Reduce Monthly Spending: How I Trim the Fat and Shrink My Budget
October 30, 2019
We’ve been blessed to be able to manage our household on one income. That said, it isn’t always easy and requires a bit of financial creativity on my part. I’m always looking for smart ways to reduce our monthly spending and minimize the strain on our budget while still allowing us to have a little fun.
Honestly, a lot of this is common sense, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook how just a little change or sacrifice can make such a huge financial difference over time.
You may find that your monthly budget is ever evolving as your children grow and your needs (and prices!) change. I try and implement some of these basic strategies to reduce monthly spending and save my family money every day.
Tips to reduce your monthly spending:
1. Skip the Starbucks and takeout.
I know, I know, blasphemous! But seriously, your insta-worthy Starbucks stops (or Dunkin’ runs for those of us blue collar coffee drinkers) probably add up to the equivalent of a utility bill by the end of the month.
Maybe coffee isn’t your thing? Well, those gas station snacks and quick Panera or fast food stops aren’t exactly helping the budget either. It may seem more convenient than cooking or brown bagging it, but when you add up a month’s worth of takeout indulgences it can be a pretty sobering total.
Instead, I like to specifically budget for a treat night where we enjoy a takeout meal or plan an evening out. Not only is it cheaper (and arguably healthier) than a daily dose of the drive-thru, we appreciate it so much more.
2. Stop hemorrhaging money on the latest technology.
I can sense the pitchforks at the ready for this one too. Please, try and keep and open mind.
It’s really easy to get caught up in the rush and excitement of the latest tech doo-dads (do I sound old yet?). My inner geek enjoys drooling over fancy phones, sleek tablets, and the like. However, my budget is not a fan of the $1k+ price tag often attached to these covetable devices.
Sure, most wireless carriers will finance all the latest models, but do you really want to be beholden to your carrier or under contract for several years only to have your device become obsolete before you even make the final astronomical payment?
When I pay my wireless bill, I wan’t to pay my wireless bill. I’m not interested financing four devices that the internet told us we just have to have.
I’m not saying you necessarily have to sacrifice quality. If you can just let go of the notion of keeping up with the Joneses, you can still upgrade without breaking the bank or extending your contract.
But what should I do?
First, if your current phone, tablet, or pc functions well as is and suits your needs, keep using it! Fight the urge! I know it’s hard, especially when there are enticing “sales” around every corner. Remember, you’re still spending money even if you “saved” $100.
When it’s finally necessary to replace my device the first place I look, surprisingly, is eBay.
No, I’m not looking to purchase a sketchy looking used iPhone from Joe Seller with a two star feedback rating.
I search Buy-It-Now listings for unlocked phones (match your carrier) in new condition or manufacturer refurbished phones in like-new to excellent condition from reputable sellers.
Look for flagship models (high end specs) from one or two generations ago for the best quality and nearly comparable (to latest model) features.
I purchased my 2016 flagship model (Android) phone two years ago. It was in like new condition for about $250. I own it outright, no financing hanging over my head. It does everything I need it to do, and still does it well.
Will it make me a cool kid? No, but keeping food on the table is cooler.
3. Cut the cable cord.
If you haven’t done this yet, what are you waiting for?
Your cable company may try and twist your arm to stay with bundling incentives. Stay strong! Resist their sweet, honeyed words. Your bill will soon be uglier than a bad breakup.
Unbundling my cable and internet did cause my internet rate to go up. However, it was still cheaper than the combined bundle price, and would still reduce my monthly spending.
You won’t miss it. I promise.
There are oodles of streaming services to fill the void and satisfy your binge cravings. Just be careful. Once you subscribe to everything under the sun it can quickly add up to the price of cable.
I decided to stick with two paid services outside of Amazon Prime. We keep Prime mainly for the cost effective shipping benefits and convenience, and the streaming content is an added perk.
Keep an eye out for seasonal promo rates. For example, last fall I was able to score a year’s worth of Hulu at $.99/month.
4. Grocery shop smarter.
Stick to a list! It can be really tempting to impulse buy when you’re not following a strict grocery list linked to a meal plan, and those impulsive purchases add up.
When possible try shopping at either discount grocery outlets or private label chains like Aldi.
Aldi is my absolute favorite. Seriously. I can get more than twice the amount of groceries for the same money I would spend at my local chain store. Overall, I find their house brand products to be just as good if not better than most national brands.
When it comes to lunch box snacks, party food, and basic staples Aldi’s prices can’t be beat and are often better than regular chain sales.
If you prefer to shop your local store, particularly for meat, be on the look out for close to sell by date items. They are often heavily discounted or will have a peel off coupon. I like to stock up on these and stick them in the freezer as soon as I get home.
This may be stating the obvious, but only buy what you know your family will realistically eat. There’s no sense in buying crazy quantities of exotic produce that will sit and rot in your crisper drawer. You might as well put that money toward a pack of Pop Tarts. 😉
5. Shop local estate sales for home decor deals.
Looking for furniture? Tired of veneer covered fiberboard? Check out local estate sales to find awesome deals on quality furniture. I’ve seen amazing prices on beautiful solid wood pieces that have stood the test of time.
You can also find unique home decor, especially if you’re going for a retro vintage look. Clocks, lamps, shelves, dishes, rugs, linens, you name it! All for a fraction of what you would pay for new retail. Plus, you never know if you’ll strike gold and find something you can flip on eBay.
Don’t laugh, but you can also score a great deal on nearly full or unused laundry and cleaning supplies.
Check your local newspaper listings to find out where the sales are near you. Find out if the estate liquidators in your area are on social media and follow them for updates. You can also search sites like http://estatesales.net to get the local scoop.
Go early and bring your own bags (be prepared to stand in line). I promise, it’s worth it. You’ll get first dibs, and you won’t be kicking yourself as you see someone walk out with an amazing set of Pyrex that should have been yours.
6. Shop thrift stores, carefully.
Thrift shopping can be an awesome way to snag designer duds at less than Kmart prices. I especially like to scour the denim section for high end brands priced under $10 that often retail for as much as $200.
Be choosy. Don’t settle for clothes that show a lot of wear. Thrift store prices aren’t getting any cheaper, and in my opinion, prices can sometimes be a bit steep for the condition.
Also, be a brand snob. I refuse to pay $4 for a used Garanimals shirt that I know I can find brand new on a Walmart clearance rack for $2. Thrift store does not always equal frugal.
Sometimes you have to decide whether sale and clearance shopping for brand new fast fashion makes more budget sense compared to paying the same or more for its used counterpart.
7. Winterize your home.
There’s no need to heat the whole city. Make sure your windows are snug and trim is caulked if necessary. Add weather stripping anywhere you feel a draft.
Once your home is buttoned up tight, try dropping the thermostat a few degrees, especially at night. It may take a few more layers at first until your body acclimates, but consistently lowering the temperature even just a little can help to lower your monthly heating costs.
8. Research extensively before making any medium to large purchases.
Looking to buy a new appliance or other larger purchase? Like to buy online? Awesome. Whatever you do, don’t click and buy the first one you find without doing a little homework.
Once I’ve decided on a specific brand and model of a product I plan to purchase I make sure to compare prices by searching in Google first. Many times the prices can be competitive and quite similar among major retailers.
The important thing to check for in this case is sale and coupon codes. My favorite site to check before most purchases (large or small) is http://Retailmenot.com. In my experience it is the most up to date and comprehensive list of retail coupon codes.
An item from a certain retailer could be priced higher, but sometimes they might feature a coupon code and/or free shipping which lowers the overall cost and beats the competition.
9. Use your car until it can no longer be resuscitated.
You’re probably not going to like this one either. However, if you’re really struggling financially, the car payment has gotta go.
I purchased what I consider my first “grown-up” car gently used back in 2007. My husband still currently drives it to work everyday.
With regular maintenance, and some general part replacement here and there, you can get a lot of years out of a vehicle. You’ll sleep much better with the title in hand and no more monthly payment.
Yes, mechanical issues occasionally arise. Parts wear out, and repairs need to be addressed. I’d much rather pay for an odd repair once in a while than have a consistent monthly payment bogging me down.
Again, you’re not going to get any cool points, but if you’re reading this list chances are that ship has already sailed.
There you have it.
While this list is nowhere near exhaustive, I hope you will be able to apply some of these basic tips to give your budget some breathing room and reduce your monthly spending.
Stay tuned for more shopping specific posts where I share more in depth tips on how to score big on technology, luxury, and more!