Recent reports confirm that credit card debt among Americans remains on the rise. Not only are more of us dipping into debt, but we’re also falling further behind than ever, with the average debtor owing nearly $15,000.
Concerns are real and there’s a growing sense of urgency to tackle the problem, with the best solutions revolving around getting organized, making a personal budget, and paying down those bloated balances.
The only problem is: Where does the extra money come from month after month?
By taking a thorough approach, committing to change, and staying true, it’s possible for the majority of us to trim our budgets and erase debt. If you’re struggling to get started, you may not realize that there are a number of solutions that may work for you.
One of the most effective and lasting ways to shrink your monthly expenditures is reigning in the amount you spend grocery shopping. These strategies will help you put a dent in your debt without having to endure a reduction in quality or quantity.
Clip Coupons. Read the circulars, comb the papers, and capitalize on opportunities to double up on savings. With a bit of diligence, extreme couponing can allow you to purchase anything from orange juice to tomato soup for next to nothing.
Shop Specials. Flank steak might normally cost $8.99 a pound, but you can catch it on special at half price. Adjust your weekly menu to what’s on sale, and hold back on buying any item until you find the price you like.
Skip Step-Savers. It might be a bit easier making stir-fry from the pre-assembled kit the store has prepared, but you end up over-paying for their labor. Take the time to do it yourself, and you’ll do better on value and quality.
Shop Bulk. Those with storage space can dramatically reduce annual spending by buying in bulk. If apartment living stands in your way, pool your resources with friends and neighbors to share in the savings.
What’s life without simple pleasures, like lounging on the couch watching a classic movie, or socializing with friends on a sunny day? While it’s natural to cling to creature comforts, entertainment is normally an area where you can make dramatic cuts in spending.
Eat In. By eating out one less time per week, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars every month. Family meal planning in advance can help you avoid getting caught unprepared and rushing into an expensive meal.
Go Out. By keeping abreast with what’s going on in your community, you can enhance your social life while spending considerably less. From free concerts and movies in the park, to poetry readings and art shows, these types of events are always more rewarding than dropping $40 on a two-star comedy and stale popcorn.
Save at Home. Find ways to trim your cable bill by bundling, signing a contract, or reducing to the extra options and channel packages. Resist the urge to buy the latest gadgets, and be open to inheriting older electronics that can serve your needs while adhering to your financial priorities.
Borrow Instead of Buy. The latest bestseller might cost $20 or more at the store, but it’s free if you borrow it from the library. You can also find tons of free and cheap music, eBooks, and games online from sites such as Amazon.
It’s not always convenient making the distinction between what you want and what you need. However, this is precisely what has to happen in order to significantly diminish your credit debt.
Transportation. This is one line in the budget that you can definitely slash. Drive less, trade your gas-guzzling model for something more economical, sell your car, or take the bus.
Exercise. Believe it or not, you don’t need an annual gym membership or the equipment offered on late-night infomercials. There are always ways to stay in shape that are absolutely free. Join a sports-related Meetup group, take advantage of equipment in public parks and municipal areas, work out at home, or just go out and jog.
Clothing. Your shoe addiction is just not acceptable when you are staring at rising interest rates, trashed credit ratings, and collection calls every month. Wait for sales, shop vintage, and reinvent what you have to keep your look fresh without breaking the bank.
Vacation. You may be dying to relive that family vacation to Hawaii, but if you have to put it on plastic, forget it. Consider camping, visiting family members who live in a fun place, or choosing a location you can drive to until your credit balance is out of the red.
Don’t treat responsible spending like going on a diet, or the yo-yo scenario will soon take hold. By making small adjustments to your lifestyle, like brewing coffee instead of buying it, bringing lunch to work, and avoiding impulsive spending, you can climb out of the credit debt rabbit hole that so many have fallen into. Find the areas where you can save, and make the tough choices each and every day, and you’ll soon be out of debt.
Brian Spero writes about money saving strategies and credit/debt tips on the popular personal finance resource Money Crashers.