingredients. With vinegar, blue Dawn dish soap, rubbing alcohol, and water I was able to make:  floor cleaner, all purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, stainless steel cleaner, and window cleaner – all for pennies! There are many recipes out there for these cleaners on blogs and pinterest.com. These products still disinfect and there are no harsh or dangerous chemicals in these cleaners, which is a huge bonus. They all work so well that I would never go back to the other stuff. The cost of all ingredients was $9.82 (with plenty of the product left); the cost of all the cleaners replaced was $29.61 (based off the Amazon prices for my previous go to products), for a savings of $19.79! I think vinegar might be my new favorite smell.

With these four small changes I was able to save $77.18 in one month, which adds up to $926.16 a year. Small changes make a big difference. What would you do with an extra $926 a year?

So what should you do with the money you save after making changes? Here are a few ideas…If you want more suggestions or just want to create a simple spending and savings plan, call LSS at 888.577.2227. If the internet is more your thing, you can START ONLINE COUNSELING now instead. It’s quick, easy, and just as effective as phone or in-person counseling.

Author Ashley Hagelin a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS who specializes in Reverse Mortgage Counseling.

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