A well-planned budget has always been a good way to keep spending under control and help ensure that bills are paid on time. Now, however, sharply rising food and utility costs are placing a heavier strain on many families who once considered themselves to be financially stable. If your family is one of the ones currently reeling from these sharply rising living costs, the following strategies can help you regain control over your finances and ensure that your family will not only survive, but also thrive during tough times.

Re-Evaluate Fixed Housing Expenses

When the family's income can no longer absorb the rising costs of necessary expenses like food, heat and electricity, it makes sense to take a hard look at fixed expenses such as housing. If the monthly rent is increasingly difficult to afford or the utility bills have become outrageously high in the current home, making the choice to move into a smaller, more efficient home could help to offset the higher cost of food and utilities.

Look For Ways in Which the Home Can Help Bolster the Budget

Families who own their home may not be able or willing to move into a different home to reduce housing costs, but they still have options that can help the family budget, such as:

  • finding a reliable tenant for the guest room or basement apartment
  • starting a home-based business that utilizes existing skills and tools, such as babysitting, tutoring, or mowing lawns in the neighborhood
  • searching for less expensive options for other housing related costs, such as insurance and learning to handle some home repairs and maintenance tasks
  • checking with the lender to determine whether the home can be refinanced to make the payment more affordable or whether private mortgage insurance premiums can be eliminated

Earning or saving as little as an extra hundred dollars each month will be very helpful in offsetting rising costs and helping to relieve financial stress.

Bring Transportation Costs Down

Transportation costs are another fixed expense that families may want to re-evaluate when dealing with budgetary stress. Monthly payments and the cost of licensing, insuring and maintaining vehicles can be a huge expense, but luckily, it is one that can be easily reduced.  

Consider selling any vehicles are not fully paid for and buying a used car instead. Doing this will not only wipe out a large monthly payment, it can also create a significant reduction in your auto insurance premiums because older vehicles are often much less expensive to insure.

In addition, free up additional cash by selling any vehicles that are only used occasionally, such as recreational vehicles, boats and motorcycles. Not only will this add some extra cash to the budget, it will also reduce the monthly expenses by eliminating the cost of storing and maintaining these items.  

Plan Ahead To Keep Food Costs Low

Instead of accepting the rising cost of food, develop a plan to keep the cost of your family's meals as low as possible without sacrificing taste or nutrition by taking the following steps.

  • Choose to cook all meals at home, instead of dining out or driving through the fast food lane
  • Keep a well-stocked pantry with basic staples that will allow you to prepare a well-rounded menu without making frequent stops at the store
  • Use coupons and shop sales to help purchase food as inexpensively as possible
  • Use leftovers to make flavorful, inexpensive soups instead of discarding them
  • Shop discount food stores, as well as local farmer's markets and growers
  • Grow a garden to help offset the cost of seasonal produce and learn to preserve the excess

Develop an Emergency Fund

When budgets are stretched to the breaking point, there is little room to cover emergencies. To avoid this problem, make it a point to save a few dollars each week to maintain a fund that will only be used for emergencies, such as car repairs or medical or dental care. Even if you can only save pocket change, it will quickly add up to a few hundred dollars over the course of a year and help to make your family feel more secure.

If an emergency occurs before you have enough in your emergency fund, consider taking out a payday loan from a place like Money 4 You to cover the expense and then paying it back as quickly as possible. Before signing the loan agreement, make sure you understand all the terms and can afford to pay the loan back within the specified timeframe.