I recently fielded a question from someone searching for areas which could (or should) be cut from their budget. Any time you are in the midst of establishing boundaries in your life, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
Whether you are trying to pay down debt or reach financial goals, here are seven simple things you can do to find balance in your budget.
1) Unnecessary Supermarket Trips
Staying out of the store can save you more money that you would think possible. Statistically, the more often you enter the store, the more you spend monthly. So, bulk cook, make a weekly menu plan, spend cash on food, and enter the store no more than once a week.
To help you get started, I created a weekly $50 menu plan for my family of 5. It will show you just how easy it is to combine items you already have on the shelf of your pantry and in your freezer with recipes from on-line resources to eat like a king and queen for very little money. Of course, it helps if you have both the pantry and freezer organized and know what’s on the shelves.
2) Eating Out
One of the first areas which can be cut back (or out) when you need to spend less and pay down debt, is entertainment. Entering a restaurant should be a special occasion. This includes drinks out with friends. Instead, consider having friends over to your house. Practicing hospitality is not only a wonderful thing, it doesn’t need to cost a lot of money.
So, clear a date on your calendar, call some friends, and host an evening “in”. Here are some suggestions for low-cost parties that we have hosted over the years.
- Appetizers! Have everyone bring their favorite appetizer
- Hot Stuffed Baked Potatoes! Buy 10 pounds of potatoes. It will cost you less than $5. Roast the whole bag and then put them in crockpots on the “warm” setting. Have each guest bring their favorite toppings.
- Breakfast! For over a decade we put on a yearly garage sale with friends. On the day of the sale, they all arrived at 6am for breakfast. My husband made his special pancakes and another guest brought along cinnamon rolls made using her grandmother’s recipe.
- Soup! I make homemade soup, literally, every single week, year round! It costs just a couple of dollars and very little time to make a crockpot full of delicious soup. Friends rave over my smoky white bean soup. Guests can bring crackers, dip, veggies, or fruit as side dishes.
3) Renting or Going Out to the Movies
Save goodbye to the wide-screen, cinematic experience. You can borrow movies from the library for free. In fact, while we’re at it, reconsider your monthly cable or satellite bill. Ask yourself some really pointed questions.
- How much are you really using this service?
- Is this service actually causing you to spend more money?
- How is this expense affecting your future goals?
Monthly “clubs” have become incredibly popular. Amazon (the “everything” destination) features 150 periodic subscription boxes. Your dose of consumer-induced serotonin can now arrive in your mailbox or on your front porch at regular intervals. Forget magazine subscriptions. This mega money-making industry has expanded to include things like:
- essential oils
- make up
- craft kits
- shaving items
- beard care
It’s not that there is no value in these products. There is. But, once you get hooked, it becomes awfully hard to identify the difference between wants and needs. If you are on a quest to make fast forward financial progress, then take a long, hard look at items which are arriving at your home on a regular basis.
5) Unnecessary Purchases
We all buy stuff we just don’t need. How many times have you looked around your house and thought, “How did I get all this stuff?” In general, most of us suffer from a fair amount of “stuff overload”. It’s only when we begin to ponder moving to a new location or downsizing, that we actually look critically at our possessions.
It’s so much easier if you carefully consider each item before it is purchased. Not only will it save you hassles and headaches later, it also saves you a boatload of money now.
I’d like to challenge you to ask yourself a series of questions before you hit that “send” button on Amazon.
- Do I need it?
- Do I have the money for it?
- Is the money in the budget?
- How this purchase will effect my list of short, medium, and long-term goals?
While you’re at it, take a look around your home and sell items which you are not using. Facebook Marketplace is a free way to offer your items to others for a great price and, at the same time, score some cash to put toward your financial goals or debt repayment.
6) Paying for Services You Could Do Yourself
One of the areas you can look at to save cash on a regular basis, is to cancel services which you are currently paying someone else to perform. Begin by giving yourself a boost of self-confidence. Look at hour budget critically. Make a list of ways that you are spending money in ways that you could cut out. Google each service. You’ll find a plethora of tutorials on how to do that exact thing for yourself.
If money is tight, here is a list of ideas that you can DIY, instead of paying for the same service.
- change the oil in your car
- trim or cut your hair
- maintain your lawn
- clean your house
- perform basic car maintenance
- do basic plumbing and electrical work
- clean your home
- cook all your food from scratch rather than buying deli items or pre-made meals
- complete home painting projects
- plan basic remodel projects
- wash and wax the cars
- groom your pets
- washing and ironing clothes
7) Paper Towels
I know this seems like a small expense, but in the world of finance, nickels and dimes DO add up to dollars. Cloth napkins work great for meal time. I cut up old blankets and sheets into small squares to use for household cleaning.
What items would you advise other to stop spending money on? I’d love to know your tips and strategies. Leave your thoughts in the comments.