Dr. Bill Kirkemo, Financial Literacy Advisor at the NTS CPL, recently spoke on campus about how to avoid debt. Below is the second in a series of three blogs addressing this thorny issue.

So you have done the hard work of developing a realistic budget. Now, for that budget to do you any good, you have to actually balance it. Ideally, it will balance on the first try, or even show an excess of income over expenses. However, for most Americans, subtracting expenses from income often results in a negative number. Thus, you will more than likely need to make some adjustments which will inevitably mean decreasing expenses. Here are some examples:

If your daily coffee is essential, brew your own instead of going to Starbucks or your local coffee shop for that much more expensive cup. If your car (or cars) are an essential expense, you might want to consider selling the car with the large payment to buy a less expensive one (with a lower monthly payment). And how about food? One of the best ways to reduce your expenses is simply to refuse to eat out. And when you snack, buy snack items that are cost-effective, healthy, and filling.

Other ways to decrease expenses include buying items at a discount. Shopping at a discount store versus a full-service grocery or retail store can significantly decrease your expenses. Buying clothing at garage sales and secondhand stores, for example. Negotiating large purchases like appliances and autos can significantly decrease your expenses too. Buying items like computers or tablets at certain times of the year can significantly decrease the cost of that item as well. (And by the way, when it comes to technology, we all may need smart phones, but do we need the newest and fastest smartphone? Do we need the fastest internet access?)

Using coupons for purchases is a good option for reducing expenses too but does require more time and may mean you need to shop at several different stores during the week instead of just one. However, while there is a time cost involved, if you are really focused on your financial health, you will recognize it as a wise trade-off.

Other examples? You can decrease expenses by keeping your home two degrees warmer in the summer and two degrees cooler in the winter than you typically do. You can invest in your home with some weather stripping to save money. Another upfront investment that can pay off in huge ways are fans. They are a great way to make your place feel cooler than the AC says it is. Or if you rent an apartment, when the lease comes up, look for a cheaper place to live.

Cutting expenses is never fun. We get used to our spending patterns, and our natural inclination is to increase our spending rather than reduce it. However, to be responsible with the resources God has given us, we may need to rethink how we spend our money.

If you will take these small steps of making a budget and cutting expenses, they will greatly help you with the big task of getting rid of your debt and finding financial freedom.