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Cutting down on expenses isn’t something anyone looks forward to. But it doesn’t have to be awful either. I experimented with our budget for a few months and made a few tweaks, and what I found was astounding. I’ll detail out the tiny changes we made. Essentially, this is a guide for easy budget cuts that show you how to save $615 this month without even noticing.
These changes may each seem small but as you put them all together they add up in a hurry. To demonstrate my calculations, I’ve listed my personal expense savings after each idea so we can tally up my savings at the end of the post.
Step 1: Pump the Brakes on Takeout
Just make your coffee at home. Get it at the office. Whatever. In short, don’t get it through the drive-through. You can purchase a good coffee maker for $30-$40 online or at Walmart or Target these days. I personally have the Ninja Coffee Bar that I got on Amazon. It’s super easy and really fun to make any kind of coffee you want. It even has a frother for the milk! In other words, you don’t need the $5000 espresso maker extraordinaire to have good coffee at home.
Further, there is every flavored syrup (even the Starbucks Brand!), extract and coffee creamer on the market easily available at the grocery store or online! Go one step further and get a cup that keeps your drink warm for hours and
Drive Thru’s and Takeout
The name of the game here is to prepare your food at home and stop going out for food. Pack breakfast and lunch at home. In the same vein, if you stay home, stop hitting the drive thru’s on your way home from school drop-offs, etc. Just packing your own breakfast and lunch each week could easily save you $7-10 a day. A DAY! Per Person! Most importantly, it’s WAY healthier for you.
Get a good lunch bag to carry (I found 2 insanely cute ones here and here) and get some fun containers, and get to work saving that money! I use these glass divided containers to keep the food fresh all week in our fridge. (Glass keeps fruits and veggies fresher longer!) Try an awesome salad container to keep all your salad ingredients
Similarly, watch for your favorite sodas to go on sale at the store and stock them up at your house. That way you can take a few with you for the day, and you aren’t tempted to hit the vending machines or go on an afternoon snack run when you hit a slump. Keep an insulated cup (like this or this!) on your desk and your drink will stay more fresh and cold than if it were from a fast food restaurant anyway!
For the sake of calculations, let’s assume you ate out for breakfast and lunch 3 times a week, at $5 a meal, which is CHEAP. That’s $30 a week for me, $30 for my husband. $60 per week. PER WEEK. That’s a staggeringly huge number! For food that’s just terrible for you!
Get yourself a good, reusable water bottle (like this one or this one)that you can carry everywhere you go. Not only is buying water expensive at the store
- Coffee: $15/week, $60 a month
- Drive Thru’s and Takeout: $60/week, $240 a month
- Water: $5/week, $20 a month
Step 2: Groceries and Food Inventory Management
There are several areas to examine when you look at your food budget. Watching for sales is a large part of your savings in this category. However, often unlooked is managing the inventory you have on hand. Here are all the ways we try to stay frugal with our food:
Clip The Coupons
I’ll be the first to admit, I am not a coupon clipper. The cost savings to me aren’t worth the time of clipping the coupons, remembering to take them with me AND then remembering to use the coupons. And that’s after you had to hunt down the specific items in the store. Most likely with my two kids in tow. It’s just not for me at this stage in life.
There are also websites that will help you match the available coupons with your grocery store’s sales. If you have the time and patience, you could really save a lot of money each month. Southern Savers does a great job with its website as does The Coupon Mom.
Scan the Weekly Sales Ads
Instead of couponing, I will make sure to look at the sale ads for my grocery store before I plan the menu for the week. Building your menu around the items that are already on sale can save you a ton of money as well. In addition, don’t be afraid to switch up grocery stores if one has killer deals that week.
Online Grocery Shopping
I also highly recommend ordering your groceries online. Not only does it save you time (mega time if they actually deliver to your house like with Instacart!), but it eliminates you walking around the store and seeing new bright and shiny items, off-the-list items you want to try, or anything just sounds good that day. I know this probably saves me at LEAST $20 a week (and untold calories…) if I don’t set foot in the store. ($20/week, $80/month)
- Clipping Coupons – $10/week, $40/month
- Watching Sales Ads – $10/week, $40/month
- Online Shopping – $20/week, $80/month
For my calculations, I’m only going to count the online shopping savings, because I know that is what works for our family. So, $20/week adds up to $80/month for us.
Use Your Freezer
We utilize our freezer inside the house a lot and we also have a small freezer in the garage. I like this upright freezer as well! The additional freezer would be a small upfront investment ($250-ish for a small freezer), but it saves so much money and is so very convenient to have on hand. It would be an awesome Christmas gift to ask for if you don’t want to purchase one!
Having extra freezer space allows you the luxury to store grocery items you find on a great bargain. I love to stock up on chicken, beef, and pork when it’s on rock bottom sale prices. I’ll get what we need for the week plus a few extras. I’ll put the extras in the freezer for another
Our grocery store has an amazing bakery, and the bread loaves are $5. But the day-old bread loaves are $1. I’ll stock up when they have them and put them away in the freezer. I keep these jumbo freezer bags on hand for the big loaves of bread for easy freezer storage. The frozen loaves might not make excellent fresh bread anymore, but they make excellent toast, cheese bread, stuffing and bread crumbs.
Having the extra freezer space also allows you to make bigger portions of your recipes and allows you to freeze the leftovers for another day. Any time I’m making soup or a sauce or casserole, I’ll double or even the recipe and put one back in the freezer for another day. Plus you’ve only messed up your kitchen once! I store the casseroles in these disposable aluminum foil containers so that I don’t tie up all of my baking dishes. Plus, clean up is a breeze. I just toss it in the trash! No scrubbing!
Over time, a freezer can really save you a ton of money! It might save your waistline too because if you have a good amount of healthy meal choices, you’ll be way less likely to order take out that’s probably not great for you.
Assuming you already have a freezer, this saves me at least $15/week on takeout, $60/month, just by eating at home.
Managing the food you have on hand is a huge part of saving money too. I learned about pantry night growing up. It’s the night before the garbage runs and you are getting rid of leftovers and any food that’s going to go bad.
Clean Out The Fridge
On pantry night, we take all the food that would be thrown away the next day and make a meal of it. If you have some leftover veggies and meat you can make a pasta dish, a quick soup or do breakfast for dinner with an omelet scramble. Similarly, you could throw all of those leftovers into a stir fry, or on top of a pizza. We like to do Lunchables night at our house too. It’s a great way to use up crackers, cheese bits, lunchmeat, fruit, and veggies!
One of my favorite things to do is toss any extra uncooked veggies (slice them up so they are roughly the same size) you have on hand on a heavy baking sheet and roast them in the oven. (425* for 20 minutes or so). In the meantime, heat up some chicken or beef broth in a larger pot. You want enough to cover the veggies when you add them to the pot. Once the veggies are out of the oven, dump them in the pot with the hot broth and let the flavors mingle for just a few minutes. Boom! You have roasted vegetable soup! I take it a step further and use my immersion blender to make it a smooth, velvety pureed soup.
Shop In Your Pantry
Likewise, if there isn’t anything that needs cooking up in the fridge, shop your pantry. Grab a few ingredients to make a quick pasta or soup. Use what you have on hand.
I love pantry night. It’s kind of a game to try and make a meal out of little bits and pieces of food. I love practicing this at least once a week, if not twice. Of course, it saves some money if you use what you already have stocked up and on hand, and it also keeps your pantry inventory fresh and rotating all the time.
Let’s assume the ingredients to most dinners would run $10 – $15 per meal, at least. Therefore, conservatively, pantry night saves $10/week, $40 a month.
Step 3: Monthly Bills
We looked at all of our monthly bills, and found a few opportunities to save there as well.
Conserve, Conserve, Conserve
For your water, gas and electric bills, get serious about your efforts. Turn off lights when you aren’t in the room. Turn the thermostat a few degrees higher in the summer, cooler in the winter. Take a faster shower and don’t run the water while you are doing dishes. You could easily save $10 a month on your combined utilities, just by paying close attention to your daily habits.
Look at Contract Bills
It’s always smart to review your monthly bills that are under contract at least once per year. You never know when there might be a little wiggle room in your rates.
Car insurance, cell phones, home internet and phone bundles can often be negotiated down a few dollars simply by taking a moment to call these companies. All the little savings can really add up.
Let’s conservatively say you could knock $5 off your car insurance, home internet and phone per month. That’s $15/month, easily.
Cut the Cable
We cut out our satellite service a few months back. We use Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and a digital antenna to get the main channels for news and weather. There are also services like Sling and YouTube TV that allow you to pick your channels you’d like to have, and they are considerably cheaper than regular cable or satellite. We’ve been happy with the streaming services we have and haven’t needed to explore that option.
Our Satellite bill was about $70/month, and I actually think that was pretty cheap in the world of cable/satellites.
- Conserving Utilities: $10/month
- Negotiating Lower Contract Prices: $15/month
- Cut the Cable Cord: $70/month
Total estimated savings per months: $95
Step 4: Memberships, Hobbies and Gift Giving
There is a ton of room to save money in this area. You just have to be willing to wait out a good deal!
Memberships… and Groupons and Ebates, Oh My!
I’m not going to put an estimated savings on this particular section. The possibilites are quite endless. But I want to make you aware that they exist.
- Costco/Sams – If they stock items you already buy every day, you can really get some good deals
- Gyms – Lots of gyms offer discounted services to members for services including personal training, pool memberships and sports massage.
- Make-up/Glamour Boxes – I get a monthly bag from www.Ipsy.com for $10/month. (This isn’t an affiliate link, I just love my Ipsy bag.) You pay month to month and when you sign up you fill out a profile online and based on your profile, they send you 6 makeup samples/testers a month in an adorable bag. It lets you try out different makeup and see which makeup you would love and which you will hate. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved being able to try a sample of the makeup first!
Have you heard of this? Again, this isn’t an affiliate link for my benefit. It’s just a neat site. Go to www.groupon.com and check the deals every few days. You can get good deals on getaways, fun family activities, and restaurant discounts as well. Further, if you plan ahead and watch, you could really save some money on kid birthday parties too. Just keep an eye out for deals.
I discovered Ebates last year. It’s pretty much the greatest thing ever. You sign up for an account, install a little toolbar on your browser, and when you go to a website where they are offering cash back, it alerts you on the computer. Some of my most online shopping sites (Think Etsy, Kohls, Carters, Belks, Target, Walmart) regularly have at least 2.5% cash back available.
And subsequently each quarter, they send you a check in the mail with your rebate. My rebate check is usually anywhere from $15 to $45. Just for buying something you were already going to buy. WHAT? YES!!!
In short, I’m not going to put a number on this section. I think this was more your public service announcement. Just know, deals are there and you can save a boatload of cash.
I love, love, love the library. And I’m afraid it’s a dying tradition. I sure hope not though. Even though it’s not as popular as it once was, you can still walk right in the door, pick out a book, check it out and bring it home for a few weeks and read it. For free. That’s $0 folks.
And did you know this? Most libraries also have online books you can borrow for your iPad/e-reader? You’ll have to visit your local library to get a library card and to find out what app you’ll need to download and subsequently how to download the books, but that’s completely free. FREE.
Exercise doesn’t mean you have to go to a gym. You can walk around, or even run around, outside. For free. Grab some headphones and move your tush!Moreover, if it’s cold you can walk inside the mall. (Maybe don’t run in the mall – the mall security man on the Segway might chase you…)
You can hike almost anywhere. For Free. We live very close to the Smokey Mountains. I don’t know how long it would take you to hike all those trails, but it’s a lot. And our city has an absolute ton of greenways you can explore. Many of them have nice parks and playgrounds too.
Online videos are all over now too. You name the exercise, and chances are there are no less than a thousand options for free online to learn. Yoga? Pilates? Zumba? You name it, it’s there.
There are tons of creative ways to save money on gifts for people. For example, you can watch for sales, snag good deals at stores, re-gift items and use your crafty and creative talents as well.
Shop Sales and Stock Up On Good Deals
I have my stores I know I can go to and find a lovely gift, always on sale. As long as you are flexible and take time to look, you can always snag a great deal on a gift. I love going to craft stores; they always have cute gifts and they are often on sale or have a half off coupon.
Likewise, if I stumble on a good sale on candles, picture frames, lotions and soaps, or fun kitchen gifts, I stock up! I always get fun smells that would be universally liked (think fruity like lemons and oranges) unless I specifically know that a person likes a particular smell.
This is tricky. As long as you are careful and keep track, this can save a little money along the way. You are bound to get gifts occasionally that aren’t your style or that you don’t necessarily have a place for. If you can’t return the item, just keep it to re-gift to someone else. Above all, to avoid hurt feelings, just make sure you don’t re-gift it back to the person that gave it to YOU. Or in front of the person that gave it to you.
I love to make crafts, so I do a lot of crafts as gifts. Also, let the kids make crafts as gifts. It teaches them early on that it’s truly the thought that counts. A home-made gift with time and thought put into it can be worth a lot more than something you buy at the store. And everyone loves a handmade gift from a child.
Save the Bags!
I save all the gift bags and tissue paper we get so that when it’s time to wrap something, I’ve got a supply ready to go. Gift bags are expensive! My best friend may get a birthday gift in a baby blue dinosaur bag, but hey, it’s the thought that counts.
Estimated Savings – Memberships, Hobbies and Gift Giving
It’s not so easy to put a number on a lot of the ideas in this section because they would be so specific to each person’s budget. But here’s my best guess:
- Memberships: at least $10/month
- Groupon and Ebates: Conservatively, let’s say $5 each/month ($10 total)
- Hobbies: Library book savings $10/month
- Gift Giving: $10/month (shopping/stocking sales, re-gifting, re-using gift bags)
Total Estimated Savings/Month: $40/month
Step 5: Total Savings Roundup
Let’s re-cap the savings from each step of my plan:
- Pump the Brakes on Takeout (Step 1): $320/month
- Groceries and Food Inventory Management (Step 2) : $160/month
- Monthly Bills (Step 3): $95/month
- Memberships, Hobbies and Gift Giving (Step 4): $40/month
Total Estimated Monthly Savings:
$615/month. $615??!!!! A month!!!!
That’s how much money you could save this upcoming month, just by making a few very simple changes. $615!!!! WHAT??? Even if you just make a few of the changes you could save a few hundred dollars a month!
To sum up, when I was compiling this list and analyzing the spending at our house, I was floored by how little expenses really do add up in a budget. Now, I challenge you to look at your budget and spending. Look at all your spending and find little wins to help save yourself some money this month too!
Money-Saving Tools Used For This Post:
- Simple Coffee Maker
- Ninja Coffee Maker
- Flavored Coffee Syrup
- Travel Coffee Mug – Option 1
- Travel Coffee Mug – Option 2
- Beautiful Sparkly Travel Coffee Mug – Option 3
- Lunchbag – Amazing Find #1
- Lunchbag – Amazing Find #2
- Glass Meal Prep Containers
- Divided Salad Container
- Soda Cup for your Desk – #1
- Soda Cup for your Desk – #2
- Reusable Water Bottle – #1
- Reusable Water Bottle – #2
- Chest Freezer
- Upright Freezer
- Jumbo Freezer Bags
- Disposable Aluminum Foil Casserole Pans
- Heavy Baking Sheets
- Immersion Blender
- Fun Kitchen Towels – For a gift!
Like this post about saving money? Try these posts about saving even more money!
- There’s $2,500 Hidden In Your House
- Budgeting for Vacation: A Complete Guide
- How Much Emergency Savings Do You Really Need?
- How to Successfully Buy Back Time