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Clean Up Your Budget in Thirty Minutes

I often compare a financial checkup to a physical checkup or spring-cleaning your closets. It happens every six months and you spend a bit more time than usual examining your whole body or closet. You should look at your budget or monthly spending the same way. Since most of us don’t know where to start when examining our budget, I’ve put together a thirty-minute financial check-up on your monthly spending. There are always parts that can be cleaned up (like a good closet). Remember, you can enjoy your life and still be financially savvy.

If you can, combine all your insurance policies with one carrier (this includes auto and homeowners) and umbrella. You should be able to get a discount for that. If not, you might want to consider shopping around insurance companies and even switching. If you are looking to save money on your homeowner’s insurance, you can also raise the deductible.

Food and Eating Out
Eating out and the grocery bill tend to be the biggest black hole of most budgets. By being more conscious about this area, you can end up saving lots of money and still doing the things you enjoy. Examine your eating out food costs and your grocery bill. Don’t go the extreme of never eating out, but set limits. For example: make breakfast at home, bring your lunch to work three times a week, cut out the afternoon coffee, only order in dinner once a week, and eat out to dinner twice a week for a total of $100. Maybe this won’t work for you, but come up with a plan that does and you will be surprised how much money you will save!

Some other helpful tips include making a list before you go to the grocery store and filtering your own water so to cut down on bottled water. Also, make a list, and stick to it, when you go shopping at the big discount stores like Target, Wal-Mart, and Costco. You might think you are saving money, but many of us always end up spending more due to impulse purchases on items we don’t really need.

Home Expenses
There are lots of little things around the house that can eat into a budget. Just checking on them every six months can save huge on your monthly bills. One place is the phone bill. You can combine your cell phone and landline provider. I get a monthly $5 discount just for that! In addition, I call my cell phone company every six months and end up with a better plan that costs less and gives me more minutes.

You can also examine your cable bill. Do you really need all those movie channels? I just cut back on channels I never watched. If you have a mortgage, you can split your monthly bill into two monthly payments. It will reduce the total interest you pay quite a bit over the years. You can also do this with student loans and get a lower rate.

If you can find just five places to spend smarter in your budget, it will make a big difference. Even if each only saves $10 per month, they add up collectively! Plug the leaks and spend smarter.

Updated, November 11, 2008

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