Are you sick of living paycheck to paycheck? Have you ever considered (even for a minute) a payday loan? I'm sure you're smart enough to never have actually taken one out, but using a credit card and paying its usually high associated interest costs is really just as bad. If you need a few tips on how to create some wiggle room in your budget, read on. Not all of the below will make your list of cuts (nor are all of the below currently on your list) and that's okay. Our priorities and lifestyles likely differ. These are just five things that we've cut out over the last few years that might work for you too!
1. Your Gym Membership
I love going to the gym. I like feeding off of the energy of others and how that can amp up my own workout. We've spent anywhere from $20-$120 per month depending on the gym we belonged to and finally realized this isn't a necessary expense. Exercise is however necessary to my health. But how do you work out, if you aren't going to the gym? One way is to use what you have; or find a way to purchase the basics you need and workout from home.
My goal isn't to make you spend more money, but one way we cut out our gym expense was to buy some equipment to keep in our home. We're on our second treadmill (after wearing the first one out) and also have a recumbent bike. The two together probably cost us ~$800 and we've now had them a couple of years. I've also invested in a few different DVD programs over the years (P90x, Jillian Michael's, etc) and now also have the ability to stream them; sometimes for free!
Of course you can run/exercise outside too, but here in Minnesota we have that whole six-months of winter thing (and I'm a cold weather baby), so having some indoor options is essential. Unless your gym membership doubles as your social life, this is one budget cut that may be feasible for you to make too; especially if you don't use it!
2. Dining Out
You don't have to completely eliminate this from your budget, but cutting down to once a week (if you're currently at 2-3) should be enough. It's easy to drop $50 on a family of four (from personal experience) and if you're doing this multiple times per week, your dining out expense may be competing with your grocery bill (and for many less meals!). There is a difference between a sit down eatery and fast food, but neither positively affects your health or your wallet!
3. Name Brand Groceries
You don't have to switch to generic for everything, but there isn't a ton of difference in many of the foods that offer a store brand as an alternative to the name brand. I've even heard rumors in the past that the same company will package the same product into cans with different labels; one name brand and one generic. It's the same product!! We have slowly switched to more and more generic brands over the last couple of years. It's amazing to me how much I can spend on groceries if I don't follow a list or compare prices.
Another tip, if you're the spender in the relationship and your partner is the saver, let them do the shopping; typically they'll come home with less! Of course you can always price match, use coupons or reward/rebate programs like Walmart's Savings Catcher.
4. Cable Television
No, I haven't given up my first love of reading! I have been a convert to the library as of late though. Sometimes I have to wait to read the hottest, must-read book of the moment or surf around to get my celebrity gossip fix, but it is well worth it when it comes to saving money. Now I just need to learn how to check out eBooks and magazines from the library!
Rather than spend $10-20 on a book I'll likely read once, I place a hold at the library and wait my turn to read it (if I ever write a book, you need to purchase it, rather than get it from the library though, okay?). Unread magazines just tend to stress me out. If I can't get to a magazine before the next one arrives, I usually don't get through it at all. Having less time to read (since having kids) means I'm not renewing any of my magazine subscriptions, as I'm just not getting to them.
This isn't an all inclusive list (part two next month?), but there are a few items above that by cutting them out/decreasing their frequency, might make a dent in your budget. This means you can create some breathing room, increase your cash reserves or boost your retirement savings. Or maybe you can start a car fund, so that you can pay cash next time around!
Have you cut out any of the above? What ones am I missing?