Money Talks, So Should You

Dealing with Money: Making the most of your finances

by C., Dimespring 30 (@dealwithmoney)

In these difficult economic times, everyone is looking for ways to save money. Here are some ideas for how to make the most of what you've got.

Stop going out to eat
In my own difficult financial situation, I've had to forgo eating out. It's just not an option for me anymore. It's cheaper, and sometimes healthier, to cook dinner at home. I see eating at restaurants as a luxury for more prosperous times, not a regular thing for someone who is struggling on a very small budget.

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It's hard to turn friends down when they invite me out, but when it comes to financial health, there are sacrifices that sometimes need to be made. I wrote an article some time ago about free ways to have fun. These could be great ideas for someone who wants to spend time with friends without breaking the bank.

Negotiate a payment plan on your past due bills
I will admit that this tip is for people in extreme dire straits. If you're in a situation where your electric bill is severely in arrears, some companies will work out a payment plan that will allow you to catch up. This protects you from losing electricity in your home (always important) and it ensures that you also won't have an unpaid, defaulted bill haunting you possibly for years to come. Utility companies are often more understanding than you'd think, especially in these fiscally troubled times. Similar payment plans can be worked out with your phone company. Verizon is always ready to offer payment plans to customers with a good payment history who have fallen on difficult times.

Go to thrift stores
It's always possible to find a good deal at a thrift store. Goodwill and The Salvation Army often have nice, gently worn clothes for a lot less money than buying items new. Just make sure the clothes aren't ripped, dirty or otherwise unusable, and you can score something really nice at a good price. Many places in the U.S. also have small, local thrift shops with good deals. Look around to find inexpensive clothes without going to a place like Walmart (I understand some people buy clothes there, but as someone who worked there, I don't recommend it).

INFOGRAPHIC: How to save money by brewing your own beer

Clip coupons
I have recently developed an interest in couponing. It's amazing how much can be saved through couponing alone. Some view it as a waste of time, but it can do wonders for your household budget. From groceries to everyday items like toothpaste and deodorant, using coupons can literally save you hundreds of dollars each month — money that can go toward important expenses, savings and paying down debt. I would also recommend looking into store discount card programs for stores you shop at regularly — you can often get discounts and good deals.

Skip that daily cup of coffee
We all have little things we do that add up. Almost everyone has something that isn't absolutely essential, and can be sacrificed for a month or two. Figure out what you've been buying that you don't absolutely need, and cut it out for a few months. This may free up some money so that you can get caught up with bills and other things.

Money management isn't always easy, but hopefully this list can get someone thinking about how to make ends meet and reach financial goals. Often, upon closer examination, the things we think we need are more luxuries than necessities.

C is a 28-year-old college graduate with an interest in personal finance. When she graduated in December 2010 with nearly $42,000 in college debt and no job prospects, she knew it was time to change the way she thought about money. She is currently figuring out a way to pay back what she owes and build a more stable financial future. C is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.