Spend wisely and save
Give your budget a check-up, and reap unexpected savings. Every opportunity to save money on goods and services will improve your financial fitness. Here are several places to start.
Participate in food co-op programs. Some of these programs not only offer discounts on quality food, but provide menus as well. Great Food for All is a faith-based, nondenominational company that provides top-quality food to any interested person, on a monthly basis, through local churches and other nonprofits. There are no membership fees, paperwork, hassles or purchase limits. You can buy a box of good quality food that will feed a family of four for a week for $30. For more information, go to www.greatfoodforall.com.
Compare prices for auto, home, health, business and life insurance. Consolidating at one insurance company could lower your costs. It might mean taking your business elsewhere. Before you do, however, be sure you're getting all the discounts you deserve at your current company.
Consider increasing your deductible on your home and car insurances to reduce your premium. Contact the insurer for your homeowner's policy to see if the company offers any discounts.
Discount Prescription Drug Program
As a resident of Ohio, you and your family have access to a free prescription drug card program. You can save up to 75 percent on prescription drugs at participating pharmacies including Kmart, Giant Eagle, Rite Aid, Marc’s, Walgreen’s and CVS, as well as thousands of independent pharmacies. Each family member must have his or her own card. Download the card at www.ohiodrugcard.com. These cards are preactivated and can be used immediately.
A cell phone may be all you need. If you need a landline, check Internet and cable providers. Many offer affordable pricing, especially for long-distance service.
Save on your electric bill by replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent ones, which last about 10 times longer and use about 75 percent less energy. Save electricity, and money, by unplugging appliances when they are not in use, or by using electrical outlet power strips and simply flipping the switch to off. According to the Department of Energy, 75 percent of the electricity used by home electronics occurs when they are turned off.
Make your furnace run efficiently and prolong its life by regularly changing the filter. A dirty filter makes the furnace motor work harder and uses more power.
Refrigerators and freezers use more electricity than all other appliances combined, so keep them running efficiently by setting the refrigerator settings at about 35° and the freezer at about 0–5°. Try the dollar-bill test to detect leaks in your refrigerator and freezer: close a bill in the door and, if it pulls out easily, it’s time to replace the seal.
Credit Card Interest Expense
Monthly interest can be a huge expense if you have a large credit card debt. Making the minimum payment means that the monthly interest is eating up most of it. Reducing interest can mean more money for other expenses. Credit card companies will often reduce your interest rate to keep your business. If they don't, consider a balance transfer to another card with a better rate. Be sure to read the fine print; balance transfers sometimes offer rates that go up after a period of time.
If you live in Cleveland Heights and need help with your budget, contact the Home Repair Resource Center at 216-381-6100. Our financial counselors provide confidential assistance on financial matters. For more information on HRRC’s programs and services, go to www.hrrc-ch.org.
Gail Jackson is a housing counselor at the Home Repair Resource Center in Cleveland Heights.