Many families often wonder how they can save more money. While many monthly expenses are fixed—like rent, mortgages, loan payments and insurance—other expenses can be tweaked to save money. Weekly expenses for food, entertainment, and even utility bills can be decreased each month with just a little money saving savvy.
With the cost of living rising day to day, these money saving tips are more important than ever.
According to a 2017 survey by CareerBuilder.com, more than three-fourths (78 percent) of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. The same survey revealed that 23 percent fail to stash away adequate savings. Sometimes being in the higher income brackets also comes along with higher living expenses; about 10 percent of those making $100,000 a year also report that they also live from paycheck-to-paycheck. Let’s examine some of the common household expenses you can cut immediately.
Facing Your Financial Reality
So, how can your family save money to pay off debts or build savings? The only way to pinpoint the expenditures your family may axe is to look at all your monthly expenses and debts in one place–it’s time to create an expenditure spreadsheet!
Compile all your bills and log them into a spreadsheet or Word document so you can come face to face with your financial obligations. Tally up all your food bills, but make a separate category for ‘eating out.’ Entertainment expenses should be logged, too. This document isn’t your budget—instead, the spreadsheet is your financial reality.
Your spreadsheet must include:
- Total income at the top of the page (make it bold!)
- All fixed debts (credit cards, mortgage/rent, insurance, and other loans)
- Fluctuating expenses (gasoline, utilities, cell phone, cable, internet, entertainment, etc.)
- Survival expenses (food, prescription co-pays, doctor co-pays)
Finding Your Bottom Line
Subtract all your expenses from your monthly income. This final figure will either reveal that you have a cash surplus each month, you zero out (debt and income are the same) or you are in the hole (expenses surpass your income). If you’re lucky and see a surplus, the decision to cut expenses will further cushion your bottom line and help you stash away savings.
If you zero out each month, then you need to cut expenses to gain a little surplus (every dollar helps!). However, if your expenses exceed your income, then you need to aggressively cut down unnecessary spending and expenditures.
Summing it up:
- Surplus: Your income exceeds your expenses (go you!)
- Zero Out: This means that your expenses are equal to your income, and you have $0 left after all your expenses.
- In the Hole: Your debts exceed your income. You are spending more than you make.
Wherever your financial bottom line reveals, here are the top 10 unnecessary expenses that you can cut from your monthly bills. Yes, some of these will hurt your heart, but every single one is a want…not a need. Swallow your pride, and let them go!
Expenses To Start Budgeting (Or Cutting All Together)
Pricey Haircuts & Salon Services
Highlights, expensive haircuts and salon treatments like manicures and pedicures may be relaxing and pampering, but they are luxury expenses. Haircuts can be procured for lower budget prices at beauty schools or smaller establishments. Call around and find the best price. As an alternate, its much more better to buy your own hair styling tools. Like for hair straightening, there is a lot of variety available of excellent flat iron under 100 or so, and they comes with all professional technologies like ceramic/titanium plates, wet to dry, different temperature settings, etc. This one time investment will not only save your time going salon but, will also provide convenience at home and will save a lot of money with time.
Beauty schools typically offer salon haircuts, highlights and other services at discount prices. Chain salons like Fantastic Sam’s also offer budget-friendly cuts and color services…plus you can often clip their promotional coupons to save you even more money!
If you’re playing games on your devices that cost money for character add-ons, extra lives or any other random fictional world must-have, adjust your device settings so that spending that 99 cents isn’t even an option. Have an iPhone? Adjust your settings for your account so that it isn’t so easy to spend money while gaming. This may mean not only switching to a prompt that forces you to add your password to make the purchase or just delete your linked credit card or financial info completely.
Downloading lots of music or movies each month? Stop. Put a budget on what you can spend for digital entertainment and stick to it!
Most families pay for streaming services like Netflix or Hulu and don’t give the charge a second thought. However, the monthly fee for Netflix has risen over the years. And even $10 per month can be allocated to savings or to help pay down credit debt. Cancel your subscription and put the money to better use.
Library cards are free. While that convenient card allows you access to all those great reads, your local library also has movies, video games and so much more! And the best part? It’s all FREE! Just be prompt and return everything on time; you don’t want to pay fines!
Cell Phone Plans
Most cell phone plans can be tweaked based on data need and usage. If you’ve selected a more robust plan, ask yourself if you really need all those minutes or data. Or try a pay-as-you-go option like Cricket or Boost. Prepaid phones are typically basic models with not a ton of extras, and what they lack in luster, the make up for in savings. A pay-as-you-go option allows you to set your financial limit and force you to stick to it. Because once that money runs out, you’re cut off!
Swap out the expensive plan for a budget-friendly stripped-down plan. You could also skip the renewal and switch to a prepaid phone to ensure that you always stay on budget.
Takeout and fast food prices have risen over the years. And now a family of four can’t even get out of McDonald’s for under $20. But that same $20 bill will get you more food at a grocery store than it will at any restaurant or fast food establishment. Add up all the money you spend eating meals away from home. While one or two a month doesn’t seem like much of a financial hit, you’ll find that it adds up quickly. If you’re in deep debt or zeroing out every month, spend your food money at the grocery store. Not at the register buying burgers or tacos.
If you cannot nix fast food completely–things happen–then stick to the dollar menu. Instead of eating inside, grab it to go and save money on the fountain drink!
If you’re a member of a church, synagogue or other house of worship, tithing may be an innate expense. While financial giving is admirable, if it is hurting your financial situation, then you need to reconsider. The Simple Dollar recommends cutting financial gifts to your church as a way to manage your expenses.
Downsizing the tithe doesn’t mean neglecting your house of worship. There are many volunteer opportunities that allow you to provide help during services or at events to help your church.
Sports and other Rec Expenses
The Simple Dollar lists kids activities as one line item to cut. For many families, kids’ sports hit the financial bottom line hard. It isn’t uncommon for a rec baseball league to charge $100 for a registration fee. Add in equipment, private practices and uniforms and the costs can hit near $1000 or beyond. If you cannot afford the price of participation, cut the sports. Instead, focus on other ways to keep kids involved and active.
Start a pick-up league for kids to play for fun. You can ask your child’s school if there is space or time for them to play in the gym after hours. Or inquire with your local Parks and Rec department about hosting a free pick-up league at a local park where there’s space to play.
You may love buying clothes at higher-end retailers, but paying $30 for a t-shirt is insane if you cannot stash that same amount into a savings account. If you want the name brands, hit up thrift or consignment stores. Many of the clothes are like-new and you’ll score the same brands you love for a fraction of the cost. For shoes, shop at manufacturer outlet stores or affordable retailers like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.
Thrift your clothes or head to discount retailers. If you love those brands, try shopping at outlet stores where the prices are more affordable.
Alcohol & Tobacco
Do you love a glass of wine after dinner or with your meal? Maybe you’ve been a smoker for years and just can’t seem to quit. Look at your spending each month and figure out how much these habits are costing you. Unless you’re buying the Two-Buck Chuck at Trader Joe’s, the price of that bottle likely costs more than a few value meals at a fast-food restaurant—and many brands cost even more! As states increase taxes on tobacco, the price of cigarettes also may be on the rise. A fair estimate is that a one-pack a day habit might cost you a few thousand dollars a year—or more than $150 a month. Fair Reporters states that the price of cigarettes over a 20-year period would cost an individual $38,000. Imagine saving almost $40,000 over two decades—that’s money that can be invested in a 401K, saved for a child’s college fund or could dramatically help lower your mortgage.
Stop the habit! Many smokers cannot quit cold-turkey, so cut your intake slowly. The goal is to quit completely, because you’ll save your health and your finances.
Perhaps your company provides you with a discount on a gym membership, and the rate became really hard to pass up. You still need to cancel that membership! Gym memberships cost you money each month, and, chances are good that you’re not hitting the gym daily anyway. If you want to stay fit, go for a run, take a walk or buy free weights to train at home. Jumping rope also is great cardio, and it’s super cheap! Ditch the membership fees and free up cash to secure your financial bottom line! You may also save a little gas money once you stop taking the extra trips to the gym!
Take fitness into your home to save on gas and cut those monthly fees. In the long run, it may be cheaper to purchase a few free weights, a jump rope and other basic equipment instead of schlepping out the membership costs.
Saving money isn’t difficult once you identify the ‘extras’ that you can cut each month. While saying goodbye to dining out, cable and all those other luxuries may hurt a little in the beginning, the money you save each month will help you save for major mishaps or pay down debt. Financial responsibility is all about sacrifice, willpower and, unfortunately, letting go of some of the wants that make us happy. However, when you realize how far your income can go, the sacrifices will be worth it in the end. And once your surplus hits a place that makes you comfortable, maybe you can add one of those luxuries back into the budget!