One major part of budgeting is figuring out where to direct your income. What are the most important, needed items? Things like a place to live, food to eat, and water to drink. But what if you don’t have enough coming in each month to cover your expenses. Then you need to take a hard look and cut your budget.
My Budgeting and Cost Cutting Journey
Not long ago, my family and I were living way outside our means. We made a comfortable living, but we never seemed to be able to meet our financial savings goals or plans. No matter what we did, it always seemed like we were behind. Something would come up and we would be strapped.
Finally, I was fed up with living this way. So I printed out all our bank and credit card statements and spread them out. I made an excel spreadsheet and categorized every cash inflow and outflow. When I had that data, I was flabbergasted. I could not believe what we spent in categories like food, home, utilities, and entertainment.
Armed with this knowledge, I started to research ways to save in those categories. I read every website and book that I could find on the subject. Then I made a plan – cut my budget in those categories. Cutting your budget is not easy. But I learned a few things along the way. And I am going to share them with you!
Simple Ways to Cut Your Budget
That is where Simple Ways Cut Your budget comes in. I am passing along the budget cuts our family made. They made a pretty big difference in how much we spend each month. It was not easy, but once it became a habit and we were able to save for a vacation, a new car, and a new tablet among other things. Once we realized how we could make those extra savings work for us and not go deeper into debt, we understood how much it was worth the cuts!
These are simple changes that you can make today. Just realize that budgeting and cutting your budget is a journey and it is one that never ends. Don’t give up. Try it and keep trying until you find what works for your family. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to cutting costs and budgeting!
How to cut costs in your food budget
One of the massive ways to cut your budget is to take a good hard look at what you are spending on food. This includes meals out, that afternoon latte run, and of course that quick stop at the vending machine for a snack.
Since the dollars are smaller each time you make a purchase, it can feel harmless. But that could not be further from the truth! Those tiny purchases really add up quickly! And they are harmful to your budget. Here is where you can make some serious impact and there are simple options to do it.
Brown Bag Lunch all month
Eating out even a few days a week can cost anywhere from $5 – $10 / lunch. If you eat out just 6 times in a month that could cost $30 – $60. If you apply this all year that would be $360 – $720. That is not a small amount of money.
Skip eating out for dinner
If skipping eating lunch can save you a ton of money. Just imagine applying that to dinner! You can really rake in the dough when you apply this plan to your budget. If you only eat out 1 time a week with a family of 4 that could be about $40 / dinner. That would equate to $160 / month or $1,920 a year.
If you do eat out….
- Stick to water. Alcohol is marked up 2 – 3xs the retail price. Soda is $3 or more (times 4 people, that is another meal!)
- Go when kids eat free (if you have kids of course 🙂
- Cash in your earnings from sites like Swagbucks, Mintvine, or grocery apps to buy gift cards for a nice meal out
- Go at lunchtime, prices are lower
- Try ethnic – you can find sizable portions for decent prices.
Make your coffee/tea at home
This one was a huge cost-saving for me. I am someone who loves, needs, and always wants a cup of coffee or even better a latte. But that habit became out of control. Mainly because it was just easier to drive to Starbucks and pick up a latte. Instead of spending $20 – 30 a week per PERSON on lattes, we invested a little money in a specialized coffee machine and learned to make our own syrups at home. Doing that has saved us thousands over the last few years. It was crazy how much we were putting down on a cup of coffee. And we could not be happier as it tastes better than the store-bought.
If you want to take this a step further and if your office offers free coffee or tea, take advantage and drink it. It is saving you even more!
If you MUST have that cup of Joe. Check out my 18 Ways to Save Money at Starbucks. It might help you save some dough.
Meal plan instead
If you are willing to make the sacrifice of not ordering or eating out all the time. Then you NEED to create a meal plan. Creating a meal plan and trying to use what you have on your shelf will save you a good chunk of change. It will not add to your grocery spending as much that way. There are plenty of websites you can enter into what you have in your cupboard to figure out what recipes you can make. Not sure where to start? Check out these theme night ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
When you make dinner, double the batch and freeze it! Even better batch cook – save time and money! Buy this I mean make 5 or 6 batches. Repeat this process for other meals and freeze them all. You could be set for a few weeks. Save time and money, that is a win!
Save Money at the Grocery Store
- Shop sales and stock up on good deals
- Use grocery store apps
- Skip single-use
Pre-made / pre-cut = EXPENSIVE
Doing the work yourself can save you a nice chunk of change. Instead, buy in bulk and make single-use yourself! This tip is awesome for kids’ lunches and adults alike.
Buy in bulk
This may seem counterintuitive, but spend more money to save it. But on a price per unit basis, you can find some real savings by buying items in bulk. Whether this means buying in the bulk foods aisle or your local wholesale club, you will find savings in your budget in the long run.
One great way to buy in bulk is to join a wholesale club. I absolutely adore Costco. But Sam’s Club or BJ’s will work too. They often offer discounts on items that will beat the per unit costs of most grocery or mass retail stores. But make sure to check on the prices per unit and understand what items cost, even on sale at most stores before you splurge.
Ways to save in entertainment
Food and entertainment go hand in hand. Eating out can even be a form of entertainment. So, it makes sense that if you are looking to bring your budget back in line, cutting what you spend to entertain yourself is smart.
Use your public library
Even if you only purchase 1 movie a month at $20, this could save you over $240. Same with music, magazines, etc. the library is your best friend! Save on books/magazines – your library can be your BEST friend.
Depending on where you live you may have access to a lot of free books, movies, music, and magazines. You may even have access to apps that make it so you do not even have to GO to the library to check them out!
- Use Libby (for e-books)
- Use Flippster (for e-magazines)
- Save on movies and TV and music – there are other awesome apps that allow limited, but free access to TV, movies, comic books, and music.
- Hoopla (10 borrowings a month at my library)
- Kanopy / Kanopy Kids (10 borrowings a month at my library)
Use free music services (rather than shelling out for the paid ones)
Of course, you cannot pick what you listen to when and there are ads, but you will not be shelling out $9.99/month or $119.88 a year. That is not a small amount of money. There are plenty of free services out there to try. Once of these might work for you.
- Slacker, google music, iheartradio, SoundCloud, Spotify, pandora…
- If you have an Amazon Prime account you can access SOME music for free. Use it to maximize what you pay for Prime.
- Listen to the good old-fashioned radio or the internet version
- Make playlists on YouTube, great for dance parties at home
Just make sure you are on WIFI if you are streaming or you have an unlimited plan! You do not want to save money on entertainment only to shell it all out on your phone bill and data overages.
Trim your services
- Rather than pay for cable we have a lot of free channels on Roku, PBS app, tubi, YouTube, crackle, happykids TV, Pluto TV, etc.
- Pay for Hulu, Netflix, and Prime. – cheaper than buying a cable package
- Upgrade Netflix (you can add others to the account)
- Share with friends (legally)
- Use Amazon household to share Amazon services legally between two addresses
Other ways to save on entertainment
- Stay in – clean, de-clutter, start a side hustle, do some DIY projects
- Have a date night at home
- Host a dinner party (everyone brings something)
- Hold a game night
- If you really want to go out for entertainment – check out sites like Groupon, living social, or Yipit. You can get discounts on fun activities in your area.
- Look for free museum days or other events in your area that are free
Cut your Costs Around the House
Turn off the lights
My kids are guilty of this. They turn a light on because they are scared of the dark and then they leave the room. But the light is left on. If you are not in the room turn ’em off. Not only is it wasteful, but it is an easy way to save!
No one watching TV but it is still running? Turn it off!
Have you ever put the kids to bed and are working but Elsa is still singing let it go in the background? Don’t waste electricity when no one is watching. I am always amazed at how often the TV is running and no one is watching it. While it might not make a huge dent, it still is something and it will add up!
Other ways to save on electricity costs
- Unplug appliances, not in use or use a smart power strip you can turn off
- Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees. For every 10-degree reduction in temperature, you can save up to 5 percent on water heating costs.
- Install CFLs with LEDs
Cut laundry detergent
The laundry detergent sold today is usually highly concentrated and powerful. One of the best ways to make it stretch is to use the smallest suggested amount. Often you can use less than what’s on the bottle and still get clean clothes. In many cases, using less actually washes more effectively because there’s no leftover soap in your clothes. Making your detergent stretch means saving money on purchasing more and saving your clothes.
Wash your clothes in cold water
This tip has savings potential two-fold. First you save on the electricity to heat the hot water. Second, you preserve your clothes, they are less likely to shrink or fade and it can keep certain stains from setting.
Replace dryer sheets with Wool Balls
They are easy to make and environmentally friendly. You can even make them scented if you want. Make your own for a few bucks and you will have something that removes static and last for a few years.
Revise how you use your heating / cooling unit
- Turn it off when you are not home
- Use small space heaters where you are instead
- Wear warmer clothes or cover in blankets
- Seal your windows with plastic
- Check for drafts at your doors and molding around your windows
- Turn up the temp in the summer
- Install a smart thermostat
Cut Your Budget With These Simple Ideas
Even if you only put a few of these into practice, you could have the potential to see huge savings. Try to implement a few from each category. After a month, check-in and see where your budget is in comparison to the previous month. If you find that you are saving money, then keep going and add a few more. You just might find you are happier cutting out all that extra spending!
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If you are at square one of budgeting. Check out these posts to help you get where you want to be.
Budgeting 101- How to make a simple monthly budget
Building Your Emergency Savings
Saving Money – Ideas to jump start your savings
Why You Need Sinking Funds In Your Life