6 Ways Your Budget Can Save You More Money
Your budget is made of three types of expenses: fixed, flexible and fun.
Fixed expenses are things like your mortgage payment, medical insurance, car tags and property taxes. There’s not a whole lot you can do about these. You need them, so you pay for them.
Then there are flexible expenses like cell phone service, grocery money and gas allowance. You need these too, but you have a little more control over how much you use each month. And the fun expenses? Well, you know what those are—your favorite restaurants and an occasional beachside getaway.
But what if you want to make room in your budget for something else? Maybe you want to plan an extra trip, or just put date nights back into your life. Here are a few ways to free up more money for the fun stuff you want to do.
1. Cell Phone. You’re probably spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $70–150 per month for multiple lines of unlimited talk, text and data. But how much of that are you really using? If you aren’t sure, check your online statement. Maybe just one user needs the unlimited plan.
How to Save: Data is usually your biggest expense. So if you’re barely using it or you’re always connected to Wi-Fi, reduce your bill with a prepaid or pay-as-you-go provider like TracFone or Ting. Plus, no contracts!
2. Groceries. You know all the grocery store tips: leave the kids at home, eat before you go, and buy generic. And you usually stick to your budget—until the middle of the week, when you have to make another food run to buy all the stuff you forgot. Oops.
How to Save: Our favorite way to save money on groceries is simply to make a meal plan before going to the store. Just by writing down exactly what ingredients you’ll need for all your breakfasts, lunches and dinners, you’ll eliminate expensive mid-week trips. No more wasting time, food or money.
3. Gasoline. We know carpooling isn’t practical every day. Sometimes, you need to run to the mall on your lunch break or pick up the kids after work. But chances are you can make it happen at least part of the week.
How to Save: Ask around the office and find out who lives near you. Catch a ride with them a couple days a week and return the favor the other two. This could extend your gas tank a whole week! And let’s not forget the awesomeness that is the HOV lane. Commuter heaven!
4. Subscriptions. Last summer, you signed up for the Health Nut snack box—an all-nuts-all-the-time subscription sampler. While you like Sriracha pecans and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts as much as the next person, it’s not really something you want to continue paying for each month.
How to Save: Figure out which subscriptions are automatically coming out of your bank account. (Think magazines and gym memberships.) Chances are there’s at least one you’re not using or not loving anymore. Cut it out and put that money into a lobster dinner instead. Bon Appétit!
5. Life Insurance. Cash value (or whole life) insurance is a popular choice because it’s an insurance policy and a savings plan rolled into one. But it’s also a seriously bad deal. Here’s why: If you look closely, that $178 per month you’re paying goes toward a lot of up-front fees and commissions. And the interest rates are notoriously low.
How to Save: Switching to term life insurance is a much better and less expensive option. Not only will you free up some money for fun (hundreds of dollars’ worth), but you’ll also get a much better return on your investments by putting your money in good growth stock mutual funds. In 20 years, you’ll be “self-insured” and no longer in need of life insurance.
6. Cable. Imagine spending $100 on a gourmet buffet. Now, imagine lifting each steaming lid to discover you hate everything—except for the mashed potatoes. Would you revisit the restaurant? Definitely not. That’s kind of what paying for cable is like. You buy tons of channels but only use a handful of them.
How to Save: Join the growing number of people cutting the cable cord. With great cable alternatives like Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV and free online channels you can mix and match and still pay less.
There’s no right or wrong way to trim your budget. So give it a good look and decide where you can find some flexibility. Because we could all use a little more fun in our lives!