There are many ways to budget, but also many ways to blow through our budgets in record time. Living expenses add up quickly, and it can be hard to narrow in on how exactly we’re spending more money than we can actually afford to part with.
Less for Entertainment
It’s easy to blow hundreds of dollars on entertainment without even realizing it. Beyond housing and food, entertainment tends to make up the bulk of our expenses, so cutting down on this non-essential can save you more than you might think. Defining what counts in your life as entertainment is the first step to cutting spending in this area. From gym memberships to dinners, drinks at bars on the weekends to streaming services like Netflix, there’s a wide range of expenses that can be boiled down to entertainment. I don’t suggest cutting these things out of your life, as although they’re termed as non-essentials I think they can contribute to your overall happiness. Instead, find ways in which you can lower the costs within these areas. Have a drink or two at home before you head out to save on what you might have spent at the bar, and only take cash with you—when you run out, you run out. Instead of going to a restaurant with friends, host a potluck. You should also try to take advantage of sources of free entertainment, like local festivals, libraries, and even days in the park.
Lower Your Utility Costs
Has your utility bill been pretty expensive lately? Conserving energy should be a top priority, but it often falls to the wayside in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There are a variety of ways you can do this. Turn off all lights when you leave your house, try to use your air conditioner or heater less, and unplug all appliances that aren’t being used. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, up to 10 percent of our entire energy bill is due to plugged-in appliances. Want a more drastic approach? Paint your roof white (assuming you don’t have a peak and shingles to deal with). Studies have shown that white roofs require up to 40 percent less energy to cool than black-roofed counterparts. Lowering the temperature on your water heater can also save you loads. According to the EPA, a heater set at higher than 140 degrees costs up to $61 each year simply in standby heat losses. Lower the gauge to 120 degrees, take shorter showers, and watch your water bill shrink.
Instead of heading out to the mall to find new duds, do some modern online shopping for men instead. Shopping online keeps you from the temptation of heading into stores you didn’t plan on visiting and walking out with a lighter wallet. One of the reasons I choose to shop online is the deals you can find that you might not be aware of in stores. I recently added a Chrome extension called Honey onto my browser, and use it anytime I’m making a purchase online. When you’re in checkout, clicking the extension will scour the Internet for any potential coupons that might apply to your purchase. It’s saved me a ton of money and all it requires is a click of a mouse.
The Special Treats
You might see your morning coffee as a necessity, but ordering that venti mocha latte with extra cream every day at Starbucks isn’t doing your body or your wallet any favors. Special treats like these should be saved for special occasions, and a step as simple as investing in a Keurig for your home could see you saving hundreds or thousands of dollars over a span of 12 months. The same goes for alcohol. That artisan margarita might taste good for a few minutes, but the $12 cost isn’t doing your budgeting aims any good. Make it a purchase that only happens on special occasions, and for the other times you do order alcohol, stick to the happy hour menu or low cost options.
Use the Deals Available
Utilize Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon Deals to save money on various items, but tread carefully if you do use these sources. Don’t fall into the trap of buying things that you don’t need just because they look like a deal. That will see you losing even more than you would have if you had bought the original item or experience at full price.