“I can’t dedicate money for paying down my debt or preparing. There is nothing left at the end of the month”. I hear it all the time and I sympathize. It is hard to look at your finances and find places to cut when it doesn’t feel like you are extravagant. But for most of us, it is possible to find ways to economize and use the savings, even if only $10.00 a week, to buy in bulk, get the things you need to see you through a crisis or put extra money toward ridding yourself of credit card debt. Often, it is a question of analyzing each expense, deciding what need it meets and then figuring out how to meet the need for less money.

For instance, you have to eat. If you spend $150 every week on food, you need to look at that amount and see how you can eat for less. You can go vegetarian 2 days a week, plan meals around sales, cook from scratch and eliminate all junk food. There are dozens of books and web sites dedicated to thrifty food ideas.  Do people eat a healthy, varied diet for less than what spend? Probably. You can do it to.

Suppose you have family tradition of pizza and a movie on Friday nights. You can justify that spend by saying that by Friday night you are too tired to cook and  time with your family is an important investment. What could happen that would save you a night of cooking and provide a way to spend family time together. You could make Friday night a soup and sandwich night and put the kids in charge of the cooking and cleaning up. You could put together a pizza dough in the morning and leave it in the fridge for the day. After work, it is a simple matter to put together couple of pizzas. You can rent a movie, borrow one from the library or begin a new tradition of board games on Friday nights.

Look at energy use. Set a goal for reducing usage and get your kids involved. Set on night a week as energy free. Use your lanterns, turn down the heat and cuddle on the sofa. Start a chapter book and read together rather than watch TV or surfing the net. Take shorter showers. Get an energy audit.

Make Sundays a no drive day. Other than essential driving (I consider your annual family reunion essential) stay home or walk.

Stop  buying books (except mine) and magazines, movies and CDs. Swap with friends and use your library.

Do you give your kids a budget for clothes. Let them know that the amount will be cut in half this year. Go over their wardrobe and repair what you can. Go to thrift stores, tag sales and second hand shops before you hit the mall. Kids don’t need new back packs every year. Tell them that if they want more money, they can earn it if they find a way to work that doesn’t interfere with school.

Look to vocational schools for some things like basic haircuts. Our favorite restaurant  is in the culinary department at our voc school. The food is terrific, the service very good and I couldn’t make the food for much less at home.

You need to look at every spend. Is it a want or a need$ Can you use less, do without, borrow, trade, repair or use a substitute. If you can save $100.00 a month, use it wisely. Put half  on your debt and half into bulk food. Get your kids on board. Younger kids can see this as a fun challenge and older kids can learn the facts of life about life in a changed economic world. They may not like it but remember who is the parent and what’s at stake.