Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Money can be a stress breaker or a major stress maker. If you're one of the many people who dreads opening the mail because of those bills, News19 has money saving tips you'll want to hear.
Debt can be a huge cause of stress. It can make people sick and it can tear a family apart. One out of five families owes more on credit cards or loans than they have in savings, according to a recent University of Michigan report. And the number of families surveyed at the end of 2011 with no savings was 23.4%.
News19 is on your side helping you reign in debt by cutting those monthly budget busters.
Jennifer Sigman is a Columbia woman who had to stop working two years ago due to serious health issues. That meant taking a close look at her budget and trimming the fat.
"It's just the little things, ya know?" explained Sigman. "You knock it back a bit and then see how it goes and then you knock it back some more."
Financial planner Laura Scharr-Bykowsky, says that's step one in getting your budget under control.
"We often don't want to know how much we're spending," said Scharr-Bykowsky, "because when we uncover how much we spend we're forced to make tough choices and so we put our blinders on."
That is exactly what Jennifer did not do. She's saving hundreds of dollars a month and you can too.
Budget Buster 1: Cable
A recent survey from the American Institute of CPA's found that the average American spends $166 each month for TV and digital services.
There are much cheaper alternatives like watching free shows or movies on cbs.com, hulu.com or for a small monthly fee, Netflix.
Budget Buster 2: Cell phones
A basic individual text and data plan can cost up to $100 a month.
"Cut down my cell phone from having unlimited texts and messages and photo texting to basically something very basic. I think they call it the grandma plan!" joked Sigman.
Here are some tips for getting the best rates possible:
"You have to find out what your usage is before you go and buy the plan," said Scharr-Bykowsky, "so read the plan and say, 'okay I know my family uses this amount of minutes per month, so this is the plan for me'.
If you're on that fixed budget and you do go over and there's an issue, it might not be a bad idea to have a prepaid plan so you can't exceed those minutes. That would be a prudent thing to do."
Also consider family bundling plans.
Budget Buster 3: Groceries
"Menus and lists! If you're going to live on a food budget that is an absolute must," said Sigman. "You sit down with your family and say, 'okay, what do we like to eat?'"
A recent Gallop Poll found the average person spends $151 a week on groceries. Making a list and not deviating from it can really help when last minute in store cravings kick in.
In any area where your money is involved negotiate! It never hurts to ask.
"You can call them up and say, 'listen, I think my phone bill's just too high and quite frankly I don't know why I pay it. What can you do for me here?'," explained Scharr-Bykowsky. "Often the reps will be quite helpful in trying to steer you towards a program that might better fit your budget."
Stop making excuses. No number of text messages or dinners out are going to feel as good as financial freedom does.
"Know yourself and be able to make those tradeoffs because if you're not making tradeoffs, you don't have a spending plan and you're likely to be in financial trouble."
"It's a constant work in progress," said Sigman, "but it's worth it. It's worth it."
Scharr-Bykowsky adds that Interest rates are at an all time low, so if a homeowner hasn't' already, they may want to consider refinancing for the remaining term as that can free up some serious cash flow each month.