I'm a little weird. I think we knew that. I mean, what kind of person names "personal finance" as a "hobby"? But, I like finding ways of trimming my budget. I think of it as kind of a game. If I can save somewhere, I will.
Think there's no money to be found? Think again!
Here's 10 ways to trim your budget without feeling like you're losing out big time on life. Read it and pass it on to someone who could use it, spread the love!
1. Cut the Cable Cord
I know a LOT of people who have gone this route in recent years. Given all of the options now available to us to enjoy television WITHOUT cable, I think the cable companies are going to have to start reevaluating the VALUE they are offering if they want to stay relevant.
According to research, the average cable bill is $103 a month!!?! That's nuts. We only paid upwards of $85 a month when we did have cable. I know someone close to me (I'll protect their identity, as not to shame them lol) who had a cable bill approaching $300 a month because of all their extras.
I like TV as much as the next person, but DAMN.
If you go with Netflix ($11/mo) and a Roku streaming player ($30) and maybe an Amazon account or something, you are still FAR under the average cable bill.
Possible savings: $50-$75 a month
2. Ditch the Landline
We are currently living with my inlaws while we build our house and they have a landline phone. I swear, at least 99% of the calls they get are sales calls. Everyone has a cellphone, a landline is simply a waste at this point.
Some people are super attached to phone numbers they've had since they were kids. This was the case with my grandparents. So, when they both passed away my aunt had their phone number put on her license plate. The phone number lives....the bill does not!
Potential Savings: $10-$30 per month
3. Fast Food and Restaurant Stops
This is SUCH a big one. I am TERRIBLE at this. I will raise my hand and admit it right now. I love Panda Express. I love it so so so much. And I'm gonna be totally honest, I'm hoping the CEO of Panda Express reads this and sends me gift cards for loving them so much. I have no shame.
But, going out to eat for lunch, to meet with friends, or for dinners because you're too tired to cook adds up SO MUCH. When we blow our budget, I know it's because of restaurants. I KNOW it. Everytime I go to Panda it's $7.70 (yes, I have that memorized).
This takes some white-knuckle willpower. But, start packing your lunches and save your favorite restaurants for special occasions.
Potential Savings: Depends on how often you're doing this, but I would save probably $77 a month.
4. Capsulize Your Wardrobe
I talked about "capsule wardrobes" before HERE , but to break it down it's basically eliminated unneeded or unworn pieces from your closet and only wearing a select few items. You can mix and match these items, but I would argue that what's nice about this approach is it shows no one really NEEDS a whole closet full of clothes. Kids don't need new clothes every month. They grow quickly, but not THAT quickly.
When I shop for my three girls, if it's not on clearance or the sale rack, they don't get it. I don't buy items willy-nilly, we buy clothing when we go to the store to buy clothing. Meaning, I have a set budget when I arrive at the store. More than half of their clothing is second hand. Most of my own clothing is second hand and I don't buy anything that isn't on sale. I also don't buy a piece of clothing until I need it, in most cases.
So, if you enjoy the ACT and RUSH of shopping sprees.....well, that's probably how you ended up needing to search personal finance websites. Right?
Believe me, once you get into the habit of NOT clothes hoarding, it's relatively easy.
Potential Savings: $10 to $100's a month, depending on how prolific of a shopper you are
5. Refinance Your Mortgage
Keep a keen eye on mortgage rates. I know....snoozeville. I get that. But, when rates fluctuate down, you can pounce on that. Refinancing your mortgage can save you hundreds a month, a bonus just for paying attention. According to Nerdwallet, homeowners are losing OUT on about $13 BILLION (yes, with a B) a year by NOT refinancing.
Potential Savings: $100-$1000 a month
6. Reconsider the "Hurried Child"
I had a discussion with my oldest kiddo the other day. She's 10. I asked her if she felt like she was missing out because she's not in sports or organized things like dance or gymnastics or something. She's in her school's forensics and art club and she draws a LOT. But, as far as organized (read: SPENDY) after-school activities, she's out.
She said no. She really had no interest in those things. She did dance once. It was, if I remember correctly, about $40 a month + the cost of costumes. Now, no disrespect to my kiddo but she's never going to be a professional dancer and she didn't even really enjoy it that much. I just felt like I was being a negligent parent because she wasn't involved in SOMETHING and it seemed like everyone else was.
Because everyone else pretty much is. The average cost of children's extracurricular activities nationwide is about $739 a year, or about $60 a month. Worth it? Depends on the kid, I guess. But, some kids are enrolled in MULTIPLE things: music lessons, dance, sports, groups. They barely have time to breath....and their parents are shelling out thousands not only in the cost of the activity but shuttling them around.
My advice? Maybe, if your child shows potential or interest in an activity, limit it to one activity that they can really THROW themselves into. If they SHOW no interest in these sponsored activities....that's okay too!
Potential Savings: $50-$60 a month
7. Start Doing Things Yourself
I'm a big believer in "if I can You Tube it, it can be done".....of course, this is complete and utter crap. I know there are some things I just will NEVER be any good at and those things need to be outsourced to a professional before I burn our house down or something.
However, I think we often sell ourselves short.
I can, for example, paint an item of furniture. We bought a table for $6 at a secondhand store recently and chalk painted it and it's super cute. Savings? Who knows, but it's a midcentury piece that would probably go for a hell of a lot more from Target or something.
I insource MOST of my work-related tasks. I don't even have an assistant. I answer my own emails, I do my own content creation, I take the pictures, I edit them, I build the albums, I go to the meetings. Now, a lot of people who do what I do for a living would say I was nuts and wasting a lot of time.
But, it keeps costs down on running my business. Which I like.
See what outsourced things you have that you could maybe learn to do yourself, like oil changes or hair trims.....you may surprise yourself!
Potential Savings: Hey, endless!
8. You're Not a Tree. Move.
A lot of people look at moving as the biggest pain in the ass on the face of the planet. And it is. Seriously. I HATE moving. But, if your budget is not balancing and your home is just too much for you to handle....or WHERE you live in general is just so ridiculously expensive that no one can ever get ahead (San Fran. I'm looking at you.).....then you may have to uproot and move.
There are lots of options. Smaller home (homes have grown in square footage since the 1950s like absolute crazy). Moving outside the big city. Moving outside of high cost of living areas.
Just sometimes you have to rip that bandaid off and DO IT.
Potential Savings: Thousands
9. Trim Your Grocery List WAY Down
Look at ways to trim that food list. Growing your own fruits and veggies, if that's an option, is a great way to not only participate in a stress-relieving activity but also generate food for the family.
Also, don't snub generics. My favorite cereal in the whole wide world is a generic (Hello Malt-o-Meal!). I buy generics on pretty much EVERYTHING. Most big grocery stores have "store brands" that have the same ingredients as big-name items. This can trim your budget considerably. This applies to prescription drugs as well. If there's a generic available, do it.
Don't shop when you're hungry. In fact, it helps to have a regular shopping day, a set shopping budget (ours is $150 a week), a list, and a meal plan. You'd be shocked how much a meal plan can help you just buy what is needed, make items that can serve as leftovers for several days (lasagna is GREAT for this) and organize your shopping trips.
BRING A CALCULATOR and add up everything as you go. If you go over budget, put some stuff back. Use coupons, but only if they are for items you would buy anyway and are not for brand-name items (because these are still going to be more expensive in most cases, even with a coupon).
Look to see if the deli and bakery have any "hey, this is about to expire" deals that you can incorporate into your meal plans and save!
Potential Savings: Hundreds!
10. BUDGET! BUDGET! OH MY LORD, FOR ALL THAT IS HOLY, PLEASE BUDGET!
This is the #1 tip I can tell you. If you keep running out of money before the month is over, I can guarantee you that you are not budgeting.
This means you sit down, pen in hand, paper in front of you, spouse if you've got one, and you total up ALL of your monthly income. Everything you've got coming in. Income from selling stuff. Income from overtime. Everything. Don't fudge the numbers. Just write it all out.
Then, you sit down and write out ALL of your monthly expenditures. Everything. Down to that candy bar you pick up at the Walmart checkout and that "quick run" to Walgreens to get God knows what. Every penny you spend gets written down.
Take the first # minus the second #. Are you in the black? That extra money gets put either to debt or to savings, depending on whether you're debt free or not. If you're in the red....it's time to have a "Come to Jesus" and start cutting. And in that case, see numbers 1 through 9.
Potential Savings: Endless.
I know waking up and realizing that your budget is just not working is really no fun. We'd all like to be able to just spend without hesitation. Well....maybe not me. That may send me into a panic-induced hysteria. I'm a terrible shopper. But, for most people....worrying about this junk is just.....ugh. The worst.
But, that's why we do the written budget. That's why we assign jobs to our money and we know where each dollar is going.
We are all here with ya. If you want some MORE motivation to up your take home, make sure you sign up for Pudgy Mail and get the 100 Side Hustles list FREE. You'd be surprised how you can add more dough to column #1.