If I had a dollar for every time I saw, “If you just cut out your daily latte, you could do XYZ!” I could actually afford a daily latte instead of filling up my cute reusable mug at home every day.
Who are these people buying daily Starbucks? I don’t know anyone who does this. If you do this and you are looking for ways to save money, please start there, but I have a lot of trouble believing someone’s throwing $5 at Starbucks every day and honestly wondering where their money’s flying off to. It’s an absurd stereotype and I hate seeing it as the #1 “How to Cut Back” advice.
So let’s say you did your budget with me last week, and your expenses were higher than your income. Or maybe they weren’t, but you realize that in order to save for that trip in August or put more towards your student loans, you need to cut back a little bit. What are some real ways to cut back?
- Take a look at your cell phone bill.
- Are you on one of those plans where you pay off a $600 phone for the next three years? Get off of it and purchase your own phone outright. When you’re purchasing a phone, by all means go for an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy if that’s a priority for you. But get one a few generations back. You can purchase these used on Craigslist or eBay, or buy them new or refurbished on Amazon or even straight from the manufacturer. My budget is usually around $200 for a new phone, and I keep it for about 3 years. I’m currently rocking a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 we bought used off a friend.
- Are you using one of the “big name” networks like AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon? Move to a budget carrier with a prepaid plan. My favorite is Cricket, which uses AT&T towers. It’s great in both cities and rural areas and I pay $35 a month for unlimited text, talk, and data (though it’s throttled after 4GB). Other options include Ting, Boost Mobile, and Republic Wireless.
- Renegotiate your internet and cancel your cable.
- We need high-speed internet because my husband works from home, so we have a lot less wiggle room than many do. When it was just me, I set a budget, $40, and called Comcast and politely told them they’d have to find an internet plan under that amount or I was cancelling. They quickly found one, I had (slow) internet, all was well. If you do need high-speed, though, you can try a similar tactic. Research plan prices, set a budget $10-15 below the one you need, and stay firm. Also remember to call to renegotiate every year or so, whenever you lose that “promotional rate.”
- Cable: cut it. It’s expensive, and there are so many better options. We share Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime with friends and family so that each costs us only about $5 a month. Frankly, I think we’d be fine with just one of these services anyway.
- Negotiate your car insurance and consider selling/downsizing your car.
- My dad calls his car insurer once a year to see if he can get a better rate. Often, there’s some sort of new deduction– his car has reached a certain age, he now works in an industry that offers a discount, his wife attained a higher level of education.
- This is mostly for cityfolk: do you actually need your car? We found that it’d be cheaper to just take the bus supplemented with the occasional Uber. We keep our car for convenience, but acknowledge it as a luxury we could get rid of if we need to. If you need your car, do you need that specific car, or would a cheaper one do? Selling or downsizing your car is the most labor-intensive change on this list, but too many of us are making huge car payments for an amenity that simply isn’t worth the cost.
- And finally, groceries and eating out.
- Stop going out to eat. I used to love going out to eat. I thought I’d never be able to give it up. But after I started cooking at home more, I found I could make better food for much cheaper. Going out to eat has become disappointing in comparison. So get into cooking! Buy a cool cookbook, subscribe to a meal subscription service for a month, get a new kitchen gadget. Yes, I’m suggesting you spend money, and I know that might seem weird, but spending a little really renewed my love of being in the kitchen. We did a couple weeks of different meal subscription services (taking advantage of 50% off introductory offers and canceling after the first box) and built up a huge bank of new recipes. With how much we’re saving now, it was definitely worth it.
- Figure what strategies work best for you to save on groceries. Can you spend 10 minutes scanning for coupons for items already on your list? Can you do a comparison shop at three stores for your 25 most-purchased items and see where you should really be shopping? What about stocking up when a beloved food item is on sale, and only repurchasing when it’s cheap again?
There are many more ways to cut back, and I’m sure we’ll cover those in the future, but this is a great place to start! Are there any places I didn’t mention that you feel make good cutting material?
Up next: how can you generate more income? Welcome to the world of side gigs.