The funny thing about money is that we have all lived with it our entire lives, but most of us have absolutely no idea how to handle it properly. This lack of money sense can lead to a lot of problems, especially in bad economic times.

If you have found yourself facing hard times and your paycheck is feeling stretched to the limit, you need to make some changes. The last thing that you want to do is sit around and just hope things will get better because they rarely do. Luckily, there are a lot of steps that you can take to track your finances and improve your situation, no matter what your income looks like.

Take a look here

Cut Your Food Budget

Your food budget is one of the easiest categories to manipulate. You don’t need to go hungry, but you can shave hundreds of dollars off of your expenses by making smarter decisions. I recently read an article on that claimed that you can save 400 dollars a month just by meal planning alone. For those of you who do not know, meal planning is just what it sounds like. You plan out your meals for a week so that you can shop more effectively and stop wasting money at the grocery store.

Cut Your Food Budget

It doesn’t stop with meal planning though. There are dozens of extra ways to slash your food budget without drastically changing your way of life. Start taking your lunches to work, cut out restaurant meals, give up soda or simply switch to generics. All these little things can add up big, in the aggregate.

Reduce Your Auto Expenses

Another budget category that you should take a close look at to track your finances is your auto expenses. Over time, these can really get out of hand. The problem is that you never notice a few dollars here and a few dollars there until several years down the road, so to speak.

Reduce Your Auto Expenses

A perfect example of this is your auto insurance. Every year, your carrier likely increases your premium ever so slightly, they are pretty good about that. Over time, the difference can be quite large which is why you need to shop your auto insurance every year before it renews. Insurance companies save their biggest discounts for new clients and premiums vary greatly from company to company. Shop your policy and you can often shave hundreds of dollars off your annual insurance costs.

Your vehicle itself can also be a huge area of waste. Americans are spending more on their cars than ever and most of us are financing them. This adds up to a substantial monthly expense, especially if you have made a few trades over the years, carrying negative equity. If times are tight, trading your vehicle in on a cheaper model is a tough choice, but a smart one. Even if you are slight upside down, you might be able to reap nice monthly savings. Just be sure to stick with a reasonable loan term of 4 to 5 years.

Stop Wasting Money On Entertainment

This is not to say that you should be “all work and no play” but you should stop throwing money away.

The biggest offender here is subscription television. Cable and satellite TV companies are dinosaurs, big expensive dinosaurs. If you are still paying 100 dollars or more to one of these companies, do what everyone else is doing and finally cut the cord. Pick up a streaming service like Netflix for 10 dollars a month or, if you must have your networks, move to a streaming service for half the price of cable.

Stop Wasting Money On Entertainment

Another way to keep yourself entertained without spending a lot of money is to take advantage of free events. Even in the era of social distancing, many cities are still providing some responsible free entertainment. This could be a free concert or even movies in the park. Check the online calendar of the cities near you and try to plan out at least some of your social life around them.

Free is the most important thing when it comes to entertainment. You do not have to spend money to be entertained. These days you can stream free movies, download free apps and sign up for free trials (just remember to cancel them). You might be surprised at just how much “free” there is in the world if you just take the time to look.

No Budget Category Should Be Safe

The cuts above only represent a small portion of the changes that you can and should make to your monthly budget. If you are not currently making ends meet, no category should be safe from change.

Some of these changes will be simple like cutting out your daily cup of Starbuck or some may be more difficult like moving to a cheaper home. The steps you need to take to maintain a good personal finance merit badge will be dictated by your situation, so take some time to analyze your situation and then take make sure that you take action.

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