Budgets are created to help manage the flow of your money. We need to budget, as we often don’t realize how much we’re spending. Generally, a budget will include one or more checking accounts, savings accounts, and credit cards. They may also include prepaid cards, investment accounts and even a PayPal account.
A key to budgeting and saving money is how to spend less money—and one of the best ways to accomplish that is to cut down on your monthly expenses. Even though some of our regular bills might seem small and insignificant on their own, their collective total can be enormous—and become a huge drain on your resources.
Look at these five budget categories for some money-saving tips:
1. RENT/HOME MORTGAGE
Choosing to rent or pay a mortgage can make a huge difference. To buy a home, housing prices can be substantial. Plus, you have all those unexpected expenses that come with homeownership. But depending on interest rates, it might be cheaper to buy.
There are ways to save on rent, like negotiating a new lease or living with multiple roommates. And if you’re planning to buy a home, you can look for a lower mortgage rate. Locking in a lower rate can not only save you money over the life of the loan, but can also lower your monthly payment and increase your monthly cash flow.
According to Credit Karma, the average monthly U.S. car payment is around $554 for a new vehicle and $391 for used vehicles. So buying used could save some real bucks. If that doesn’t work for you, consider refinancing your car loan at a lower rate.
Depending on where you live, getting rid of a personal vehicle and taking a bus or subway; or, walking or biking instead, would be a major money-saver. Using a ride-share service like Lyft or Uber could also help your budget, depending upon how much you drive.
Carpooling is a great way to get to and from work. You can save money and reduce wear and tear on your vehicle, and help the environment by reducing pollution.
On routine travel, such as shopping and other errands, plan your trips by traveling in a loop so that you’re not backtracking—to save money on gas. You can keep watch for the best deals on gas with gas-saving apps such as GasBuddy or Gas Guru.
Keep your car’s tires properly inflated. Every two PSI of air you’re able to add to your tires can improve your gas mileage by 1%.
There are various ways to trim your television entertainment costs. Perhaps you could downgrade from premium to basic cable. Or, as many have already done, cut the cord and remove cable and satellite TV bills altogether. According to Fortune, the average monthly cable bill is $103—so this change can mean a dramatic savings for you.
Another option is a cable-replacement service, such as DirecTV Now or Sling TV. According to Consumer Reports, over 600,000 new subscribers are “turning to cable-like streaming subscription services instead. These aren’t services like Netflix that carry individual movies and TV series. Instead, they provide channels of content such as AMC, CNN, and HGTV along with broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC).”
Spending a lot on movie tickets? Besides cutting out movie night, you could instead try some of these cheaper options:
- Attend matinees.
- Take advantage of senior discounts.
- Get a subscription to an app-based movie ticketing service (like AMC Stubs A-List or Cinemark Movie Club).
- Go to independent cinemas that charge less for films released earlier in the year.
Stop overpaying for music. Look at this comparison chart of the top 10 streaming services from PCMag.com.
Eighty dollars a month. That’s what a typical cellphone bill is to an American consumer today. And that doesn’t even reflect the total cost of having cellphone service.
Some cost-saving strategies to cut your monthly cellphone bill:
Limit Your Background Data Use. Some apps keep consuming mobile data even when the smartphone is not in use.
Slim Down Your Plan. Take a look at your phone usage and see if you can downgrade. Do you and your spouse have separate plans? Grouping everyone on a family plan can cut costs. See if you can add your siblings or parents to your plan.
Cut the Insurance. You might be able to ditch this fee with a protective case and screen cover and treat your phone with care.
Buy No-Contract Phones. If you don’t use your cellphone a lot or you’re home enough to justify a landline, consider ditching your cellphone altogether, or get a pay-as-you go or prepaid plan.
Keep Your Phone Longer. If your current phone works, hang onto it. Don’t grab the latest upgrade just because your carrier made an offer.
Other gadgets that you want to look at:
- Switch old light bulbs to LEDs. They’re a little more expensive up front—but they’re both more energy efficient and longer lasting.
- Use a smart thermostat.
- Use motion-sensing light switches to save energy costs.
- Buy a smart power strip. This relieves the standby power problem by automatically turning off power when not in use.
5. FOOD & DINING
Are you loyal to a particular grocery store or chain? One-third of subscribers to Consumer Reports said they stopped shopping at their main grocery store over the past year. High prices were the biggest reason. Check out some faster-growing alternatives like Aldi and Walmart Neighborhood Market.
Another tip: Go online before you do your grocery shopping to find which stores are offering the best deals; likewise, smartphone shoppers can use their device in-store to compare costs through a retailer’s mobile app while shopping
Dining out a lot? It takes more effort, but it’ll save you money to cook more at home. According to the Today Show’s financial editor Jean Chatzky, “…make the all-important list (of grocery items) and one way to make it easier is base it on what’s on sale that week.”
Look for discounts at happy hours and restaurant deals. Basically the restaurant is telling guests that it’s willing to offer them discounts in order to fill its seats during the slowest hours of business. It’s a win-win for the restaurant and you.
Join various restaurant e-mail lists to get coupons you can use to cut the price of restaurant meals.
Shop at your smaller, neighborhood farmers market for savings. Why? Because the items are in season and grown locally.
Resources: MoneySavingPro, Fortune, PCMag Digital Group, TheSimpleDollar.com, Slant, Don’t Waste the Crumbs, The Penny Hoarder, Living On The Cheap