Another month goes by with little to no money to contribute to your savings account. You don’t understand it. When payday comes around, it feels like you make plenty of money, but as the month goes by, that check gets whittled down to nothing. Soon you’re contemplating the nutritional consequences of ramen for dinner three nights in a row as you count the days until your next paycheck.
It’s possible that you’re spending way more money than you need to be. A quick analysis of your monthly expenses will likely reveal a few places where you could easily cut back. Here’s how to go about reducing your monthly household expenses and start saving.
Make a Monthly Expense List
Before you can decide where to cut back, you need to understand where you’re at. Make a list of all your typical monthly expenses. Start with expenses that have clearly defined amounts (like student loan payments and monthly cable expenses). Then add regular monthly costs that are a little more fluid (like groceries and energy costs).
For the later, you may want to check what you’ve spent for the past several months. If you can’t find that information, then try tracking your spending over a couple of months. Try to find an average cost for these items.
When you’re finished doing the math, you may find that you have more money left over than you expected. Don’t be fooled. This extra cash is likely getting eaten up by other non-monthly expenses like medical bills and that wedding shower you want to last weekend.
Decide on a Monthly Budget
Now it’s time to decide how much you want to cut. Set a reasonable target. How much money would you like to be able to deposit into savings at the end of each month? If you’re unsure, try for a smaller amount and build up if things are going well.
Once you have an amount firmly in mind, it’s time to look through your monthly living expenses to see where you can cut costs. It may seem like the obvious choice is to go out with friends less, and that may very well work, but you’d be surprised where you might actually be able to save some serious cash.
Cut Household Expenses
Consider the following methods for cutting household expenses. With some effort and discipline, you could save hundreds off your current costs.
- Reconsider your commute. Try public transportation, carpooling, bicycling, or walking if at all possible. It’ll save you money on monthly gas expenses and it’s better for the environment.
- Refinance your home. Has your home appreciated in value? Are interest rates at an all-time low? You might be able to get your mortgage reworked for a lower house payment.
- Get a high-tech thermostat. Programmable thermostats and smart thermostats can save you money on energy costs by heating and cooling your home more efficiently.
- Turn off your lights. If you’re the type to fall asleep with your bedside lamp on or leave your kitchen lights on when you go to work in the morning, you might be able to save on your utility costs by being more economical about your use of bulbs.
- Cancel subscriptions you’re not using. You might have regular deductions on your account for services like Spotify, Netflix, and more that you didn’t even know were there. What do you actually use?
- Cook more. Better yet, cook in bulk. Bulk meals with a lot of leftovers will last you a while with minimal cost. This is especially helpful for families. Plus, the leftovers make great work lunches.
- Buy in bulk and off brand. Get a membership to stores like Cosco or Sam’s Club, and buy non-perishable items in bulk. Skip the name brand items too to save a little extra.
- Reduce your cable bill. What is your current package getting you? Do you really need HBO or Showtime? It’s possible you don’t need to be paying nearly as much for cable.
If you’re really committed to saving money, you may need to opt out of certain things, like that concert your friends are going to. Tell your friends and family that you’re looking to cut back. Their support and willingness to meet you halfway on certain occasions will help you stay committed.