Reducing Your Household Budget

A couple working on their household budget.
It is important to budget for your household at all times, but it is especially vital during lean financial times. Reviewing your budget and finding places to eliminate or decrease outgoing funds will greatly help bring it into balance. This is a page about reducing your household budget.

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Kelly Ann Butterbaugh
March 30, 2011

A couple figuring out the household budget.When organizing your household budget, things can get a bit overwhelming. Each purchase usually comes with the belief that you can make payments each month and everything will be fine. While that logic is valid, after five or six payment plans, it starts to fall apart. Add that to the daily lunch habits and other spending patterns and your monthly budget can get out of control.

Have you ever asked yourself, "Where does all my money go?" While the question may be meaningless and asked rhetorically, it might also be serious. Do you know where your money goes? If you can't account for it, try scrapping everything you're doing with your money this month and start over.

Income Awareness

The first step is the creation of income awareness. Tally up your paychecks and any other residual income to create a bottom line for monthly assets. It might help to divide your income into a daily amount to create a more manageable number. If I earn $125 a day and I just spent $150 at the grocery store, I need to spend much less tomorrow to even the playing field.


Subtract from your monthly income the largest, and most important bills first. You must make your house payment, and unless refinancing is an option you can't do anything to get around it. Next, pay your car loans, your student loans, and other important monthly payments. These are your loans, and they have top priority.


Utilities are essential, but they can be altered. Evaluate these bills before you subtract them from your monthly income. If one utility is too high, look at the details of the bill and attack those extras with a machete. Do you need the extra channels on your cable? What about the caller ID on your phone? Chop the utility bill so that you can manage it better.

Next are the utilities that are non-essential like cell phones, the internet access, and TiVo. Can you live without any of these? If not, could you live with a smaller plan? Now that you've gotten through your major bills, look at what's left from your monthly income. Are you happy with the amount? This answer might make that cell phone plan with unlimited texting and internet seem a lot less important.

Tally the Dailies

Now comes the portion of your budget that is completely under your control. Whatever you have left for your monthly income is going to drop drastically after this task. Make a tally for the month and write down every penny you spend each day. You'll log gas, groceries, meals, and other expenses. The action alone will actually motivate you to spend less since there is extra work associated with spending. Why stop for that cup of coffee when you'll have to come home and log in the cost? Most importantly, it will create an awareness of where your money is going.

Prepare yourself to feel shock. The list will be extensive, and some of the expenses may seem frivolous once they're actually logged in. The worst feeling will be the one you get when you drop a minus sign in front of your tally. Remember, you're logging in all spending, whether on the credit card or the actual bank account. Don't let yourself get down; you're working to fix your financial health. By opening your eyes to how much you spend a month on lunches or valueless items you'll correct your thinking and your spending.

If you come up negative at the end of one month because of the credit card, you just have to save that much more next month to create not only a positive balance, but to pay off the owed balance from this month. It's the way families were taught to budget decades ago on columned legal pads without online banking that make money into an abstract concept.

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Debra Frick
June 23, 2008

Woman and grocery shopping cart in produce aisle.Nowadays, the only way to survive with gas and food prices rocketing is to find cost cutting measures for your household budget. My household budget consists of food and cleaning supplies, yard and house maintenance and entertainment and family gifts and clothing. We budget things like car repairs and utilities separately. Most people find that their household budget is the best place to cut corners.

You can really use your "do it yourself" knowledge to save you money in these uncertain times. Many economists are now saying we could be headed for another depression so any thing we can do now to prepare for hard times will be well worth it. Here is a quick list of ten things you can do right now to start saving on these items.

  1. Buy In Bulk: When buying groceries, always buy in the largest quantity that you can. I know it sometimes seems easier to buy those individual packages but, with a little effort on your part, you can repackage that quantity into a lot more individual packages that you would get for the higher price.

    Example: One big bag of chips broken down into single servings can yield 10-12 smaller servings of chips. If you save yogurt containers, you can fill those with chips to make them crush proof. Save your plastic jars and containers to make individual servings in. You will be recycling in the bargain. If you buy bottled water, buy a water filtration system for your sink and refill your bottles with your own water. You will make back the cost of the water filter in about 2 months. For a quick dinner with major savings, shop the reduce meat section of your supermarket. This meat is nearing its sell-ability so you can buy it cheap and don't forget that this meat is perfectly safe to freeze and should last about three months in your freezer.


    Know your prices. some of the generics at the dollar store could save you some money if you know that you are saving 20-30 cents a can. Buying family size package of meat and breaking it down into smaller packages can be cost effective also. Buy on sale when you can but only buy what you figure you can use up in a reasonable time frame. Nothing worse than going to your pantry to find you only have canned vegetables. Learn to grow your own vegetables and herbs.
  2. Shop With A Friend: First you will be saving gasoline by only making one trip. You can also buy in bigger quantities if you are splitting the cost with your friend. The major club stores can really save you money if you can split the cost on every thing from shampoo to cleaning supplies.

  3. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies: It truly is cheaper to take 50 percent ammonia and 50 percent rubbing alcohol to clean your windows than to buy a bottle of Windex, unless you are buying at the dollar store. It is also better for the environment. You can make your own all-purpose surface cleaner by mixing about 10 percent bleach with 90 percent water. Thrifty fun has lots of recipes and tips for making your own cleaning products.

    Take your old towels and cut them up and make rags for your kitchen and rags for your cleaning. You will save on your paper products because you won't have to buy as many. Your rags can be washed in your washing machine.

    Shop the Dollar store for cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products. They usually sell good name brand products, remember that generics are usually made by the name brand manufacturers but are just packaged in a off brand bottle. I also dilute my shampoo and conditioner and liquid hand soap to make them go father. But I don't want to buy cleaning supplies that have been diluted, they just don't work as well so here is one trick I learned was to check the thickness of any cleaning product in the bottle if it looks runny or thin it could be that it has been diluted.

  4. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies:I buy most of my clothing at Walmart or thrift stores or yard sales. Always check out the clearance racks at Walmart. I have found beautiful t-shirts for only a couple of bucks right after the major holidays and also at the change of seasons. Check out the sales at your local thrift store. Most have sales on certain colored tags and they also will have 99-cent sales.

  5. Bargain, Bargain, Bargain: Be sure to bargain when you go to yard sales. If you are willing to buy in quantity, most people will come down on price. Also remember to look for clothing that can become gifts. Sometimes at yard sales, you can find clothing that is still brand new and has the tags. Buy it up and put it up for Christmas or birthdays. Shop yard sales and the thrift stores for ingredients to make baskets for family and friends.

  6. Grow A Garden: Swap plants and seeds with your friends. This can save you time and money. Stop spending money on harsh chemicals for your garden and for killing common garden pests. Eggshells and banana peels can feed your roses naturally. Potato peels can also be spread around your flowering plants that need potassium. Fertilize your garden with the old water from your aquarium; it is full of nutrients your plants will love. Boiling water poured on an anthill will kill them. Beer in a shallow container will kill slugs. Cayenne pepper applied to your garden will keep out the cats. Research on the Internet for something natural before you buy that chemical your wallet and your budget will thank you. Make patio stones out of concrete and a cut down 5 gallon bucket. For the cost of a bag of concrete, you can make about 10 stones.

  7. Entertain Yourself: Entertainment can be very costly, here are a few ideas on saving money entertaining yourself. Borrow the newspaper from the neighbor and look for activities in your community that are free or low cost. Check out movies and books from the library. Don't have money to get where the action is? Take public transportation or car pool with a friend. You can always swap for your half of the gas; perform some service for your friend. Throw a potluck instead of a barbecue, Plan a scavenger hunt around a local park, Set up volleyball net in your backyard. Ride a bike; there lots of ways to have fun and also you get the added health benefit. Plan a movie night with the movies you already have. Play all the Star Wars movies in one night and have each member of your family to take a character. Have them dress up or make a movie snack based on their character. Invite all the neighborhood kids or your friends. Buy board games and card games and plan a family game night. Check out your local areas for places to camp and hike. Feed the ducks at a local pond. Buy books and DVD's or video's from, this goes for computer games and game system games also. You can buy them used very cheaply and Amazon requires most of their sellers to have guarantees on their products. Split the cost of a vacation with another family, group rates are often less expensive per person.

  8. Shop Year Round For Presents: I keep a list of peoples sizes in my wallet so I don't forget what sizes my grandchildren wear. I shop yard sales and the thrift stores for birthday and Christmas presents. I have gotten my grandkids things second hand that I would never have afforded if I had bought them brand new. Always check games to make sure all the pieces are there but most game companies will sell you replacement parts. I always buy things for gift baskets when I do my shopping, things like gourmet chocolates and sauces are always cheaper during the summer than when you get closer to Christmas. Chocolate can be frozen to keep it fresh. Also keep Christmas in mind when you see people selling Christmas ornaments and Christmas trees this year at yard sales, you may also find a lot of yard ornaments to decorate with.

  9. Think Ahead When You Buy: With the floods in Iowa, they are predicting that corn will go through the roof. Buy now while the stocks in stores are good and the prices are less to avoid having to buy at the higher prices. Buy locally if you can. You will get fresher food this way and will also be helping to support your own local economy. Almost any kind of vegetable can be frozen to preserve it. Staples and things like rice will last a long time if you are careful about storage. Buy some large tubs and store it in a cool dry place like a garage or outside on a shaded patio.

  10. Cut Utility Expenses:Now is the time to be thinking of things like changing your telephone company for one that is less expensive or doing away with the home phone to save money. If you are like me, I have to have a home phone but I have cut way back on the services that I take now. Cable is another way to save money, see if you can switch to a cheaper package or cut back on your pay channels. For the guys in the group, if you just have to have all the NFL channels then all those guys who come over to watch with you can chip in for the service. It will be cheaper for you in the long run and the guys will still get to see the games. Now is also the time to be thinking of your winter heating costs. Make any repairs that you can now while the weather is nice. Research on the Internet for alternatives to help you lower your utility bills.

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