- Personal Finance
Easy Ways to Save $3500 in Household Expenses this Year
This article contains seven tips, tricks, and ideas for saving an amazing $3500 in household expenses each year. These cost cutting ideas originated from my habit of writing down all of my purchases in a little spiral bound notebook I carry in my back pocket. Every Saturday I take the notebook to my computer and enter the information into an Excel spreadsheet. In January I review my total expenses for the previous year and see what items stand out as being high. The seven money saving ideas listed below came from my latest year-end review. I have implemented several of them, while others are still in the review and discussion stage. Hopefully, they can help you trim your expenses as well.
I highly recommend this discipline of tracking and recording expenses as a way to help reduce spending. When I first read about this practice, I thought it sounded like too much effort and concluded that there was no way I could do it day in and day out. However, I kept at it and after ten years it has become second nature to the point where it feels odd when I don’t log my expenses after more than a week. I also noticed it keeps me from lying to myself. When I don’t have a good sense of my spending I have found that I can easily tell myself that it’s okay to buy this new magazine, hardcover book, gadget, or whatever and end up on a slippery slope that busts my monthly budget. This whole process has been made even easier with the advent of smart phones, apps, and web programs like Mint.com. However, I think I'll still stick to my little notebook.
1) Give up Coffee
This idea is probably sacrilegious to most of you. However, my annual expense review revealed that I spend $47 per month on coffee. This amount includes the couple of trips to Starbucks each week and also coffee purchased at the grocery store for my morning fix. Amazingly, my drink of choice was black coffee and never the more expensive options like espresso or frappuccino. I can’t imagine what my monthly cost would have been if I had acquired a taste for these more elaborate drinks. My health also factored into this one because I noticed that coffee seemed to really kick in acid reflux for me. I started to become concerned about the long term health consequences of this and wanted to see if eliminating coffee from my diet would get rid of the problem. So, I decided to give up coffee and what made this seemingly impossible task easier was the thought that I could save $564 a year by doing it. I won't lie, I do miss my coffee, but kicking the habit hasn’t been as bad as I first thought and as a bonus my acid reflux symptoms have subsided. Annual savings: $564
2) Skip Restaurant Beverages
My wife and eat out twice per week. When I started to see the cost of Diet Coke’s at restaurants, about $2.50 a pop, I realized that financially it would be best if I just asked for water instead. By going out twice a week we eat out 104 times per year and at $2.50 a drink that comes to $260 each year. This one has been pretty easy to implement. Annual savings: $260
3) Get Rid of Cable TV
This one is also humdinger for many, but it is worth considering. I currently pay $81 per month for cable as part of a “cheap” bundle package from my beloved cable provider and I mainly watch it for sports. I have a tough time with the thought of letting cable go, but there are so many other options for televised entertainment it might not be as bad as I imagine. I could get a Roku and watch streaming internet based content like YouTube and Hulu on my television, open a Netflix account for $8 per month and have access to all their movies and shows, and for sports there is WatchESPN which allows viewing of all of the ESPN channels for free through the internet. One of my friends connects his laptop to his TV with an HDMI cable, brings up WatchESPN on the screen, and easily satisfies his sports habit. I haven't cut the cable chord yet, but with the estimated savings I am seriously thinking about it. Annual savings: $972
4) Get Rid of the Land Line
This is another tough one for me. Mainly out of some ancient, deep seated fear, I still feel our household needs to have a land line phone, but the only time I use it is on Sundays to talk to my parents and for the possible 911 call. All of my other calls go through my cell phone. This luxury currently costs $46.50 per month. However, there appear to be some interesting options for replacing the land line with VIOP services like Ooma or OBi110, shown in the box on the right. They require an upfront hardware cost , but once you pay for it the phone service goes through your internet connection and you can use your house phone like normal. With the newer products, you don’t even need to have your computer on for it to work. Annual savings: $558
5) Cut the Grocery Bill by 10%
The secret to this one is just being smarter and more vigilant about shopping. We pay $285 per month in groceries and my goal is to cut this 10%. With this one, I'm looking at several options that can each save a few dollars a week. For example, there are two local stores that have great BOGO sales. This week my deodorant and favorite spaghetti sauce went on sale, so I’ll buy a few extra of these items. The stores typically repeat sales on a regular basis so I can usually anticipate when my merchandise will go on sale and can wait to buy it. Couponing is another way to save, but I won’t get crazy and buy an item I don't like just because I have a coupon. I will stick to the items I normally purchase and, hopefully, I can cut about $2 to $3 per week off the grocery bill. Another avenue is substituting generic versions for brand names. I have learned that some generic items are not very good, like peanut butter or Oreo cookies, so I will stick with the brand names, but for other things like saltines or canned vegetables the generic version is perfectly acceptable. Hopefully, practicing these three options will cut the grocery bill by $28.50 per month. Annual savings: $342
6) Stay in for Lunch During the Workday
I got into the habit of going out to lunch every work day. Not to buy lunch, which I always brought to work, but to drive around, or go shopping, or stop at Best Buy to check out the latest tablets or cameras. However, I started to look at how much I was driving each day during these little sojourns, and discovered it ranged from 10 to 20 miles! So, on average I was putting 15 unnecessary miles on my car every day. My car gets about 22 miles per gallon and there are 230 work days per year so the math comes out to a shocking 3450 miles and 157 gallons of gas per year. At $3.50 per gallon of gas, this comes to a staggering $549 a year. Instead of going out I will either eat my lunch in the cafeteria, take a walk, read at my desk, or talk to my coworker. Annual savings: $549
7) Eat Out One Less Time Per Month
As I mentioned earlier, my wife and I eat out roughly twice a week and the average meal for us runs about $25. So, if we can cut back on one of these trips a month, and replace it with a meal at home, we could save another $300 per year. Annual savings: $300
Add the savings together from these seven ideas and it comes to an amazing $3549 per year or almost $300 per month. Some of these tips are not easy to implement, but if you need to save some money, they may be worth a try.