Many people are feeling a tight squeeze on their pockets as their spending power decreases in line with the increasing cost of goods and services. Unfortunately, most of us don't have incomes that automatically adjust to inflation, so it means that what we earn can buy fewer items each month. How can we maintain our standard of living in light of this reality?
To stay on top of rising costs, you need to create a budget plan for the year and track your expenses every month. When you consistently record your actual spending, you will quickly be able to ascertain when your bills start to increase.
Rebalancing your budget
When the expenditure side of your budget goes up, your first strategy is to try and rebalance it by cutting back on other costs. Apply conservation strategies to reduce your utility bills, plan your driving routes to use less petrol, and make drastic reductions on non-essential expenses such as cable TV, fast-food restaurants and mobile phone calls.
Most people will also have to focus on increasing the earning side of their budgets, because they have already reduced expenses as much as possible. Finding ways to boost income may not be easy for some, as they are consumed with their regular jobs and after-work obligations. They also may not know how to use their creativity to generate more money.
Seeking extra income
I have previously written about dozens of innovative ways to earn money by selling things that create value for others and by effectively marketing your talents. There are opportunities waiting for you right in your present surroundings, if you open your eyes to the possibilities.
In addition to all the income-generating activities that abound, there is another simple option to tap into extra money which many people have never considered. Normally, you decrease your funds when you spend money to buy goods and services, but there are actually ways to build up your cash reserves when you shop.
Finding unexpected cash
Recently, I went to a supermarket to pick up a few basic items. The store has a member rewards card that allocates points based on your purchases. I asked the cashier to redeem my points for the goods and tell me how much more I needed to pay. To my surprise, I had over $1,000 in rewards, which was more than enough to pay for my tab.
Although it was not a lot of money, just knowing that my purchases had generated extra funds was very satisfying. There are several stores that provide reward systems for their customers; and it makes financial sense to take advantage of these offers when shopping. As competition grows in the marketplace, look out for many more merchants who will pay you to shop with them.
Getting rewards for shopping
There is one major rewards programme operating in Jamaica that comprises pharmacies, supermarkets, bookshops, an insurance company, a credit card, and a variety of other stores. I ensure that I shop whenever possible at the locations that take this card. Over the years, I have earned thousands of reward dollars that have helped to defray my other expenses.
If you use a credit card for convenience, you can also look for options that will give you reward miles or cash back on your purchases. If you are disciplined and savvy with your use of credit, you can redirect much of your spending through a card that gives you a financial return. By using the reward miles generated on a credit card, I have travelled to distant locations for very little cost.
Marketing the affiliate way
The concept of getting paid to shop can be expanded to include businesses that will actually reward you for generating sales for them. Many major companies use affiliate marketing strategies to offer their customers financial compensation for their purchasing efforts. Affiliates can also earn commissions when they successfully encourage others to buy from the company.
There are many legitimate organisations that will pay you to promote their products and services. Amazon.com is one of the main affiliate marketing sources online that is relatively easy to participate in. You can even ask your favourite store owner to design a referral programme that can allow you to get free or reduced services and products if you bring in new customers.
In Jamaica, I get rewards for buying mobile phone credit and showing people how to use the affiliate company's platform to purchase their own. I have earned foreign exchange by telling people how much I enjoyed an overseas money success seminar and encouraging them to attend. The sky is the limit when it comes to earning while you spend!
Cherryl is a money coach, business mentor, and founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services. Her upcoming book, "The 3 Ms of Money", will reveal all the secrets she learned about financial success. Get more advice on money and business matters at www.entrepreneursinjamaica.com. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.