Isn’t it awesome when you find money you forgot you had? You know, that $20 you forgot in the pocket of your jeans? Or a $5 bill lost in your couch cushions?
Discovering ways to save on monthly expenses is like finding extra money. But better. When you cut back or eliminate a monthly expense, you aren’t saving only once, but every single month.
Trimming just $20 each month will save you $240 a year. Just think of the possibilities! What if you could cut back by $100, $200, or $300 each month? Now we’re talking thousands of dollars in savings in a year.
Saving on Monthly Expenses
Finding ways to save on monthly expenses doesn’t have to be hard. Tracking your expenses is a significant first step and makes things easier. But, even if you haven’t yet tracked your expenses, you can still find ways to save.
Start with just one or two of these categories for a month. Don’t worry about methods or perfection. The most important thing is to start.
Take a look at these categories and pick which one(s) you’ll tackle this month.
Food spending is the perfect place to start. It’s one of the largest monthly expenses you have, but it’s also variable, making it easier to find ways to save.
If you don’t already know how much you spend on food, gather your receipts or statements and total your food spending from the previous month. Then look for ways to save. Below are some ideas for how to save money on food each month.
Restaurants and take out
If you go out to eat frequently, it’s easy to cut the number of times you do this each month. Even cutting out 1 or 2 restaurant visits each month will help you save.
To help you eliminate or reduce your restaurant expenses, try planning your meals – including lunches. Keep quick-to-fix meal ingredients on hand to save time and energy on busy nights when you don’t feel like cooking. Pasta and rice dishes, or even a frozen pizza, are handy to have when you’re short on time and energy.
Depending on how much you typically spend, trimming grocery spending could save you hundreds of dollars a month (thousands a year!). Here’s how to save:
- Make a meal plan. Look at your calendar each week and plan meals accordingly. Have a backup plan with simple and/or frozen meals for when things don’t go according to plan.
- Shop the sales. Learn the prices of the items you regularly buy and stock up when those items go on sale (keep a record of prices and items to help you with this).
- Plan meals based on sale items.
- Try different stores. Eventually, you will figure out which stores have the best prices on the items you buy.
- Buy store and generic brands. A lot of times, these items are made by the same manufacturers as name brand products, but in different packaging.
- Prep and cook ahead. Cut up produce and thaw meat on the weekends so you’ll be ready to cook. Utilize your slow cooker for hectic days.
- Plan for leftovers. Prepare more food than you need for lunches or use a portion of the leftovers for tomorrow’s dinner. For example, if you have chicken breasts one evening, cook extra to chop up for chicken enchiladas tomorrow night.
Quick fix food and drink spending
Gas stations, coffee shops, and fast food drive-thrus make it easy to spend, especially when you’re short on time, parched, and hangry. But they can add up.
To prevent these stops, keep water bottles and non-perishable snacks, like almonds and granola bars, in your car or bag to avoid these unplanned stops.
If you’re paying for cable or satellite, you can eliminate or lower your bill and still have tv options through a streaming service.
Here is a short list of the most popular streaming options:
- Netflix offers commercial-free movies and tv series at a great price! Basic packages start at $7.99/month. Netflix is month-to-month, with no contract to sign.
- Sling TV is more like cable but it’s on your streaming device. You can choose your package of channels, with prices ranging from $20/month – $40/month.
- Amazon Prime Video is free if you already have an Amazon Prime membership. Amazon offers many free movies and tv series.
Internet service is a part of most people’s monthly expenses, but even the fastest internet doesn’t have to cost a ton. Below are some ways you can save.
- Call to request a lower rate or ask for introductory pricing.
- Switch to a cheaper provider (or threaten to). Shop around for providers in your area and compare pricing.
- Complain when/if you have problems with your service. If you aren’t getting the service you are paying for, or have a period when your service didn’t work, ask for a statement credit.
- Read the fine print on your contract and make sure you are getting the rate and discounts you’re qualified to receive.
- Buy your own modem and get rid of your monthly modem charge. Shop around for used options to save even more.
There are a ton of good options and plans out there for cell phone service. Use the plan you have now to compare it to other plans and service. Suggestions for savings:
- Own your phone. Purchase a used phone from a reputable dealer that works with your provider. If you already financed your phone, pay it off and keep your current phone rather than upgrading to the latest version.
- Switch carriers. Do the math. If you can save by switching to a new carrier or service, by all means, do it! Besides the “Big 4” service providers, check out various Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) that could save you money.
- Evaluate your data plan. Take a look at your past data usage. Are you using the data in your current plan? Could you use less?
Options for utility companies are usually limited, meaning shopping around might not be an option. Your best bet for utility bill savings is to find ways to cut back on usage. Here are a few suggestions:
- Use a programmable thermostat and adjust the temp up or down a few degrees (up in the summer, down in the winter). Each degree you raise or lower your thermostat saves you about 3%. Just 3 degrees saves you almost 10% on your bill.
- Install LED light bulbs throughout your home. LEDs last forever and use less energy than incandescent bulbs.
- Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees (unless someone in your household is immune compromised).
- Wash most laundry on cold. Not only does this save money on the utility bill, but it’s also easier on your clothes.
- Install low flow shower heads and aerators on faucets.
- Run only full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine.
Insurance is one of those things in life that can seem like a waste of money until you need it. It’s essential to have it when life happens! Some ways you could save:
- Shop around for the best rates. This takes a little time but could save you hundreds of dollars each year. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Get out current policies, so you know your present rates and coverages.
- Read your policy. Make sure you have adequate coverage, but that you aren’t over-insured either. Check to see if you need coverage for the “extra” items that are part of your policy coverage, such as jewelry (home) or rental cars (auto).
- Check for discounts. Bundling your home and auto policies with the same provider can get you a lower rate. If you have extra safety features on your home or auto or are accident/claim free, you probably qualify for a discount.
- Raise your deductible. Your deductible is what you have to pay out of pocket when you file a claim with your insurance company. When you raise your deductible, your premium typically decreases. Important: before increasing your deductible, make sure you have adequate emergency savings to cover the deductible!
These are those regular fees typically set up on auto payment – making them easy to forget. Take a look at your bank or credit card statements and evaluate the value you get out of the following:
- Magazines and newsletters. Do you actually read and use them? Do they provide you with the value for the price? If the answer is “no”, take 5 minutes and cancel!
- Club memberships. Do you belong to a golf/country club, warehouse club, sports clubs or professional associations? If so, are you fully utilizing the benefits? If not, cancel.
- Gym memberships. If you have a gym membership, do you use it? How much do you use it and are you getting the full benefit of the membership fee? Are there alternatives to the gym? Could you run, hike or bike outdoors? Could you buy an exercise DVD to use at home? Are you paying for a family membership, but only one family member is using it?
- Other Monthly Services. Scan your credit card and bank statements for other recurring costs. Do you pay for identity protection, music streaming, or other services? Are they essential, or are there free alternatives available that could save you money?
Did you know bank customers pay hundreds of dollars in bank fees each year? If you happen to be one of them, look for ways to reduce or eliminate them. Check your statements to see what fees you are being charged and don’t be afraid to ask the bank about any extra fees you don’t think you should have. Here are a few ways to save:
- Don’t pay for atm fees. Stay within your banking network to avoid these fees. Take a look at your patterns for atm withdrawals and plan, so you have cash on hand when you need it.
- Don’t pay overdraft fees. Prevention is the key here. Keep a cushion in your checking account and keep track of your spending. You can also opt out of overdraft protection. If you don’t have this service, and you overdraft, your charge or check will still be declined, but you won’t have an overdraft fee.
- Get free checking and savings accounts. Free accounts still exist, though you might have to keep a minimum balance or receive electronic statements to avoid fees.
Transportation is typically the second largest line item in our monthly expenses (right behind housing). The cost of owning a car adds up. If selling your car and finding alternative transportation isn’t an option, check out the savings suggestions below. (But if you can sell your car and use alternative options, it will amount to a boatload of savings!).
Save on fuel
- Batch errands. Plan errands and try to do them all in the same general vicinity, so you aren’t driving any more than you need to.
- Watch that lead foot. Accelerate smoothly and slow down a ½ mile before a red light.
- Turn off the a/c. On sweltering days, this may not be an option, but on moderately warm days, open your windows.
- Drive the speed limit. On the highway, there is a sweet spot, right around 55-65 mph where cars are the most fuel efficient.
- Avoid rush hour with stop and go traffic. Anytime you are stopping and accelerating frequently, your fuel efficiency plummets.
- Carpool. Find someone who works in your area and share transportation costs. (Check out Rideshare, Share the Ride, and other similar services to find a carpool buddy.)
- Use public transportation. Not only will you save on fuel, but also on parking!
Save on maintenance
- Find a trusted mechanic you can rely on, but always get a second opinion on repairs and estimates.
- Keep up with regular maintenance. This helps avoid big repair bills and boost your fuel efficiency.
- Check tire pressure. Properly inflated tires prevent premature tire wear and improve fuel efficiency.
- Pay attention to warning lights! Oil light on? It means there is a problem. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.
There are so many options. Take your time and see what you can cut out each month. Make it a challenge and see just how much you can save on your expenses!
Article written by Amanda