In the third part of our Money Saving Tips series, we discuss simple ways to cut living expenses. Even small changes to your daily spending habits can have a surprisingly big impact towards saving money (and reducing debt). From the foods you eat, transportation you use and utilities that keep you comfortable, everyday expenses can be cut in ways that won’t affect your lifestyle. A simple way to reduce living expenses is to diligently record all your monthly spending. By listing where all your money goes each month, you’ll quickly find ways to reduce your cost of living. The following are some other tips to help reduce living expenses.
Spend Less on Housing
The largest expense in most household budgets is the cost of housing. While mortgages are typically regarded as an uncompromising agreement, it is possible to renegotiate the terms of an existing mortgage to pay less. A simple one percent reduction can mean a substantial savings and make paying the bill a little easier. This is particularly true for those with high rates due to less than stellar credit scores. Refinance to a lower rate to not only pay less each month but to shorten the time it will take to pay off the loan.
For renters, the easiest way to lower your monthly payment is to just ask for it. Don’t hesitate to ask for a shorter lease period, lower security or pet deposit and discounts on utilities, parking, cable or Internet. Your landlord may be willing to cut you a deal, especially if you’re a long-term, responsible tenant.
Spend Less When You Shop
Perhaps the easiest expense to make noticeable cuts to is the food you eat. Begin by buying more store brand and generic products; the difference in price can be surprisingly high. For those national brands that you can’t do without, use a coupon, whenever possible. Make only one trip to the grocery store each week with a prepared list that you stick to. Plant a garden to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables during the summer season.
Prepare and eat most of you meals at home. Eating out and fast food jaunts can do a great deal of damage to your food budget. Dining out should be for special occasions and become a treat.
Developing the habit of bargain shopping by checking out sales and clearance racks will help you cut expenses even more. Take advantage of two-for-one sales, but carefully consider deals that require multiple purchases to be sure you aren’t buying impulsively or in excess.
Lower the Utilities Bill
The utilities that make life comfortable can take a big bite out of your budget, if left unattended. By conserving energy (turning off lights, washing a full load of laundry, etc.), you’ll be saving money at the same time. There are hundreds of ways that a household can cut utilities. Just to name a few:
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFLs.
- Strategically use programmable timers and thermostats to turn on and off appliances.
- Turn off your computer; unplug electric power cords for cell phones.
- Enroll in utility company budget plans.
- Hang clothes to dry, whenever possible.
- Weather proof your home with insulation, caulking and energy efficient windows.
Reduce Transportation Costs
Cutting travels costs depends a great deal on where you live and what type of public transportation is offered. Taking the train or bus to work saves on gas, car maintenance and repairs and parking expenses. Carpooling is the next best thing, if public transit isn’t available. And the debate over whether to lease or buy a car is won out by purchasing one; the money saved when it is owned outright cannot be recouped when you lease a vehicle.
No matter how incidental you think small cuts will mean to the bottom line of saving money, cutting back will make a difference. But it will require dedication and effort to reap the benefits.
* Problems with debt? Consider a reputable debt relief service…