Many Americans feel like there isn’t enough money at the end of the month. If you are struggling to get from paycheck to paycheck, you’re not alone. While part of the problem is that there isn’t enough money coming in, it could also indicate that you need to evaluate your spending habits. If you consistently break your budget, here are seven painful but necessary home budget cuts that could keep you on track to your savings goals.
7 Painful but Necessary Home Budget Cuts
Although many of these address personal spending habits, budgeting is much more than that. It looks at every possible way to reduce how much money you are spending each month. Here are seven ways you could hold on to more of your hard-earned cash.
1. Stop Using Your Credit Cards.
The average American family has more than $6,000 of credit card debt. And with an average of 20% APR, you can easily understand how interest charges can sink your budget. If you stop using your credit cards completely, you will immediately stop yourself from going further into debt.
Restricting yourself to cash-only transactions also makes you more aware of your spending habits. Not only will you be able to pay down your debt faster, but you will also create more responsible spending habits as you go forward.
2. Review Your Monthly Subscriptions.
Part of creating your monthly budget is determining how much you spend each month. As you review your expenses, pay attention to how much you spend on memberships and subscriptions. If you have too many, stop paying for services you don’t use. Decide which ones you can’t live without and which ones have to go.
The first painful but necessary home budget cuts for our household were subscription boxes, print media, streaming and gaming services, cable TV, buying clubs, and gym memberships. However, we were able to substitute some of these for free services available online. Those that stayed were part of bundled deals that saved us money each month.
3. Look for Free Entertainment Options.
For me, this has always been the most painful, but necessary, of the home budget cuts. I enjoy going out and socializing, but my wallet does not. If you are living on a strict budget, look for free venues where you can spend time with family and friends. Parks, libraries, and museums usually sponsor free public events throughout the year. Keep an ear to the ground for free historical walking tours, live outdoor concerts, and art expos in your city.
If you prefer to stay home with your loved one, find fun activities you can do together. Movie nights, game nights, trivia nights, and potlucks are always crowd-pleasers in my social group.
4. Slash Your Food Budget.
Another difficult budget cut was the food bill. In addition to giving up pricey snacks and treats, I also stopped eating out, picking up drive-through food, ordering delivery, doing coffee runs, and buying bottled water. Everyone always says it’s cheaper to prepare your meals and coffee at home. And, they’re right. I saved nearly $200 each month with meal preps and grocery lists. Not only did I save money by not wasting food or buying ingredients I already had, but I also was eating healthier.
Another pro tip for optimizing your food budget is choosing recipes with cheap ingredients. Plan meals with produce that is in season. Avoid exotic items since they can get expensive. Also, look for discounts and coupons in local mailers and online. Bypass the brand names for their generic counterparts. And, of course, buy in bulk when possible.
5. Buy Second-Hand.
For the budget-conscious, avoid paying full price whenever possible. From clothing to cars, learn to love shopping for second-hand items. Although you may want the latest gadgets or specific name brands, buying gently used items can save you a ton of cash.
It’s also important to avoid unnecessary temptations to spend. Steering clear of online shopping and retail stores are painful but necessary home budget cuts when you need to make drastic changes.
6. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies.
Did you know there was another alternative to the harsh chemicals and branded cleaning supplies? You can save a ton each month by making your own natural cleaning supplies with vinegar, baking soda, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide. These simple and inexpensive cleaners can take on the toughest of cleaning tasks.
You can also stop wasting money on paper towels and use newspapers for glass surfaces. Not only does it save you money, but it actually is much more effective in leaving glass streak-free.
7. Find Even More Ways to Downsize.
Once you have eliminated unnecessary expenses and reduced monthly fees, the next step in budget cuts is downsizing. Review your cell phone, internet, streaming, and cable services to see if you can bundle them or downsize them to a cheaper package. If your monthly car payment is killing you, downsize it to an older or more fuel-efficient model to save money. And, for those who rent, look at cheaper options to reduce your monthly budget.
However, if you need to downsize even further, it’s time to look at your personal possessions. If you pay for a storage unit, downsizing could save you the monthly rental fee. And, selling large or valuable items could bring a good price and provide cash to pay other bills.
Tips to Make Home Budget Cuts Easier
Learning to live on a budget takes some time to adjust. This is especially true if you have never lived on a budget before. However, there are a few ways you can make it easier to adapt.
- Stay focused on your goals, and remind yourself what you’re working toward. All your hard work and effort will pay off once you reach them.
- Start with the easy budget cuts that you have no problem letting go of. Then, work your way up to the more painful but necessary home budget cuts.
- Remember, consistent efforts pay off. So, set short-term and long-term goals. And, don’t forget to celebrate every victory along the way.
- Finally, look for ways to boost your income. Every little bit helps!
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.