Part Five in the Financial Preparedness Series
One of the most dreaded parts of dieting and budgeting is cutting the things we love. Our desserts aren’t quite as sweet (OK sometimes they’re just downright gross) and our life feels a lot more bland without the usual extras we’ve become accustomed too. It’s hard to let go of what makes life a little easier to swallow. Sometimes it’s really hard to even know what to cut to reach your desired goal or weight.
But saving money doesn’t mean you can have no fun. Here are some ways to trim the fat off your budget. Yes, some of these may take the sweetness out of your life and but apply some and you won’t even feel the difference.
Remember financial preparedness and security make everything else about life that much sweeter.
25 Ways to Slash the $$$ Fat
- Cut what you DON’T NEED – always start here! It’s the most painful but this is the biggest bang for your buck. Don’t be afraid to nix the cable, extra car, or your retail therapy. Once you’re out of debt, your freed up money will bring these things back into your life without adjusting your budget that much. Who knows you might find you prefer the simplicity.
WARNING: Never cut out your life insurance. This is where most people cut first. It may not seem like you need it, but I promise, you will be in a worse place if you do.
- Slash extras – Dive into your bills (including your groceries) and see what little things are slowly eating away at what could be a strong financial base. Those pennies add up quick. If you were meticulous in tracking your spending you know what those items are. Look at your bank statements and credit card bills to see where you may be paying for more than what you really need or use. HINT – credit card interest is one of them!
- Shop around for services– An hour of research could save you a pretty penny. This goes beyond just basic TV, internet, cable. Compare for all insurances, phones, credit cards, and handymen. Weigh your options, not just the cost. Lower quality may not actually be saving you much in the long run with a repair man. Beware if you have a contract, breaking it to switch may negate any savings if you have to pay a penalty fee.
- Coupon Crazy – We all have a coupon hefting friend that manages to save hundreds every month. If you want to learn the art of the coupon go for it. But even just using a few on the items you normally buy can still make a difference. If you really want to help decrease your grocery bill drastically by buying generic. A lot of times they are cheaper than the name brands even with coupons. Be a smart shopper, shop price per ounce, and do the math.
- Downsize premiums – Cut the cost of your insurance by increasing your deductibles. Just be sure to drive safe, and be safe, to keep your savings in your pocket.
- Scope out those discounts – Time to grill your agents and every cashier you meet. Look for discounts – good student, safe driver, loyalty, military, senior, etc. Most banks and companies offer incentives for switching to online bill pays and statements. Bundling services is another way to snatch a great discount.
- Go green to save green – Find ways to reduce your electric, gas and water usage and watch your bills go down too. This website is filled with ideas for cutting your carbon footprint.
- Good old fashioned fun – Hit the library instead of buying. Skip the amusement parks and expensive outings, replace them with hiking, biking and local parks. Look around for free offers, or discounted tickets. Having a fun night out on the town doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Better yet – play at home, and be creative for free.
- Pay bills on time and avoid fees – $6 in ATM fees, $30 for overdraft and $15 in banking fees each month add up fast! Banks should be helping you save money, not taking it. So don’t give it to them.
- 2nd hand – Thrift and consignment stores can be a great money saver and still give you the items or retail therapy that you need. Talk to your friends, there’s always the thrift store guru that knows the best places to go for the best deals and steals.
- Eat at home – Restaurants taste 10 x’s better than your personal cooking, especially the no dishes part. But $40 can go a long way if invested toward your financial goals rather than your stomach. Pack a lunch if you know you’re going to be out around meal time.
- Bring a lunch to work and school.
- Spend less time in the car – Carpool, group errands, or bike/walk to school or work can save a lot. You may even consider swapping your car for a more fuel-efficient model, just be sure you’re not increasing your car payments to do it.
- Make it from scratch – Processed foods cost more, take the time to make it from scratch and you’ll find a cheaper and healthier lifestyle.
- Food storage! – Stocking up on sales or buying in bulk can save big money. There are shopping seasons when it’s best to buy certain items and that’s when you want to hit it big. Wholesale food companies also have public shopping times or you can join a group that orders in massive bulk and splits the bounty and costs. Check these links for a year-round guide to shopping savings for groceries and everything else.
- Plant a garden – It’s practically free food! And way better for you.
- Plan ahead – A stitch in time saves nine! Planning meals, shopping lists, and other purchases or recreation can help keep you in the budget by avoiding extras or giving you the time to save up for larger purchases while waiting for the best time to buy.
- Change where you shop– It’s obvious if you look through the ads that some stores are cheaper than others, in either general or specific items. Costco may not be the best store for a family of 2 but could be big savings for a family of 6. Store brand prices vary too. Do some comparison shopping on your regular items even if it makes you look like a geek with a notepad in the grocery store.
- Make boundaries – If craft stores are your weakness, don’t go there!
- Avoid temptation – If you normally wander aimlessly around Wal-Mart you WILL end up finding more than what you came for. Set a time limit for how long you have to accomplish your tasks to avoid killing time. Find yourself buying a cart full of junk food, toys, or clothes that you really don’t need? Change your path, avoid those aisles that are the most likely to suck you into purchases that you don’t need. NEVER shop hungry!
- Trade or barter – Everything costs something but that doesn’t necessarily mean money. Have a skill, swap it! I trade sewing for babysitting and have saved $40 or more a month by doing so. Trading can also get you a great deal if someone needs what you have to offer. Do your research and learn the art of trading up. Check out BarterQuest or TradeAway.
- Pay cash – Not only does this save at the pump but it can save at lots of places. If you don’t have insurance it can help with medical services. When making a large purchase, cash gives you way more negotiating power!
- Think before you buy – Think you need it that bad… think again. Take a time out before you buy something, if you can go home and still want it that badly the next day then decide if you should go back for it.
- DIY –Save money by doing things yourself – change your own oil, build furniture, cut your kids hair, fix your washer. YouTube is the world’s largest instruction manual. And if you already have the skills, use them more often.
- Go Free- Freebies are all the rage. Get free samples, mystery shopping, www.freecycle.org or even Craigslist are all sources of freebie goodness.
To help guide you as you fine tune your budget check out this nifty living expenses calculator from Community Bank.
Other posts in the Financial Preparedness Series – Get Financially Prepared – Identify Your Spending – Assess needs vs wants – Create a budget – Saving Money – Counting Cupcakes & Financial Preparedness
These books by Dave Ramsey have been crucial in helping our family get out of debt. See them on Amazon: