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Stretch Your Dollars in Five Steps

We all know there are only so many dollars in our paycheck and an endless number of opportunities to spend those dollars. We want to get the most bang for our buck from each of our dollars. How can we do this? Being creative and being very conscious of your spending goes a long way to stretching your dollars. Consider taking action on these five steps.

Check Your Bills Carefully
When was the last time you looked carefully at each line of your bills like your utility, TV, internet or phone bill? Do you know what the individual charges are that add up to your overall bill? When you look closely, there is often more than you think to your bill. Sometimes small amounts are added that you may not be aware of, and sometimes we sign up for add-on services that, in hindsight, are not important to us. You may be able to reduce these items and stretch your dollars.

Track Your Expenses
Tedious at times but highly effective, tracking where you spend money is a worthwhile activity. Use a phone app or a website, paper and pencil, or collect receipts – whichever works best for you. If you do track expenses for six weeks or more, you’ll gain good information about where your dollars go. Then you can decide if this is what you want, or do you want to redirect your dollars.

Explore Community Resources
Have you considered substituting community resources for spending? One example of this is using your public library instead of buying books. Another is riding the bus instead of buying a car. Other community resources may be available in your community to help with food costs, transportation, or utility payments. Call 2-1-1 to reach a knowledgeable specialist 24/7 who can help you find services. 2-1-1 works throughout Illinois.

All calls to 2-1-1 are free, anonymous, and confidential. You also search for Central Illinois programs online.

Be Aware of Small Amounts
Do you have any habits that cost a small amount but you do frequently?  You might be surprised how these costs add-up over time. Five lunches eaten in a restaurant, a week, at $10 per lunch adds up to $2600 a year.

Re-think Fixed Costs
Fixed costs are those that are the same each month and typically involve a contract like a rental agreement or insurance payment. You may want to consider downsizing your living situation or comparison-shopping for your insurance premiums to decrease expenses.

Would a financial coach be helpful as you strive to stretch your dollars? University of Illinois Extension’s volunteer Money Mentors help people stretch their dollars, pay down debt and work towards their financial goals. If you’d like help from a Mentor to reach your goals, register for this free and confidential service.

If you’d like to become a mentor, the next training begins October 1st. Apply to be a mentor at or call 271.333.7672. Volunteers make an important contribution to the financial capacity in our community!

SOURCE: Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension,