In an ideal world, managing a budget would be relatively straightforward. You would simply list all of your expenses, and then use the amount you earn to cover these expenses with a little leftover to use as you choose – no worries, no hassle.
However, it is not uncommon for people to find themselves facing a big budgeting problem. They list their total expenditure, then assess this against their income as normal… and realise that there is a shortfall.
If a budget shortfall develops only occasionally – perhaps due to needing to pay for a holiday, or meeting a car repair bill – then there’s no need for particular concern; using a credit card or obtaining a fast loan can help to cover the gap until the next month. However, if your budget shortfall is continual, then you’ll undoubtedly want to find a solution.
The standard suggestions
When it comes to meeting budget shortfalls, there are a number of solutions that are commonly offered, most of which fall into one of the following two categories:
- Cutting back on your expenses
- Earning more money
Of course, cutting back and earning more can help to ease budget problems, so it’s always helpful to consider where you could cut back or if there’s a side hustle you could start in order to bring in extra funds. However, it can also be helpful to look a little further, and exploring ideas that are slightly beyond ideas that fit into one of the two above categories too – and below, we’ve highlighted three that can work particularly well…
#1 – Try cancelling existing outgoings (even if you intend to keep them)
As we mentioned above, cutting expenses is one of the “classic” solutions to a budget shortfall. However, if there’s a service you know you want to keep, it might just be worth trying to cancel it anyway.
With this idea, it’s usually best to call the service provider if at all possible. Just say that you want to cancel your service and would like to discuss this further; often, you will be referred to special department, who are empowered to offer you deals that encourage you to stay. At this point, try to emphasize any difficulties you have had with the service. For example, if you are trying to get a better deal on your broadband, mention frequent drop-outs or connection issues; often, agents are empowered to offer even more significant discounts to customers who have experienced legitimate issues with the service.
With online-based services (such as streaming sites), you may not be able to call to request a cancellation. However, the same idea usually applies. Simply request to cancel the service via your account and, more often than not, you’ll be directed to a page that offers a reduction on your usual monthly fee.
There are, however, a few caveats to keep in mind: first and foremost, there’s no guarantee that you will be offered a better deal. As a result, you may need to be ready to end a conversation and say you need more time to think it through. Secondly, you may find that the special, reduced price is only available for a set number of months, so make sure you diarise the date the deal expires so you can avoid a sudden jump in costs.
#2 – Switch to bulk food buying
To switch to bulk purchasing, you may find that you need to cut the costs of your food bill. As bulk purchasing tends to require extra investment, a little extra leeway is needed in order for you to get started; but when the habit is established, your ongoing weekly food bills should reduce dramatically.
The simplest way to start bulk purchasing is to scan offers available at every supermarket. If a product you use regularly is discounted, then buy a large amount – ideally enough to see you through three to six months. The savings from this type of bulk purchasing can really add up over the course of a year, and you’ll have the extra reassurance of knowing that you’ll always have the items in stock.
In addition to the above, you could try buying expired food. While such a suggestion may sound like a one-way ticket to food poisoning, this isn’t actually the case. There is a significant difference between a food that has passed its sell-by date and food that is unsafe to eat. A number of stores are now available online that sell expired items, almost always at bulk quantities, for significant discounts, all of which look and taste the same as the same item would if sold at a higher price on supermarket shelves. Admittedly, this method does not work for fresh produce or meat, but for cupboard and pantry items, it can save you a small fortune
#3 – Use every loyalty scheme available
Loyalty schemes can often seem like an unnecessary waste of time but, used correctly, they can make a significant difference to your budget. However, it is important to note that simply swiping a loyalty card every time you shop is unlikely to provide you with enough points to improve your budget. While these “everyday” do have their place (and are still worth doing), the real trick is to focus on the special offers.
Most loyalty schemes will send vouchers to customers on a regular basis, which can offer extra points for buying a specific item or spending over a threshold. Using these coupons can hugely boost your overall points balance, so they’re definitely worth keeping an eye out for. In addition, it’s worth checking your online points account regularly for one-off, time-limited offers; these can often be used in conjunction with other coupons to boost your points balances even further.
Finally, many people who do use loyalty schemes tend to let the points build up – usually in order to contribute to the cost of Christmas. This, however, is not necessarily the best idea. If you, for example, accrue points for a Christmas shop at Grocery Store 1, then you’re locked in to the prices Grocery Store 1 will be offering at Christmas – which may be far from the best deals available. Instead, use your points as soon as you reach the minimum redemption threshold, and set cash aside to then buy items from any store, at the lowest possible price, when Christmas arrives.
While momentary budget blips can usually be solved relatively simply, long-term issues can be more difficult to deal with. Hopefully, one or more of the ideas above will help to close the gap once and for all.