One of the top goals people set every year is to get their finances in order.
For some that means saving for retirement or kids’ college.
For some that means paying off debt. (And for that, you know I love Dave Ramsey’s baby steps.)
For others that means spending less.
And for this last group of people, the best advice I have for you is to create and get serious about a budget.
I am not a financial guru, so I’ll let one of those people explain how to set a budget. (Check out this video from Rachel Cruze on how to create a monthly budget.)
But if you already have a budget and are looking for ways to trim expenses, I have a few ideas that our family has tested out the past couple of years.
- Dining Out
Eating out is convenient if you are super busy and need a fast option. Plus, you can find something on a restaurant menu that you typically wouldn’t cook at home. The downside is that those takeout visits, coffee runs and lunch breaks can add up quickly and cripple your budget. If this is an area you know you could cut back, take a look at this post about six ways to save on eating out.
Groceries usually takes up a huge chunk of every family’s budget, especially if you are trying to eat healthy. But hey, you have to eat, right? Starving isn’t an option, but it is possible to trim your expenses without eating Hamburger Helper or tuna for every meal. Check out this post for ways to cut grocery spending without couponing.
Exercising is a must to get and stay healthy, but the cost can get crazy. I have been a gym member for many years, but the monthly cost at some facilities can get crazy by the time you add in the base membership, group classes and child care. Decide what amenities you really need at a gym and shop gyms in your area. Or, workout at home by buying inexpensive equipment like jump ropes or resistance bands. Another option is to stream workouts. There are free workouts available on YouTube or you can go with a paid option like Daily Burn or Beachbody on Demand.
- Hair Maintenance
I’m not saying you should start cutting your own hair. (You will never catch me doing more than trimming my own bangs.) But some salons charge more than others. If you love your stylist or have been going to him/her for a decade, looking elsewhere may be unthinkable to you. But for everyone else, do some research and see if there are less expensive stylists in your area. However, just a piece of advice from someone who has moved a decent amount and tried out lots of new stylists: when you go to someone new, test them with an easy cut like a trim to figure out how skilled they are before you move on to something complicated.
Internet is a necessity these days (still can’t figure out how my parents live without it), but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good deal. Consider how often you download things or stream TV to figure out how many Mbps you really need. Then contact every provider in your area to find out what they can offer you. Many will have promotions that you can take advantage of and get a great rate.
Home and auto insurance is a must, but don’t assume that you already have the best rate out there. You can save a lot by working with an insurance broker who can pull quotes from many different companies. Using one insurance carrier for both auto and home insurance can also save you money, as well as having higher-deductible plans, if you have the savings to cover expenses upfront.
Does your family have any memberships or subscriptions like music services, magazines or newspapers, membership sites or subscription boxes? Subscriptions and memberships are a lot of fun but not critical things you must have, especially if your budget is tight.
- Mobile Phone
Most people have an unlimited data plan, but are you sure you are using enough data to make the cost worth it? Because we spend the most time at places that have wifi, we use less than 1 GB each every month. So an unlimited plan would be a huge waste of money for us. That’s why we shopped around until we found a mobile carrier that offered an extremely reasonable price for data by the gigabyte.
Are there any services that you are paying for someone else to do like lawn trimming, lawn spray, dry cleaning or house cleaning? Take on some of these yourself or choose an alternative (like nixing the dry clean only clothes) and save a decent amount of money.
There has never been a better time to cut out cable or satellite. Programming from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video or Sling is much less expensive than cable. Get a digital antenna for local programming and you’ll be set.
Sure, it would be nice to join an expensive gym, have my clothes sent using StitchFix and have someone come clean my house every week. And I could have those things if I decided to put my daughter in daycare and go back to work full time. But I decided several years ago that I wanted to stay home with my kids and that choice requires some sacrifices, especially in the area of finances.
If you need to tighten up your spending for whatever reason, I hope this post gives you some ideas for places you can start cutting back.