Tiffany Pesonen's Blog
If your household budget seems a little tight, lately, there may be several ways to ease it.
It's amazing how many people do not keep track of where their money goes, which is often the reason it disappears so quickly!
Another piece of the puzzle is the fact that we're all creatures of habit. With few exceptions, most of us go through the motions of our lives on auto-pilot. In some ways, that works to our advantage, but in other ways, it can hinder our progress.
Saving Money Begins With Awareness
One approach to reducing stress and improving the quality of life is to save money and curb expenses, whenever possible. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to deprive yourself or your family of anything you need or want. What it does mean is eliminating spending that is wasteful, unnecessary, or redundant.
The first step involves sitting down and creating a household budget on your computer. There's no need to purchase and learn any fancy software. Many people are comfortable with creating budgets and other documents on Excel spreadsheets or Quicken, while others prefer setting up simple tables on a word processing program like MS Word. The interesting thing about creating a document with your monthly expenses and income on it is that it provides a visual depiction of your cash flow. In other words, it shows where, when, and how your money is coming and going!
Analyze and Take Action
After you've identified areas in which you can cut back without causing any hardship, the next step is to actually implement those changes. If you weren't able to identify any sources of wasteful, unnecessary, or excessive spending from creating a budget, then take a look at your monthly invoices for items like credit cards, cable TV, cell phones, and other services.
By examining the services you're paying for, you may realize you're paying for more than you need or even use. Sometimes by switching your service plan to a more basic option, you can save hundreds of dollars a year. In the case of credit cards, if you've been paying your bills on time and not making a habit of maxing out your account, you may be able to request and receive a lower interest rate. This is yet another way to reduce your expenses and keep more of what your earn. Comparing insurance plans and switching to a more economical plan or provider is another strategy for reducing costs and easing budgetary strains.
There are also free worksheets, budget calculators, and other resources online that can help you take charge of your spending and saving habits. Setting financial goals, establishing priorities, controlling impulse buying, saving a portion of your income (especially bonuses, tax refunds, and raises) and keeping track of your spending on a daily basis are also key parts of an effective money management plan. As a side note: If you need to consult with a reliable credit counselor for help, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission provides helpful information.
- Scrub grout in the kitchen and bathroom.
- Wash pillow and mattress protectors as well as duvet covers.
- Discard any food in the freezer that has become freezer burnt or is past its time.
- Wax any wood floors your home may have.
- Dust fans you have throughout your home. Don’t forget to do this in the winter when they are not in use to avoid build-up.
- Wipe down and disinfect light switch plates and door knobs.
- Wipe down and disinfect your home phones and your family’s cell phones.
- Flush drains. Try a natural solution by pouring baking soda down drains and allowing to sit overnight to deodorize. In the morning pour hot water down the drain to rinse the baking soda out and flush the drain.
- Wipe down walls, doors and baseboards.
- Check the fire alarms throughout your home and replace any batteries when necessary.
- Dust each room in your home.
- Empty all trash bins throughout your home. Don’t forget smaller, less used baskets like in your child’s room or in the office.
- Clean sinks, toilets, and bath of any soap scum or buildup.
- Vacuum and mop the floors throughout your home.
- Wipe down surfaces like tables and counters.
- Clean mirrors and windows.
- Wash sheets and pillowcases.
- Sort through your mail and email inbox. Pay any upcoming bill and file paperwork as necessary.
- Clean fridge out of any food that has gone past its expiration.
- Wipe down appliances in the kitchen such as the microwave, stove, and toaster.
- Wipe down and deodorize trashcans and recycling bins.
- Put out fresh towels in your bathrooms and kitchen
- Tidy up. Keep on top of clutter by putting items away when they are no longer in use.
- Make the beds and if your children are old enough encourage them to make theirs.
- Sort out mail. File and discard as necessary.
- Clean up as you prepare meals to leave time to relax after dinner time instead of spending another hour in the kitchen.
- Wipe up any spills as they happen to avoid having to use elbow grease to clean up later.
- Sweep the kitchen floor and any other high traffic areas.
- Throw in a load of laundry. If you have a large family make laundry more manageable by doing a load a day.
- The chef's knife. A chef's knife is arguably the most important item in any kitchen. A good chef's knife is made from steel, has balanced weight, and is comfortable to hold. Be sure to keep it sharp and there's nothing you can't cut with it.
- Two spatulas. One metal for flipping items on your baking sheets and meat on the grill, one plastic for your frying pans. Thin, heat-resistant, and durable are what you're looking for here.
- Three spoons. One wooden (for stirring), one plastic with holes and one plastic without holes.
- A strainer. You don't need four sizes of strainer; one big one will do. Be sure to pick one with handles, sturdy handles, for draining big pots of pasta.
- Shears. Whether it's for de-stringing a Thanksgiving turkey or opening up a bag of frozen peas, they'll save you a headache trying to use a knife.
- Serrated bread knife. Unless you like to ruin a fresh loaf of bread by crushing it while cutting it, you'll need a serrated edge.
- Measuring cups and spoons. Clean your measuring spoons by hand so they don't get tossed around in your dishwasher and melted.
- Can opener. Skip the huge electric can openers and buy a good handheld one that will last years.
- Cutting board. A quality large wooden cutting board will make your life a lot easier, and it won't dull your blades.
- Peeler. Y-shaped peelers are much easier to use than their knife-shaped counterparts.
- Mixing bowl. You could benefit from multiple mixing bowls if you do a lot of baking, but oftentimes you only need one large bowl for most recipes and can use your smaller soup bowls for other ingredients.
Avoiding the gimmicksIt seems like every day there's a new infomercial for a lemon juice squeezer or a banana slicer. You'll notice that they tend to follow certain trends and offer the same promises. Here are the ones to avoid:
- Fruit and vegetable slicers. If you have a knife, there's no need for tools that claim to slice certain types of vegetables better than others.
- Single-use tools. Shears designed just for cutting and serving pizza? Yes, they exist. Avoid items that will just take up space in your cabinets and opt for those that serve multiple purposes.
- Things you've never heard of. If it's an object that you've never seen or heard of before, odds are you don't need it in your kitchen cabinets. The most time-tested tools are all it takes to make great meals in your kitchen.