This article discusses how I was able to cut my monthly spending in half and join suggestions on how you can to. This article contains affiliate links, for more information please see my disclosure policy.
My fiance, Allen, and I have learned a lot since making our first budget and tracking our spending. We learned where all our money was going, which categories we were not accurately planning for in the beginning and finally how we could cut back our spending to stop putting us in debt.
After scouring the web, I was disappointed that nobody wanted to talk real numbers about how they cut their spending. I found plenty of awesome suggestions that helped reduce our budget, but I wasn’t sure if the numbers would add up to the savings we needed.
I was really nervous to share with you my exact budget numbers but I think there is a lot that you can learn from taking a look into someone else’s budget when you are trying to make your own. Hopefully you will find inspiration in the ways we cut spending to help you with your own budget.
The budget you see with the expensive spending was what I had eventually figured out as our “budget” after several months of trying to budget and tracking. I put budget in quotes because this type of spending was putting us further and further into debt instead of saving and paying off debt like a good budget should. Also note that the budgets shown here are only our spending, neither of the budgets include our exact income, savings, or debt repayment plan.
If you find yourself in a similar overspending situation or if you are just looking for ideas on how to cut your spending, check out how I changed my budget category by category.
Here is a breakdown of what our old spending habits were and how they have changed.
When my fiancé and I moved to a new city we ended up picking a nice apartment, close to work that accepted our dogs. The only downside is it was $1800 for a one bed room apartment. Soon we realized we were breaking the bank and as soon as our lease was up we weighed some trade offs and sought cheaper living arrangements
Housing is probably your biggest monthly expense and is one of the places you have the most potential to cut spending. Think about looking for places with cheaper rent, you might have to trade off for a longer commute, but the savings will add up. If you don’t want to move, consider getting a roommate or renting out part of your house to bring in some extra income to offset your living expenses.
Electric/Energy used to be one of the bills that I just thought “it is what it is” and there was nothing really to change it. But by consciously making smarter energy choices, we were able cut our energy use almost in half. I believe our biggest savings came from setting our thermostat a few degrees warmer or cooler depending on the season. Other simple changes you can make include turning off all the lights in unoccupied rooms, unplugging electronics when not in use, hanging clothes to dry. Also look into investing in a programmable thermostat to save even more on heating and cooling when you are not home.
Cable and Internet
As a society I feel as though we have gotten complacent with having to pay through the roof for cable and internet access. If your cable and internet bill seems really high, consider dropping cable (ours was $65 a month) and switching to a streaming service such as Amazon Prime. I also called our provider and they dropped my rate another $20 a month just because I asked. I would highly recommend calling your provider every 6 months to make sure you are getting their best deal.
The easiest way to lower your car payment is to not have one in the first place. However, Allen and I thought we were living large and we both bought newer (still used though) cars that we took out loans on. If you do find yourself with a car loan, use a debt repayment method such as the Snowball Method to pay off your car as soon as possible. This will help you cut your monthly spending in the future. The drop you see in my budget came when we paid off Allen’s truck and just had my car payment left.
Woo big $12 dollar savings! (hey every dollar counts) One of your biggest car related expenses is probably your insurance. We have all seen the commercials where people save hundreds by shopping around for insurance and I definitely think that’s a good place to start when looking for ways to cut your budget. You can also talk to your current insurance provider and see if they have any new discounts, raise your deductibles to save on your monthly premium, or ask how recent life events such as getting married or having kids can help lower your rate.
In case you were wondering where my $12 savings came from, I shopped around but found I was already with the cheapest insurance supplier. However, my agent switched my policies between my two cars because my one policy was older and had more discounts so by putting that one on the more expensive car I saved a little more.
Groceries is probably one of your largest expenses. While you will always have to prioritize money for food, I think you might be surprised by how much you can cut back on grocery money. The two biggest ways I saved was by switching grocery stores (I cut my grocery bill by 36%) and meal planning. You can also use coupons both paper and apps such as Ibotta and Checkout 51. I use the Krazy Coupon Lady app which shows you how to combine savings to get some amazing deals on food and household items.
Use my Ibotta link to get $10 for redeeming your first offer
Pet expenses can add up quickly and take over your budget. Luckily there are ways you can cut back. If your dog needs regular grooming like my golden doodle, consider having their hair cut shorter when you get them groomed. By doing this I was able to push the time between his $70 haircuts from 6 weeks to 16 weeks. Or if you are talented, you can cut your dog’s hair and save even more.
When it comes to food and treats, look for generic or store brand versions to save big, did you know that Costco makes a line of grain-free pet food that is half the price of the name brand? We switched my dogs to the Costco brand last year and they have loved it. Lastly, I save on my pets toys by either making them myself (it cost cents for a little fabric and stuffing) or buying holiday themed toys after the holiday (my dog’s celebrate Christmas all year round with their stuffed Santa!)
Going out to restaurants is not a necessity so it can be completely cut if needed, but if you do want to go out sometimes, there are plenty of ways to do it for cheaper. Groupon and Restaurants.com are great ways to get 40%+ off restaurants in your area, and if you buy they through Ebates or Swagbucks you can save even more with a cash back bonus. I also clip coupons from the local savings magazines you get in the mail, I am always surprised how many restaurants offer BOGO entrees. You can also sometimes get deals for restaurant gift at retailers.
Allen knows I will never pay full price when we go out now. Groupon has been my favorite way to save and I also love that it encourages us to find new restaurants to explore. If you shop during Groupon’s sales, you can get up to 90% local restaurants.
Energy Drinks and Cigarettes
When we first started budgeting I so lovingly named this category for Allen, but for your budget it might be named “Pumpkin Spiced Lattes” or “A Donut on the Way to Work”. Basically it’s the category for all the little purchases that add up to a big price tag throughout the month. Now ideally you would want to completely eliminate this category but sometimes you just gotta treat yo self.
An easy way to limit spending in this category is by buying a gift card to Starbucks (or wherever you go) at the beginning of the month and when that’s gone, you don’t get anymore that month (very similar to the cash envelope system). Another way I have heard of people saving big is by slightly altering their commute to avoid the temptation of stopping, or by leaving snacks/drinks in their cars so that when the craving strikes, they already have something with them.
The biggest impact for our budget was Allen quitting smoking and no longer buying cigarettes. This also meant he was stopping at gas stations less frequently so he wasn’t spending as much money on energy drinks and random snacks. I still gave us some spending money for this category in case we need a midday pick me up.
Fun and Entertainment
Who doesn’t love date nights and going out on the weekends? I know I do. Unfortunately a couple of concert tickets and kayak rentals add up and quickly can put you over your monthly fun/entertainment allotment. To combat this spending, try some no-spend alternatives such as hiking, free outdoor concerts, free/discount museum days, board game nights and biking just to name a few. You can also normally find highly discounted activities in your area on Groupon and LivingSocial.
Gym memberships can be pricey. While sometimes they are worth it, consider other options if you need to reduce your spending. My apartment complex has a community gym that is just as good as any membership gym so I was able to cancel both our memberships and save $60. You can also exercise by using free online videos, running, biking, and doing body weight exercises at home all for free. If you still want to join a gym consider cheaper options such as Planet Fitness.
I’m sure one of the first things you noticed on my budget was that I had budgeted $800 for gas each month. WHAT?! We were actually spending that much on gas. Allen had a job selling windows which required him to visit each client in their home; with 4 appointments each day, he could end up driving 300+ miles a day. Combine that with driving a large truck that got 12 MPG and there goes our gas budget. Recently Allen parted ways with that job and go a new one with a 30 mile commute which has significantly lowered our gas bill.
While your gas bill might not be as extreme, you still might want to try ways to lower it. Consider carpooling with coworkers or biking to work a couple days a week. If you find yourself driving a lot in a gas-guzzler consider switching to a more fuel efficient vehicle. You can also save on gas by signing up for rewards cards at some gas stations or using discount pumps at retailers such as Costco.
When looking to cut back our budget, I was hard set on not reducing our gifting amount. It constantly felt like every month a birthday or holiday would pop up that we would want to buy a gift for. Also I wanted to stash away money throughout the year so Christmas would not break the bank.
There are still was to cut down spending in this category without reducing your generosity. You can make gifts for people. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest and I find that homemade gifts tend to be even more special. You can also save by using discounted gift cards and cash back (like the ones available through Swagbucks and Ebates) to purchase gifts for less.
It always seems like an extra hassle to pack a lunch to take to work, but that hassle can help reduce your budget. If you are like Allen and have to grab lunch out, you end up paying around $10 a day. I have a subsided cafeteria but my lunches still ended up being about $5. For the both of us, it was costing over $300 to eat lunch. After we realized how much we were spending, we started packing lunches. Some of our favorite cheap lunches were leftovers, cold cuts, and these cheap pasta packs with some frozen grilled chicken. Even if you pack 3 days a week, you can still save yourself over $100 a month per person over take out lunches.
Well that’s it, hopefully you found some useful suggestions to revamp parts of your budget! Leave a comment about some ways you were able to drastically cut your budget.