Trimming Your Household Budget -- Again
Get ready for more belt-tightening. Food prices had their biggest jump in 36 years in February. The cost of gasoline hit record levels last year. And the U.S. Department of Labor reports that the prices of many other necessities are going up, too, including clothing, fuel oil, electricity, transportation, and medical expenses. The across-the-board increases may mean that you won’t be able to keep your budget under control just by giving up a few small luxuries -- you’ll have to look for ways to trim larger costs. For most households, the biggest expenses are food, housing, and the cost of owning and operating vehicles, the Department of Labor say. So those are the areas where you’re likely to find the most savings. Here are some tips:
- Eat less meat. If food is the largest item on many budgets, meat is typically the most expensive item on a family’s grocery list, research shows. Trim your budget by replacing meat at some meals with beans, lentils, or nuts and nut butters, all of which are good sources of protein.
- Shop for the best deals on gas. You don’t have to drive around for hours to find good deals at the pump. Visit interactive websites like GasBuddy (http://gasbuddy.com) and GasPriceWatch (http://gaspricewatch.com). These sites let you find the cheapest gas in your area by entering your Zip code in a search box.
- Do a home energy audit. A home energy audit shows you where you could save on the cost of heat, electricity, or other big energy costs. Visit the Energy Saver site at www.energysavers.gov to learn how to do one on your own or hire a professional.