Doubling Down? How to Avoid Budget Déjà Vu

Inflation is rising again, much to the dismay of those struggling to make ends meet. “Just what we need,” an acquaintance recently said. “Inflation is rising, my paycheck is not, and I’m already tapped!”

You may agree with this statement, but are you truly “tapped?” Is your budget beyond reproach? Weak financial planning may be forcing you to pay for the same needs twice, resulting in a budget déjà vu that steals your savings. Review the common culprits and learn how to reduce your expenditures.

  • Phones. Everyone owns a cell phone in today’s world, whether it’s for business or personal use. In addition to their mobiles, many people opt to maintain a landline in case of emergencies, costing hundreds of dollars each year. Why pay for two phones when one will do? Choose a single plan and save your cash. Here’s a tip: If you’re worried about emergencies, keep a deactivated cell phone charged in your home or car. Even old models will allow you to dial 911, no service plan required.
  • Cars. The average household owns one car per licensed driver. While this may be the norm, is it necessary? Carrying an extra car payment can cost thousands of dollars per year, a sum that is sure to take a bite out of your budget. Consider carpooling with your significant other or coworker. If you have teenagers, buy them a sensible and cheap used car that will allow them to drive without infringing on your bank account. You can’t lose.
  • Televisions. TV is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment in the U.S. That said, sporting a collection of flat screens is anything but economical. Take a moment to count the number of TVs in your house. How many do you actually watch? Did you know that the average model uses energy even when it is turned off? Consider earning some cash by selling your superfluous televisions on Craigslist. At the very least, unplug the models you aren’t watching.
  • Food. As a guilty party, I often come home from the grocery store with an ingredient already stocked in the refrigerator. While an extra green pepper may seem harmless, the metaphor can add up to a hefty food bill at the end of the month. Curb spending by planning meals that use the same ingredients. Cutting back on the number of groceries will allow you to cut back on your bottom line as well. Take a lesson from my mistake: take stock of the groceries in the fridge before shopping.
  • Rooms. You’ve probably heard of a “McMansion,” a term used to describe mass-production homes on a large scale. Owning a big house may seem like the American Dream, but the price of owning one is far from ideal. A costly mortgage, high property taxes, utility bills, lawn maintenance and home association dues are just a few of the factors that can reduce your bank account by tens-of-thousands each year. Don’t increase your burdens by doubling your square footage; determine how much space you need and stick to a reasonable lifestyle.
  • Kids. Growing your family is your prerogative, but it’s a good idea to consult your budget before having more children. Raising another is a an expensive lifetime commitment, one that requires you to plan and pay for:
    • Daily needs, i.e., food, clothing, toys, housing, etc.
    • Daycare
    • Schooling, extra-curricular activities
    • Insurance and medical needs
    • College

The list is long and daunting. Take a practical stance and examine this life change with caution. Your decisions will convey lasting outcomes.