Electric bills, groceries, pediatrician costs, new soccer uniforms…new expenses seem to crop up everywhere you turn. You try to save money where you can, but how do you know what to cut and what to keep?
Making ends meet can be challenging, but there are certain things you need to prioritize on the family budget. Before you start slashing dollars from your expenses, our seasoned, financial professionals offer the seven areas you should never cut back on.
Rent or Mortgage Payments
"One has to protect the roof over one's head, first and foremost, inside a rough economy, in order to gather oneself and our family safely and securely to think rationally and creatively about how to survive in the other core areas of one's life, such as health, education, food and transportation" says Oliver McGee, author, finance expert and former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Transportation for the Clinton administration.
- Health Insurance
You may not have quite figured out how ObamaCare (also known as the Affordable Care Act) will affect your family, but the one thing all experts agree cannot be cut is health and dental insurance. McGee advises keeping up on health insurance premiums and allocating 20 percent of your family budget to these expenses. When determining what type of health insurance to buy, tally in the cost of deductibles and co-pays, as well as prescription medications, ambulance service, emergency room visits and dental care such as braces.
"Once people stop saving for retirement, which happens far too often, they typically do not start again," says certified financial planner Ilene Davis."mThis is why so many baby boomers are reaching retirement age with an average of only $12,000 in savings, hardly enough to live on."
When contrasting your salary against the cost of day care or a nanny's pay rate, it might be tempting to decide to quit your job and stay home. If your goal is not, however, to be a stay-at-home parent, this may be a mistake. While not impossible, off-ramping your career may cost you raises and promotions in the long run. If you're considering this option purely for financial reasons, calculate your current salary and your potential earnings over time before you make that leap.
And explore these 14 Ways to Save Money on Child Care »
Tuition for colleges has risen about 7 percent in the past decade, according to McGee. "Colleges and universities are feeling the pinch of cash crunches and are asking families for more support. This cost item has become non-negotiable for receiving cuts in the typical family budget." Look into opening a 529 plan to save money.
You don't want to risk your credit score by ignoring bills. It's always better to pay off credit card or make monthly payments larger than the minimum balance due. If you happened to be tight on money one month, it's still important to pay at least the minimum amount -- and pay on time.
"Healthy eating for families has become a non-negotiated family budget item," says McGee, who recommends putting 15 percent of your family budget toward groceries. A healthy diet is vital for not just our bodies, but also our minds, and "Family budget cuts on food starve out our intuitive thinking," says McGee
WebMD explains that you can eat your way toward a "healthy brain" and minimize your risk of Alzheimer's by adding foods like whole grains and avocados to your diet. Additionally, proper nutrition can save you money on health costs associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and other health problems attributed to poor eating habits.
So what's left? You may be able to save money at the grocery store by buying store brands and clipping coupons. You can also reduce dry cleaning bills or feel-good services like manicures and gym memberships.
When making decisions about what to cut and what to keep, Davis says to keep it simple. “The key is to only spend money on those expenses that, if eliminated, could threaten life, limb or ability to earn income.
Corey Whelan is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her work can be found here.