When you make the choice to live a more frugal lifestyle, one of the first things you should do it determine your budget (check out our post on Why You Need a Budget). Once you’ve done that, it’s important to evaluate what you have been spending your money. This way you can see where you might be able to cut costs to save money. Every little bit counts and can amount to BIG SAVINGS!
How to Evaluate Your Spending
You’re probably thinking – where do I start? How do I know where I’m overspending and what items I should cut? One of the quickest and easiest ways to evaluate your spending is to look at your bank statements. Log in to your online banking account and look through your transactions. Is there a particular place that you see a lot of charges on your account from? Is there a bill that is particularly expensive? If so, maybe you can shop around or negotiate to lower the price of that really expensive bill. Take notice if you have a ton of charges from Starbucks for morning coffee – that might be a sign that it’s time to re-evaluate. If your bank is like mine – they might even have an option for you to “export” your transaction history into excel. This makes it easy sort your expenses and get a better picture of where your money is going every month.
If your bank doesn’t have that cool export feature and you just don’t have the time to meticulously go through your transaction history, let me make it easy on you and tell you some of the top things people waste their money on. These may seem like little things, but as I said earlier – they can amount to big savings!
Brand Name Products
Americans today always seem to want the “brand name” version of whatever it is we are trying to buy. Well, I hate to tell you – but “brand name” is just another word for “expensive”. If you take a brand name product like Tylenol for example, and compare it to the ingredients in the store bought version – 9 times out of 10, they are exactly the same! If they are exactly the same, why spend extra money to get the “brand name” version. Some people will argue that they “trust” the brand name company more than the store brand – but why? Think about that for a second. You trust the store enough to shop there – but not to buy their store brand products? Also – their products have to meet the exact same requirements federal, state, and local requirements before it’s put on the shelf, so what’s the difference!?!
I know the coffee at the office sucks – but that’s not an excuse to stop for a Starbucks coffee every morning. I know it’s hard to stop this bad habit once you’ve started because I’ve been there! Except I was worse because I would also buy BREAKFAST! Yikes! The cheapest coffee on the menu at Starbucks $2.25 for a “Tall” which is their smallest size. If you stop there on your way to work five times a week, that’s $11.25 a week. If you don’t think that’s too bad – what if I tell you that amounts to $585 by the end of the year! For that amount you could buy yourself this super fancy espresso machine and make your own coffee every morning. The espresso machine would actually be less expensive because it’s only $550!
If you’re like me and you like to read, you probably have a book shelf with tons of dusty old books in your house somewhere. I have always made the mistake of going out and buying a book when someone recommends a book to me. I immediately go out a buy it and stick on my bookshelf until I have “time” to read it. Needless to say, there are tons of books on my bookshelf that I have never actually read. In addition, it’s highly unlikely that once you’ve read the book – you will ever read it again. Therefore, it’s a big waste to buy all these books for you to read once and then have it collecting dust for years. Instead, check out your local library. You can check out books for FREE and return them when you’re done for someone else to read and enjoy. Just keep a list of all the books that you want to read or that were recommended to you. Then, head to your local library when you have time to read them.
I honestly can’t even believe that there are still people that have Cable TV. How is this still a thing!?! Somehow, there are still many American spending on average $107 a month for their cable TV. That is OUTRAGEOUS. Why pay that much for Cable TV when you can use a streaming service for less than half the price. The streaming service allows you to view whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want! There are so many different streaming services now that you can easily find exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re into sports, there’s ESPN Plus. Gotta have those HBO channels, there’s HBO Now. Want to binge your favorite TV show from start to finish, there’s Netflix. Ironically, you could get subscriptions to all these individual streaming services together and still pay LESS that the $107 a month you’re spending on streaming services. I currently have Hulu and pay only $12 a month for that. The best part is there are typically NO CONTRACTS with these streaming service providers. You can start and stop them at any time and try different ones out. For example, when Game of Thrones was on we had a subscription to HBO Now. But we promptly cancelled it when Game of Thrones ended because that was the only thing we used it for.
There are so many Americans that sign up for a gym membership and then never actually go to the gym. That means you’re paying $20 a month or more FOR NOTHING. My husband and I have thought about joining a gym multiple times before, and have even paid for gym memberships we never used in the past. However, thanks to technology and the internet we know we don’t need to go to the gym or spend a bunch of money for a personal trainer because YouTube exist. There are literally millions of exercise videos on youtube that you can use to get your workout in. I am constantly searching for “At Home No Equipment” workouts on YouTube and have found some really good ones that I use regularly! It’s like having a persona; trainer because you have someone there walking you through the exercise step by step and encoring you along the way. What’s even better is that you don’t have to worry about going to a gym and being surrounded by a bunch of meat heads that you feel are judging you. You can do it from the comfort of your own home and can even do it together as a family.
Before being on the keto diet, my husband and I would eat out more then we care to admit. I once analyzed how much we spent on eating out in one month and it was well over $800 for just the two of us! Eating out can be very expensive and should be avoided as much as possible. Eating out has a bunch of extra costs associated with it that most people don’t think about. When you decide to eat out you’re not just paying for the food itself – there is also the added cost of a tip and drinks (if you get something other than water). In addition to that you are more likely to overeat and buy more food when you go our to eat because the restaurants use marketing strategies to try and get consumer to buy an appetizer and dessert that you really don’t need. If you absolutely MUST eat out, try sharing a meal with someone or eating at a quick service type of restaurant where you’re not obligated to leave a tip.
There are all kinds of expensive cleaning products out on the market today. Today we have cleaning products for glass, wood, dust, floors, and many other items. Each product claims to have the best formula to clean their respective items – however none of them are really necessary. They all have one active ingredient in common – vinegar! There are plenty of recipes online to make your own cleaning solution. Many of which are simply water, vinegar, and some type of essential oil. The essential oils help tone down the smell of vinegar. This combination is good to use to clean almost anything and is must cheaper to make at home yourself.
I’ve discuss this before on my post 5 Ways to Cut Costs on Your Pet Expenses. Buying dog treats is a complete and total waste of money. I know we love our pets and tend to spoil them and give them lots of treats, but there are more frugal options for dog treats that the ones you find in the dog food isle. Some great alternatives that you may have never considered before include certain fruits, vegetables, and snacks that are common for humans to eat, that your dog can have as well. Our dogs love snacks like carrots, watermelon, popcorn, and peanut butter. It is must more cost effective to buy a large bag of baby carrots for $2 at the grocery store, than a small bag of begging strips in the pet isle for $10 that you’ll go through in no time! Also, treats like carrots and peanut butter are much better for your dog than all the additives they put in real dog treats.
Hopefully this information will help you be able to make effective choices on how to cut costs that will amount to big savings.