How to Optimize Your Budget to Maximize Savings

These uncertain times are forcing more people to reexamine finances and rewrite their household budgets.

According to the Pew Research Center in a survey conducted soon after the COVID-19 crisis began, 33 percent of Americans either lost their jobs or suffered a pay cut or reduction in work hours. Plus, 49 percent said the outbreak is a major threat to their personal finances.

Regardless of your situation, examining your budget and making some changes can save money and make your financial future more secure. Here are four ways to budget wisely.

Calculate the Bottom Line

Figure out your baseline income. Then, categorize expenses by what you need to maintain your standard of living, such as a mortgage, utilities, groceries and insurance. Another category should include non-essential expenses. Determine if you also want to set aside money for savings, retirement plans or college tuition. And, experts advise setting aside at least three to six months of expenses for emergencies. Once you have these numbers, you can calculate what you’ll need on a monthly basis.

Eliminate or Reduce Stuff You Don’t Need

If your expenses are still too high, or you want to save more, take another look at discretionary spending and find ways to cut. One easy way to save is to cancel premium TV channels, switch to a basic package or even sign up for a streaming service instead (Sling, Hulu, etc.). You can also drop your DVR option to save on the monthly bill. Digitally streaming or downloading content from your local library is another entertainment option too — everything from movies, music and magazines is available at no charge.

Find Ways to Save on the Things You Need

Everyone needs insurance and many companies offer discounts if you buy both auto and home insurance together. You can also look for unique programs to control expenses. For example, Erie Insurance offers a program called ERIE Rate Lock that takes away the worry of having car insurance premiums rise with inflation. Instead, unless you move, get a different car or change drivers, you’ll pay the same amount every year, even if you have a claim. Erie Insurance also announced immediate financial relief for auto customers impacted by the pandemic. Other ways to save include taking advantage of credit card rewards and cash back apps and making sure to use them. And if you’re overwhelmed by keeping things organized, there are free services online to track your loyalty program points, including airline miles.

Consider ‘Side Gigs’

Many are supplementing their income without leaving the safety of their living room. In fact, nearly half of working Americans have a gig outside their primary job, according to Bankrate. But before applying for a remote job, always check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure the company is legit. Depending on your skills, there are a variety of online jobs you could do, such as customer service, copywriting or online tutoring.

By tracking and cutting expenses, taking advantage of discounts and special savings programs and perhaps even earning extra money on the side, you’ll be on your way to having a household budget with staying power.