Most families are still feeling the impact of the Great Recession. Only 51 percent of Americans said in a recent poll that they believe their households to be financially secure. That means a huge number of families are worried about money, bills, and all the other financial things that make up their day-to-day lives, including the following:

  • Over 80 percent worry about their lack of savings.
  • 71 percent worry that they might not be able to cover their expenses.
  • 70 percent worry that they won’t be able to retire.

If these and other financial worries are adding stress to your life, here are four tips to help you manage your expenses, add to your disposable income, and improve your overall family finances. Some are quick and easy; others require a bit of thought and planning. All are worth considering.

1. Make Both Partners Active Financial Participants

In many families, one partner assumes sole responsibility, either voluntarily or by default, for paying bills and managing the household money. Such an arrangement is detrimental to both partners. One can feel burdened while the other can feel out of the loop. A better arrangement is for each of you to pay bills on alternating months. This allows both of you to see what’s going out and for what purposes. This, in turn, puts both of you on the same page and often leads to productive, non-argumentative discussions on ways to save money.

2. Lower Your Utility Bills

Heating and air conditioning account for a major portion of your gas and electric bills. The easiest way to lower them is to turn the thermostat down a few degrees in the winter and up a few degrees in the summer. Putting on a sweatshirt in the winter or switching from jeans to shorts in the summer is much preferable to paying huge utility bills. Make sure that all windows and doors shut tightly so no air is coming in or leaking out. Add weather stripping where necessary. Also, consider going on a level payment plan for both your gas and electric bills. At least you’ll know what to expect each month rather than being shocked with unexpectedly high bills.

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3. Review Your Insurance Policies

If you haven’t looked at your auto and homeowners insurance policies recently, do so now. What may have been the proper coverage levels when you originally took out the policies may need to be adjusted now. This is especially true of auto policies as your circumstances change. You may have paid off your vehicle(s) and no longer need full coverage. You may have a son or daughter who is about to become a new driver. Check with your local insurance companies to see what discounts they offer. Most have multi-policy discounts for having your auto and homeowners coverage with the same company, multi-vehicle discounts, good grades and/or approved driver education course discounts for new drivers and a variety of other ways to reduce your premium payments.

4. Start a $5 Jar

This is today’s version of the traditional family penny jar. Pennies don’t count for much nowadays, but $5 bills still do and can add up quickly. So put a jar on your hall table, kitchen counter, or some other highly visible place and tape a picture on it of your savings goal, such as next year’s vacation. Then whenever any family member receives a $5 bill as change, it goes in the jar. That gets everyone on board with this special saving project and you’ll all be surprised and gratified to discover how much found money you have after a few months.

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