Are you trying to figure out ways to lower your monthly spending without sacrificing your happiness and sanity? It is certainly possible, and through years of reducing our own expenses, we want to help you do the same. These are all items that we have found to be helpful for our budget and made it possible for us to pay off $107K in 33 Months. So, here are 23 budget killers that can easily be fixed to save you hundreds per month.
23 Budget Killers That Can Easily Be Fixed To Save Hundreds Per Month
As great as it would be to say just don’t buy anything, the reality is that we need to buy things to get by in life. If most of us are honest though, we live a level of comfort with what we do buy and there is room to find savings by either buying cheaper items or shopping smarter.
The items below provide a mixture of both suggestions, eliminations or alternatives, but the critical aspect is that we are intentional with our purchases. By planning ahead and paying attention you can still find great products for less that meet your needs.
The important thing to understand when looking at cutting costs is that little cuts do matter. They add up to serious savings when you look at the big picture.
Also, whether you are paying off debt or saving up to invest the money there is the additional factor of interest where you can gain. Making cuts and saving a few hundred dollars a month and putting it towards debt will save you even more in interest. This amortization schedule calculator will help you understand just how much you can save by finding even a $100 extra a month.
If you are saving money to invest it, you will find even more benefit because the extra money you put towards investing will now be working for you earning money.
The point is, with all these savings that you can find in your budget, you still need to take action and pay off debt or save it. A good guide to help you determine whether to focus on savings or debt payoff can be found here.
With that said, let’s start seeing how you can save hundreds of dollars each month when buying these everyday purchases.
1. Buying New Items
The first item is the least specific on this list, but it is really part of an overall approach you should consider. Whether it is household items, clothes, shoes, kid’s clothes and toys, electronics, furniture, etc. you should be open to purchasing used instead of new.
It obviously depends on the item but finding a little used and well taken care of item can save you lots of money.
One approach to take is to find a specific product that you want to purchase and then look on the used market for it. That way, you are getting the product you wanted all along, just at a better price.
Or, maybe you care less about a specific product and are open to opportunities. For instance, we needed a new high chair recently and were reluctant to drop $100-$200 on a new one. Erin’s sister had one they were looking to get rid of, so we took it. It may not have been the perfect situation, but it met our needs and we were able to take that money and put it elsewhere that earned us interest.
Another example is that I recently needed a new pair of athletic shoes. I went to a few thrift stores close to our house and found a great pair for $12. I would have paid $50 at least for them in a store. It was the first time I bought used shoes and I would absolutely do it again.
So, go to your local thrift store and see what they have before making a big purchase or be open to hand me down items to avoid paying anything at all.
2. Not Buying Items On Sale
So, for when you do decide to buy an item new, do it when it is on sale. Plan ahead, do your research and wait until it is on sale.
Most stores have frequent sales. Every year, they have a big sale that you should pay attention to. Maybe it is Black Friday, Prime Day or a special annual sale that gives you 50% off.
We have saved hundreds by being patient and waiting until those dates.
We got a FitBit and an InstantPot last year for Black Friday and they were some of our favorite purchases last year. As a result, by waiting until Black Friday we saved a good amount off each.
Also, if you can stock away gift cards to the stores you purchase from you can stretch those out when buying an item 50% off during those big sales. Combine gift cards and sales to get maximum value for your money.
Patience is key here and you will be rewarded.
Smart phones have become a necessity that our parents certainly never had to budget for. We’ll address the cost of phone service in the next item but let’s look at the phone itself.
With iPhones now costing $1,000 they can really eat into your budget. You can either pay in full for your phone or in monthly payments. When paying them off monthly it is easy to buy the more expensive one because it is only $10 more a month. Don’t fall for it. You are still eating the full cost of the phone.
My advice is to pay cash for your phone up front so that you feel the full cost. This is will make you decide whether you really want that phone.
Besides that, here are some other things to consider.
- Buy technology that is at least a year old. New technology comes at a premium.
- Buy used if it makes sense.
- Keep your phone longer. Buy a new phone once every 3 years and not every year.
Find a quality phone that will last and stick with it. By waiting a year after it is released to buy a phone you have the chance to see how people like it making it easier to decide if it is right for you.
My wife and I still enjoy our iPhone SE and it should easily give us another year.
4. Phone Service
In addition to the phone cost, the cost of phone service can take a huge toll on your monthly budget. It isn’t uncommon for someone to have a $150 a month phone bill. At $150 a month that means they are spending $1,800 a year just on phone service. No wonder it is tough to pay down debt.
That is insane, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Use a 3rd party mobile provider that uses the towers and network of the big mobile companies. By doing this you can get a significant discount by using the same network.
Some, such as mint mobile, will have you prepay for your phone service. Also, you might be required to own your phone. That is another reason I think it is a good idea to own your phone since it gives you the most flexibility regarding service.
Here are some companies I recommend and the network they use for service. Be aware though that your contract is with the company providing the service (i.e. Mint Mobile) and not the company providing the network (i.e. T-Mobile)
- Mint Mobile – T-Mobile Network
- Cricket Wireless – AT&T Network
- Boost Mobile – Sprint Network
- Google Project FI – Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular Network
We switched to Mint Mobile over a year ago and by doing that we save $60 a month or $720 a year. That has helped us tremendously and our service is the same. I honestly can’t recommend them enough.
5. Car Payment
We all need some sort of vehicular transportation. This means having to own and maintain a car.
The big mistake you can make is to look at it as a payment you will always have. This will keep you in debt for your whole life.
Even if you just lease your car, you are basically doing the same thing.
The best-case scenario is to pay off your car and keep it around for the life of the car. Not having a payment will free up a few hundred each month.
You might also have a payment that is simply too much. While this is a tough decision, sometimes it is best to sell your car and buy a cheaper one that you can afford.
Buy cars that have a track record of easily lasting 200,000 miles. Do the research on this as it is a major decision. It will pay off!
Don’t get sucked into the trap of needing a new car every 3 or 4 years. Hold on to your car and you will save thousands over your lifetime.
6. Car Maintenance At The Dealership
One of the biggest pains in life is car maintenance. You always feel taken advantage of and you never really know what you should be paying or if it is needed. You just know that you need a working and reliable car.
Any sort of maintenance you can do yourself such as an oil or air filter change is a bonus. Do it if you can, but if you are like me, you don’t know how or have the set up to do so.
The problem with the dealership is that you always have a new person looking at your car each time you visit and the prices come at a premium.
Dealers make most of their money on their shop and in their finance center (i.e. your car loan) and not the sale of the car.
Finding a trustworthy car mechanic is worth its weight in gold. Take the time to talk to friends and family to find a shop that you can go to for any type of fix.
7. Car Insurance
Car insurance is one of the areas that is legally required in your budget. It can vary a decent amount each time your bill is due though.
Don’t pay for less coverage to save money. Instead, simply shop around every time your insurance is up to find the best rate.
Also, you can save money by paying for it in 6 month increments or even for the full year.
8. Your Monthly Housing Payment
This can either be a mortgage or your rent. We’ll get to your mortgage in a second, but let’s talk about your rent first.
If you’ve just started your debt free journey, then housing is something you really should pay attention to. Look hard at what you pay in rent and next time it is up, shop around for lower prices.
Search for a property that isn’t a big complex. Smaller places or individual landlords often provide more unique places that can cost less.
Also, pay attention to where you are working. If you drive less distance to work then you save on gas money.
Look at the big picture regarding your housing.
If you have a high mortgage payment, then consider the following.
- Move only if it is a last resort. Moving is expensive but if it will save you a lot of money in the long run then it is worth it if you can’t afford your monthly payment.
- Can you rent out a room?
- Can you offer it on VRBO occasionally?
- Can you rent it out entirely and live somewhere else at a lower cost?
With a mortgage it is trickier, but you can find major savings if you look at it creatively.
Admittedly, these options aren’t for everyone, but, it is important to understand that housing is most likely your single biggest line item on your budget.
You need to be strategic about how you spend this money and finding savings can provide relief.
9. Buying Name Brands
Similar to being open to buying items on sale or used, it is worth looking at buying off-brands. This typically applies to smaller items you might get at the grocery store or Target.
Most off brands taste the same as the name brand or darn close. Every once in a while, you will find a dud. That is OK, you can just go back to buying the name brand for that specific product.
The point is to have the approach where you look for the off brand first. Only buy the name brand if it is cheaper (on sale) or if it meets your needs better.
Be intentional here and be open to the lower cost items. It is worth it.
10. Eating Meals out
Food is one of the biggest killers of your budget. We all must eat, but if you spend $6 a meal that will add up drastically different than if your spent $2 a meal.
The problem is food and eating can be very emotional. I’m not going to ask you to be a robot, but I will ask you to be intentional and plan ahead. The following items are ways that we have navigated around the need to eat out as much as we once did.
- Take your lunch to work. Prepare it ahead of time, in batches, and have a backup at work in case you forget it one morning.
- Have meals ready to go in your freezer. This is great for those extra stressful nights where you don’t have time. It’s easy enough to double something you already going to make and freeze the second half for later.
- Plan a specific time of the week to go out. Eating out is OK if it is limited. The idea is to just plan when you do.
11. Prepare Your Own Meals
Convenience sells. Manufacturers and brands are excellent at convincing you that you are too busy and need more convenient food and products.
This might be true to an extent but realize that a dollar or two more for the majority of your meals adds up to thousands of dollars quickly.
To expand on some of the items I just discussed we pay for more preparation. By us preparing our meals they cost less. That is obvious regarding eating out, but what about salads or fruit? For example, instead of buying the bagged lettuce you can buy a head of lettuce and wash it and chop it up yourself. You can do the preparation all at once and then use it when you need it.
Meal kits are all also great example, while they’re convenient and fun, the additional price per meal adds up quickly.
For more information on how to lower food costs here are 6 ways to drastically cut your food budget and how we spent $1.25 a meal.
12. Coffee Drinks
While a mere cup of coffee at Starbucks or McDonalds might seem like a small insignificant purchase, it can quickly burn a hole through your budget month after month.
While I’m not much of a coffee drinker myself, my wife loves a good iced coffee in the morning. She has learned how to make a drink she loves for a fraction of what it would cost at the coffee shop.
We buy the whole bean Starbucks coffee at Costco, grind it at home with a Cuisinart Coffee Grinder, and then make it in a plastic Mueller French Press. The 2lb bag sells for $12 and it last several months.
To put it in to perspective, you could easily spend over $12 in 2 or 3 visits at coffee shop. She even bought a reusable plastic tumbler to put it in that she really enjoys. Simple, yet effective!
13. Subscription Services
Subscription services can both be a blessing and a curse. I could recommend a bunch to you and they could save you money or waste it. The point of this item is to review all your subscription services and see what you can get rid of.
Look through your last few statements and see what is being charged to you monthly, quarterly and even yearly. Review whether you use the product/service at all. Maybe you can reduce the package or get rid of it entirely.
Doing so could easily save you $100 a month or even more. Not doing so will continue to bleed you dry while trying to find a way to pay off debt.
It is worth it to review these expenses.
A great service to use to help you cancel old subscriptions and save on your monthly bills is Trim Savings. Trim is a virtual personal assistant that constantly works to save users money. Trim adds value in such ways as canceling old subscriptions, setting spending alerts, checking how much users spent on ride-sharing apps the previous month, and automatically fighting fees.
There are no sign-up fees with Trim. Their service is free when they cancel a subscription for you. When they successfully renegotiate a lower monthly payment/bill then they will take a percentage of the amount they save you.
14. Amazon Prime
I’m a fan of Amazon Prime. As Amazon is one of the largest companies in the world it offers lower cost items to us than if we bought them elsewhere.
Amazon Prime has also become another staple that our parents never had to budget for. It seems like everyone has a membership, but do you get the full value out of it?
It costs $119 a year or $12.99 paid over 12 months. Considering you get Prime Video and free second day shipping it seems like a good deal but that is only if you use it.
The intent of this is to not tell you it is or isn’t a good deal. That is for you to decide based on your circumstances. All I ask is that you review it rather than accept blindly that it is a good deal.
Mrs. Picky Pincher wrote this fantastic review on Amazon Prime and how it can help you. Check it out!
15. Too Much Cable Or TV
One of the big items we dropped right away when paying off our debt was to get rid of cable TV. At that time, it saved us $60 a month or $720 a year. We replaced it with Netflix and Hulu and our viewing needs were more than met.
Over time though we have gotten rid of each one for periods of time as we found we just didn’t watch them. Don’t be afraid to drop one if you aren’t watching them.
If you are too busy to make your own meals, then you are too busy to watch TV. Find a solution that both lowers your monthly payment and meets your needs based on the time you have available.
One tip is to look into Hoopla Digital App. You can stream TV and movies for FREE through your local library.
Also, if you still want live cable TV or sports but don’t want to pay the price of cable there is Sling TV. It runs as an app on your smart TV and even includes select local channels but verify per your area. There are 3 packages to choose from based on your viewing tastes starting at $25 a month. You can Try Sling TV free for 7 days and decide if it will work for you.
16. Too Much Internet
With the increased reliance on streaming services it is easy to understand the need for faster internet. As with most monthly payments, for $20 more a month you get much faster speeds. Very tempting when thinking about convenience.
One thing to realize is that it isn’t just the speed from the internet provider that matters. That’s right, both your modem and wireless router will affect the speed of your service too. If those devices can’t handle the speed of your internet, then it doesn’t matter how fast your service is.
Or, maybe to improve your speed, it is less of a service issue and more of an issue of needing a new modem or router.
Additionally, most companies provide multiple tiers of service.
My advice is to call the company up and lower your service to the tier below. If it gives you problems, then raise it back up, but at least you know. If it works for you then try lowering it again possibly.
We lowered our speed and have noticed no issues. This saved us about $15 a month.
Also, when talking to them, verify that your modem and router are still compatible if you are having problems. Buying a new router will save you more money than spending $15 a month more for higher speed.
17. Gym Memberships
Going along with monthly subscriptions, it is important to single out that gym membership. It seems so noble and responsible to have it, yet if you don’t use it, then it weighs on you in multiple ways.
If you use it, great, I’m not telling you to get rid of it, but do shop around.
If you don’t use it, then get rid of it because it is just making you feel bad. Work through the other aspects of your life and reexamine that issue later.
Just because you get rid of the membership doesn’t mean you have to give up the hope of exercising. There are ways to work out at home or even just walk 20 minutes a day. It is possible to work towards that goal without a gym membership.
Entertainment can get costly. This is certainly a broad category but one you should hold in check. This is where everyone says YOLO SSEYG or “You Only Live Once So Spend Everything You Got!”
Be intentional and identify what you like most about what you consider entertainment. If it is spending time with friends, then invite them over rather than going out. If it is going to the movies, then look for a local “movies in the park” that you can attend for free.
This is very specific to you but examine what you value and plan for it in your budget. Just get rid of the unnecessary stuff that makes it tougher to do what you really want.
Gifts can take a big toll on your monthly budget if not properly planned.
In addition to Christmas, birthday’s, baby showers, housewarming and wedding gifts you can drop a lot of money on gifts every year.
Here are some ways to reduce their impact.
- Agree with others to not give gifts for certain occasions.
- Take them out for a meal instead. This way you can count it as a meal out and you get to spend time together.
- Regift a gift card or item you received elsewhere.
- Buy a ‘used’ gift that is still new or unopened.
- Make gifts for each other, especially on Mother’s or Father’s Day.
We don’t want to be unnecessarily cheap or stingy, but let’s get creative and figure out how to reduce the burden of these gifts on your budget.
Your monthly utilities than cost you hundreds each month. Most likely you are looking at water, gas and electricity as your big-ticket items.
If you have a sprinkler system for your grass, put them on a timer and water in the middle of the night. That way the water will seep down into the ground before it dries up in the sun or heat. Therefore, less water is needed.
For the inside, use your ceiling fans or floor fans to stay cool. Keeping the air moving is just as critical as the temperature itself.
For heating, consider a space heater or more blankets.
There is a fine line with all of this, but there are some easy ways to lower the costs that will add up each month.
21. Health Products
Multivitamins can also add to our costs that feel necessary. The costs can add up and it might feel as though they are a requirement to healthy living.
Well, per some studies, that may not be that necessary and could be a waste of money.
Here is one article that is worth looking at.
I am only mentioning this and do not consider this as medical or health advice in any way shape or form. You need to determine what is best for you and your situation.
Looking at alcohol from a purely financial standpoint, it sure can get expensive at restaurants, concerts or sports events. It is a big reason why entertainment costs can get so high.
My suggestion with alcohol is to simply not order it when going out. You can save a lot of money doing that. Also, you don’t have to pay for the Uber or Lyft ride (no drunk driving) which also adds a few bucks.
If you do want to drink, then have some friends over and provide drinks from a store such as Total Wine & More. They have a killer selection and you can buy a 6 pack for what you would pay for one drink at a game or concert.
Then, your friends can spend the night, or they can Uber home, but it will be a much cheaper night for all. Probably less drama too!
23. Impulse Buying
As a way to catch all of the random expenses that might pop up over the month let’s look at impulse buying. This is the type of stuff that you didn’t plan for in your budget, yet it always seems to creep in.
A few tips for buying anything.
- Be critical and ask yourself if you really need it at that moment. Most likely you can wait until it is a better deal.
- Wait 72 hours before making a purchase. This will stop impulse buys and gives you a chance to sleep on whether you really need that item.
- Think about what else you could do with that money. Where else could it go? You could pay off debt, save it or put it towards a vacation.
The key to all of this is to be intentional and to know where each bit of your money is going. Get it all out there.
Use a budget tracker like Mint or this budget planner to do your monthly budget. Keep up with it and always be looking to squeeze a bit more out of it.
You don’t have to make each change all at once but do keep it at the forefront of your mind.
It is you alone who will benefit the most from it and you alone will reap the rewards.
About the gift thing, I make a lot of gifts, but I’m one of those people who enjoy crafting, so it works out. The key to making inexpensive gifts is to make multiples of the same gift. That way you don’t end up buying supplies for Uncle John’s gift then buying a whole new set of supplies for Aunt Sarah’s gift. I also like your dinner out idea, especially since that builds memories.
That is a great idea! I can’t believe I forgot to mention making gifts as an option too. That is a must and you are right about making multiples. Very smart! I need to add that in!
John @ MightyBargainHunter
We’re not Apple people but I love my Moto G4. I got the phone for about $200 with Republic Wireless, and it’s been great. It actually seems to work better than my wife’s Samsung Galaxy 7 (which she’s not really happy about haha!)
Thanks and yes, Republic Wireless is great as well. Glad to hear a recommendation on the Moto G4. Others should take note. We had a couple duds before our iPhones and even then we bought older technology to keep the cost down.
Thanks for the comprehensive list. I always buy off brand when I’m able – especially in the grocery store. The more difficult debate comes when deciding on products, where you really have to determine if there’s a quality improvement to consider. Any thoughts on how to assess durable goods?
Yeah, the best thing is being able to use the item first in my opinion. Maybe borrow it first if you can or ask any questions you might have. After that, you are stuck reading reviews and filtering the comments in a way that address your concerns. I do a fair amount of research on most items but it depends on the cost. Sometimes you just learn through experience for the cheaper items. For instance, can openers never last for us so we just have lower expectations for them now. I am always late when buying technology because I like to see how others like it first but that doesn’t work so well for smaller household goods like can openers.
Caroline at Costa Rica FIRE
I agree that many times we spend thoughtlessly and therefore overspend. I probably go the opposite direction where I don’t value enough the time and convenience over the money saved. But I’m a consultant so when I can save an hour and bill that hour it often exceeds what I would have saved by an hour of comparison shopping for a deal, for example. The trick is to be conscious on both sides of the equation — looking at income you can generate, as well as expenses you can trim.
I think you are right. Having more and more side hustles I see the benefit of spending less time on small items and more time on income producing items. It is a balance and we really just want to grow the gap between our expenses and income. Great insight! Thanks!