The 10 Items I Cut From My Budget To Save An Additional Five Hundred Bucks A Month
How I’m saving an extra $6,000 this year with minimal effort
About 18 months ago, I fully embraced the frugal lifestyle so that I could finally break a few bad spending habits and arrive at a much healthier relationship with money. In recent months, however, I’ve found myself backsliding a bit toward my old ways of spending. In order to prevent a complete resurgence of my old money habits, I went back to trimming all of the fat that I could find from my budget. This time around, I even came up with a few new ways to save. Here are the ten things I cut from my budget to save an additional $500 per month.
- Unlimited Data — Monthly Savings: $60
My $75 phone bill has always been an item in my budget that I never thought to question. Since I still remember getting charged exorbitant rates for even the slightest data overages on a family plan that I used to share with my siblings years ago, I assumed that paying more upfront for the unlimited data plan was going to be the cheapest way to go. But now that I can pre-download just about anything from Spotify and Netflix, and free WiFi is just about everywhere now, paying for all that data is no longer necessary. So I did some shopping around and was able to downgrade to a no-frills service for just $15 a month. Since having the latest and greatest iPhone has never mattered much to me, the low-cost, bring-your-own-phone plan is a much better option.
2. Fast Food and Other Unscheduled Takeout — Monthly Savings: $60
One of the first spending habits I fell back into was picking up food on a whim while running errands. While one impromptu trip to Chic-Fil-A or Chipotle may only cost me five to seven dollars, that habit was beginning to cost me around $60 a month. Because that sixty dollar figure was comprised of a rather mindless string of purchases, I knew that I’d be unlikely to miss it once I broke the habit. Instead of grabbing a quick meal out on my weekend errands, I now reach for one of the healthy snacks I have packed in my bag instead.
3. Body Products —Monthly Savings: $20
I used to be an absolute sucker for bath bombs — especially the over-the-top ones I’d find at LUSH every year around the holidays. But soon my bath bomb habit snowballed into scooping up every fun-looking shower gel, scrub, and body lotion that caught my eye while shopping there. While my spending in this category as of a few months ago was only a fraction of what it used to be, I knew that I was starting to buy these products again on impulse rather than for the value they actually provided me. Much like fast food while out, the relatively low price point of these products allowed me to engage in my old habits without registering the need to course correct immediately.
But once I noticed the $20 hole in my budget that these brightly colored bath products were burning, I quickly realized that they weren’t worth my hard earned money. I also knew that I could cut them out entirely because I’d managed to for over a year without being tempted to buy them again. Instead of repurchasing their lotions and scrubs when I ran out or downgrading to a drugstore alternative, I learned to do without the nonessentials and to make my own body products instead using just a few ingredients from my kitchen.
4. Wine — Monthly Savings: $40
Being in a long distance relationship, seeing my partner usually feels a lot more like a special occasion than casual time spent with someone I love. Consequently, we used to go through quite a bit of wine as we celebrated finally getting to see each other after several weeks of being apart. One Sunday afternoon, however, when we were discussing our budgets, wine came up. While my partner was simply predicting what we might spend on it in the future with a combined budget, I suggested that we cut the wine out completely. Since neither of us are drinkers, we agreed to go without it and haven’t looked back since.
5. Makeup — Monthly Savings: $50
In recent months, I found myself starting to browse Sephora again after watching a few too many beauty tutorials out of sheer lockdown fatigue. While I’m no makeup junkie, I’d been buying more than usual after a year of just using up old products and picking up cheap replacements for the essentials. While I’m not a proponent of total and complete restriction in my budget, spending in this category gave me pause because it wasn’t something I even missed when it was initially cut out 18 months ago.
Since I hadn’t missed new makeup while I got my finances in order, I concluded that the recent uptick in my makeup spending was driven by boredom, not the desire to have new makeup. So in order to circumvent the temptation to shop while bored, I decided to spend more time on my hobbies instead so that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to mindlessly consume beauty content on the internet and then inevitably start shopping online. Since prioritizing my hobbies, I’ve been able to wipe makeup spending from my budget entirely and don’t feel the need to add it back any time soon.
6. Overhyped Skincare —Monthly Savings: $50
While the days of me spending hundreds of dollars a month on ultra luxury skincare are long gone, I still found myself buying into the hype of some hot products and brands within the low-mid price range in recent months. While I first started consuming lots of skincare content online in order to become more ingredient savvy and to discover affordable alternatives to my pricey must-haves, I kept watching out of habit. And once I noticed my sink becoming crowded with non-essentials like face mask and eye creams, I knew I needed to take a break and institute a spending freeze in this category.
Much like with makeup, whenever I feel tempted to turn on a skincare video, I turn to a list alternate activities so that I can resist the urge to tune in while I break my skincare videos and online shopping habit. As with makeup, the alternate activity strategy has worked like a charm and saved me $50 each month.
7. Clothing — Monthly Savings: $100
Around the holidays, I started to spend money on clothing again in response to some killer Cyber Monday deals offered by my favorite brands and the prospect of returning to the office soon. That said, since I’ve already created small capsule wardrobes for work, date nights, and weekends, my clothing purchases were being made somewhat reflexively. Once I realized that I was buying clothes out of habit rather than out of necessity or even the desire to have new clothes, I put a stop to all clothing purchases and am saving just over $100 a month as a result.
8. Impulse Grocery Purchases — Monthly Savings: $20
Even though I manage to keep my monthly grocery budget under $100 as it is by sticking to a few nutritious, budget-friendly foods, I noticed that small deviations from my shopping list were leading me to spend more than I needed to at the supermarket. Instead of viewing my list as something from which to never deviate, I started treating it in recent months as more of a guide to ensure that I didn’t forget anything while I was out. As a result, I usually came away from each bi-weekly shop with at least $10 worth of unplanned treats or other impulse items.
Once I studied each grocery receipt, I realized two things. First, I could do without the extra treats during the week. In other words, since when I don’t have sweets on hand, I seldom crave them, not buying them wouldn’t have any adverse effect on my quality of life. Once I fully proved out this realization, I started to practice much stricter adherence to my grocery list. And any time I picked up an item not on my list while I shopping, I made sure to put it back before reaching the checkout counter.
Second, I noticed that all of my shopping was being done at the end of my work week and on an empty stomach. By shopping on a full stomach and pushing my shopping trips to Saturday morning, the temptation to deviate from my list in the first place had all but evaporated. As a result of paying closer attention to my shopping list and changing up my shopping routine a bit, I’ve cleaned up my eating habits and saved an easy $20 a month.
9. Knick-Knacks And Seasonal Items—Monthly Savings: $35
I used to be a sucker for three-wick candles, holiday decorations, and cute little kitchen gadgets from Target. But with an upcoming move, I’ve had to declutter several boxes worth of these items from my home. And since getting rid of most of these items, I’ve found that I wouldn’t ever buy them again. Instead, I’d much rather keep the $10 or $15 here and there and put those funds to use in a more meaningful way. Since I quit buying knick-knacks on impulse, I’ve saved a little over $35 a month.
10. Outdated Car Insurance —Monthly Savings: $65
Since it had been a little over a year since I last negotiated my car insurance rate, I decided shop around a bit more to see which discounts I might be able to take advantage of. Since some insurers in my area were offering covid-related discounts in response to fewer drivers being on the road, I decided to ask for a similar markdown and got it. As a result, I’m saving $65 a month this year on my car insurance.