Regardless of your current financial health, finding ways to reduce unnecessary spending in your life can always be beneficial. Who wouldn’t want to save a bit more money for a vacation or cut back on unneeded expenses?
Before you can make cuts, you need to identify exactly where your money is coming from and going toward. Creating (or updating) a budget puts all your income and expenses into one place so you can identify what can be eliminated to put more money back in your pocket.
Identify your biggest budgetary weaknesses
After you’ve mapped out your budget, it’s time identify where you spend the most of your income, and consider how you might make trims. Here are a few of the most common large expenses for a household:
After housing, transportation is the biggest spending category among Americans. Reducing the cost of getting from place to place may take some planning ahead, but the savings can be well worth it. To reduce expenses on transportation, consider:
- Examining your car insurance: Are you paying a fair premium? If your driving habits have changed recently, reach out to your provider to see if you qualify for a lower monthly payment.
- Refinancing any auto loan payments: You might be missing out on a better rate on the car you bought years ago. Look into refinancing the loan to see if it may reduce the monthly payment.
- Biking or walking: Instead of driving a short distance, opt for a healthier option to save on gas. If you’re running errands a short distance away, walk instead of drive. It can benefit your physical and financial health!
Food itself is non-negotiable, but it can add up fast. Reducing the number of times you order takeout is an obvious first step, but even if you often make your own meals, you may be able to further reduce expenses by:
- Meal planning: Strategically shopping for specific meals may help you reduce excess purchases that add up over time. Meal planning can also help you bulk buy ingredients and use similar ingredients throughout the week.
- Growing a garden: During prime gardening season, a bountiful harvest can reduce your fruits and vegetables purchases, or cut them out entirely. Plan to have your seeds ready by the last frost in your area—typically mid-March for the Pacific Northwest.
- Clip coupons: Grocery deals are everywhere—you just have to be on the lookout for coupons. Keep them organized, and remember to bring them along with you next time you head to the grocery store.
Try lowering your bills
In any budget there are certain expenses that are either fixed or variable costs. A fixed cost stays the same over time, whereas a variable cost fluctuates. In addition to fixed and variable costs, some expenses are discretionary or non-essential.
It’s easy to put services and utilities into the “fixed” category, but don’t be so quick to write off these expenses as out of your control.
Negotiate with your service and utility providers
You may be able to lower how much you spend on bills by negotiating with your provider. This goes for streaming services, home insurance, electric, gas, internet services and more.
To negotiate with your utility providers, first gather some information, including:
- How long you’ve been a customer: The longer you’ve been with them, the more likely they’ll give you some leeway.
- How much money you give to them: The more valuable your account, the easier it may be to receive a discount.
- Who their competitors are: Knowing your options will give you more bargaining power.
Receiving lower rates on your bills may take some time, but patience and persistence can pay off in the form of lower bills in the long run.
Look for ways to reduce your use
If you aren’t able to cut down on utilities through negotiation, some changes in your personal habits can go a long way to reduce spending. Unplugging appliances and electronics when not in use will reduce your energy drain. Consider whether you need every streaming service you’re subscribed to – try canceling for a month or two and see whether it’s something you truly miss.
Consider a debt management plan
Even if you implement all the ideas above, debt (like credit cards, student loans, or car loans) can still make reducing expenses difficult. This can feel overwhelming, but a financial counselor may be able to help you come up with a plan that makes paying off your debt more manageable. Through our partnership with GreenPath Financial Wellness, OnPoint connects members to licensed financial counselors who help assess your entire financial picture (not just your OnPoint accounts) and identify options that make it easier to plan for a financially healthy future.
Consider all your options for reducing expenses
Finding unique ways to spend less and save more can be tricky, but carefully and regularly reviewing your expenses is the first step to stay financially fit. Explore more about budgeting, managing debt, and increasing your savings on the OnPoint blog.