Reducing your household expenses and increasing your savings rate are important steps on your journey to FI, but sometimes it can be challenging to actually put it into practice.
If you’re looking for practical and realistic ways to cut your expenses, there are a lot of possibilities. In this article, we’ll take a look at expenses many of us have that could be significantly lower, or even eliminated altogether.
Hopefully, this article gives you at least a few ideas that you can implement to see results quickly.
1. Expensive Cell Phones
It’s crazy how expensive cell phones can be. Part of the problem is cell phones tend to be replaced often, so you’re not likely to use it for many years. Also, they’re very easy to break. Sure, you can pay for an insurance plan, but that just adds a cost to your bill every month.
Several years ago I used to buy the newest, most expensive phones. After having a few of those phones I realized that I didn’t even use the fancy features that drive up the price. The last few phones I’ve had have been very cheap (or free) and they give me all of the functionality I need.
You can save yourself a few hundred dollars every year or every couple of years by going with a lower-priced phone.
2. High-Priced Cell Phone Plans
It’s not just on the cost of the phone itself where you can save money. The monthly bill for wireless service can also be cut, in many cases.
A few years ago, my wife and I switched from one of the major carriers to a discount pre-paid carrier and cut our bill in half.
I would have moved to a discounted carrier sooner, but I thought the coverage and reception might be bad. That’s not the case. My service now is just as good, if not better.
Check out our full review of Republic Wireless to see if it's an option for you.
3. The Latest Technology and Gadgets
New technology and gadgets are appealing to many of us, and advertising professionals are skilled at convincing us that we need the latest and greatest.
Since the prices of electronics tend to drop quickly, you’ll save a lot of money by waiting.
I already mentioned cell phones, but other technologies like TVs, tablets, desktop computers, and laptops all tend to come down in price quickly.
Try to hold on to the things that you already have, and when you do go to buy something, consider getting a slightly older model to save a lot of money.
4. Cable TV
When it comes to saving money, one of the first tips you’ll often hear is to get rid of cable or satellite TV. The monthly cost for cable TV is high, and today there are plenty of good cable alternatives that will save you money each and every month.
The biggest savings will come from cutting TV altogether or replacing cable with a simple digital antenna that you can buy for $25 – $50.
Other options like Netflix, Hulu, and Sling will provide plenty of entertainment at prices that are much cheaper than cable or satellite.
5. Meals at Restaurants
You may spend as much money for one meal at a restaurant as you would spend for an entire week’s worth of food at a grocery store.
Food away from home accounts for 5-7% of total spending for Americans. Changing your eating habits can have a huge impact on your budget.
If you frequently eat at restaurants or buy take out, including lunches, you should look to reduce that expense or eliminate it.
6. Name Brand Groceries
While we’re on the subject of food, the brands that you purchase at the grocery store also have a huge impact on your budget. Generic brands are often just as good as the name brands, but they cost significantly less.
That doesn’t mean that you have to buy generics for everything. Most of us have a few name brand products that we like much better than generics. But give the generic products a chance and see if you can even notice a difference.
You can also try shopping at different grocery stores, as some have better no-name products than others. If you’re like me and you shop at Aldi, most of your groceries are probably generic.
Here are some other tips for saving money on groceries.
7. Bottled Water
Bottled water doesn’t seem like a big expense, but if you drink it every day the cost really adds up over the course of a month or a year.
Not only does the cost add up, but it’s easily avoidable. You can get a pitcher that will filter tap water, or buy a filter that will attach to your faucet. With either option, you can fill a reusable water bottle and take it with you.
8. Daily Coffee
In your daily routine involves a trip to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, you can easily save some money here too. Coffee can be made at home and taken with you.
If you like a particular type of drink, even buying an expensive coffee maker that will allow you to make it at home can save you money in the long run.
Not only are cigarettes bad for your health, but they’re also bad for your bank account. Kicking this habit can save you a big chunk of money every month and every year.
Going out to the bar can be a very expensive social activity, but many people do it all the time. If that’s the case for you, changing this one habit can probably have a big impact on your finances.
Even buying alcohol and drinking at home isn’t cheap. Getting rid of this expense, or cutting back, should make a noticeable difference as well.
11. Excessive Insurance
Most of us have several different types of insurance policies. The premiums that you pay for those policies will be based on the amount of coverage that you have.
Have you checked your policies to see how much coverage you have? It’s possible that you have way more coverage than you need. We were able to drop our annual homeowner’s insurance premiums significantly with a simple change to the amount of coverage for the contents in our home. We don’t have a lot of expensive things, and when we signed up for the policy they gave us a lot more coverage than we needed. One small change reduced the premium a lot.
The same can be the case with other types of insurance policies, like car insurance. Do you have collision coverage on a car that doesn’t need it?
Also, shop around regularly. Prices change quite often. Just because a company was the cheapest a year ago doesn't mean it's the cheapest today. Getting a quote is free, spend a few hours a year making sure you are still getting a good deal.
12. Expensive Cars
Reducing your car expenses can make a huge difference in your FI journey. A car payment can account for a big part of your monthly budget, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Your car is a method of transportation, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on it.
Depending on where you live and work, you may even be able to do without a car at all.
Related: How To Start Commuting By Bicycle
13. Tools That You Won’t Use Often
Have you ever bought a tool for a specific job and then never used it again? I know I have.
If you need a tool, maybe you have a friend that will loan it to you. If not, there are other ways to rent or borrow one that will be a lot cheaper than buying it.
AutoZone and Advance Auto Parts have free loaner tools that you can use for your own DIY car repairs. You can also find a local tool lending library at LocalTools.org.
If you’re not able to find a place to borrow it for free, you can always rent it. Home Depot has a lot of tools for rent, and there are probably some other rental places in your local area.
Join your local ChooseFI group and start a tool lending program. Your local ChooseFIers will be happy to lend and borrow rarely used tools. There is no need for everyone to own the same tools they use once a year. How often do you really use that 14-foot ladder?
14. Cleaning Products
Most of us have cupboards that are full of different types of cleaning products. This can be an easy place to cut some household expenses. There are a few different ways that you can save money on cleaning products.
First, vinegar and baking soda can be used to clean a lot of things. See this article about cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, and lemon. There are so many cleaning products you can make yourself and a little goes a long way. In general, we tend to use way more cleaning products than necessary. Even if you don't want to switch out your products, see how far you can cut back on the amount you use. Just doing this could easily cut your cleaning budget in half.
A washing machine repairman once told me that just the laundry detergent residue in our clothes would be enough to wash them several times. Yikes!
Second, you can use a microfiber cloth and clean many things with just water. Not only will it save you money, but it will also reduce the chemicals in your home. See this article for a comparison of the two leading brands of microfiber cloths.
There are many different types of services related to your home or property that you can do yourself if you want to save money. This includes cleaning, mowing, treating the lawn for weeds, other landscaping, snow removal, and more.
If you’re not sure how to do something on your own, YouTube is a great resource with millions of DIY videos that will teach you how to do just about anything.
Related: How To Save On Landscaping Costs
Of course, completely eliminating the electric bill is not realistic, but there are plenty of ways to reduce it, and many of them don’t take that much effort. Depending on which state you live in, you may even be able to switch providers to get a lower rate.
A few of my favorites ways to save are to lower the temperature on your water heater (may save gas instead of electricity, depending on the type that you have), air dry your clothes, and turn off the heated dry on the dishwasher.
For more ideas and suggestions, see this list of ways to save money on electricity.
Haircuts can be expensive, and you can do it yourself if you want to save that money. This will be easier for some people than it will be for others. It’s an easy recommendation for me because it only involves clippers or a razor, but it may be more complicated for you.
There are plenty of YouTube videos that teach how to do it, and this page has plenty of information and videos for different hairstyles.
18. Gym Membership
The biggest problem with gym memberships is that many people pay for them but don’t use them. Some memberships are pretty cheap and others are more expensive. If you have one, be sure that you’re using it enough to get your money’s worth, or else cancel it.
If you want to avoid paying a gym membership you can easily exercise at home, or ride a bike or jog outside.
Related: Frugal Fitness Hacks
19. Excessive Gifts
I’m not suggesting that you should cut out gifts entirely, but think about how you could cut back. On my wife’s side of the family, we do a name exchange at Christmas. Instead of buying about eight gifts, each person only buys one.
Entertainment can be very costly, or it can be free. Take a look at the types of things you do for entertainment and see if there are ways to easily cut back.
For example, instead of going to the movie theater, you could stay in and watch a movie at home.
This list includes all kinds of ideas for free entertainment.
Most of us have a lot of different ways that we can save money. Some of them are easier than others. Take a look at your own budget and household expenses and see if any of these unnecessary expenses can be cut to increase your own savings rate.
Author Bio: Marc
Marc is a personal finance blogger at VitalDollar.com. He has been a full-time blogger since 2008 and has been using his online business in his own pursuit of financial independence.
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