Obviously each one of us has a different lifestyle, a different income, and different expenditures, so the ideas below may not all apply to you, but I am hopeful they will inspire you to find some of those expenses that can be cut out of your monthly spending. Before you read the suggestions below, I highly recommend you print your bank statement for the past 30 days and categorize your expenditures into the following categories:
- Food (groceries, fast food, restaurants)
- Entertainment (include your tv/cable payment in here, movies, party, drinks, concerts, etc.)
- Bills (insurance, car payment, phone payment, electric,
- Tobacco products
- Miscellaneous (variable monthly expenses: household items, car repairs, oil changes, unexpected costs)
If you are one of the people who makes a lot of purchases with cash, then you will have a harder time being able to use this method. In this case, I recommend you track every one of your expenses for the next 10 days and write it down and analyze it with the above categories at the end of those 10 days.
Once you are done, take a look at the numbers… you will see very clearly where you have an opportunity to lower your expenses and where you are overspending. For each one us those “things” will be different, but here are 10 common things that people overspend on and that you could cut out of your life (or at least reduce) to save up some money:
Gas is one of those silent expenses that slowly eats up your bank account – we often don’t realize how much we actually spend in gas. Especially if you are only filling in $15 or $20 worth of has each time, it might not seem like a lot, but it actually adds up very quickly.
The alternative: If you live in a major city, consider using public transportation for longer trips or commutes, if can reduce your expenses significantly. Another option would be to get a second-hand bicycle and ride it wherever you can, which would be the cheapest mode of transportation.
Starbucks (or other coffee shops)
A $4 or $5 coffee daily can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars over a few months and in addition to that, the amount of sugar and creamer that most people order their coffee with, is no benefit to their health.
The alternative: If you must have Starbucks, at least buy their coffee packages and brew the coffee yourself. Even better would be for you to explore other coffee options – you will most likely find a much cheaper but still delicious alternative.
One of the most expensive things (proportionally) not only in America, but all over the world, seems to be alcohol. Even in countries where you can get a meal for pennies on the dollar, alcohol seems to cost just as much as it does back home (if home is the U.S. or Europe), making it more of a luxury for the locals.
The alternative: The best alternative would be of course to stop buying and drinking alcohol all together. Most everyone likes to enjoy an occasional beer or wine though, so an alternative to reduce your expenses on alcohol, would be to buy it from a local supermarket rather than paying for highly overpriced drinks at the bar or club.
Not only does smoking have negative consequences on your health, but it also adds up to cost you thousands of dollars per year – money that you could spend on a two-week all-inclusive vacation or a month long budget trip. When that is put into perspective, you just have to reevaluate your priorities. Quitting isn’t easy, but it is worth it!
The alternative: Cut down significantly on your smoking and thus your expenses, or better yet, quit altogether.
Ask for lower interest rates
Whether you have high-interest credit cards, a car loan, or a mortgage, you may be able to get lower interest rates if you have had a long-term account with them and your payments have always been on time. Furthermore, if you have student loans, you may be able to consolidate them and lower your interest rate on those as well. Depending on your outstanding balance, you may even be able to save $100 – $200 a month if you consolidate your loans.
The alternative: Call your creditors or student loan providers and ask for a lower interest rate, different payment options, or consolidate your debt to stop “giving away” free money every month.
This is an area that everyone needs to work on themselves – when I want something (it can be a food item, a new dress, an activity), I set my mind to what I would realistically like to pay for it based on the necessity of that item and the satisfaction I would gain from it. If I go to the store and I cannot find that item within that price range, I simply do not buy it. Some of you may think now that I am crazy – but that is my strategy and it works for me and keeps me from overspending. Everyone has to find their own way of being able to manage this.
Another “rule” that I have as far as my shopping goes – if I find something that I really like (and that can also apply to purchasing travel (hotels, travel gear, flights, excursions)) and it is something of a higher monetary value (I have my own threshold limits to determine what that higher value would be for myself and everyone would need to decide that for themselves), I will not pursue it and wait at least 24 hours. If I am still interested, I will reconsider and sometimes make that purchase. This strategy has saved me from a lot of impulse buys that looked great at first, but I would have regretted the next day.
The alternative: Each time you go grocery shopping, you are on a mission to buy some new clothes, you plan a visit to the museum or you need to stock up on medicine from the pharmacy, take 5 minutes of your time and do a quick search on the web for some printable coupons. Then swallow your pride and take advantage of them. I can’t tell you how much money I have saved over the years by using coupons and discount codes in-store and on online purchases. To save quicker, each time you save by using a coupon, take the difference between the normal price and what you paid and put it in a special savings jar that will be dedicated to traveling. You would be surprised how quickly you can save large sums of money with this strategy.
How many times per week do you go out to eat? Does your dinner include sirloin steak and BBQ ribs every day? Maybe it’s time to set up a weekly food budget and limit your restaurant trips to a certain amount of times per week/month. It’s all about priorities and you have to find what sacrifices are easiest for you and which ones you still want to splurge on a little bit. I myself have a sweet tooth, so my splurge is what I spend on candy and other goodies, which others may find very unreasonable. But for me personally, I rather give up tv, coffee, gym memberships, before I make a budget for my candy :o) Gotta have my candy.
The alternative: Start to look for some recipes online and cook instead – this my be especially cost effective if you have a larger family to feed. Another great way of limiting your spending on food is to make a detailed grocery list for one weekly trip and only focus on getting those items versus strolling through each isle, looking at everything, and being tempted to double the amount of items you had planned on getting in the first place.
When was the last time you checked how much you are paying for your television on a monthly basis. Decent tv packages that include sports packages seem to run around $100. What is really dangerous is that we all get wheeled in with 12 month highly discounted offers, but those automatically get increased to the “normal” rate after the promotional period without notice, and that normal rate can sometimes even be triple of what you were paying as a starting offer.
The alternative: If watching television is something you enjoy and would not like to give up entirely, subscribe to Netflix or Hulu (which each are less than $10 a month) and get rid of your television bill. Or try to fill your time with other hobbies or more family time. I have found that when we don’t have the option to watch tv, we tend to be much more socially involved; we reach out told friends whom we can reconnect with; we look for opportunities to find a new activity we enjoy (whether that is working out, reading books, starting your own travel 😉 ), and overall feel more fulfilled with the way we use our time.
Gym memberships and dietary subscriptions are expensive these days – reevaluate whether those are really necessary and if you are even using the entire value or if this is something you could live without and replace with a cheaper or free alternative.
The alternative: Purchase an inexpensive workout DVD on Ebay or find a great workout program on Netflix that you can work out to at home. Another alternative would be to do some outdoor activities (such as riding your bicycle, jogging, jump roping, swimming, etc.) or participate in free community yoga or dancing classes.
This is an area where it is very easy to spend a lot of money throughout the year without ever realizing it – from Valentine’s Day to wedding gifts, baby showers, bachelorette parties, to family birthdays, and all the Holidays throughout the year, spending $20 – $50 each time can easily add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
The alternative: Choose which occasions are worth giving a gift for – maybe you can skip your cousin’s next birthday gift and instead send a nice card. Another great option is to create some DYI gifts yourself – there is tons of fantastic ideas and detailed guides on the web to make great gifts yourself inexpensively. It allows you to personalize the gift based on the recipient and occasion and those gifts are less likely to be thrown away or re-gifted. If you are looking for some inspiration, here is a great Pinterest board I personally love and have used before to create some DIY gifts.
Have you been able to save some money up for travel (or other goals)? What have been some strategies you used? What kept you motivated and disciplined? Share your tips in the comments below.