Now that we’ve taken a look our budget and where we are going to keep our money, we need to look at all the different line items or groupings in our budget and see where we might be able to save money. The first grouping that I have is called household expenses. This is the line item that takes care of things such as food, clothing and household cleaning supplies. We do a number of things here to save money but I can assure you that we do not do without!
Food is a tricky one because depending on your lifestyle you may have a lot of takeout food or you may eat a lot of prepared foods but I’m here to tell you that you can save a lot of money if you cook things from scratch and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
Let’s start with where you buy your food. Most people will just go to the grocery store and buy all of their food there and be done with it. However, you’re paying a premium for the convenience of having everything in one place. Also, where you shop can make a huge difference. In a large portion of the country there are Aldi stores. While these stores may seem odd (like using a quarter to get a shopping cart), there are huge savings to be had there. Aldi owns Trader Joes and the grocery stores are basically a discount version of Trader Joes.
We’ve purchased most items from Aldi and have never had an issue with the quality of items purchased there. I don’t think my wife has ever spent more than $100 there and that’s for two weeks’ worth of food. Now, there are some items that we do have to buy elsewhere and items such as meat that we purchase from a meat market because it is much cheaper than the store.
We are lucky that we have a large meat market near where we live so it’s convenient to buy our meat and then go to Aldi. One of the things that they do is that they will put certain cuts on-sale for a really good bargain. Now, they usually have a large portion that you have to buy but they will cut it up for you. Since we regularly shop there, we keep track of the prices and if it’s a particularly good deal, like 50% off and we know that they will do this every three months or so, we’ll try and buy three months’ worth because we know that we are getting for the lowest possible cost in the next three months. We’ll then repackage the meat in vacuum bags and freeze them. This helps us keep our costs as low as they possibly can be.
Another area that people tend to have to spend a lot of money on is clothing. Now, there are stores where you can buy brand new clothes that are cheaply made but you need to replace them more often. You could also buy new clothing that better quality but you can also buy the same clothes practically new at a thrift store.
Thrift stores are gaining in popularity because people realize that the
clothes they sell are good quality, clean and in some cases, brand new. Goodwill, Salvation Army and Savers are some of the popular places. Many people are surprised to know that some
people will donate perfectly new items and you can buy them for pennies on the
Fuel is another area that can eat up budget and thankfully there are ways to reduce our costs here without having to get a tiny and more fuel efficient vehicle. One of the first ways to start is to doing some driving techniques that have been proven to improve gas mileage. Done right, you can save 20-30%. That means if you normally spend $100 a month on gas, you should be able to save $20-30. Every little bit helps!
Start by slowing down. Ease the acceleration from stops and when you are travelling down the Interstate, keep your speed between 60-65 MPH. You might be surprised but if you are on the Interstate for 25 miles, the time distance between travelling 60 and 74 MPH is only about 5 minutes. That’s the same amount of time that a couple of traffic lights take and I see people every day that rush past me during my daily commute only to see them one or two cars ahead of me at a traffic light.
- Slow Down
- Remove excess items
- Use Gas Buddy
Now, on longer trips it makes sense to go a little faster because you’ll gain more time but for a daily commute, you can save more money by slowing down. On longer trips it pays to pay attention to the weight of items in your vehicle. The heavier the vehicle, the worse your mileage will be so try not to pack those extra items. They will cost you in the long run.
If you have errands to run, you’ll also gain some mileage by going to the furthest stop first and then make your stops on the way back to your house. Engines are more efficient when they are warm and driving to the furthest stop will give your engine time to warm up.
You might also be able to save some money on actual price you pay for fuel by using a Website like Gas Buddy. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to drive out of your way to save a few pennies, but if you regularly travel near a particular place that has cheaper gas, then it can make sense. The Gas Buddy site can give you a nice map of gas prices in your area and across the country so you can use the site when planning trips.
If you’re heading out on a longer trip, I
like to use the “Gas Temperature” maps and see islands of
cheaper gas along my route and plan my fuel stops there. It’s amazing that you can save 25¢ a gallon
just by going a few miles down the road or stopping a few miles earlier. The prices might not be the same when you get
there, but at least you know that they will be lower than other places.
Another monthly bill for most is auto insurance. We’ve all heard the ads that you can save a bundle by switching auto insurance company and for many that is actually true but many people don’t take advantage of that. There is nothing wrong with shopping around and getting quotes from other agencies.
If you do your homework and look at the reputations of insurers and find a few that you feel comfortable with, you can obtain a quote for free and see if you can save over what you are currently paying. My suggestion would be to stick with the companies directly instead of some service that will get you quotes from multiple companies. By going through a middleman you are going to pay more and they will profit off of you.
Another suggestion is to avoid the “full service” companies that require you to go through an agent. The agent has bills to pay and makes money off of your insurance plan so again, if you go directly with the company you can avoid that. Of course for some, they want and need the service so by all means use what service you feel most comfortable with.
I’d also look at your overall coverage and see if there is overlap so that you are only paying for coverage once. Sometimes a homeowners policy will cover something that is being added to an auto policy and vice versa.
Depending on where you live, your electric bill may be an area that you can reduce. While using Energy Star appliances will reduce your monthly electric bill, it costs you money up-front and the savings take a while until you start noticing them. Thankfully you don’t need to go that far to save a few dollars.
Many states are now adopting service provider choice laws and you can find a lower electric rate by doing that. Take caution and look at the terms of the agreement because you may find that the rates will jack up at the end of the term or that you’re locked in for a long time. Also, as the term ends, make sure that you have another contract lined up or otherwise you could get sticker shock when you go on a variable rate plan. Our bill tripled one month and it took us a couple of months to correct the issue when this happened to us!
My wife and I have never been one for really warm weather and over the years I have found that we can save a lot of our heating bill by a few adjustments. Growing up we heated with wood we would be toast warm during the day but it would be chilly in the morning as we waited for the stove to heat up the house. This got my thinking about our heating and I had always heard that it took more energy to heat up a room than it did to keep it warm so I tested that theory. Every night before bed we would lower our thermostat down to 50°. Every morning when I woke up before anyone else, I raised it back up. The house was pretty chilly but I wound up saving about 30% of my heating costs. I think it has to do with how long the thermostat is turned down and how low you go. We would repeat this if we were going to be out of the house and we also found it comfortable to sleep snugly in our warm beds even if the room was a little chilly.
It may take some getting used to, but it might be something else that you can do to save a few dollars the next heating season. I have no idea if this would work with cooling.
Conspicuously missing from my monthly budget is a cable bill. That’s because I’m a cord cutter or someone that dropped cable-TV in favor of other solutions. I still have a cable Internet subscription but no television services. Instead, we use a mixture of Netflix, over-the-air broadcasts and shows on DVD.
If you’re interesting in saving about $1200 a year, this might be an option for you and I would research cord cutting for more information. I’ve written another eBook on the subject and walk interested people through the process of how to watch the shows that they currently watch. If you do make the leap, you’ll find that there are many more shows, channels and programs that you never imagined.
With cord cutting you basically get your shows either live on over-the-air TV or on-demand through services like Netflix. They come to your TV through devices like Roku and Apple-TV.