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How to make your paycheck go further

Everyone wants to have more cash. Whether you have a modest income or a large salary, there are ways to make your hard-earned dollars go further each month. Living frugally doesn't necessarily mean living "without". Many times it is simply knowing how to be creative when budgeting your money.

According to a poll released by the American Payroll Association, more than 70% of American workers live from paycheck to paycheck. This is a dangerous situation for many individuals who are literally just one job loss or major medical expense away from financial disaster. Many times these same people also have crushing debt and no emergency savings in place.

In these tough economic times it may seem almost impossible to make any serious headway on the road to financial security. But with patience and determination, it can be done. Often it's just a matter of sitting down and going over your budget to see where real, significant changes can be made in your spending habits. Remember, small changes can bring big results.

As always, having a realistic budget and living within your means are the two of the most important factors needed to successfully manage your finances. The following suggestions should help you with your goal of stretching your paycheck. With some extra effort, you can reap big savings.

Tips on How to Stretch Your Paycheck

  • Trim your food budget. Overspending at the grocery store can quickly blow your budget. To get a handle on what you actually spend, you need to keep your receipts for an entire month. If you've budgeted $450 a month for food and you're really spending $700, that's a $250 leak right there. Helpful hints: Plan menus and prepare meals at home; cut coupons; buy generic brands; never shop when you are hungry.

Eating at home is almost always less expensive than going out or using take-away. Meals you cook at home are generally more nutritious than most restaurant offerings. Plus, you can control the portion sizes.

  • Cut the cable bill. Seriously, do you really watch the 500 channels you're paying for every month? The odds are you don't. Lose the cable or satellite companies, save some quick cash and check out the available services online or through retailers like Redbox or Netflix. Movies, TV shows and sporting events can be accessed through the internet at a much lower cost (and sometimes free of charge). If you stay with cable, cut the premium movie channels and rent the movies you want to see. Don't continue to pay for services you don't use.
  • Consider raising your deductibles for home and auto insurance coverage. The lower your deductibles, the higher your premiums. Speak with your agent about raising your deductibles. Savings can range from 15% to 30% depending on the amounts you choose. Also ask about available discounts. Most major insurance carriers offer multiple policy discounts (auto, home, and life), good driver discounts, honor student discounts, and senior discounts. Take advantage of those you qualify for.
  • Reduce eating out. It's tempting to get that latte every morning ($5 a cup) and go out with co-workers for lunch ($10 if you're lucky). But that's $300 a month and it doesn't even include occasional dinners with friends or family. Consider making your coffee at home and taking it with you. Instead of eating at a restaurant every day for lunch, bring a sandwich or other food from home a couple of times a week. Each positive change you make adds up to more savings for you.
  • Sell your stuff. Go through your belongings and get rid of the things you no longer want or need. Advertise them on Craigslist or E-bay. Have a yard sale. Remember, "One man's junk is another man's treasure". In addition to having more space in your home, you can probably pocket a nice amount of cash.
  • Look into refinancing your mortgage. This may require some time and effort on your part but the savings can be substantial. Interest rates are at their lowest levels in years so it's a good time to investigate.
  • Quit buying bottled water. Americans spend a fortune on bottled water- over $15 billion last year! If you don't want to drink tap water buy one of the many water filter systems available. Some fit onto your faucet. Others filter the water directly in a pitcher. Either way, it is hugely less expensive than all those plastic bottles (not to mention much better for the environment).
  • Purchase staple items in bulk. Buying in bulk can provide significant savings. Items such as cereals, pasta, grains, paper products, and cleaning supplies generally cost less when bought in bulk. Warehouse prices are not always the lowest available. Be sure to compare prices with other discount retailers. If items have an expiration date, be certain that you can use all of the products before that date.
  • Visit your local library. Purchasing the latest bestsellers can be an expensive habit. Take advantage of your local library and check out books for free. Many library branches now offer DVD rentals also. Using this service can help you avoid movie rental and late fees.
  • Pay your bills online. Almost all companies now have online payment options for their customers. Take the time to set up your accounts online. This saves postage and the hassle of not knowing exactly when your payment will actually arrive and post to your account. Online payments are usually immediate and you can print a receipt of your payment for your records. Being organized with your various accounts is important. Paying your monthly bills online makes it easy to make timely payments. This is crucial to maintaining a good credit history. It also helps you avoid costly late fees.
  • Don't be an emotional shopper. Impulse spending can devastate a budget. Know your triggers. If you can't go to the mall without buying something then don't go. If you frequently shop online, stay away from those websites. Helpful hints: Use cash to pay for purchases. Most people have a much harder time parting with cash than using a credit card. Also, employ the "72 hour" rule. Give yourself three days before making a purchase- the initial thrill is usually gone by then.