When it comes to reducing expenses, a lot of people are like Darwin’s Ape. That’s a famous sculpture of an ape sitting on a stack of books and holding a human skull.
It is scratching its chin and staring at the skull, seemingly perplexed at what this funny-looking thing is.
That’s not to say people are dumb as a monkey when it they ponder how to cut expenses. But oftentimes, the answer is right in front of them.
There are dozens of ways to save money each month. It can take a little effort figuring out how to reduce expenses on things like transportation, insurance premiums, phone and cable bills, but the result usually is less strife in your life and that’s a good thing for anyone.
Unfortunately, there’s no way around the fact that saving money requires effort and sacrifice. But there are side benefits to some of the tips below, like a healthier lifestyle. And there are main benefits, like getting out of debt and taking control of your life.
If you’re wondering where to start, here are 10 ways to cut expenses and save money. After staring at them for a while, all you’ll need to do is stop monkeying around and get to work on making them part of your new lifestyle.
1. Cut back and/or bundle phone and Internet services
Three necessities of modern life are phone, TV and internet service. They can be bought separately or bundled, and the costs vary wildly. Figuring out the best deal takes effort since the monthly bills are full of cryptic charges seemingly designed to baffle customers into submission. But buckle down and decide what you really need as far as data capacity and TV channels, then shop around for the best bundle or individual service. Many people have gotten rid of cable TV altogether. They use an old-fashioned antenna for free local broadcasts and find a low monthly internet rate for computer purposes. Then they get a $20-a-month to a service like Sling TV, an online service that offers access to cable channels like ESPN and CNN. That could save you $1,000 or more a year. There are even cheaper TV alternatives (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) and shopping around for cell phone service can save you another $25-$50 a month.
2. Stop being a pet lover
I’m not saying get rid of your cat or dog. But if you’re thinking about getting one, hold off until you’re out of debt. And if you have one, you don’t have to treat it like the Queen of England. Adopting a pet from an animal shelter cost $50 to $100, and that’s just the start. Between food and veterinarian care, you’re looking at $500 a year. And that’s if you treat Fido like a mutt.
If you want to treat your dog or cat like you’d want to be treated, you’ll need to throw in toys, flea-and-tick treatments, grooming and a nice bed. That can add up to $1,500 to $2,000 a year. If you want to treat your pet like royalty, you’ll shovel money for stuff like teeth cleanings, professional training, boarding and even $2,000 cataract surgery when they get old. All told, the annual cost could be $10,350, according to Petfinder.com. You can spend 1/10th of that and Fido will still love you.
3. Watch what you eat
If you’re ever debating whether to eat out or eat at home, don’t start your car. The cost of food prepared at home dropped 0.5% in 2016, while the price of eating out increased 2.7%. A 2017 report by the U.S. Department Agriculture predicts those trends will continue. In terms you can really sink your teeth into, that means the rotisserie chicken dinner with vegetables you get in a restaurant for $12.95 (not counting tip and beverage) will cost you about $6.50 at home. When you go the grocery store, go prepared. Studies have shown almost 70% of purchases are impulse buys, so make a list beforehand and stick to it. And use coupons. The U.S Consumer Packaged Goods marketers says consumers can save $30 to $50 a week using coupons for food, clothing, tobacco and household items. Also, never go to the grocery store hungry. Your stomach will overpower your brain and you’ll spend more than you need.
4. Consolidate your debt and lower interest fees
The average U.S household with credit card has a balance of $16,425, and the average interest rate is 16.49%. That means Americans are throwing away millions of dollars each month on interest charges, while they overpay with a credit card for that third big-screen TV. Call your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate. If you find yourself overwhelmed by monthly bills, call a nonprofit credit counseling agency and consider enrolling in a debt management program. Counselors will consolidate your expenses and work with lenders to lower your interest charges. You then make one monthly payment to the non-profit, which distributes the funds to lenders. Counselors will also set up a budget that will get you out of debt.
5. Reduce Electricity Use
Electricity can be expensive, but it’s not like there is another option unless you want to live like the Unabomber in a one-room shack cut off from the world. What is optional is how much electricity you choose to waste. A few simple steps will save you money: Two inefficient light bulbs use the same amount of electricity as a large computer, so get energy-efficient light bulbs and turn off when not in use. Avoid “Vampire drain,” which is the power that is slowly sapped by electronics (stereos, workout equipment, kitchen appliances) that are infrequently used. Just unplug them until they are needed. Air conditioning is the biggest power users, so don’t keep your thermostat at sub-freezing temperatures. Use fans to circulate air. Insulate your windows to cut down on heat radiation. Turn off preprogrammed utilities, like the AC, heating and sprinkler system. Many times they kick on when they are not really needed.
6. Grow a Garden
If you’ve ever been down the Produce aisle at Whole Foods, you know how expensive vegetables can be, especially if you want organic ones. No one is suggesting you buy a tractor and become a farmer, but growing a garden is surprisingly easy and rewarding. The start-up costs are basically just garden soil, a few tools and seeds for the basics like carrots, peppers, tomatoes, berries and squash. There is wealth of Do-It-Yourself information available for free on the internet. Not only will you have the old-time satisfaction that comes with producing much of what you eat, Business Insider magazine estimates the average family could save up to $24,000 a year on food expenses. That’s a savings anyone can sink their teeth into.
7. Stop Smoking
Speaking of getting healthier, here’s an obvious one. But after decades of Surgeon General’s Warnings, a lot of people still haven’t gotten the message. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,200 people younger than 18 smoke their first cigarette every day. Just to rub the disturbing facts home – cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S., including 41,000 from second-hand smoke exposure. If the thought of killing yourself or people around you isn’t enough to make you quit, consider this: The average national price of a pack of cigarettes was $6.16 in the first quarter of 2017. If you smoke a pack a day that means you’re spending $185 a month on death sticks. That’s $2,248 a year going up in smoke. So if a person starts at age 18 and doesn’t kick the habit until they were 50, they would have spent (assuming the price doesn’t go up, which it will) almost $72,000 on cigarettes. I think I’d rather have a nice BMW.
8. Reduce Your Insurance Premiums
Insurance is a lot like cable and cell phone bills. It takes an I.Q. of 170 and/or dogged determination to figure out all the confusing charges. Here are a few simple tips: Shop through an independent agent, who will compare prices and policies. It’s often cheaper to bundle auto and home insurance through one company. Raise your deductibles if possible. The difference in monthly premiums between a $250 deductible and a $500 can be substantial. Driving less (or better yet, carpooling) will reduce your car insurance rates because the less you drive, obviously, the less chance you have of getting into an accident. If your car is old and paid for, eliminate the costly collision coverage. Buy term life instead of whole life insurance. The premiums are much lower.
9. Get Around More Wisely
Most people can’t live without a car. But if you can, do it! The annual cost to operate an average sedan was $8,558 in 2016, according to the American Automobile Association. That was 57 cents per mile, or $713 a month. Even if you must have a car, and most of us do, use public transportation whenever possible. A lot of people don’t necessarily like riding buses all over town, but most light-rail operations are clean, safe and direct. The rise of rideshare services like Uber and Zipcar have also made it easier to live car-free. And if you have an automobile, try to carpool as often as possible. Or better yet, get around on a bike. You’ll not only save money, you’ll get healthier.
10. Stop spending for One Weekend
This is a two-day course of action that could lead to a lifetime of savings. Try to go an entire Saturday and Sunday without buying anything. Eat what’s already in your refrigerator or the pantry. Drink what’s in the liquor cabinet. Instead of going to a movie, watch one on TV or read a book or take your kids to a park or play board games with your family. Not only will you save money, you might discover some of the better things in life really are free.
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(NA)(ND). Fast facts on smoking from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/
(Cole, S.)(2013, Sept. 4). Why You Should Not Tithe. Retrieved from https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-4-why-you-should-not-tithe-selected-scriptures
(NA)(ND) Annual Dog Care Costs. Retrieved from https://www.petfinder.com/pet-care/