What does your bank balance look like at the end of each month? Do you end the month with extra cash or do you end up in overdraft each month? If your account ends up in overdraft you definitely need to find ways to stretch your income so that you can save some of your hard earned cash instead of spending it all, and then some. Here are some of the simplest, yet commonly overlooked, ways to stretch your income every month.

Brown Bag It

Do you buy lunch, and even breakfast, at work everday? I use to, when I worked downtown.

Life was busy and I enjoyed dining out with friends, especially for breakfast. But man was I spending a lot of money on restaurant type food. It probably worked out to about $400 a month. And I still bought groceries on top of that. If you are doing the same thing, add up how much dining out is costing you each month.

Now what if you bought a few more groceries instead and brought a lunch to work. How much money would you save?

And if you really enjoy doing lunch with friends, like I did, consider only going out on Fridays for lunch and brown bagging it the rest of the week.

Turn It Off

How often have you driven by a home at night and it looked like every light in the house was on? Yes, that makes the home look beautiful, but unless there is actually someone in every room, all those lights do not need to be on. When you leave a room, turn off the light. When you are done watching TV, turn it off.

Temperature Control

Another often overlooked expense is the amount of electricity that your furnace or air conditioner uses every day.

If you really want to stretch your income each month, begin controlling the temperature in your home with a programmable thermostat. If it is warm out, but not too hot, open the windows instead of running the air conditioner.

And similarly, if it is cool out but not super cold, turn the heat down a bit and wear an extra sweater. Add some extra blankets to your bed so that you can turn the temperature down even more overnight.

And never leave windows or patio doors open when you have the furnace or the air conditioner running.

Use Less Water

Water use to be cheap. In fact, years ago people often said water was free.

Have you looked at your utility bill recently to see how much you are paying for water each month?

Not so free anymore, is it?

Make a conscience effort to use less water in your home each month.

If your kids tend to use a lot of water without thinking too much about it, sit them down and explain that you can either spend money paying for all the unnecessary water they use, or you can put that money towards something fun for the entire family to enjoy, such as a vacation in Hawaii.

Easy ways to save money on both water and electricity are to only do laundry when you have full loads.

The same goes for using the dishwasher.

And, instead of running the dryer for a full hour, try 30 minutes and see if your clothes are ready to hang up at that point.

Bake Your Own Treats

How often do you buy a muffin or a donut at work, or when you are out doing errands?

Instead you can save money by making your own delicious cupcakes, muffins and cookies at home. Make double and triple batches in one afternoon and freeze them individually so that you can just grab one or two and go.

And I bet the treats you make at home will taste much better than the store bought treats and be much healthier for you too.

Invite Friends Over

Invite friends over to your home instead of meeting at a local cafe for coffee, lunch or dinner. If things go well, suggest that you get together once a month and ask others to take turns hosting the get together in their homes.

You will have a quieter more comfortable environment to enjoy each other’s company in, and you will have healthier, less expensive, food and drinks, than you would at a local restaurant or bar.

Reducing your expenses and stretching your income may initially sound like too much work. Oh, what a pain to have to pay such close attention to everything. But in fact it can be a lot of fun, and think of how much nicer it will be when the end of the month rolls around and you still have cash leftover in your bank account.