5 Budgeting Problem Areas (And How to Fix Them)

Whether you are working towards a financial goal or just trying to make ends meet, finding ways to reduce spending and streamline you budgeting can be exasperating. It seems like there is always another bill or unexpected expense, leaving you with a number that’s less than ideal and little clue where your cash went.

Budgeting should be your first step, and we’ve got tips to trim some of the fat so you actually meet it.

How to fix your budget

Making changes to your current budget isn’t easy, but it could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.

Entertainment

Getting rid of your cable or satellite subscription is a savings standby, but today the options are much more complex than 10 (or even five) years ago.

Check with your Internet service provider about downgrading your connection; unless you are someone who streams video or downloads large files, there often isn’t a need to have a faster connection besides impatience. If you use it for basic tasks like email and social media, consider cancelling your subscription and using free hotspots like coffee shops or libraries.

Besides basic cable and Internet, you might also have one or more of a slew of other lower-cost services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. Some cable networks have their own streaming video subscriptions, such as HBO or Showtime. Analyze your entertainment consumption for overlap and make cuts where needed.

Food

It’s difficult to cut down monthly food expenses for myriad reasons. Maybe no one has time to cook, someone in your family has a food allergy, or you simply have a lot of mouths to feed.

Switching from name brand to off-brand foods is a start; stores like Walmart have their own, cheaper version of most products, though you might be looking at a compromise in taste.

Changes in the way you spend your food budget might be in order. If you seriously cannot cook all your meals, cut back on what you bring home from the store. When you do make a grocery trip, survey what your kitchen needs and make a list and stick to it instead of wandering the aisles looking for items you might want on impulse or mistakenly think you need.

Transportation

Public transit is a great savings option for those who have access to it, but in many areas of the country, personal transportation is a must. Scooters and some motorcycles will save you on gas, but poor choices for families or bad weather.

If you determine you must have an automobile or you can live with a downgrade of what you currently own, do your research before heading to the auto lot. Websites like Kelley Blue Book offer free estimates on how much a car in a certain condition with a certain amount of miles should cost. Use your best judgment about what kind of vehicle best suits your needs.

Above all, make a purchase you feel will be a sound investment that will live out its worth. Your personal vehicle could be one of the most expensive purchases of your life.

Finally, if you’ve already gotten the best vehicle for you, consider checking with various lenders about the possibility of refinancing your auto loan.

Utilities

When it comes to reducing your utility bills, common sense is king: Don’t use what you don’t need. If turning off the lights and cutting down those long showers isn’t enough, take a look at the way your home might be devouring your money.

Basic maintenance keeps your house safe and sturdy and also eliminates problems that will increase your water, gas, or electricity bills. For example, windows and doors should be properly insulated to prevent the loss of heat or cold, depending on the season.

Type of Debts

Credit cards are exactly what they’re supposed to be – fast, easy, and convenient. They usually don’t require collateral (like your home or automobile) and can be used any time – but their interest rates leave something to be desired. The national average is just lower than 17%.

Personal loans are less convenient, but could be a better option for a big purchase to make or to rebuild your credit score. Some require collateral, but some do not, and if you can find one that has a lower interest rate, you can use it to pay down wayward credit cards more easily (under the solemn swear that you will not run up those balances again). Your bank or credit union is usually a great place to start.