Money. It’s the driving point of our culture and if we aren’t careful, can become the center of our lives. Many of us will experience feast and famine whether it’s in relation to money, friendships, or time. When it comes to money, it’s so important to always track how much you spend and to have a budget. That way, if money does get tight, you are able to immediately think of several things to cut back.
My husband and I are very passionate about budgeting. Having a strict budget right when we got married meant that we could pay off my school loans, save for a house, and set ourselves up for when we had our kid. And now, even though we are wealthier, we still keep to a budget. And we know exactly the things we would cut back if anything happened.
While this may not apply to everyone, basically you can just insert “whatever you spend money on unessential items” here and prioritize what really matters.
Here are several ways to cut back on costs that should be easy for most people.
Not everyone spends 5 bucks a day on a traditional cappuccino with coconut milk, but whether it’s coffee, alcohol, or kombucha, you may find you spend quite a bit each day or month in drinks you can make at home or work. I love spending time at the coffee shop, but if money was tight, I wouldn’t get coffee there every day. And if I did want to have coffee, I would opt for a brewed coffee instead of a latte or cappuccino.
Alternate: Make coffee at home. It’s cheap and that way you can make it however you want. Don’t feel like you need an expensive espresso machine. Pour over or French Press coffee makers are 10-20 dollars and make very delicious coffee for a very cheap price!
Eating out can get expensive. I’m out and about in town most of the day before I get my son from school. That means I’m usually getting a Jamba Juice or another meal out.
Alternate: Make lunch at home if you work! Bring it along. Most people can eat a 2-3 dollar meal if made at home, instead of 10-20 dollars out for lunch. If your coworkers go out a lot for lunch and invite you along, then try happy hour menus or tell them you can go once a month.
Most people nowadays are cutting the cable, as it’s so expensive. However, keep track of how much you spend on subscriptions. Between Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Spotify, Apple Music, etc it can add up as much as cable. If you really enjoy watching TV, find the one subscription you like and keep to that. Also, going to the movies can add up, so see if any of your local theaters have 5 dollar nights and other such deals.
Alternate: YouTube has so much content for free. Sure you have to watch ads, but you do even with paid subscriptions. If you have a DVD Player, go to Goodwill and find some cheap movies. Growing up, we had two channels. ABC and CBS. We would find VHS on the cheap and have movie nights every Friday with our pizza.
Are you the member of three different gyms and two wine clubs? If money was tight, I would definitely have to dial back any memberships I was apart of. That being said, having a fitness or gym membership can be fruitful, as exercise does do so much for health and stress relief.
Alternate: Find a free or cheap way to exercise or have fun. Look up free events in your city such as a concert or Yoga group. If having a gym membership is the only way you stay sane and in shape, then make sure to get the cheapest membership and make it worthwhile.
In our social media and tech world, it can be easy to think you have to keep up with the Jones’ and get then latest and greatest devices. Some people do need a smart phone or iPad for work/school, but make sure to get a good deal. While a new device can be an investment, do make sure you actually need it for work/school.
Alternate: Talk to family or friends to see if they have a used device for sale. Get a good case and take care of it. My mom had her iPad 2 for several years and did her eBay work on it. You don’t need a new device every 1-2 years especially if money is tight.
I have friends who have owned the same plaid shirt for 15 years. While not everyone can keep clothes this long due to growth in a variety of areas, clothes actually last much longer than people think. And a good pair of shoes can go a long way. I’m pretty sure my black and red Converse lasted me 5-6 years before they had holes in them. Some people do have to wear fancier clothes for work or school, so take this into account.
Alternate: Thrift stores, consignment shops, and sidewalk sales are your friend. At least in my area, I can find 150 dollar shoes for 10-15 bucks on an Über deal. I can regularly find Nike or Adidas shoes for 20 bucks. I got my son a Columbia fleece for 50 cents once at a thrift store. I rarely, rarely pay full price for any clothing item, unless it’s a 5 dollar shirt for my son at Target.
Vacations can make or break the budget. There are many easy ways to spend lots of money on vacation. Food, shows, events, flights, hotels, it can easily add up to thousands of dollars. But you can do vacations on the cheap. And if you don’t have much money, don’t go on vacations just because your friends go on one every other weekend. Most people get 1-2 vacations a year, if that. I have a few friends who go on a vacation once every 3-4 years because of work/time/money.
Alternate: If going with other family or friends, split the cost of the AirBnB or hotel. Instead of going out to eat for every meal, stay at a place with a kitchen and have some easy meals you can do. Search Google for any special deals you may have. And set aside a specific amount of money for the trip, and don’t go over it! And you don’t have to make every vacation this crazy epic thing. A night at the beach having frozen pizza can still be amazing.
These are just some ways I would think of to cut costs if money was tight. Some would be easier than others for sure. However, learning to live frugally can be hard at first, but then once you get used to it, it can be really freeing!
Whether you are trying to pay off debt or getting a kid through college, learning to cut costs will help you in the end. Doesn’t mean you have to be bummed out all the time that you have to change the way you live. But it allows you to be more creative about having fun and then you realize that money doesn’t make you happy. People, faith, love, and memories can help fulfill so much more than money ever could.
My family has a quote “shop family first.” What that means is any time one of us needs a dress or a pan or any odd item, we ask family or friends to see if they have an extra or if we can borrow. It’s amazing how much stuff we can obtain and I’m always donating my stuff. I try to ask family and friends first before donating to other places, because I would rather have a friend or family member have something of mine than some random person.
One of my hobbies is going to Goodwill and other discount stores such as Ross or Sierra. Because of this, I find incredibly deals, such as 90% off climbing shoes or 5 dollar Columbia jackets. When a deal is really good, I snag it up, because even if I don’t personally need it, I know of a friend or family member that might need it.
I have been able to sell or give away lots of climbing gear to friends and family, and that way people can still climb even if they don’t have money for a new pair of shoes when the toe blows out of their current ones.
This is just another way to save money! Shop Family First.