I promise you: it doesn’t have to involve getting rid of your lattes.
The key to cutting expenses out of your budget is to do it in a way that is sustainable. Example? Most of us can’t go cold turkey on all things screen related (Netflix, cable, movie outings, video game purchases, etc.) and expect to be able to sustain it especially in a cold Canadian winter. Like a diet, your cuts have to be healthy, reasonable and sustainable. Crash diets don’t work and neither do cold turkey expense cuts.
Brian O’Connor, who wrote ‘The $1000 Challenge’, cut $1000 from his family’s budget in 10 weeks. His tips are sound and his wisdom is too: “It’s not always that hard to save money; it’s just a whole lot easier not to save it.” We CAN menu plan, or coupon, or engage in one of a dozen other ways to cut expenses but it’s easier not to do those things, particularly when we’re busy. This brings me back to making cuts that are sustainable.
© receipt image via Shutterstock
The first step to finding these reasonable cuts to your expenses is knowing what your expenses actually are. Keep a spending diary for 30 days. Write in it every single thing you spend on, whether it’s $2.50 cash for the soft cone from the ice cream truck that went by your house or $1,750.00 for your mortgage payment. Everything. When you’ve done that, you’ll have a bird’s eye view on where your money is going every month and there will likely be some obvious expenses that you can get rid of, quickly and easily. If you’re a coffee nut like me, the odd trip to Starbucks probably isn’t coming off the list, but I can cut down my book purchases by leveraging the library more. See? Priorities.
Here are some ways you might consider cutting a little more from the budget every month.
Around the house
1. Cut the cable. Thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Shomi, you can get rid of your cable package and still have a variety of programs and movies available for viewing. Even your household news junkie can stay up to date with local channels streaming much of their content online.
2. Unplug. No, I’m not referring to turning off your phone (although, that’s by no means a bad idea sometimes!) I’m referring to literally unplugging appliances that you don’t use. Go to countries where electricity is expensive (Great Britain, for example). You’ll notice that the coffee machine, kettle etc, are always unplugged when not in use because plugged in, they’re still an energy and money drain.
3. Cold water wash. This is another energy and money drain that can save some money but also save some energy. Just be sure to use the cold-water detergent: it really makes a difference to the quality of your wash (particularly, if you bought it on sale. Just saying…)
Entertainment and fun
4. Takeout. Convenient it might be; cheap it is often not. Invest some time and effort in meal planning and cut your takeout and restaurant meals down. And if you’re like a friend of mine who rates cooking up there with a root canal, there are dozens of services that will deliver everything you need to make an easy home cooked meal, at half the price of takeout. Healthier for you; healthier for your wallet!
5. Movies. Going to the movies these days, especially with kids, is an expensive proposition. Take advantage of Saturday Family specials at the theatres. Better yet, rent the latest flick from Google Play and stream it on your television. A little homemade buttery popcorn, a little juice (grape for the kids; fermented grape for you!) and you’ve got the makings for a comfy at-home movie night that won’t break the bank.
6. Outings. There are discount codes and coupons everywhere for just about everything you and your family might want to do. And if you are the kind of family that visits a certain place—the zoo, for example—more than twice a year, look into a family membership. These can often save you a lot on entry fees, parking and offers discounts on shopping and dining.
Clothes and sundries
7. Recycle clothes. For me, it’s hard to find clothes that I like or would wear in a used clothing shop, but for the kids? No problem. There are shops everywhere, even online, where you can get the summer shorts or back to school shirts that you’ll need, at a fraction of retail.
8. Cell strategy. Monitor your data and text usage as well as your family’s for a month or two and then see if you can do better with a family plan or other package. While we’re talking about phones, if everyone has a cell at your house, it’s time to get rid of the extras on your home phones, like call waiting.
Changes in spending habits are like changes in eating habits: they’re lifestyle changes that take time to work into your life but once entrenched, can go a long way to keeping a healthy bottom line.
What are you favourite ways to save money? Do you have a ‘go to’ strategy?