If you are like me, I am sure you believe that you have already cut out EVERYTHING you could possibly imagine from your budget. However, the reality is that in most cases we can find more. It may not be the easiest sacrifice but it can be done.
In one of my previous posts, I talked about the NEED to have an emergency fund. Michelle and I opted for a mini-emergency fund of $1000 dollars. I have received a handful of emails asking what are some practical ways they could cut their budget in order to build their emergency fund.
Okay I have received 1 email, but she was SUPER sweet!
Regardless, I thought it would be a great idea to come up with some practical ways to find money hidden in your budget that you could actually cut, so here goes:
How to Slash over $700 from your Budget
My goal for you today is not that you implement ALL of these but maybe SOME. Additionally not all of them may apply to you but hopefully it makes you re-think your current budget.
Ohhhhh Glorious FOOD!!!!
Eric don’t tell me that you are going to make us go on a month long FAST!
Nope, but I am going to say there are practical ways to find savings in your food budget.
1. No Dinners Out
I love eating out! My wife loves not having dishes in the sink! All and all, eating out is AMAZING! It’s amazing for everything BUT our wallet. For us we ate out about once a week with an average bill around $50 for the three of us. If we ate at home the meal would cost us no more than $15- $20.
Savings: $60-$80 per month
2. Bring your lunch
I considered writing, “See #1” but decided to expand on this one. Lunch in my office is an extremely social time. People are always going out to eat and you may think by bringing a lunch I am going to miss out! Well I am here to tell you that is NOT the case. I know plenty of people who actually bring their packed lunch to the restaurant! I know it may seem awkward at first, but WHO CARES?
Okay I am sure a lot of you do care… but here is the thing, if you are sacrifice being “awkward” now, when you are out of debt, you can eat out AS MUCH AS YOU WANT!
In my case, I was spending between $9 and $12 a DAY!
Savings: $180- $240
3. Plan meals
I cant go to restaurants for dinner or for lunch, how are you going to eat???
Fear not! You going to do the same thing people did years ago…
Plan meals and cook at home!
I completely understand it is NOT 1950 anymore and people are busy. I get it! But planning meals and cooking at home is a great way to save A LOT of money. Not only will you be saving money but you will be making leftovers that can be used for lunches to help with #2.
We have used two different apps to help us with this. One is a Free App and the Second is a Paid service.
Free App: Mealime
This truly is a GREAT free app! It has 4 meal suggestions for you and includes ALL the groceries that you need. If you don’t like the 4 meals you can swap it out for other meals. Some of the meals are paid but you should have plenty to pick from.
Paid App: eMeals
This app is the one suggested by Dave Ramsey. Similar to Mealtime, it offers up a variety of recipes. Where this app is different is that first you select the type of program you want. Michelle and I selected “30 minute meals”. We are busy and don’t have time to cook. So all the meals that it sends our way can be done in 30 minutes or less. The second thing we like about this app is that it sends 7 meals instead of 4 because you know, there are 7 days in a week… Additionally you can save meals that you really enjoy and bring them into your meal plan. Michelle and I actually went “Old School” and printed recipes for the week and kept them in a binder. Lastly, just like Mealtime, it gives you a nice grocery list so you don’t have to worry about not having specific items.According to Fix.com a family of four wastes $1,365 to $2,275 each year. That’s a lot money just wasted.
Savings: $113.75- $189.58 per month.
Last but not least, lets talk about coupons! First and foremost an item on sale but not needed is NOT A BARGAIN! Just because you have a coupon does not mean you need it. However, once you begin meal planning, you can then begin looking for coupons that match the meals you are preparing.
We all have bills that just come each month and become accustomed to them. Most people tend to think of these as fixed costs but in reality not all of them are fixed costs.
Wait do people still have this?!?
In the news we hear a lot about cord cutters, people using just Netflix or Hulu, but according to research, they are the minority. In reality 75% of Americans still have cable.
For those that have cable, I know the thought of cutting it seems insane, but being on this side of cutting cable, spending an extra $100 on a service that I only watch 2 or 3 shows seems insane. Fortune calculates the average cable bill to be $103.10 per month.
Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime cost a fraction of that. Add in a TV antenna and you will receive much of the same shows. Like I said at the beginning there will be sacrifice, so not ALL shows will be on those services.
Savings: $95.11 (Includes signing up for Netflix Basic Service)
2. Cell Phone
I am not going to tell you to go OFF the grid but… reassessing your cell phone plan may save you a pretty penny.
I am a T-mobile user and it works for us. We haven’t had any issues where we live and love the wi-fi calling features.
For Two lines on T-mobile with UNLIMITED EVERYTHING! Plus Netflix for FREE! is $120.
For Four lines its $160!
2 lines: $130 PLUS Taxes and fees.
4 lines: $160 PLUS Taxes and fees.
2 lines: $100 PLUS taxes and fees.
4 lines: $160 PLUS taxes and fees.
Sorry, their site was a nightmare to try to figure out. They have dead links and multiple different options that it was a pain to even figure out.
I am not saying to switch over to T-mobile, but I am definitely saying you should review your plans to see if you can save money somewhere. For us, T-mobile saves us from paying for Netflix and about 30 dollars a month over Verizon (Taxes and Fees are brutal). But there are also smaller cell phone companies such as Metro PCS that might fit your needs while cutting your budget.
Savings: $20-$30 month
Glorious AC! How I do love you!!! Going a couple days without AC has been brutal, but there are ways to save without turning it off completely.
The US Department of Energy recommends setting your AC at 78 degrees when you are home. When you are not home you can use a programmable thermostat to set the temperature even higher. According to CNET, you can save up to 10 percent a year on cooling costs.
Savings: $15-$20 per month
I knew you were just going to suck the FUN out of life…
HA! Well hopefully not, but there are some items that we can reduce.
The allure of a buck fifty for a new DVD just teases us as we leave the gas station or grocery store.
But guess what???
A huge majority of people do not return them on time!!!
So now you are paying twice or three times for that movie.
But Eric, its only 3 to 4 bucks!
Ahhhhh!!!! Ok. I am a numbers guy, so bare with me. Lets say you rent a movie 5 times a month and return half of them back on time.
$1.50 X 3= $4.50
$3.00X 2=$ 6.00
$10.50 times 12 months = $126 per year
126 dollars! For movies you don’t own.
But Eric I need movies….
Great! I have a way for you to watch FREE movies and its LEGAL!
The public library allows people to borrow a ton of movies for FREE!
You know what else they have?!?
BOOKS! For FREE!!!
No need to buy the latest book, just head to your library and borrow a book.
Savings: $9 per month
Do people still actually go to movies???
According to Peachtree Financial Solutions the average American family spends $720 a year on going out to movies. That is $60 a month!!!
Instead of going to the brand new fancy HD theater find a dollar theater or drive in that may be offering slightly older movies but much cheaper. Another option is to skip movie night altogether.
Shrinking your budget is not easy and takes sacrifice. Finding free community plays, events, etc are a good substitute.
For instance, my little town hides painted rocks. A TON of painted rocks. The idea is that people paint them, hide them in downtown and then other people find them and share it on social media. Some people keep the rocks and paint new ones, while other people just re-hide older rocks. It is quite remarkable how it has taken off and my little guy LOVES looking for them. We can spend 2-3 hours wandering the streets looking for them and the cost… 0 bucks! Find something like this in your town rather than spending it on the movies.
Total Savings: $723.69
So are you willing to sacrifice? Maybe not all of these examples apply to you but I am sure a few hit home. Over time these sacrifices add up and can help reduce your debt, help you build your emergency fund, or increase your retirement fund. Identify a few areas that you could trim from your budget and your wallet will thank you.
Let me know what ways you have sacrificed to pay down debt or build your savings account. Share below in the comments.