Looking for ways to cut back? A Lubbock expert gives tips for paring the family budget

Even though the national recession has not hit Lubbock as hard as communities in other states, people are still looking for ways to cut back.

Susie Breitling, a family and consumer science expert with the Texas AgriLife Extension of Lubbock County, said more people have been contacting her office for guidance, while Chris Abers, store director of the United Supermarket at 82nd Street and Frankford Avenue, said more people are using coupons.

People aren’t just using coupons to buy the same things they bought before, said Abers.

“We have seen a little bit of a change in buying habits,” he said.

“Frugality is in vogue now,” said Breitling. “It’s becoming popular to be able to say, ‘I’m debt-free.’”

Before starting to cut back, family leaders, usually the parents, Breitling said, must sit down and set financial goals.

“It’s got to have all the family working to achieve that goal,” she said. The goals should be clearly communicated to the entire family, she said.

Even children should know they can be part of the solution to financial problems, she said. If children’s activities must be cut, though, Breitling said families should spend the time that would have been spent on attending soccer games doing things as a family, such as board games.

Management of family finances is an attitude, said Breitling. Parents must have an open-minded, can-do and positive attitude.

Families absolutely must have a budget, Breitling said. The first step to developing a budget is tracking spending, she said. After the tracking phase, divide the budget into fixed expenses that are the same each month such as rent or mortgage, insurance and vehicle payments. Also have a category for flexible expenses such as food and utility bills, which can be monitored in order to save money. The biggest savings are generally found among flexible expenses, she said.

“Fifty cents of every dollar spent on food is spent eating out,” said Breitling.

Consumers should also consider what foods they are buying for home, she said. By purchasing mainly from the outer perimeter of the grocery store, she said people will buy more nutritious food than the processed foods on the inner aisles.

Another flexible expense is clothing, Breitling said. She said she encourages people to be open-minded about shopping in a wide variety of venues, but to also clear out closets regularly and take clothes which are not being worn to a consignment store. Taking care of this from season to season will net more money because trendier styles will resell better.

People should also be able to see chores that are cheaper to do themselves than to pay someone else to do as well, Breitling said. Each member of a four-person family could chip in for two hours to do household or yard chores that would enable the family to save a day’s wages.

Breitling said when it comes to grown children, never loan children money without expecting a payment in return. If you don’t expect the money to be repaid, make it a gift, she said, instead of teaching children to loan without repaying.

Breitling said there are plenty of resources to get help if one needs it, including public schools, libraries and utilities; social and religious networks; and the Texas AgriLife Extension, which offers classes for local companies’ employees, preschoolers, high school students and parents who are delinquent on their child support payments.

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