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When I first started working on a budget, I was a new stay-at-home mom to an 8-month-old baby girl. We were making it financially, but things were TIGHT. Have you been there, mama?
I wrote down all of our monthly bills and other expenses. I could see that our monthly income was almost equal to our monthly expenses. No wonder we weren’t getting ahead!
We made some strategic moves and we were able to drastically change our situation for the better. I’ll tell you more about our story at the end of the post.
So what can you do when the budget is too tight or you just aren’t getting ahead? I put together a list of where to start. Here are the top 10 ways to reduce your monthly expenses.
1. Pay Off Debt
I know what you’re thinking… How can I pay off debt if I don’t have any extra money? You might not be able to yet, but I bet you can work on it after you do the rest of the things on this list!
I put paying off debt first on this list because it’s so important. Why? Debt costs you in two ways:
- If you’re paying interest, debt is directly costing you money every month.
- If you’re making monthly debt payments, you don’t have that money in your budget for other things.
Paying off debt will free up a lot of money for the more important things in life like feeding your kids, buying them new shoes every other week (because they just won’t stop growing!), or saving for the future.
If you’re looking for a plan for paying off your debt, the debt snowball is the best method.
Consider Selling Your Car
Even if you don’t have any extra money to pay off debt, there’s one way you can wipe a bunch of it out quickly. If you have a car loan, consider selling that car to get rid of the loan.
With the small profit from the sale of the car, you can use that amount to buy a cheap car. If you won’t make a profit, consider saving up some money for a cheap car first.
You can also consider going without the car temporarily or permanently, depending on your situation.
2. Stop Eating Out
If you’re eating out a lot, you know it’s killing your budget. If you’re not sure how to stop, check out my post about ways to spend less on eating out.
In general, try to plan ahead for food and have good, ready-to-eat food in the house. This can also be part of a no-spend challenge.
3. Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions
Subscription services can quickly drain your budget. Some that you should consider cutting:
- Cable or Satellite TV. Check out my posts about a DVR without cable and Sports without cable.
- Netflix, Hulu, etc.
- Amazon Prime. It CAN save you money but make sure it’s really worth it to you.
- Music & Audiobook subscriptions.
- Apps with subscriptions
- Any other recurring charge that isn’t essential
4. In-Source Everything
Look through your budget… which items involve paying a person to do a service for you? Can you do it yourself? Even if you don’t have the skills now, you can learn!
Services you could in-source:
- Lawn care
- House cleaning
- Car repair
- Appliance repair
- Haircuts, hair color, nails
- Pet grooming
Don’t know where to learn these skills? Youtube is a great place to start. I’ve learned everything from appliance repairs to haircutting on Youtube.
5. Maintain & Repair
It is almost always cheaper, in the long run, to maintain or repair something else instead of replacing. Of course, this isn’t always true if you’re using a professional service to do the maintenance and repair (see #4 above).
If something needs regular maintenance, put it on your calendar and DO IT. If something is starting to break, fix it before it gets worse! Over time, this will save you a lot.
6. Cut Grocery Spending
Some grocery budget cutting strategies include:
- Buy whole foods instead of processed foods when possible
- Buy generic brands
- Shop the sales (buy “loss leaders”)
- Watch for discounted meat & produce
- Shop at Aldi or another discount grocery store
- Buy in bulk
- Use coupons
7. Reduce Utility Usage
Reducing your utility usage can have a big impact on your monthly expenses. When looking at ways to make cuts, realize that heating and cooling use more energy than anything else.
The largest energy use in your home is likely:
- Air conditioning (use 15% of household electricity)
- Refrigerators and freezers
- Water heating
- Toilets (they use 27% of household water)
- Water leaks
- Home heating
- Clothes washing and drying
Here are some ideas for saving on utility costs:
- Get rid of any extra refrigerator or freezer
- Use less air conditioning or consider upgrading to more efficient models
- Consider water-saving shower heads
- Upgrade to efficient lighting
- Wash clothes less often or consider line-drying
- Consider a water-saving toilet
- Check for water leaks and repair them immediately
- Use a programmable or smart thermostat
Be sure to check with your local utilities for discounts and rebates on many of these items. Through my utilities, I can receive free showerheads and a discounted thermostat.
8. Shop Around For All Bills
After you’ve canceled anything that unnecessary, go through each of your monthly bills to see if you can lower them. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Check Your Insurance First
Insurance rates vary so widely that you may be able to cut your cost in half without changing your coverage at all.
I recommend talking to a local independent agent first to see what they can offer. Independent agents work with a variety of companies and will shop around for you.
Shop around with a few other companies as well. Remember that the company who is the cheapest for a friend may not be the cheapest for you because your situation is different.
Consider Third Party Utility Suppliers
If you’re in a state that offers it, check out your options for 3rd party utility suppliers. It can be confusing but is often worth the hassle for the savings. If you’re in Ohio, check out the Apples to Apples site for more information.
Shop Around for Internet & Phone
Check out all of the deals available for internet and phone service. Don’t forget to also call your current company and tell them what the other company is offering. You might be surprised what kind of deal they give you!
9. Buy Used When You Can
Try to make it a habit to check Craigslist, FB Marketplace, resale shops, garage sales, and thrift stores first when you need something.
Buying used is one of the best ways to cut your expenses over 50% on certain things like clothes and household items. Check out my tips for successful thrift store shopping.
10. Lower Your Standards
I’ve written before about how you can save time and money by lowering your standards. It really is key to reducing expenses AND increasing happiness.
- Clean less often
- Do fewer activities
- Wash the clothes less often
- Do less decorating
- Keep your food simpler
Our Financial Turnaround
When we were at our financial rock bottom, we did all of these things at once. We sold both of our cars (and replaced them with clunkers), cut all the spending we could, shopped around for all of our bills, starting paying off our other debt and reduced our utility bills.
It changed our financial situation dramatically, but also made our family and friends wonder if we’d lost our minds. But it meant I had the freedom to choose to continue to stay home with our baby with less financial worry.
And then what happened? We found out a surprise baby was on the way! Life always throws you curveballs, doesn’t it?