The holidays are over, taxes are looming ahead, and if you’re anything like my family this time of year things are tight financially. We have medical bills piling, car insurance due, and other unexpected costs like vehicle repairs. Between that and trying desperately to save every penny we can for a big road trip we are planning on in 2 years (check out how we save for our vacations!) we’re definitely feeling the crunch. There are so many large bills we CAN’T cut back on so we’re left scheming creative ways to tighten things immediately. These methods, although great to practice on a regular basis, are meant to help you immediately cut back on spending. They may not all be possible long term.
I’ve seen people literally freeze their credit cards in a block of water, put their debit cards in a safety deposit box, etc. I’m not talking anything quite that extreme although if you have an overspending problem that certainly might help you. These are some ideas to help immediately curb your spending when things start to squeeze a little too tightly.
1. STOP buying food (only temporarily!). –
OK – don’t panic! Obviously we all need to eat. STOP eating out completely for a hiatus and stop buying coffee/treats out. Maybe not permanently, just until your budget turns right side up again. STOP buying groceries! Many of us probably have things in the back of the freezer or back of the pantry we’ve just never gotten around to cooking – NOW IS THE TIME! Even if it squeezes an extra week out of your grocery list it’s a great way to save a few bucks! Every few months we go through a pause on buying groceries and focus on clearing out what we’ve been stocking in the bottoms of our freezers and pantries. At first it seems daunting but we get creative and have some great meals! Not only does it save us a grocery bill or 2 but it also ensures we’re not wasting food by letting it expire.
2. CUT BACK on utilities. –
Really be conscious of what you are using in your house that will add up by the end of the month. Turn ALL the lights off. (hey have a candle only night if you want!) Hang dry what you can in warm weather. Bump the heater in the house just a little cooler. Consider using electric heaters to offset gas bill costs. Take showers instead of baths. Although a high initial expense we have cut back tremendously on our heating/cooling bills by using our Nest thermostat which finds the most energy efficient settings for us and automatically adjusts to them. Also with energy efficient light bulbs. Go around the house and unplug what you aren’t using. Turn down the temperature on your hot water heater. If your house is drafty lay blankets in door or windowsill creases to plug up the cold air coming in.
3. STOP buying pre-packaged foods. –
I have 3 kids and a hubby – all of which I need to pack foods for during the day whether it be school work work. It’s SO much easier to buy everything pre-packaged whether it’s granola bars, fruit snacks, etc. but that cost adds up quickly. Especially on our busy weeks I tend to fall back on frozen dinners for their lunches instead of taking the extra time to make extra leftovers for their lunches. It’s a spiral of spending and for us it’s getting out of control! I’m trying desperately to make goodies for them or buy bulk items like bags of pretzels as opposed to individual sizes. Instead of buying everything pre-packaged buy in bulk and make your own food and snacks for lunches. A little extra effort at night or early in the morning can save you a bundle. Thanks to my crockpot I do great at making dinners from scratch but it’s those breakfasts and lunches that get me during the school year! I also rely heavily on a hot food thermos like this one for my kids school lunches.
4. CUT BACK on driving. –
Once the weekend comes we like to get out and hit the road. We take the kids to the park, the zoo, head to the thrift store or local farm just to get out of the house. But when you need an immediate cut in your spending gas costs for your vehicle are easy to blow through – even if gas is cheap right now! I also know that since we live out in the middle of nowhere we tend to eat out and grab drinks and such while we are out for the day instead of taking the time to pack what we need in the car. Of course it’s another expenditure. Plan a weekend or 2 indoors – watching movies, playing board games, rearrange the furniture – whatever you need! And of course consider carpooling for work, school, church etc. Make sure if you need to run errands you do it all in one day in an efficient pattern so that you don’t spend all day driving back and forth.
5. STOP RENTING movies & buying apps! –
I LOVE that my Netflix, VUDU, & HULU and Amazon Prime accounts and videos are so cheap to pay for every month compared to a cable bill, but it also brings the EASE of spending money on renting movies and buying TV episodes at the quick flick of a button. And boy it can really add up if you’re not careful! Not to mention as my kids are getting older they go through phases of asking to buy apps for their tablets. This may not be a problem for everyone but that $5 here and there can add up quickly! Hit up your local library to rent free movies and books!
6. REEVALUATE Monthly Bills! –
This should be common sense but if you are going through a tight time financially you should always reevaluate your bills and weigh your options on a monthly basis. Companies are always offering promotions, freebies, bonuses, free trials, etc. Even though we’ve looked for 3 years now for a better internet company – we FINALLY just found one! Consider pausing TV subscriptions you don’t use often for a month or two like HULU, etc. Car insurance is another big one. Are there any current discounts? Better companies? Do you really need that second car vs. the cost of annual insurance? If you have debt or loans look into consolidating it for a better interest rate. Do you need that gym membership? What about that magazine subscription?
7. Reevaluate Pet Costs-
Do not take this one the wrong way! I am NOT recommending you get rid of your pets OR that you cut back feeding them! Common sense here guys! I love my fur babies and consider carefully their expenses before housing any animals. BUT there ARE some things your pets don’t really “NEED” that many people buy – like toys and treats. I know my puppy girl LOVES rawhides but gosh they’re expensive! They are a true treat and splurge around here. I’ve also cut feed expenses by doing some research. For us I found a high quality pet food available at Costco that’s cheaper than anything else I can buy them but since our Costco is an hour away it really takes some preplanning! Don’t forget to evaluate your animal expenses as well when curbing your expenditures.
Bonus Tip – Sell something! –
This is pretty much always on my radar but I never actually get around to spending the time to sell things. I tend to just donate it to the local thrift store when I remember instead of fighting the time to sell things. I can guarantee you there is something in your house you can sell for a quick buck. Whether it’s clothes, shoes, purses, toys, textbooks, furniture, wall decor, dishes, lawn equipment, etc. – most of us have too much stuff that we hold on to and collect. Some of you are talented enough to know how to sew, woodwork, teach music, etc. and other talents you can turn into a profit. If you are a stay at home parent consider buying and reselling items – if you have a knack for it you can really turn a profit! You can utilize local facebook and craigslist groups, Etsy, Ebay, Amazon, bartering, etc.