I mentioned in my last post that a “slow and steady” approach to saving is the most beneficial way for us to prepare for our long-term financial future. However, there’s another, equally gradual thing that we can do to help our family finances stay balanced: cutting expenses. This is important because even saving twenty dollars a month can add up fast, and losing track of twenty dollars a month can really end up hurting your situation if you’re not careful.
I want to look at ways that we can cut expenses without cutting back too much on our current lifestyle. As long as we’re not going too crazy with the spending right now, this isn’t as hard as it might sound!
Some of the biggest areas where families have to spend money are in mortgage or rent payments, transportation, food, and clothing needs. Obviously, getting a cheaper house or a more gas-efficient car can help you spend less money, but let’s look at the simpler things first.
Many people believe that you spend less money on food when you have a plan for your meals, and the evidence seems to support that, with some people claiming they’ve seen up to a 50% reduction in their grocery bills!
Taking a little bit of time to figure out what your family will eat in the coming week or two lets you shop more effectively; you know exactly what you’ll need for the recipes or simple meals that you’ve planned, and you won’t have to buy a lot of stuff in the hope that you’ll get enough meals out of it. Planning helps you waste food less. If you’re willing to put more time into it, you can even research what types of recipes, food choices, and stores will be the cheapest. Like with a lot of other things in life, planning ahead with your grocery shopping is worth the time it takes!
If you want to make the planning even easier, there are plenty of helpful websites online that have pre-made lists of meal ideas on a budget. If you want a place to start, try somewhere like http://www.allyou.com/food/budget-meal-planning.
Other ways to save money on groceries are, of course, coupons and sales, which can also be found or researched online quite easily.
The “MoneyTalksNews” website says that Americans spend on average $1,700 a year on clothing and accessories. Since this is probably more than we need to be spending, the website also offers helpful tips on reducing that cost. Here’s a few of them that I thought were especially helpful; the rest can be found through this link: http://www.moneytalksnews.com/23-tips-for-saving-money-on-clothing/
- Buy out of season. You can always find discount winter clothes once spring has come around again, and with a little planning ahead, you can get ready for the next year’s winter at a much lower cost!
- Buy clothes that fit now. Sure, you’re probably planning to lose some weight (a lot of people are, me included), but as the website points out, it’s a big gamble to buy something a couple sizes too small in the hope that you’ll fit into it later. It’s safer (and more comfortable) to buy things that you’ll use now.
- Hem your own clothes instead of going to an expensive tailor. I think that this applies to all types of clothing repairs; if at least one person in the house knows how to do basic sewing repairs or changes, the family can save a lot of money by fixing or repurposing old clothes as something new.
- For women, the site suggests that you shop in the men’s section if you need something unisex, like a hoodie. While I’d never have thought of this, it’s true that men’s or children’s clothing is usually priced cheaper than women’s. Fair? Probably not. But good to be aware of!
That’s some of the stuff that’s helped other families cut their expenses. Try out a few of these ideas, and see if they work for you!
—Sam Watson, Editor, Stance