The “B” Word - Budget

Flashmail

Suggestions:

* Review your cable bill and see what you can do without. When I realized my ”Basic Cable Package” (no movie channels) was costing me $50/month, I canceled it and don't miss it a bit –– I spent more time channel surfing trying to find something interesting than I actually spent watching anything valuable. I've found a lot of archived television shows on the Internet for free that I can watch at my convenience.

* Cancel your home Internet service and use the Internet at the public library (or at work if your employer allows). You can get free Internet–based email accounts through ”gmail”, ”yahoo”, ”msn”, etc. Students can typically get Internet and email for free through their educational entity.

* Review your cell phone bill and see if there's a more affordable package that suits your needs –– (for example, do you really need unlimited text messaging)?

* If everyone in your household has a cell phone, maybe you can cancel the land line at your house.

* Form a ”DVD Sharing Group” with your friends/neighbors –– if someone in the group owns or rents a movie, more people could be watching it for free rather than renting/buying it on their own.

* Opt not to buy alcoholic drinks at bars or restaurants –– they charge huge mark–ups. Buying your favorite beverage at the grocery/liquor store and enjoying it at home is a far more affordable way to still enjoy your vices (and you won't need a designated driver!)

* When eating out, either share an entree with someone or be sure to only eat half and take the left–overs home for another meal. Serving sizes are usually way too large anyway –– you can get two meals out of what they serve as one.

* While weather permits, hand wash your vehicle rather than paying a car wash.

* I've started buying meat at a local meat company (butcher, packaging). I bought 20 lb. of beef for $60 – 1/3 steaks, 1/3 roasts, and 1/3 hamburger. It tastes better and supports local business, as well as being much cheaper than grocery stores. On Mondays you can buy 10 lb. bulk bags of ground beef for less than $25. I take it home, break it down, and freeze. Some of my recipes call for 1.5 lbs ground beef, and some I make less than a pound (for tacos, hamburgers).

* There are several Amish websites that offer how to make your own cleaning supplies and baby wipes, as well as having simple recipes with basic ingredients.

* I buy everything grocery–wise at WINCO. It really does make a huge difference, and I'm talking dollars, not pennies. Also, you can buy spices, flour and sugar in bulk, which is way cheaper than what's on the shelf. I also try to grocery shop every other week, and if I get my produce at the farmer's market, since it is fresh and lasts longer, this keeps me out of the grocery store and sticking to meal planning.

* Marion County Foodshare has 12 gardens that are rented for $35 a lot annually.

* One expense that most families forget to budget for is gifts. I have found inexpensive ways to gift people without spending a lot, however it requires a learned skill. I've been making darling purses for my girlfriends and they only cost about $3 to make. They are fun to make, you can use scraps to lower the cost even more and my friends love them. In the past I have made knitted slippers like grandma used to make. Those were always a big hit. But lately with the economy in flux we have made a group decision to forfeit the gift giving on birthdays and Christmas. It just makes it easier to get together for lunch, dinner or drinks, then the person being honored has their meal paid for by the group. We used to do that and a gift. It takes the financial pressure off and the pressure of finding that perfect gift. We all love the ease of no more presents.

* Walk or bicycle to work/stores/visits with friends/etc – whenever possible – not only for the sake of your budget – but also for the sake of your body – mind – and spirit.

* First I cut up every credit card I had and paid off every debt except the house in a very short time period (6 months). I paid off my debt by paying off the smallest debt first so that I saw immediate victories even though they may have been @ lower interest rates. Debt is not in my vocabulary. I use cash 95% of the time (debit card 5%) and put my allocations in envelopes. Every dollar is allocated every month so I know where my money is spent. A $500.00 savings account is not large enough in todays costs, I have $1,000.00 and find that it covers Murphys Law. If people don't have enough money in savings this will require them to borrow again which is defeating their debt victories. Spouses must be working in cooperation, otherwise a budget will not work. Don't buy a new car (loan). Save money for a used car replacement and upgrade every year. If you buy a new car, roll the window down and throw a $100.00 bill out the window every week because that is how much its depreciating. My stress has been dramatically reduced using Dave Ramseys (author) money management approach.

* Cancel all of your magazine subscriptions.

* Shop around on–line for the best deals.

* Find a coworker that lives nearby and carpool to work. If you can find more than one, even better. Take turns driving.

* Start a vegetable garden. Some vegetables are easy to grow and provide summer–long yields. Lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and even potatoes can be grown in large containers on your patio and are easy to grow. If you don't have space, look for a co–op garden to plant your veggies in.

* Eat healthier. Reduce the meat and processed foods in your diet, which tend to cost more. Vegetables and fruit are a cheap and healthy alternative. Raw vegetables and fruit have added healthful benefits, and you save money by not turning on your stove!

* Unplug your TV and DVD player two nights per week, and take your kids and/or significant other to the park, ride bikes or play a board game. You'll be amazed at the amount of electricity you will save and you'll be spending quality time with your loved ones too.

* Make sure that you unplug coffee pots, irons, stereos, toasters and other appliances when not in use. They continue to draw electricity even when they're turned off. Swap your old incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs. They last longer and use less energy. Consider replacing regular light switches with motion–activated light switches, especially in areas like the garage, kitchen and bathrooms.

* Avoid takeout containers, bring your own cup to the coffee shop, your own grocery bag to the grocery store, and wash dishes by hand. Some grocery stores will now give you a discount if you bring your own bag. Washing dishes by hand uses less water and electricity too.

* Get a manual rotary push mower and plant drought–resistant plants in your yard. Collect rain water or gray water from washing dishes to water plants and wash your car.

* Rent out a room in your house, or share an apartment.

* Throw a garage sale. You make some cash and un–clutter your closets of unused items.

* Don't forget to recycle your bottles and cans.

* Consolidate your trips! Gas is too high...use less gas....use other forms of transportation!

* Ride your bike to work, or walking if close enough to destinations.

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In today's economy everyone needs a Budget. With the price of gas at $4.00 a gallon plus – and no end in sight – everyone has had to rethink everyday expenses.

You probably know about how much you spend on various expenses throughout a month. And if you are like most of us – you have more month than money. That increase at the pump will also translate into higher prices for other items as well. We need to rethink how we choose to spend our money – and most of the time it is a choice.

There are places to cut back. You may not want to cut back – but you can. The following list is just a beginning. If you think of others – we welcome your ideas and what has worked for you. Email us at info@cascadecenter.com. We will post your suggestions on our website at www.cascadecenter.com, click Employee Assistance, locate Flashmail section, and click on The “B” Word – Budget June Flashmail.

• Reduce or cancel cable service.
• Clip coupons – make it a family game.
• Do you need a home phone and a cell phone?
• Eliminate those daily coffee runs.
• If your employer allows – work from home one or two days per week.
• Vacation in your own city.
• Do you smoke? Maybe it's time to quit.
• Carpool.
• Go to the library instead of the bookstore.
• Evaluate your food expenses – don't go to the grocery store hungry – take a list – stick to the list. Make a circle around the store and buy mostly from the outside walls. Impulse items are close to check–out – fresh items are on the outside walls.
• Take your lunch to work.
• Buy in bulk.
• Leave early for your destination so you can drive slower – a few miles per hour slower will save gas.
• Make your own cleaning supplies with white vinegar, baking soda, rubbing alcohol, ammonia – find “recipes” on www.organizedhome.com.
• Think very carefully about charging anything you can't pay off when the bill comes.
• Try to get at least $500 in a savings account. That $500 will usually keep you from disaster – replenish it ASAP if you have to use it.

Establishing a budget is simply a plan for allocating resources – estimating income and expenses over a certain period of time – usually a month. Budget – it's not really a bad word – it can be your friend.

For more information call Cascade EAP.