Almost half of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and 69 percent have under $1,000 in savings. If you’re like most Americans, you have some expenses you could stand to cut, and you could probably use some extra cash in your budget. While decreasing expenses might seem unpleasant, there is a good chance there are several areas that you routinely spend on, which you wouldn’t even miss. The key is to find those areas which consistently bleed money from your budget while not contributing much to your standard of living. If you examine your bank statements, you might be surprised at all the little things you’ve been spending on without even realizing it!
Consider these ten areas as a starting point and a list of suggestions. Then use the same basic principle and apply it to your budget to see if there are any similar areas where you could make cuts. The extra money you save could provide the margin you need to have some financial peace of mind.
1. Excessive Holiday Spending
The holidays are a time when people traditionally overspend. Rampant market and advertising-driven consumerism have become all too prevalent in our culture. A simple, thoughtful gift is worth far more than an expensive one, and a thoughtless gift will likely be forgotten within days and even discarded. Stocking stuffers and filler gifts will often fall by the wayside in the shadow of the more thoughtful primary gifts. Try to avoid the pitfalls of buying gifts out of obligation or trying to buy love or replace quality time with gifts. Quality relationships are built with time, not money. Thoughtful gifts are appreciated far more in the long run and will be easier on your wallet too. “It’s the thought that counts.”
2. Movie Theater Food
If you have a habit of ordering snacks at the movie theater, you probably know the prices they charge are exorbitant. Theaters realize they can charge whatever they want because they sometimes enforce a monopoly within their walls. It isn’t hard to stop for a bite to eat right before you go to the theater, so you don’t go in hungry. You can always have a snack back in your pocket if you are prone to getting the munchies during the film. This could save you quite a bit of money if applied over time.
3. Landline Phones
If your family is like most families, you have several cell phones and use only them for communication. If you have landline phones today, chances are they mainly serve as a way for telemarketers to annoy you. Meanwhile, your telecommunications provider is changing you every month to maintain a service you get no use from. It may be time to get with the times and drop that landline. You might be “saving” by getting the landline as part of a bundle, but there is no such thing as a good deal on something you don’t need.
4. Your Cable Bill
Following on the tail of the previous point, your cable bill is also an area where you could probably stand to make some cuts. You might even be able to eliminate it. Chances are, your family watches more video content on their smartphones and tablets than they do on the TV, and when they do watch things on the TV, they are streamed online through a smart TV app such as Hulu, Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, or Amazon Prime Video. Even live sports can often be viewed through app subscriptions like NBA, NFL, ESPN and others. Cable tends to be a poor deal in more ways than one. The commercials, in particular, are an unnecessary relic of the past in an age where we can get our shows delivered without annoying interruptions thanks to services like Netflix.
Again, don’t let your cable company up-sell you into bundling to “save” money on services you don’t need. If you do decide you still want cable, consider cutting out all the channels except those you watch regularly.
5. “Free” Trials
The thing about “free” trials is that they usually aren’t free. Free trials very often ask for your payment information upfront, so they can charge you automatically as soon as the trial expires. If they are particularly savvy, as many companies are, they will give you a very long free trial, so you’ll become accustomed to the service and want to keep it. Worse yet, you may forget about the service and leave that subscription running in the background for years. That’s what they want, and that’s why they offer these free trials. So next time, say no. If you have any services that started as free trials which you no longer use, consider cutting them out of your budget by canceling them.
6. Soda or Alcohol With Meals
Soda and alcohol are categories where people frequently spend a lot more money than they realize regularly. If you have a habit of ordering a drink or an alcoholic beverage with your meal every time you eat out, this could end up costing you quite a bit of money each month. As with the latte habit below, these little impulse expenses add up and could be quite substantial.
7. Coffee Shop Lattes
If you have a daily or frequent habit of stopping at a coffee shop chain for breakfast or a latte, that habit is likely costing you a lot more than you think. Let’s say, for example, that you buy a single latte from Starbucks every morning on your way to work. That latte probably costs around $5. That costs you $150 per month of your salary. You could almost lease a new car with that. The solution? Invest once in a nicer coffee setup at home or the office and make yourself whatever you want.