Strategies to Stretch Your Paycheck
Using community resources can help you stretch your money further and/or bring in more cash. Most communities offer a variety of programs and resources to help individuals and families that need it.
Here's a look at some community resources that may be available in your area:
Various community organizations, such as the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), other public housing authorities, and local community action agencies, disperse funds to help families keep a roof over their heads during difficult times. Individuals and families that are in danger of eviction may be able to get help with rent, security deposits, and utility bills. Hotel and motel vouchers, credit counseling, and eviction prevention services may also be available.
Community food banks and food pantries can be an invaluable resource to help you get more out of your monthly budget. Food banks and pantries collect food for distribution or bring it directly to high need communities. You'll get access to grocery products like meat, produce, and canned and baked goods, all of which are free or at greatly reduced prices. Food banks and pantries are particularly plentiful around the holidays, but many are open all year-round.
Farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs are great ways to increase your consumption of fresh, whole, and local produce at discounted prices. Some community farmers markets accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars, making produce and other goods more affordable.
CSAs are shares of a farmer's crops that can be purchased by the public. Consumers purchase a share through a membership or subscription and receive a box or basket of seasonal fresh produce at a nominal price. Typically, the share consists of a box of whichever vegetables are being harvested at that time. It's a perfect way to eat nutritious produce for less and support your local farming community.
Balanced Payment Plans
When budgeting for heating and cooling bills, find out if your utility company offers level payment plans. This allows you to average your annual bill and divide it by 12, instead of paying higher rates in certain months or seasons. For example, if you typically spend $1,000 a year on your electric bill, you'd pay $83.33 per month instead of fluctuating amounts.
If you do a bit of research, you're sure to find something that could both save you money and help you build connections to your neighborhood.