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Budget Hacks to Help Your Finances

A 2016 Pew Charitable Trusts survey found that 55 percent of American households don’t have enough savings to replace a month of lost income; and a 2014 Bankrate survey revealed that only 38 percent of Americans have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency room visit. If you identify with these scenarios, bolster your finances with some of these budget hacks below:

– Establish an automatic savings plan. If you set up an automatic savings plan, a portion of each paycheck is sent directly to your savings account without having to think twice about it. Contact your bank to set up an automatic savings plan and get advice from a representative on how much to set aside. And don’t worry about discussing finances with a representative, it’s their job and they’ll give you a professional and unbiased opinion you might not get from a friend or family member.

– Buy store brand items. Don’t spend the extra few dollars on a name brand item; instead, opt for the generic pasta sauce or cleaning agent. The ingredients list between name brands and store brands are generally the same, and those dollars add up when paying for an item you regularly use.

– Plan your meals ahead. It’s a waste of gas, time and money when you run to the store for missing dinner ingredients when you have an otherwise full pantry and fridge. Plan your meals ahead of time so you don’t find yourself scrambling to make something at the last minute, or worse, spending more money to eat out. Good options to always buy in bulk (that are versatile and generic brand) include pasta, bread and milk.

– Compare prices and shop smart. Plan your errands ahead of time. If you find yourself at a home goods store for home shopping, don’t buy groceries because they don’t have a loyalty rewards program like chain grocers. And the same goes for clothing: don’t drop extra money on a plain white shirt at a specialty store when you can shop around for cheaper – and bulk – items online. And if you’re shopping around a major holiday, wait to see if there are any deals or sales happening before purchasing anything.

– Declutter. Sometimes something as simple as cleaning the space around you can help get your finances in order. Donate clothing you don’t wear anymore to get a sense of what you regularly wear and how often you need to shop. Clear up your office space so you aren’t always buying packs of pens and sticky notes. Cancel subscription services (gym or streaming) that you no longer use.

Adapted from The Motley Fool