Updated: Sep 1, 2018
An exercise in cutting costs showed me all the areas I was leaking money.
I’ve recently been forced to examine my budget more closely. My husband and I will be losing a portion of our annual income and while it won’t be catastrophic, it was worth taking a close look at how we’re spending our money to ensure we’re doing the best we can.
What we found surprised me.
I thought I was amazing with money. In fact, people often ask me for personal finance advice! So I figured there’d be nothing to fix, right?
I actually found several areas that I was wasting a little – or a lot – more than I should have been.
Nothing was over the top, it was just a few things that I’d never really spent a few extra minutes investigating and just assumed it was as good as it could be. What I found added up to about $4,000 that I will save over the next 6 months.
I’m going to share a few things I found in hopes it encourages you to take a look at your budget and see if you can find any areas to get extra cash.
1. I got clear on my goals.
Again, I thought I was great at this. I knew I wanted to save money, start investing money, and also pay off my debt. Such ambition, such little specificity .
I decided to get more clear on the specific amounts I wanted to save and invest and when I wanted to pay off my loans (based on how much money I actually had available to do that), and then I decided to push myself a little and cut back on a few other things to increase those numbers even more.
I also found ways to automate my savings. Ever heard of Qapital? It’s an amazing way to save money without realizing it. I’ve “accidentally” saved nearly $800 in the last couple months, just by setting up a few rules within the app. I set up a rule that says “Anytime I spend less than $25 a week at Starbucks, save that leftover money.” And you know what? It’s the first thing that’s actually worked to help me cut back on my Starbucks spending. You can also set up rules to save money when you reach your step count, get enough sleep, get paid, or you can just set up automatic deposits every day/week/month.
6 Month Savings = $1600. I’ve saved $800 in the last 3 months, just by setting up a few rules to save a few dollars here and there, and plan to maintain that pace (if not increase it!)
2. I re-evaluated my car insurance.
I feel like a Geico commercial lately, because I say this all the time but really – I just saved 45% or more on my car insurance.
I discovered Root via an Instagram ad, and was compelled by the concept. Root is car insurance that only insures the best drivers, and does so at a lower cost. How can it tell if you’re a “good driver”? The app has some fancy technology that actually measures your driving for about a month (in my case).
Honestly, I was mostly intrigued because I wanted to see if I actually was a good enough driver. I spent about a month “test driving” with the app, until it gave me a score (8 out of 10, by the way) and then a quote on car insurance.
It was nearly half the price of what I was paying for State Farm. For the SAME EXACT PLAN. Same coverage, same perks. Half the price.
I even got State Farm to check because I was convinced I was missing something – they agreed it was a better price for essentially the same product!
6 Month Savings = $600 on my semi-annual insurance.
3. I switched my bank.
I never expected much out of my savings account. I just assume that money is there and I’m lucky to get a few pennies each year. After all, it’s not like there’s anything better.
You probably assume this, too. But like me – you’re wrong.
I switched to online banking with Capital One, and my checking account in Capital One has .2% APY. This is 20x more than my Savings account that had .01% APY.
As if that wasn’t good enough, I found a high interest savings account with Synchrony Bank that has a 1.66% APY. That is over 100x what my current savings account had. I repeat… over 100 times!!
Sure, that 1.66% isn’t going to make me a millionaire, but I’d happily collect 100x more than I’m currently collecting. So yep I switched. Took me all of about 30 minutes of work and a few days of waiting for money to transfer.
And I know what you’re thinking – are there fees and minimums?? Nope! Not for Capital One Checking, nor for Synchrony Savings.
6 Month Savings = Let’s say $50. Kinda hard to estimate this exactly.
4. I cut the chord.
You’re probably thinking, “Well this should have been your first step years ago… You’re a millennial. Why do you still have cable?!”
Excellent question. It’s because I’m married to a man who can’t live without his sports.
If you find yourself in this situation, you too might be thinking there’s no chance for you. But there is.
We looked at Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV – both of which have options to live stream sport channels. Eventually we went with Hulu TV and cancelled our cable. We’re saving $50 each month now, and still getting all the sports we need. (Still too many sports if you ask me
6 Months Savings = $300 ($50 a month).
5. I cut back on grocery shopping
I’m a stellar planner. In fact, I might put Leslie Knope to shame. (No, that’s true… no one could do that.) But I failed in the meal planning arena. Hard core.
This usually resulted in last minute trips to CVS and Kroger and every time you go to pick something up, you pick up a few more things along the way that you really weren’t planning on.
“Argh! I’m out of soy sauce! I’ll be back.”
Returns with soda, chips, cookies, chicken that was on sale, and soy sauce.
I decided to be more strategic with my meal planning and actually check my list to prevent extra trips to the grocery store. Then I got REALLY strategic and decided to plan so far ahead that I only grocery shop two times a month. And even then – I pay $5 to get Kroger to shop for me and load the groceries in my car. (I easily make the $5 back by avoiding impulse buys while walking around the store.)
I also try to plan my meals around what’s on sale. I’m not a coupon clipper, I don’t run around town going to the store with the best deal, I simply just say “oh ham is on sale! Let’s do something with ham this week.” or “Soda is on sale! I can get all the soda we need for a whole month for what I usually pay for a week’s worth.” And then I do that. My last trip to the store, I saved $30 on what I’d have paid for full price items.
This has helped drastically reduced our grocery bill. It doesn’t take 2x the budget to get 2x the meals. I’ve found that buying meals for two weeks instead of one week only costs about 1.5 as much… saving me that extra 50%.
6 Month Savings = $600 ($100 a month).
6. I did a month long experiment of no eating out.
This experiment was mostly to teach me that just because I can eat out often doesn’t mean I should.
We’d accidentally gotten in a habit of spending a couple hundred bucks a month on eating out. And that’s on top of groceries and last minute Kroger trips.
I realized I actually cared more about saving that money, and I hated that I was indulging myself so frequently… even though I could technically afford it.
So I decided to try a whole month of not eating out. And you know what? I mostly survived.
Disclaimer: I won’t say that I never ate out. When I was traveling I made a few exceptions. (I wasn’t going to visit someone and walk into their kitchen with groceries and cook. Although I did do that once!)
But I definitely made some sacrifices. When I was driving in the car, I made a peanut butter sandwich for the road trip instead of stopping. I brought lunch to work EVERY day and only ate out one time for someone’s birthday. I cooked meals on Sundays instead of eating out like I used to.
I even cut back on my Starbucks and coffee purchases for the month. (Again, restricted this to the 3 weeks of the month that I was not traveling.)
It was amazing how much money I was able to save, and it honestly wasn’t even that hard. It didn’t increase my grocery bill dramatically, and I actually kinda liked not eating out as much. Even though I’ll keep eating out, I’ll still save a ton by cutting back and being intentional.
Savings = $900 ($150 a month.)
Ready to try some of these?
Do you think any of these could help you out? Perhaps you think you’re doing just fine with your personal finance – and maybe you are. But it never hurts to give it another check.
If you’re determined to cut costs, you’ll find a way to do it. Sometimes you just have to take another look.
Have you tried anything recently that’s helped you save money? I’d love to hear about it as I’m still looking for more things to try! Comment below!