In a survey conducted between September and October of last year, the Federal Reserve reported that 25 percent of American households are “just getting by.” Additionally, 13 percent said they were “barely getting by,” while a whopping 34 percent said they were “somewhat worse off or much worse off” than before the 2008 recession.
While these statistics are certainly unnerving, they don’t have to be your reality. If you find yourself in these challenging circumstances, it’s time to boost your financial stability with these seven smart money moves.
1. Earn Money on the Side
Evaluate your talents and your time, and research opportunities for some side income. Passive streams of income are ideal, but usually take time and effort to cultivate. A part-time retail job (especially as we enter the busy holiday shopping season) is a good option if you can swing a schedule that complements your nine-to-five and any other responsibilities. For more ideas, check out this list of over 50 ideas from popular personal finance blog, Budgets Are Sexy.
2. Identify Unnecessary Spending
If your budget is tight and you find yourself scraping the bottom of the barrel before each paycheck, it’s time to review your spending. We’re all guilty of spending a few dollars here and there; in fact, 15 percent of Americans’ incomes go toward the purchase of unnecessary items. Over the next month, track every dollar and highlight purchases that were unnecessary. Add up these transactions and you’ll likely find at least an extra hundred dollars in your budget.
3. Switch to a Credit Union
Depending on the fee structure and interest rates at your bank, you might consider switching to a credit union. In addition to offering more personalized service than a big bank, credit unions can offer lower (or zero) fees and higher APRs on checking and savings accounts. Credit unions are also non-profit cooperatives, which means they have more incentive to make you happy than a bank corporation with shareholders.
4. Look for New Insurance Plans
Having life, auto and health insurance payments on autopay is convenient, but you should review your policies every renewal period and shop around for better rates. It pays to be disloyal to your insurance agent, as bringing better rates to his or her attention may yield you a better rate without having to change carriers.
5. Be a Smarter Shopper
Being a smarter shopper requires planning and self-control, but the benefits of financial security far outway the sacrifices. Plan your meals around weekly ads from your grocery store, and try generic versions of foods, medicine and cleaning products to save anywhere from 30 to 60 percent over the name-brand alternatives. Look for grocery coupons from sites like CouponSherpa.com to stack your savings, and use their app for in-store coupons on everything from clothing to restaurants to auto services.
6. Negotiate Credit Card Interest Rates
Minimum monthly payments and high interest rates can make you feel like you’ll never be out of debt. In addition to budgeting so you can make higher payments toward your cards, contact customer service and try to negotiate a better rate. Learnvest offers a great checklist of what to do before and during the call, and Ramit Sethi, author of the best-selling personal finance book “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” offers this script if you’re unsure of what to say.
7. Consider Used Before New
Regardless of how well you control your spending now, you’ll face plenty of purchases in the future that will fall into the “need” category, like replacing a faulty microwave or a stained blouse. Before you run to the store to review your options, check out what you can buy used to reduce your overall spending by up to 70 percent! From consignment stores to online listings and print ads, there are numerous resources to search for used consumers goods. Here are five other sites similar to Craigslist where you can buy and sell used stuff.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc., who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.
For all media inquiries, please contact Andrea Woroch at 970-672-6085 or firstname.lastname@example.org.