Looking for simple ways to cut down on your monthly household expenses each month so you can build your emergency fund and pay down your debt? Or perhaps you are saving for a big trip or purchase. Here are some easy yet effective ways to cut your monthly expenses without having to take severe measures. I promise most of them are painless!
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16 Simple Ways to Cut Your Monthly Expenses
1. Don’t let gasoline prices take you for a ride
My local gas station offers a 10 cents per gallon savings for members if you link your bank account and use their app. You can also earn in-store rewards like free coffee and discounts with your purchase. Other nearby stations offer a discount on certain days. Local discount clubs like BJ’s Club or Costco are known for great member discounts on gas too.
One way to keep track of gas price differences in your area is to use an app to find the lowest price like GasBuddy, Gas Guru, or Waze (yes, the driving app). Once you enter your location, you’ll see a map showing available payment methods, prices, and even hours. In the 8-mile radius around my address, there was a difference of 38 cents per gallon. My local favorite gas station was one of the highest despite my member price. I wouldn’t drive miles out of the way for a lower price, but I would certainly plan my trip and fill up on the way.
Or better yet drive an electric car or compact car and save on the cost of driving car.
By the way, while you are at the gas station, check your tires. Did you know keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure saves gas too? Having a regular service schedule for your vehicle to keep it in good shape does too!
2. Get some fresh quotes on car and home insurance
We had our policies with the same company for years and were satisfied with the pricing. Imagine our surprise when our insurance agent checked our plans against other companies and found she could save us $3000 a year despite having two younger drivers. It helped us that we have good credit, no accidents, and have been in our home for 20 years with only one claim.
3. Manage those credit card payments
Who hasn’t lost track of the days and mistakenly missed a credit card payment? It’s a bummer because not only are you hit with a late fee, but you also have to pay a finance charge. While I don’t recommend paying a minimum credit card payment as a standard procedure, I recommend setting up a minimum payment just in case. Ideally, you should log in BEFORE the payment is due and send in a payment for the balance, if possible. Remember, credit cards should be for convenience and not for spending beyond your means. They can be a tool in your smart budget. When you set up your minimum payments, review your credit card’s interest rates, benefits, and annual fees. Do they still meet your needs and buying habits? Make sure the perks equal the costs.
4. Catch those automatic recurring payments
So you signed up for a service or product online and got a great discount on the trial period for entering your credit card information for a recurring payment. Did you intend to cancel after the trial period? Is it something you use? I had an issue where I had an antivirus program automatically renew because of how I set it up. I didn’t like the product and intended to cancel it. Luckily, I noticed it in time and was able to get a refund.
5. Drop the monthly gym membership
Taking care of your health by exercising will hopefully reduce your healthcare costs in the future. But do you use your gym membership? Even if it’s only $10 a month, it’s $120 a year wasted if you don’t go. Can you work out at home or in your neighborhood for free? There are many free programs online and available apps to encourage the habit of exercise. Try different free programs until you find one that suits you. Or you can buy a compact home gym.
6. Take advantage of free reading
Many libraries have made online borrowing and reservations easier because of the Covid crisis. Patrons can reserve books for curbside pickup or access them online with a library card. My library has a vast selection of audio and electronic books. These can be downloaded right to apps on a phone, reader, or computer. Love magazines like me? Cancel those autorenewals and get them from the library too. Libraries are also an excellent source for free or reduced museum passes, programming for adults and children, and other online services.
7. Dry up your bottled water habit
US residents consume 1500 bottles of water every second. Not only is this costly, but 80% of those plastic bottles end up in the trash. Switch to a water filtering pitcher or install a water filter. Faucet filters start at about $16, while a ten-cup name brand pitcher is just over $25. Get a refillable water bottle and bring it with you. Some even have built-in water filters. It’s better for the environment and your wallet. We added under-the-counter water filters at sinks on each floor. We use them multiple times a day.
8. Check your coffee habit
I love coffee and drink quite a lot of it. I love its taste and smell. However, I don’t often buy coffee out since I prefer the coffee I make at home to some national chains. When I get coffee out, I tend to go where the coffee is self-serve and delicious for about a dollar per cup. I am also a member of their reward program and earn free cups.
9. Evaluate your cell phone plan
I dumped a big cell phone company after 18 years as a customer because they charged me the same price for much less data than they offered new customers. Shame on me for not paying attention to how their plans had changed. But it was the poor pricing and customer service that made me jump to a smaller company that would save me significantly. They even helped set up my existing phones, and the bonus streaming channel was certainly a perk.
10. Cut the cable cord
Although cable and internet options vary widely according to region, I recommend investigating if it is worthwhile in your area to cut the cable cord. We took that big step last spring. Currently, we pay about $100 a month for our internet and router. Due to remote work and schooling needs this past year, we upgraded to a faster router when we made the switch. Despite renting a router to have updated tech, we save by no longer having a rented DVR or cable boxes. Our streaming channels are a mix of different products to get the coverage we want. Streaming subscriptions are creeping up in price. We may get to the point where streaming is as much as our cable was (hey, we like tv and movies). We do take advantage of deals through our cell phone company (cheap Netflix), and some have some bundled items like Spotify and Hulu. The most important thing is we use it. If you are not ready to cut the cord, check with your existing company for deals and let them know what the competition is doing. We only have two cable options in our town. Some of our neighbors switch back and forth when their contracts end to take advantage of the deals.
11. Eat those leftovers
How many times have you reached for something in your fridge, only to find it has spoiled before you can use it? According to the USDA, each day in the US, an average of one pound of food per person is thrown out. This equals 30-40% of the food supply annually. Not only is it wasteful, but it is also expensive. Meal planning can help you eliminate waste. Shop with a list and base your weekly meals on what is on sale at your local stores. Take leftovers to work for lunch or freeze them for when you need a quick meal.
12. Take advantage of shopping discounts
I always tell my kids, “why pay more when you could pay less? And always look for a coupon”. Even my local grocery store has an app that includes a rewards program, specials, and additional digital coupons. You scan the item in-store or at home to add it to your grocery list. Instant coupons are located when you scan the barcode. I save even more by shopping at a local discount grocery store. It sells its brand items at a steep discount with a money-back quality guarantee. Things sell out, and It’s not as convenient as my closest store, but the price difference is significant. I go to a larger grocery store to pick up items that are not available at the discount grocery store.
For online shopping, use an app or browser extension like Mr. Rebates or Rakuten, giving you cashback and showing you the best available discounts. Refund checks are sent out periodically depending on dollar amounts. When we bought a laptop online, we not only got a significant deal with a coupon code, but we also got 10% cashback through a special promotion. Mr. Rebates and Rakuten even allow you to compare prices and give money for referrals. Another money-saving online shopping trick is to put items in your shopping cart and think about them for a day. Often retailers will send you a reminder with a coupon code or discount. And think of the money you will save if you don’t buy it.
13. Cut back on eating out
Skip eating out for a while and use the money you aren’t spending to pay down debt. Don’t want to go cold-turkey? Cut back to once a month. Other ways to save without sacrificing the experience are to eat out lunch instead of dinner, split an entree, and drink water or even soda instead of liquor. Don’t forget to look for discounts and coupons. This is one of the easiest ways tis cut back on your monthly household expenses.
14. Your parents were right
Want to cut your energy bills? Turn off the lights when you leave the room or house. Swap out incandescent lights for energy-efficient LED bulbs. Many energy services will provide LED light bulbs for free or at a steep discount. Make use of a programmable thermostat to turn down the heat when no one is home, or you are sleeping. We keep our house at 65 degrees at night! You can slash your A/C bill with a whole house fan. Don’t forget to unplug unused electronics that still draw current when plugged in.
15. Cut down or end your cleaning service
Pick a few tasks to do every day and divide larger tasks into smaller ones, so cleaning is not overwhelming on the weekends. No want wants to spend their day off cleaning! Got children? Get them to help with a reasonable chore list. If you are not ready to let your cleaners go, why not cut back to twice a month instead of weekly? You can maintain the day-to-day tidying while they do a deeper cleaning.
Serious about saving? Make a one-week spending freeze. You pay your bills and buy necessities but stop the random arbitrary spending like lunches out, snacks, nail appointments, etc. Not only will you save money, but you will also pay attention to what you spend.
Final Thoughts On 16 Ways to Cut Your Monthly Expenses
The average American family spends $5,253 in monthly expenses. If you can bring that down you are ahead. My family has cut well over $500 a month from our monthly household expenses by using just some of the above ways to do. The ideas are not all or nothing. You can pick and choose what ones make sense for you as you work towards your financial goals. Keep the things that are important for you. After all, it’s quality of life too. Just remember that minor cuts now can add to big payoffs later.
You can also read How to Pay Your Mortgage Off Early by the same author.
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Christine Seaver is a freelance writer that writes about personal finance, budgeting, and debt. She is a frequent contributor at Dividendpower.org. Christine works as an office manager by day and a cookie baker at night. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.