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Earlier this year, we brought you the first five of twelve steps toward living a debt-free life.

The first step was to take stock of your debt by writing down exactly how much you owe to whom, plus information on payment amounts and interest rates. Put that information into a spreadsheet.

The second step was to assess your spending, and work hard on not incurring any more debt than you already have.

The third step was to call your credit card and loan companies and see if you could get your interest rates lowered!

The fourth step was to create an emergency fund so that unexpected expenses like car repairs or medical bills don't completely derail your finances.

The fifth step was organizing your finances by really keeping track of every expense during the course of the month — from that morning latte to utility bills. It’s critical that you know where your money is going so you can get more control over it.

This month we're on to the sixth step: Trimming Expenses

You’ve already practiced spending less thanks to the second step in this series.

Now, it’s time to really focus and get more serious about it.

Take a long, hard look at the money you spend each month and find your weak spots. Where do you spend the most on unnecessary purchases? What’s your particular vice? You may even have several spending traps. How can you cut back on you daily expenses?

Any extra money you save goes toward your debt payments.

Here are some of the most common traps and how you can start reducing expenses in these areas:

Dining out. Now that local restaurants are starting to open up, you may want to eat out more often and catch up with your vaccinated friends and family members. But there are a lot of little ways that you can spend less when eating out – and still have a good time!

First, look carefully at the menu before you arrive at the restaurant, preferably before you’re really hungry. Consider whether it might be less expensive to have a large appetizer instead of a full meal. You might also skip desert, stick to water or offer to split a plate with your companion.

Oh, and maybe swap out that morning latte or your customized coffee from the local coffee shop for a less expensive option. (Or, bring your coffee from home!)

Grocery shopping. Grocery shopping is another area where planning ahead can help you save. Be sure to look at your local grocery store advertisements, make a list that you can stick to, and price compare.

Remember: Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry because that can lead to impulse purchases.

Subscriptions. Over the past year, you may have subscribed to more digital entertainment packages — Netflix and Hulu and at-home exercise programs and more. Look carefully at what you’re paying for, what you’re using and what you can do without!

This year, we’ve been presenting a series of webinars on budgeting and spending wisely. Our next session is this coming Wednesday, June 23 at noon! We’ll give you information on creating a budget and sticking to it in this useful webinar. Sign up at cofcu.org/events.

In addition, you're always welcome to set up an appointment with one of our certified financial counselors — it's a free service we offer all of our members because we want you to be successful.

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