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When your monthly income isn’t quite cutting it, you need to look for ways to cut your budget, reduce spending, and save money.
That’s a lot easier said than done!
Below are some helpful tips to get you started on cutting your budget. There’s something for every level, whether you’re looking for something easy to implement or something to maximize your savings.
17 ways to cut your budget
That’s a tough one to hear, I know! Going out to the movies, concerts, a bar; all of it comes with a big price tag. Plus, most of your purchases here come heavily inflated!
These super common forms of entertainment can easily drain your budget, and fast. It’s nice to go out and have fun, but it definitely doesn’t have to deplete your budget.
Instead, find some creative ways to have fun without a heavy price tag (or any price tag at all).
Related reading: 100 Fun Things To Do with No Money
2. Track your spending
How do you know if you’re truly making cuts to your budget, without creating a budget? (trick question!)
Before you can cut your budget down, you’ll have to create your budget and look where all of your money is going. Once you have your typical monthly expenses down, you can start looking at how much to allocate to extra expenses for the month (like entertainment and eating out).
It’s a lot easier to see where your money is going and what you should cut back on to save money when you’re tracking your spending!
Related reading: 11 Best Budget Binders You Need to Rock Your Finances in 2021
3. Pay with cash
Paying with cash is such an easy way to cut your budget down.
Sure, you won’t be able to pay for the majority of your bills with cash. But the idea is to use cash on things that you need to ensure you’re not going to overspend on. Think groceries, entertainment, toiletries, and other budget line items that tend to fluctuate.
Using cash safer because, once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Here’s how it works: give yourself a budget for the budget line items that you can use cash for. When you get paid, go pull that cash out and stuff it into envelopes for each line item.
Once you use the money allocated to that line item, you’ll either have to go without or use cash from a different envelope (therefore shrinking your funds for that line item!).
Related reading: 14 Best Cash Envelope Wallets to Rock Your Budget
Are you as bad at this as I am?
Subscriptions are an easy money pit because you simply set it and forget it. Then, when that thing I’ve subscribed to comes in, I remember, “gosh, I should have canceled that!”. Then I forget again.
Sound like you too?
We ended up looking through all of our monthly subscriptions by checking out our bank account. We wrote down what it was and the cost, then asked ourselves what we really needed. They can always be restarted when you have more money!
5. Eating out
I think this was the most difficult for us to cut, but it had to be done. The amount we were spending on take-out was embarrassing.
And it adds up so quickly!
We could easily spend up to $100/day, eating out, feeding our family of four. Just think about how much in groceries you could buy with the same amount of money.
When we cut out this expense, it definitely helped our budget.
Related reading: Grocery Shopping on a Budget: How to Save Some Serious Cash
A lot of people have switched to streaming services these days, but many have also kept cable. With most cable plans running about $55-60/month, it pays to cut the cable and exclusively use streaming services.
We have a couple of streaming services at our house. We paid for one of them as a one-time fee per year of $70 (a little less than $6/month). The other streaming service we use is about $15/month. I like those numbers a lot better!
And if you already have Amazon Prime, you have access to tons of free things to watch on that platform!
Talk about throwing your money away!
True, it’s not quite as easy to clean a reusable as it is to just throw something away, but the cost savings might help sway your opinion.
I’ll use our cloth diapering as an example of ditching disposables. We decided to use cloth diapers on our kids. Since our second kid is only a few weeks old, let’s talk about the cost savings we experienced with our first, all the way to potty training her.
She was in diapers from newborn to 25 months old, when she was potty trained. We ended up spending between $500-600 for all of her cloth diapers. That includes the inserts AND covers; everything you need to diaper your kid.
Doing a little research online, a baby goes through about 2,500 to 3,000 diapers in the first year. Looking at a popular brand of diapers on Amazon, sizes 1-3 (a good average of sizes in the first year) average about $48.00 at the time of writing this post. The median amount of diapers in these packs is 186, so we’ll use that number.
- 2,500 diapers per year / 186 diapers per pack = 13.44 packs / year
- 3,000 diapers per year / 186 diapers per pack = 16.13 packs / year
If we use the average of $48.00/pack, we get:
- 13.44 packs / year * $48.00 / pack = $657.25 / year
- 16.13 packs / year * $48.00 / pack = $788.71 / year
Our total savings in year 1: between $120.38 and $251.84.
Since we continued diapering her after she turned 1 (until 25 months), the savings only increased. Plus, we’re using these same diapers on baby #2!
Cloth diapers saved us well over $1,000, plus the disposable diapers aren’t in the landfill.
Other disposables to ditch:
- Paper towels – use cloth towels instead
- Water bottles – grab a good quality water filter and a reusable, stainless steel bottle (keeps it colder for longer!). Here’s my absolute favorite stainless steel bottle, but here’s a less expensive bottle too
- Straws – try out stainless steel straws or, if you don’t like metal, here are some great silicon straws
- To-go containers
- Sandwich and gallon-sized bags – silicon or wax “sandwich bags”
- Coffee filters – it will depend on your coffee maker, but here’s the one we use and LOVE it
8. Hair cuts
Okay, so I know this sounds excessive. But hear me out!
Each time I went to the salon, I’d spend over $50 for a wash/cut/blow-dry. Plus, after adding in a tip and any hair products your hairdresser sells you on, your bill really adds up.
So I tried a thing. I hadn’t had my hair cut in almost 2 years (I kind of just shocked myself thinking back at my last time at the salon!). I wanted to see if I could confidently cut my hair myself.
And I did it. I cut my own hair.
It actually turned out pretty great! I followed a super helpful YouTube tutorial, and it took about 30 minutes total to cut my hair.
For the foreseeable future, I am going to stick with cutting my own hair.
I also cut my husband’s hair. I have to say, I’m starting to become a master at the fade.
9. Cut down on electricity use
There are little things here and there you can do around the house to cut down on electricity use.
Some of the biggest things you can do to save money on your power bill are:
- Use smart power strips. These will cut power to things around the house that aren’t being used. Some things, like your TV, don’t actually turn off. They instead go into standby mode so it’s easier and faster to turn them back on. These smart power strips cut that power use!
- Ensure your home insulation is in good shape. You could save up to 20% on your power bill by keeping your insulation in tip top shape.
- Use motion sensor light switches in rooms you tend to leave the lights on. We do this all the time in our toddler’s room! We leave the room while she’s still in there playing, so we leave the light on for her. Then, she follows us out just a minute later, and the light stays on until we go in there next.
Related reading: How to Cut Your Electric Bill and Save Some Serious Cash
10. Meal plan
We used to go to the grocery store with no list. Our grocery bills were out of control! We just bought what looked good, and sort of meal planned on the spot.
Now, we plan before grocery shopping. The method we found saved us the most money was to have a master meal list of cheap, delicious meals that our family love. We choose the meals we want for that week, create our grocery list from that, and do not deviate from it.
That way, it takes the stress out of meal planning and creating a grocery list at the same time. When we did meal planning and created our grocery list at the same time, it became overwhelming! Then, we’d just push it aside and go back to buying on the spot.
11. Use curbside for groceries
While we’re talking about meal planning and grocery shopping, let’s talk about curbside!
Using curbside pick-up instead of going in the store has saved us so much money.
When we went into the store, we found so many delicious-looking snacks and premade meals. More often than not, we picked up a lot of extra food that looked good and spent a lot more than we needed to spend.
Related reading: Grocery Shopping on a Budget: How to Save Some Serious Cash
12. Wait to make a purchase
Have you heard of the 24-hour rule?
Before making a big purchase, give yourself 24 hours before pulling the trigger. If you don’t give yourself a padding of time before, you’re more likely to justify the big purchase and buy.
But if you give yourself a good 24 hours before buying, you’re much more likely to properly weigh the pros and cons of making that purchase. And more often than not, you end up not buying!
13. Try a no-spend challenge
I love no-spend challenges.
It’s almost like an extension of the last tip of waiting to make a purchase.
A no-spend challenge challenges you to not spend anything outside of your bare monthly expenses. Things like utilities, rent/mortgage, groceries, debts, etc. The no-spend challenge can be as long as you’d like, but it is at least a day. So you’re already waiting 24 hours to make a purchase!
No-spend challenges are great to see what you really need to get by every month. It also helps you save up to make larger payments on your debts, create a bigger emergency fund, or for a trip you’re planning.
Related reading: No Spend Challenge: How to Successfully Save the Most Money
14. Unsubscribe from marketing email lists
Tons of retailers like to offer discounts for subscribing to their email lists. So if you’re like a lot of others out there, you’re likely subscribed to quite a few email lists too.
That’s not a huge problem itself; it’s the subsequent marketing emails that are sent out that could be a threat to your budget.
Big sales on your favorite brands, one-time discount codes, and new products are sent to your email. And, if they’re doing their job, it makes you want to buy!
It’s best to unsubscribe to these marketing email lists, especially while you’re trying to cut your budget down. You could always subscribe again later, but chances are, you’ll enjoy not getting the daily deals.
15. Cash-back apps and extensions
If you’re already going to be shopping for something, why not enjoy some cash back for your purchase?
I try my luck with different cash-back apps and extensions with every single purchase we make. Sure, I might only get a few pennies back sometimes, but those pennies add up!
However, most times I actually get a lot more than pennies back. It’s worth checking out.
Related reading: 9 Best Cash-Back Apps, Coupon Apps, and Extensions
16. Dial back on social media
Let’s see if you’re guilty of this too: I get on social media and see one of my friends just took an amazing trip to another country. I start looking through their pictures, then start wishing I could sit on that beach with a drink in my hand too. Then, I start comparing things I’m doing in my life to what they’re doing in theirs, and how they could afford a vacation like that.
Do you do the same thing?
Those comparison games are so dangerous!
It makes you lust after something that just won’t work in your life right now. And could make you spend money you don’t have on something you shouldn’t be spending it on.
Because of that, I’ve dialed myself back on social media. I have to say, it was tough at first. But I definitely feel a lot happier and healthier now.
17. Cut out coffee shops
I know what you’re saying: but they taste so good!
While you’re trying to cut your budget, experiment with making your own lattes at home. Pick up a handy frother and some syrup, then you’re good to go! You’ll start to see savings almost immediately here.
What should I trim from my budget?
Some of these methods to cut your budget might work for you, and others won’t. What’s important is to figure out where you’re at with your budget and go from there.
The easiest ways to trim your budget are cutting some things out, like eating out and entertainment.
Some moderately easy ways to trim your budget would be to create your budget, try a no-spend challenge, and trying to stay out of stores (use curbside).
And some of the more challenging ways to cut your budget down would be to switch to disposables (up-front costs) and cut your electricity needs down.
But whatever you decide to do, whether it’s just one tip or all 17 of them, you’ll be trimming your budget!
How do I drastically cut my budget?
In my opinion, there are three tips from this list that will give you the most bang for your buck:
- Create a budget
- Switch to reusables (ditch the disposables)
- Cut out “extras”, like entertainment, going to the salon, and coffee shops
Creating a budget is the biggest action you can take to cut down your budget.
When we created a budget, it felt like we got a raise, even though we didn’t make a penny more! It was all about watching where our money was going. Plus, controlling our money, not letting our money control us.
We make a game plan before every paycheck comes in. That way, we have a plan for every dollar that comes in.
That’s how to cut your budget!
Do you have any tips that you didn’t see on this list? Which have you tried and succeeded with? Or conversely, have you tried any and failed with it?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments!