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It is time to tidy up our finances a bit! Let’s start by evaluating expenses and getting rid of the unnecessary ones! We all have some areas we can cut back on- even if we think we don’t. From cable to dining out, there are small adjustments you can take to save tons of money over time.
Here are 10 expenses you can cut right now to enjoy a healthier financial life.
It’s time to cut the cord! With options like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, do you really need cable? I bet you don’t! It takes some getting used to, but the savings is well worth it. There are so many options available that you will definitely be able to find plenty to watch. You never know, you may even end up reading more!
There are so many ways to save money on groceries: coupons, rebates, keeping a price journal, etc. These are all fine, but they do take some time. If you have time to devote to these tactics, that’s awesome! You will save a ton and it is worth the time. If you don’t have time for all of that, there are easy ways you can save money, too, and saving some money is better than saving no money! First, be sure to plan your meals and shop with a list. Second, try to shop by yourself. If you take your kids or partner, make sure they stick to the list! Third, shop at stores that a known for being a great value, like Aldi. Additionally, you can take advantage of weekly specials at smaller stores, too. Our small non-chain grocer often has great buys on meat and I will stock up then, which brings me to another point: if you see a great buy, stock up! If your family loves grilled chicken drumsticks and they are on sale for $.89 a pound, load up!
Dinner/Lunch/ Coffee Out
Limit how often you go out to lunch and dinner, and also cut back on your daily coffee shop coffee. If you are currently buying lunch at work, start packing a lunch. If you are spending $7 a day on lunch that adds up to $1750 a year! By taking leftovers, or meal prepping your lunches, you can apply that savings to something else, like a vacation fund. 😉 Coffee at $5 a day adds up fast! Cut down to 2-3 times a week and save that $10-15 for a big ticket item.
If you are too busy to make dinner and end up going out to dinner a lot, you really need to take a look at what you are spending and figure out how you can make time with your partner to figure out a dinner rotation that works for your family. At one point we were spending $1000 a month on take out and going out to dinner. That’s a lot of money! The solution that worked for me? I started purchasing ready-to-cook meals from a local gourmet deli/meat market, kind of like a “Hello Fresh” or “Blue Apron” deal, except everything was prepped. I would freeze everything and thaw the morning of when we would be preparing it. Whoever got home first was in charge of putting it in the oven. Since it was all prepped it was super easy! Now that we’ve moved to Michigan I don’t have this option. We also live 30 minutes from fast food and decent take out, so that alone forces me to cook. More than I would like to, tbh….
Turn coffee, lunch and dinner out into things you look forward to, rather than things that are routine and you will appreciate them all the more. (You’ll appreciate the savings, too!)
Just stop buying it. Or buy less of it, anyway. Package family size bags of chips into single serve ziplocs so no one makes a meal out of the junk food. It will last longer and you’ll spend less. Popcorn on the stove is a great snack that is super cheap (and super easy!) to make. Buy fruit that is in season or on sale instead of pricey chips and frozen snacks. Everyone will get used to it, and they will enjoy it as a treat once in awhile now instead of as the norm. Not to mention how much healthier it is to eat fruit as a snack.
So many people have serious clothing habits! If you are a big shopper, look for coupons and sales, or go through Ebates and use Honey for Amazon purchases. Rather than donating your old clothing to Goodwill, see if there is a local consignment shop that will take them so you are selling them rather than giving them away. If your clothing is in good shape and name brand, you can supplement your clothing budget by selling on ThredUp and Ebay. BUT, ideally, you will cut back on clothes shopping. Look at “capsule wardrobes” on Pinterest and see how many outfits you can make out of items you already own!
This might be a tough one, but if you could color your own hair 2-3 times a year, or every other time it needs to be colored, think of all the money you will save! I know it is difficult to leave your stylist, but if your stylist is at a pricey salon it may be worth it to move on. Yelp is a great source for salon reviews, and most salons have their pricing on their websites. Shop around online a bit, or ask your friends who have great hair, to see if you can save big money with a salon switch.
Take a look through your online bank statement to see if you are paying for any monthly or annual subscriptions you don’t use or can live without. I just dropped PicMonkey at about $5/month in favor of Canva because it’s free. It’s only a $60 savings over the course of a year, but combined with other efforts it all adds up. Be sure to go back a full 12 months in case there are annual subscriptions you have forgotten about. I know I once had an annual subscription to a language tutor app. Totally forgot about it, and I still speak one lonely language. :p
Lowering your thermostat just a couple degrees can really add up! It is easy to throw on a sweatshirt, make a cup of tea, and snuggle up with your honey and a blanket. If you use propane or oil heat, lowering your thermostat will prolong the time between fill-ups, too.
Home & Auto Insurance
Shopping for a new auto and home insurance provider almost always pays off. I am not suggesting lessening your coverage, just shopping around. Also, if you own your home, be sure you are getting a discounted rate for bundling your home and auto insurance. Insurance carriers like Geico and Progressive are hugely cheaper than Farmers and State Farm, for instance. This is also a good time to make sure you are adequately covered on all of your home and auto policies. This may result in a higher premium, but could save you big if there is a claim.
This may be hard for some people, especially those who tithe, or who are required to tithe. If you are required to tithe, you may need to have a discussion with your pastor or church official to explain that your family needs to cut back on expenses, including charitable contributions. Other charitable contributions may range from Girl Scout Cookies to sponsoring youth sports teams. These are all important contributions, of course, but maybe there are options that cost less. If workplace fundraisers for people’s kids are out of control simply institute a policy that you are no longer “shopping” at work. Blame your spouse if you need to- that almost always works as an excuse! If you want to be charitable, you can still be charitable with your time! Volunteer opportunities are always available at local schools, churches, shelters, foundations, etc. Who knows, you may meet new friends, find your future SO or even stumble into a new, more rewarding line of work!
Ideally, you will be able to cut back in all of the above areas. If you just can’t, try to cut back where you feel you are able to. You can always start with one thing, like stopping workplace fundraiser participation, and work your way up to cutting cable. You should also evaluate expenses that you can cut that are not on the suggestion list, since you know your expenses best.
Four Easy Things You Can Do To Stay On Track:
First, meal plan.
Once a week or twice a month, fully plan your meals for the upcoming 1-2 weeks. While you’re planning your meals and looking over the recipes, keep a grocery list. Think of meals and recipes you can double, either freezing one for a future easy meal, or having leftovers for lunches.
Next, always, always, ALWAYS shop with a grocery list.
As mentioned above, keep a running grocery list of items as you run out of them, and also as you work on your meal plan. Stick to the list when you’re shopping, only adding items you are out of and NEED- not the box of cereal your kids WANT when you have 3 open boxes in the pantry at home, not three pints of Ben & Jerry’s because it looks soooo good. The only reason to deviate from the list is if something you eat on a regular basis is on clearance or part of a sale you shouldn’t pass up.
Step 3: Set, and stick to, a weekly budget.
A weekly budget is different than a monthly budget in that it is smaller, can be tweaked as needed and looks ahead to larger upcoming expenses that may not be in your monthly budget. A weekly budget should be factored in to your monthly budget and easily within sight to keep you on track. It can also fluctuate- for example, if last week your office collected $15/person for a gift for your boss, or your daughter needed new softball cleats, you can pull the money from this week’s budget in various categories to cover that unexpected expense. A weekly budget should include groceries, restaurants, entertainment, household maintenance and any other flexible expenses that you incur on a weekly basis. Additionally, it should include upcoming expenses that you are anticipating, but haven’t made it to the monthly budget. (This should be items like sports or music fees for an unexpected team/lesson, a bachelorette party, new tires for your car, etc.)
Finally, switch to cash.
Many people have great success with an envelope system, like this one from The Budget Mom. If you have $100 a week for groceries in an envelope, you really can’t add items to your list because you won’t have money to cover them. If you have $40 in your household maintenance envelope you won’t be tempted to purchase a new garden decor item in addition to lawn bags and gas for the mower because you can’t. Another great way to save that is especially easy with the envelope system is to save all of the $1 bills you get back as change. Set them aside and see how much you’ve “saved” after a month and watch it add up over the course of a year. Once you know how much you’ve saved each month, you’ll have an idea of what your annual savings will be. You can then plan what to do with this “saved” money: pay off a bill, buy a summer pool pass for the family, go on an overnight trip with your partner, save it for another year and go on vacation. It will add up quickly if you set it aside and forget it!
To make it easier to stay on track here is a FREE printable bundle that includes worksheets for your meal plan, grocery list, running list for groceries and a weekly budget. Hopefully you enjoy a good list as much as I do! 😉
Want some more savings ideas? Check out this post on awesome budget beauty buys starting at $3 and under $10!