The Cost of Convenience
Q: Our life seems to have gotten very busy. Not only are our kids back in school, but now that they’re older, my wife went back to work full time. Between both of us working, shuttling kids from pillar to post and to various activities, while still keeping up with our own commitments, we didn’t realize how out of hand our spending had gotten until we got our credit card bills. Convenience is costing us way too much money! What can you suggest?
A: New household routines can mean a lot of changes. As the family calendar fills up with appointments, schedules and lists of what not to forget, it’s a sad fact that planning ahead becomes lost in the shuffle of planning what to do. As a result, your budget becomes a casualty of your busy lives.
A Spending Plan Keeps You on Track
Having a spending plan is all about planning ahead, which helps avoid convenience costs. Breathe new life into your budget and give your credit cards a much needed break by looking at two of the biggest budget offenders when it comes to convenience: eating out and communication.
Eating Out Adds Up!
With 2 people working, if each spends $25 a week eating out, that adds up to $2500 a year. If you’re also grabbing meals on the run between activities, you could easily double that to over $5000 a year!
Learn How to Plan Meals
Finding time to make lunches for everyone in your household is a key budget booster. Start by planning your dinner meals based on your calendar. Cooking 3 or 4 times a week means having enough leftovers for not only another meal, but also freezing portions for grab and go lunches. You’ll save money by buying in bulk, eating at home and not letting groceries go to waste. Chances are your food choices will also be healthier, giving you more energy and helping you manage stress better. Bring you own drink and you’ll be that much further ahead.
Manage Cell Phone and Communication Costs
Review your cell phone bills carefully. Such a little device can sure level a big blow to your budget! With everyone going in different directions and needing to keep on schedule, reaching for the phone more often may have become a necessity. Transition times, as you have now with your new routines, are a great time to take a careful look at all of your services. See if they are still meeting your needs and how you can make them more affordable.
Create a Family Cell Phone Strategy
For families with older kids, spend a little extra time explaining how they can use their phone to take full advantage of the services you’re paying for – and not more. While they may text a lot, you may not and so overall, it would be less expensive if they called rather than texted you. Some cell phone providers have free family calling plans, so it might be worth considering those too.
If your children are new to using a cell phone of their own, start with a small plan or even pay as you go. That way you can see what you actually need before you commit to a plan that doesn’t work your family’s overall communication needs.
The Bottom Line
Successful budgeting isn’t about making only one big change. Rather, a few small, healthy changes will add up to not only benefit you, but will keep your budget off life support.
Related article: Teens and Cell Phones, How to Choose a Cell Phone Plan