For many, each month is a financial struggle. Even with long hours at work and an eye on expenses, it's still a challenge to balance the budget. Now, with the pandemic, even more, people are feeling financial pressure as hours have been cut and layoffs have occurred across multiple industries. It seems like it can be impossible to get ahead, and even harder to build up a cash reserve. It's estimated that roughly 40% of Americans would have to sell something or take out a predatory check cashing loan to pay for an unexpected $400 expense.

If you want to get ahead and successfully manage your personal finances, you need to have a plan. First, you should do an in-depth review of your monthly and periodic expenditures. Then, once you have your arms around everything, you need to see where you can cut your spending and save money each month. You'll also need to make some changes to your personal habits because business as usual leaves most households in poor financial shape.

How to Save Money on Your Monthly Expenses

It's a challenge to trim your cash outflow each month. Expenses always seem to be going up, and in some areas of the country rents and utilities have seen a surge in pricing. It's helpful to set up a spreadsheet and list each line item that you pay for during the calendar month. You can then make your payments, one by one, and see if you can come up with a creative way to lower your financial obligations.

Many consumers, especially recent college graduates, are burdened by debts in the form of student loans. With the skyrocketing costs of college education, students were often forced to finance their education or forego their degree program. If you have a lot of outstanding student debt, you should look into refinancing your existing balances with a consolidation loan from a private lender. When you see if you qualify there will be no impact on your credit score, and you could save substantially with today's lower interest rates.

Buy Nothing

We are all used to reaching for our credit cards when we go shopping. An impulse purchase feels good like it's a reward for all of our hours of hard work. We feel we deserve something for all of our time spent with our nose to the grindstone and buying with a credit card doesn't seem like paying at all. That is until the next high-interest credit card bill arrives in the mail.

Changing our habits in life can be hard, but if you truly want to take control of your finances you have to break the spending cycle. One of the best ways to do this is to simply buy nothing. Of course, you can still buy groceries, but that new TV or the latest hot consumer product is off-limits. If you find that you truly need something, you can go online and check out your local forum and see how many treasures you can find for free.

Learn to Cook from Scratch

Most of us find that we don't have much discretionary income left after we have taxes taken out of our paycheck and we pay all our required bills. Monthly grocery costs and restaurant meals account for a lot of our budget. One of the ways you can make a big difference in what you spend each month is to learn to cook from scratch and prepare your meals at home. If you cook from scratch, you'll learn to make delicious meals that are far more nutritious than the lunches and dinners you were eating before. Furthermore, cooking with raw ingredients instead of relying on packaged items and cans will greatly reduce what you have to spend on groceries each month. Over time, you'll find you can become a good chef and will be able to create restaurant-calibre meals.