After we bought our housey house and started paying that thing called a mortgage, we realized that our current level of spending just wasn’t sustainable, unless we wanted to declare bankruptcy the same year. Since I wasn’t particularly in the bankruptcy-declaring mood, that meant we needed to cut our spending, and do it fast. A little over a year later, we are saving money each month while still maintaining a good quality of life. Below are categories of spending and ways I have found to tighten the budget a bit on each. I hope you find this helpful!
1. Restaurants/coffee shops/eating out budget:
- Limit yourself to one drink (or better: no drinks!) – Seriously, drinks are $$$$ at restaurants. If you must order a drink, limit yourself to just one, and try not to make it the expensive top shelf cocktail. As I have found, if you are a married woman of ripe age for child bearing like myself, people will immediately think you are pregnant if you don’t order a drink, so lately I’ve been either splitting a beer with my husband or getting a drink for myself 🙂
- Pay attention to the price of that dry aged NY cut you really want with the side of dungeness crab and fresh maine lobster. Honestly I didn’t realize I would order some of the most expensive items on the menu until my husband called out my expensive taste one night at dinner, and mentioned I had done that the past three times we went out to eat! There’s nothing wrong with splurging every now and then, but for us trying to cut our spending, it was necessary for me to just start being aware of the prices.
- Ask about the corkage fee. We recently went out to eat for my mom’s birthday, the corkage fee was $25, and every bottle of wine on the menu was in the way-too-expensive-and-overpriced price range. To save a few bucks, we bought a bottle from Trader Joe’s and had the restaurant cork it. The cost of the wine + corkage fee was still cheaper than buying a bottle off the menu.
- Nix the $5 daily 107-degree-double-tall-two pumps vanilla-latte, and go for the drip. Or better yet, brew yourself a cup at home. I cut coffee entirely and switched to this tea to save more money
- Browse daily deal sites (groupon, living social, amazon local, etc) for coupons to restaurants or coffee shops you frequent
- Cell phone – How much are you paying? Is there a cheaper plan out there? Compare options
- Insurance – Car insurance can be a big monthly expense that doesn’t need to be. It’s relatively easy now with online quotes to shop around. Ask about safe driver discounts, military discounts, good student discounts, etc (you’ll be surprised how many discounts companies may offer!). In my experience I have found Liberty Mutual offers nice discounts, or if you live in the Seattle area, Pemco for us was the cheapest once I bundled my home insurance in with the car insurance.
- Garbage – Evaluate your garbage collection bills. My friend lives close to the dump and just drives her garbage there instead of paying for pickup. When we first moved in to the housey house we downsized the size of our garbage can to save money. It doesn’t seem like a grand gesture I know, but here at this blog I amass cents so I’ll take anything I can get!
- Thermostat – Turn down the temperature and throw on a sweatshirt. And if you won’t be at home during the day, crank it down also! Don’t heat an empty home!
- Hot water tank – Turn the temperature down on it. This seems like a no brainer but it took us 6 months and multiple $300+ monthly heating bills before we realized our water tank was pumped up to the maximum heat (oh, so that’s why I was burning myself washing the dishes), and we were barely using it.
- Go down to one car. If you have 2+ cars, can you get away with one? Or if you live in the city, no car? We are a one car family (due to three accidents in the past two years, but that’s a different story…), and after we realized we could make it work (I take the bus or car2go), we have stayed that way with no plans to change. Car insurance is also cheaper now that we are only insuring one vehicle!
- Get a cheaper apartment. Is there an apartment out there that will still work with your lifestyle that costs less money?
- Cut the cable – We don’t have a TV, and honestly don’t miss it. Between Youtube, Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, we have everything we would ever want to watch. If you must watch your favorite sports team play, go to a bar (but don’t order more than one beer!)
4. Shopping Online:
- Two words: Promo Codes. Before buying ANYTHING online, do a google search for a promo code (like this example for Target). I rarely buy anything online without a promo code.
- Is it cheaper at another site you might not expect? For instance, I recently purchased some shoes for my mother-in-law for Christmas. I googled the name of the shoe, and searched around a handful of shoe sites for coupon codes to compare pricing. Just to be sure, I compared pricing on amazon.com and found them $5 cheaper with free shipping. Sooollld!!
- Be patient. If the purchase isn’t time sensitive, be patient, often times as stock rolls through a store they will start marking things down. Or if you are a member of amazon prime, consider their subscribe & save option that ships out once per month.
- Buy used. Besides craigslist and goodwill – ebay, poshmark, and twice are sites I have found with great steals on like new or gently used clothing. It’s online thrifting!
5. Personal care budget:
- Paint your own nails. Since we have started budgeting tighter, I have dramatically cut down on the amount of times I go out and get a mani/pedi (in the past year I only got two)
- Do you really need a cut & color every 8 weeks? – I went from spending $150+ on my cut and color 4 times a year to spending $50 at a training salon 2 times a year. Yeah there are times during the year when my hair isn’t perfectly highlighted and my roots are showing (accidental ombre hair yes I am so in style!), but if it saves me $500 I’ll take it.
- Check daily deal sites – I know I’ve mentioned deal sites before with regards to restaurants, but I am constantly checking to see if they have deals for local hair salons (I also check for spas, nail salons, etc.) Also before purchasing a deal, cross check it with yelp reviews to make sure you get a good deal at a decent salon. That last thing all of us need while trying to save a few bucks is a bad dye job, let’s be honest.
- Eyebrow waxing for free – If you go to the Macy’s Benefit Brow Bar on your birthday, your eyebrow waxing is free! Score!
And this probably goes without saying, which means I’ll say it anyway. If you are a Christian, trust God with your money. Seriously. In the end, He provides for you. Ask yourself, “am I stewarding the money He has lent me for my time on earth correctly?” I found just merely asking myself this question was helpful motivation to back away from unwise purchases. Every single debit or credit card swipe, check written, or money handed over is an act of worship. What are you worshiping?