Evaluating Your Monthly Budget: 5 Things to Cut to Save Money
Its Monday so you know what that means…another post in our new Money Monday series! Last week was the opener to the series and we talked about the basics of starting a monthly budget. One of the points discussed was evaluating [and re-evaluating] your budget once you’ve gone through and figured out where you stand from an income and expenses standpoint. You fell into one of three categories: surplus, break-even or deficit.
Now, we all hope to land in the surplus category with tons of extra money, but that isn’t always reality. I don’t know about you, but I’m not bringing in the millions yet! Also, seeing all of your expenses outlined can be extremely eye opening which is why I highly encourage evaluating and re-evaluating your budget, no matter what category you fall in. Understanding where each of your hard-earned dollars is going helps you personally take control of your finances.
So you’re probably thinking, “Stepf, I’ve got this under control. I pretty much know what I spend each month, I only treat myself to a latte a few times, I pay minimums on my loans…why do I need to go through everything?!” I’ll tell you why…to SAVE YOU MONEY! And who doesn’t love saving money? I know I do!
One thing I want you to remember is that saving money doesn’t just mean right this very moment, you also have to think long term. Yes, paying even just an extra $5 more on your monthly loan payments is technically spending more money but in the long term, those extra $5 a month add up to you paying less in interest over time...and interest on loans is the devil! We’ll be talking more about loans and debt in an upcoming Money Monday post.
So lets dive into this in a little bit more detail and figure out the most efficient ways for you to evaluate your monthly budget to save you money.
RE-THINK YOUR MORNING COFFEE
You’re probably thinking, is this girl crazy?! I need my morning caffeine to survive! Trust me, I am with you on that one! But remember, we’re talking saving money here and although that morning cold brew or latte from Starbucks is delicious and the kick-start you need to your day, there are some financially smarter ways to get the caffeine kick.
If you buy your coffee every morning before work from the coffee shop, try to cut back to only buying 3 days a week. Say the average coffee is $5 - that’s $10 a week, $40 a month, $480 a year you could be saving!! That is a HUGE savings! Image putting that $480 into your savings account, or towards rent one month, or as an extra dent in your student loans.
Another big way to save on your morning coffee is to make it from home. I’ve been on a serious cold brew kick lately but at $4-5 a pop, it starts to loose it’s umph. I’ve been getting Califia Farms Unsweetened Pure Black Cold Brew from Target and adding my own coconut milk to it and quite honestly, it tastes just as good if not better…plus I’m saving tons of money! The Califia Cold Brew costs about $5 for 48oz and I can easily get 4-5 servings out of it which is cold brew for a week at the cost of one from the coffee shop.
You can also save a ton buy buying bags of ground coffee instead of the single-use K-cups. Yes, the K-cups are super convenient but they also make a reusable one and I love it! I can make coffee from my favorite local coffee shop in the same single serve style as a regular K-cup.
If you just can’t give up your morning trip to the coffee shop, here are some other coffee shop savings tips:
switch from a fancy latte to drip coffee - this will save you a few bucks.
get a grande instead of a venti [same amount of espresso shots in each, the venti just has more milk. GASP! …the more you know!]
MYOL: make your own latte! Ask for 1-2 shots of espresso, either hot or over ice, and ask for them in a larger cup like a grande. Then add in milk from the coffee bar [where they have the milk, sugar, stirrers, etc] or bring your own almond/coconut milk from home.
Remember that thing you signed up for 5 years ago that was $30 a month and renewed every month but you stopped using it like 3 years ago but forgot about it and never canceled it? Yup, guilty as charged! This is why it is SO important to go through your finances like a hawk on a consistent basis.
Here’s a real life example. I was on my college dance team and every year we went to a national competition. After I graduated, all of us alumni always watched the live stream every year, texting excitedly all weekend about our alma mater and the amazing routines we saw. The live stream quickly went from free to fee, and there was no hesitation in my mind that I was paying to watch Nationals…even if it was $30.
I realized one year months after Nationals was over that I was paying $30 a month for the live stream that I wasn’t even using on a monthly basis and that I thought was a one-time fee. GAHHH! Thankfully I caught it after 5 months but that’s still $150 down the drain for absolutely no reason at all. I quickly cancelled that auto-renewal subscription and learned my lesson the hard way.
So scan through your debit/credit card transactions and see if you have any of these auto-renewal subscriptions you are being charged for that you are no longer using. There is no point in throwing money away on something you aren’t using when it could be going into your savings or towards paying down your debt.
BUYING LUNCH OUT
Sometimes life can get a bit hectic and we forget to meal prep and bring something to work/school for lunch. We’ve all been there! But if you are someone who continually buys lunch out daily, you are wasting so much of your hard earned money.
So let’s take the similar scenario from the coffee example. If you buy lunch out daily, try cutting that back to just 3 days a week and bringing your lunch from home on the 2 other days. Say the average lunch costs $10 - that’s $20 a week, $80 a month, $960 a year you could be saving! I don’t know about you, but meal prep just started looking reallllll good!
THE CONVENIENCE FACTOR
Using the word “convenience” as the headline for this section might not have been the best use of words but it got your attention, right? I thought so! Do you pay $9.99 a month for Spotify Premium to avoid ads? While not having to listen to adds is great and doesn’t mess up your grove, it’s a CONVENIENCE that is a want, not a need. You WANT to listen to your music without interruptions, you don’t NEED to. Buy cutting a convenience expense like Spotify Premium, you are saving $120 a year!
I used to pay for Spotify Premium and it was great and the convenience of no ads was certainly there. I quickly learned that it was a want, not a need, and it in a sense was living outside of my means at the time because those $10 a month could have been going to loan payments or rent. And to be honest, it really isn’t that bad to have to tap to watch a 30 second ad to get 30 minutes of uninterrupted music using the free version of Spotify. Most of the time I just have music on for noise so I rarely notice the ads. It was a convenience I thought I had to have a few years back, but these days I wouldn’t waste the money on it.
Dare I mention the “Target effect” again?! It gets me more times than not, especially when I don’t have a list. I’ll go in for shampoo and leave with $200 worth of stuff…and no shampoo! Why does this happen? 99.9% of the time it’s because I went shopping without a list. Structuring your shopping habits to ensure you have a list will not only keep you focused on the essentials, but will cut down on your impulse purchases…and getting sucked in to the “Target effect.”
Now this doesn’t mean we can’t treat ourselves from time to time, we’re all human, but if you are impulse purchasing everywhere you shop from clothes to groceries, it adds up quickly. The next time you run out to do errands, take just 5 minutes before you leave to prep yourself with a list. Really challenge yourself to stick to the list and only get those items.
If I catch myself wandering off my list and I do end up buying those non-essential items, I have a few things I do to see if I really, truly like the item. Say I buy a cute new blouse. When I get home, I will leave it in the bag with the receipt. If in a few days I haven’t reached to wear the blouse, or if I’ve put it on a few times only to change into something else, it gets returned - no questions asked. This way, I can get the charge off of my card and I don’t get caught having to pay interest on something I’m not keeping anyway.
As another example, sometimes an item on sale sucks us in and we think, “Wow, what an awesome deal - I have to have this!” So lets take a step back. Is this something you were planning to buy or typically do buy? Are you just buying it because of it being on sale? If you weren’t planning to buy it, don’t typically buy it, and are buying it just because the item is 50% off, you truly aren’t saving any money. Yes, it’s great the item is half off, but you are still spending the half it costs on something you wouldn’t normally get, only because it’s on sale.
Anytime I find myself in this sale item situation, I’ll stop and ask myself those questions and it really does help. You can’t be afraid to challenge your spending habits, especially when you have short and long term financial goals like I do!
This can even happen with shipping costs. You’re making a purchase online and realize you are $30 short to get free shipping. So instead of just paying the $5 flat-fee for shipping, you end up spending an extra $50 on top of what you intended to…all to save $5. I’m 100000% guilty of this and it is something I’m definitely working on moving forward!
There you have it, 5 easy things to cut from your monthly budget to save you money. What things will you be cutting to save money on? Share below in the comments!