Today, I want to talk about something most of us do not discuss, MONEY. Specifically, your budget and how your hard earn money is being spent or saved. First and foremost, do you have a monthly budget? If your answer is yes, see a list below of items you can cut from your monthly spending. If your answer is no to not having a monthly budget, create a budget first. Not only can you see where all your money is going, but you can quickly assess what can be cut from your spending.
There are so many topics within budgeting I want to discuss, however, today we are just going to focus on the items you can cut from your budget. These items, services, etc. can easily add up making your spending much higher than it needs to be. Some items below, you might see as a ‘NEED’ but if you are really trying to cut back on spending, paying off debt and/or wanting to save more of your money, you need to make cut backs. Below I have listed out a few common things we spend money on, but you could save more money by simply cutting them out of the budget or simply doing the work yourself.
- Paper products (napkins/paper towels/paper plates/plastic silverware, etc)
These are good for hosting a party but not everyday use. Not only does this add more cost to your grocery list, it is also piling up in landfills. Instead of paper napkins, buy cloth and wash/reuse. Instead of paper plates, plastic silverware, styrofoam goods for each meal simply wash your dishes. As for paper towels, use dish towels and wash them frequently. This should help cut back the amount you are spending if you currently buy these items regularly.
- Subscriptions (magazines, gym memberships, streaming platforms, music)
If you are trying to save money and/or pay off debt, you need to cut back in this area. If you have all of the above, try cutting back one-by-one. Only having one or two will be major improvement. It is not to say by budgeting or cutting cost you cannot have fun, however, you need to budget for what you can afford. Sometimes there are free gym options at your workplace or your community centers to cut that cost. Also think about using the great outdoors or a home workout routine.
- Cable (You can do it, cutting our cable years ago was the best move and saves so much monthly)
- Eating out (lunch, dinners, gas station drinks/snacks, coffee runs)
Okay, this is still a hard category for my family as well, but we budget for dining out. It adds up quickly if you are eating out for lunch or dinner and/or buying gas station drinks/snacks daily! Take leftovers or brown bag lunches to work everyday, it will save you more than you think. Also, take drinks and snacks with you in the car. Each week make a MEAL PLAN. You should be doing this for two reasons; only buy what you need from the grocery store for that weeks meals and having each meal planned out for the week will keep you on track. Stick to the plan! I could make a whole post about meals, planning, etc but I will save that for another time. Also, try cutting back on buying that cup of Joe at the coffeeshop. Make your coffee at home and save money. You can always put $5 per month in the budget so you can still grab coffee once a month with a friend or to treat yourself.
- Pampering Services (nails, hair appointments, massages, etc.)
This is not to say grow your hair out like a caveman, but to find a cheaper haircut or spread out the time in between haircuts. Ladies, if you get your haircut and highlighted every 6 weeks, try stretching it to every 8 weeks or longer. Over the year, you will save some money. If you have an easy haircut, maybe you could have someone in your house do it for you? If you get your nails done 1-2 times per month at a nail salon, try cutting this back or cutting it out of the budget all together. Do your nails at home.
- Entertainment (movies, events, activities)
Have a set budget monthly for entertainment. We started the 2020 year with the goal of doing one monthly activity that cost money. (museums, day trips, the movies, sport events, etc) Still wanting to do things as a family is okay, just make sure you have it in the budget. The rest of the month look for free activities for family entertainment. (parks, events, playgrounds, community movie night, local shows, board games at home, volunteering, etc.)
- Impulse buying (travel, groceries, clothing, junk food, home decor, etc.)
These easily add up if you frequent stores or are on social media. Influencers are there to make you think you NEED the product, but do you really? I have always loved clothing, shoes, and home decor so I used to ‘browse’ places like Home Goods, TJMaxx, the local mall, etc. To help impulse buying, I only go to the store when I have a shopping list and its on the monthly budget. Example, if you know your nieces birthday is this month, it should be in your budget and on the shopping list. Or, if you know your child has outgrown their current pair shoes, put it in the monthly budget under clothing. If you walk past a cute piece of home decor and want to buy it, ask yourself do you NEED it? The answer is more than likely going to be NO. Put it back and walk away. 🙂 As for junk food, try to keep more fruits and veggies in the house as snack food. Not only is it healthier for your family but you can also use up these items in dinner ideas. (example, carrots are a snack but you can steam them as a veggie for dinner or chop them up to put in homemade chicken and noodles) Travel is a a hard category for me to not spend all of my money. I love traveling, however, it is not practical on my budget whenever I want. So make a yearly plan of places or events you wish to travel to and BUDGET it in. Save a specific amount leading up to the travel date so that you are paying cash for all your travel expenses. (hotel, car, gas, food, entertainment, baggage, flights, taxes/resort fees, etc)
- Insurance (auto insurance and home insurance)
Negotiate! Insurance companies want to keep your business, so contact them on what can be done to lower your bill. Do they offer discounts you may be eligible for? (your job, military, small mileage commute, university alumni, etc) Yes, I have used a few of these discounts to save me so much per month! Also, shop around! You would be amazed at what you could be saving with a different company for your needs.
- Cell Phone and Utilities (electric, gas, water, etc.)
Most people do not know that you can put your electric, gas or water on the ‘budget’ plan. What does this mean? Instead of your bill fluctuating monthly or in colder/warmer months, you can be placed on a budget for the year and it will be the same monthly bill. Be careful not to over use or your monthly bill will increase the next year based on your usage. Real life example: I did not have an electric bill in January and only a partial for February since our amounts paid in 2019 were over the amount we actually used so it was credited to our account. (2018 we used a little more because we had an infant) Being on the budget saves you from those unexpected high $500+ bills in the winter months. As for cell phones, look for plans that have only what you need instead of all the bells and whistles you do not use. You can also see if splitting a family plan with others would make everyones bill cheaper.
Other areas you can cut back or do without:
- Home Thermostat (turn it up when you are not home, no need to keep it running for the walls to be comfortable. Do not set your heat so high, turn it down a few degrees and put on more layers when there are colder days)
- Kids clothing (shop second hand–I do this for play clothes. I also find new items with tags still attached) Garage sales, selling sites, second hand stores.
- Pet Grooming (like the haircut category above, space out grooming appointments further by 1-2 weeks OR start grooming your pet yourself)
- House Cleaning Company (do it yourself OR if it is must for you, cut back to maybe once a month and you cleaning in between. You can also make chore charts for littles to help)
- Dry Cleaning
- Alcohol and/or smoking products
- Grocery Bill (buy only the NEEDS to make your meals. Use coupons, store app coupons, price compare, etc)
This is not to say you should cut out every category I listed above. Many of us use these items out of convenience rather than making a plan and doing it ourselves. Let me know what areas you plan to cut back or what you cut out totally from your budget. You can do it!! I am by no means a financial guru or expert, I too have to work at it every month. These are just common areas within most peoples budget I believe you can cut out or scale back immensely. Make that budget every MONTH. I hope to bring more budget talk your way, let me know topics you want to discuss by emailing me.