Everyone says that sticking to your budget is “as simple as not spending more than you make.” But we all know it’s not that simple these days. Between debt obligations, increasing costs, and under-employment or under-payment, it’s tough to strike a healthy balance between income and expenses. Today we’ll explore ways to reduce your monthly expenses to try to stick within your budget. These focus on things you can do when you’re not a homeowner.
Ten Ways to Reduce Your Monthly Expenses
1. Think of Your Phone and Internet Together
If you’re not doing anything intensive on your computer (like playing MMOGs or something), consider dumping your standard internet service. Use your cell phone as a hotspot instead. In most areas, you can still stream video at good speeds on your network and use both the phone and the computer at the same time. You can even watch regular TV via the many services now available online. This can help to reduce your monthly expenses by over $100 per month or $1,200 per year.
2. Evaluate Your Phone Plan
While we’re on the topic of cell phones, you may be paying for a lot of unused phone plan. Most carriers push you to take an unlimited plan. These unlimited offerings cater to customers who do not want to be hit with overage charges. That’s all well and good, but chances are that you wouldn’t hit an overage charge anyway. Take a look at how much you actually use your phone for minutes (talk time), text messages, and data then select a plan which meets your needs. If you’re keeping your standard internet service, use its wi-fi to decrease your mobile network data usage. That way you can take a smaller data plan from your carrier. Even if it will only reduce your monthly expenses by $10, that’s still over $100 a year.
3. Reduce Subscriptions
Stop paying for multiple, overlapping services. For instance, if you have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, consider dropping at least one of them. You can always restart them later to binge-watch your favorite, exclusive series then cancel again. There’s no point in paying for them all year to watch for a day or two.
Haven’t used that gym membership in a while? Cancel it. Most gyms have some sort of penalty for canceling so do check your contract. If you talk to them about the fact that you haven’t been using the membership, the rep may be able to negotiate on the penalty. If you’re living with someone else who has a membership, see if you can go as a guest with them rather than having to have your own account. Bonus: you both get a gym buddy!
4. Consolidate Balances on Credit Cards
Having substantial balances on multiple credit cards means having to make multiple, substantial minimum payments every month. Call your credit card companies to see if they are offering and special deals for balance transfers specifically. These are very common and can save you a lot in the long term.If one of your cards has a high enough credit limit (and especially if they can give you a 0% APR for this), transfer balances from other cards onto that one. There is usually an up-front charge of 3-5% of the amount transferred so only do this if it will save you more in interest than that fee.
5. Talk to Your Credit Card Companies
In addition to balance transfer offers, there are other things you can ask credit card companies about that can save you money. First of all, ask for a lower interest rate. They are more likely to accommodate such a request if you have been paying on time consistently. Second, ask what other products or offers you might qualify for. Some possibilities might be cards that give a statement credit for paying on time or increased cash-back rates. Finally, check to see if you have rewards waiting for you. All those points can tally up to some good credits or fun stuff.
6. Get a Consolidation Loan
Personal loans can be a great way to consolidate multiple credit card bills or other small loans into a single monthly payment. This once again means paying fewer minimums and can give some additional liquidity. Loan interest rates are usually lower than credit card APRs, saving you interest over time. Plus, loans come with the added benefit of a set payoff date. Make your regular payments on time and you know you’ll be out of that debt at the end of the term.
In addition to regular banks, there are some non-traditional financing options for loans. These help if your bank cannot qualify you for a loan in one of their programs. Check out Prosper.com as an alternative.
7. Consolidate Student Loans
Consolidation loans specifically for student debt can come with even better interest rates than personal loans. Check the rates on your existing student loan and the current rates on offer from various providers to determine if this will help you. Sofi tends to have good student loan consolidation rates or check with LendingTree or Student Loan Hero to compare multiple available rates at once. The amount by which this will reduce your monthly expenses varies based on how much you consolidate and the difference between the old and new interest rates.
8. Plan Meals
Groceries tend to be the last thing on the budgeting list – getting whatever is left over once the other bills are paid. But this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, planning your meals can mean saving quite a bit over the course of the month. You don’t have to join a fancy meal planning service to do this. Just plan a few meals you’re going to make for the week and also plan on eating leftovers. If you’re really savvy in the kitchen, you can spread some of the ingredients between recipes to maximize the usage of what you buy. It’s common to see this reduce your monthly expenses by $50 or more per person eating, leading to $600 per year in savings.
9. Be Energy Conscious
Turn off lights when you leave rooms. Unplug things that are not in use but that keep a charge (for instance, anything that displays a time). Even stuff that doesn’t have a display may be sucking up electricity when plugged in (e.g. toasters, coffee makers, DVD players). Let your home get a couple of degrees warmer in the Summer or drop a couple of degrees colder in the Winter. If you can afford them, get LED light bulbs instead of regular ones (you can replace them over time) and plug stuff into timers. All these little things can add up to big savings on monthly electric and gas bills.
10. Shop for Insurance
Every once in a while, check that you’re getting the best rate on your renters, auto, or health insurance. If you’re a good driver, live in a safe neighborhood, and are generally healthy, consider increasing your deductibles. The deductible only applies if you have an incident and plays a big part in how your monthly premium gets calculated. The higher a deductible you carry, the lower the monthly premium. It does mean that you would have to pay more out-of-pocket if something happens so weigh the risks before deciding to take this step to reduce your monthly expenses.
Check Back for More
This is just the first part in a series on how to reduce your monthly expenses. Comment below if you have other ideas and keep an eye out for new articles coming soon.