Do you often find it challenging to stretch your paycheck to cover all your expenses? You’re definitely not alone. Many Americans are in the same boat, trying to make ends meet from one payday to the next. A recent Forbes report revealed that over a quarter of Americans have savings of less than $1,000. Other studies indicate that about half of U.S. households have saved up enough to cover three months’ worth of expenses, with less than 40 percent having enough for six months.

While it might seem challenging to save when there’s not much flexibility in your budget, there are practical ways to make it happen.

Identify where you are spending your money

Kickstart your journey into financial control by keeping tabs on all your spending for next 30 days and creating a budget. Every expense, no matter how small, should be recorded using any tracking method you prefer—a notebook, your smartphone, an online spreadsheet, or whatever suits you best. Sort your expenses into categories and prioritize the essential ones like mortage/rent, utilities, food, transportation, and healthcare. This simple act of tracking and budgeting is a significant step towards financial control and should be celebrated.

Once you have a clear picture of where your money is going, you’ll be able to identify areas where you can cut back. For example, finding ways to spend less on items like clothing, entertainment, or gym memberships can make a significant difference. By sticking to a budget, you’ll gain a better understanding of your spending habits and the confidence to find ways to save.

Entertainment—Look for low-cost or free ways to have fun

  • Consider pausing your streaming service for a while and get cozy with your local library’s movie and video game collection.
  • Dive into the world of podcasts and discover a treasure trove of free entertainment.
  • Explore new hobbies or learn a new language without spending a dime!
  • Check out our blog for even more wallet-friendly ideas to make the most of your summer.

Food—Try to spend no more than 11% of your take-home pay on food

  • Try out generic store brands instead of name-brand items. Many generic versions can be up to 60% cheaper.
  • Get savvy with coupons and download your grocery store’s app for extra deals. Who doesn’t love a good bargain, right?
  • Buying fresh veggies and preparing them yourself—pre-cut veggies can be twice as expensive, so get your chopping skills ready!
  • To reduce food waste, only buy what you know you can eat in a week or two. And if you need help planning your meals, there are some great free apps out there to give you a hand.
  • Consider making meals at home instead of ordering from restaurants. Not only is it usually healthier, but it’s also lighter on your wallet.

Energy bills—Simple changes in your daily habits can result in substantial savings on energy bills

  • Get creative with cooking: Try using an air fryer, slow cooker, or other small appliances instead of firing up the big oven every time.
  • Max out that dishwasher: Wait until it’s full before running it with the heated dry setting turned off.
  • Unplug and save: Don’t forget to unplug appliances and power strips when they’re not in use to steer clear of sneaky phantom loads.
  • Light off, energy on: Remember to flick off the lights when you leave a room. It’s a quick and easy way to cut down on energy waste.

Credit Card Late Fees—Missing a payment due date comes with a heavy price

  • Late fees on credit cards can really hit you hard, so make sure to set up automatic payments to at least cover the minimum amount due.
  • Protect your credit score and peace of mind by using your card for emergencies only if you can’t pay off the full amount each month.
  • If you have a high-interest credit card, consider switching to one with a lower rate. By the way, did you know that Mid Oregon offers zero balance transfer fee and low-rate credit cards? Worth checking out!

By making small changes and putting those savings to an emergency fund or dedicated savings account (Mid Oregon has a variety of options to choose from), you can reduce the stress of paying bills and even save up for fun things like vacations or special gifts.

Remember, a goal without a plan is just a wish. So, grab that pen and paper, give some money-saving tricks a shot, and hopefully, you’ll be high-fiving yourself by the end of the month. Whatever your needs, Mid Oregon’s experienced team is a great place to start discussing your money-saving opportunities. 

Want to know more? Read additional Mid Oregon blog articles about goalsbudgeting, and debt consolidation.