You’ve sat down and started to dream and are ready to work towards accomplishing them. Or maybe you’ve been in a panic because you can’t pay your bills, or you have so much debt your ceiling is starting to close in on you.
What do you do? Where do you begin? These were the exact questions on our minds when we started so keep reading to find out how do you even start this process of cutting expenses.
- Make a budget!
Write down what you are currently spending each month. You can’t cut expenses if you don’t know what you’re spending your money on.
- Give yourself grace
It doesn’t happen all in one day so give yourself grace. If someone was to compare their life to the sacrifices we make now it may seem like such a big difference that they never think they could give up so much. It’s important to remember that all of our budget cuts did not happen in one day but over several years.
- Evaluate EVERY single expense
It’s simple math; the deeper you cut, the faster you’ll get out of debt. Think about the very end when there’s only a small amount of debt left, will you wish you said “no” more often? Think about the alcohol and treats in your grocery budget, the extracurricular activities, the extra shirt that was on sale and you had to have. If it’s not a necessity it’s got to go! Continue to make it a GAME and find extra dollars you can cut out.
- Time to make cuts!
Eating Out –
In the beginning of our journey I was occasionally having Starbucks coffee when I got to work. And occasionally my husband would pick up Subway for lunch when he didn’t have time to grab lunch. So in the beginning of our budgeting/debt journey we just included that in the budget. We each had $10/week for ‘eating out’ individually and we had a budget for monthly eating out as a family. As our journey continued and we got more intense about getting out of debt, the weekly individual eating out budget went down to $5/month each, and then it was removed. We add in a small amount on very rare occasions throughout the year if it’s a special date night.
This category is often the first people think of because it can be implemented rather quickly. There are lots of ways we save money on groceries that will be in a separate series. However, the most important way to save on groceries is to meal plan! Plan cheap meals, cut back on meat, eggs are a cheap source of protein, as well as RICE AND BEANS!
Cell Phones –
We used to be normal. We used to have smartphones with Verizon and have the normal HUGE phone bills to go along with them. We thought we could never go without our coveted smartphones. How would we drive without the GPS feature? What on earth would we do to entertain our daughter while waiting at restaurants? (These are the real excuses we used to try and rationalize keeping them.)
We knew we had to cut that bill and have never looked back. We have basic phones from Ting and couldn’t be happier. It was easy to switch, and they even give you 25% of your early termination fee if you are stuck in a contract. There are no plans, you just pay for what you use. Our bill is normally around $31 for two devices. If you do think about switching, use my referral link and you’ll get $25 in credit. https://za9s673qlg8.ting.com/
We also use Magic Jack as a house phone as a way to lower the amount of minutes we use on our cell phones. We have also told our families to use skype to call us sometimes. We figure we’re already paying for internet, why not make the most of it?
Cable Plan –
Anyone who knows my husband, knows he is a huge sports fan. He used to watch ESPN every day, and wouldn’t even consider cutting the cable when we first began cutting expenses. It took months of budgeting and cutting back in other expenses before we both agreed to cut the cable.
This is where clearly identifying your financial goals is necessary. If we BOTH weren’t passionate about getting out of debt, there’s no way he would’ve agreed to completely cut the cable.
Think outside the box for ways to watch the shows you really want. With Netflix, Hulu, and library movie rentals we never feel like we’re missing out. We sometimes will bring food over to a family member’s house if there’s a sports game my husband really wants to see. Not having TV was a financial decision in the beginning but it has turned out to be a huge blessing. We now have so much more time together as a family that we don’t have extra distractions. We play games together in the evening and actually read books as a family. We would’ve never had that time if we had the distraction of TV.
Go through all of your plans and re-evaluate coverage and price of life insurance, car insurance, etc. We follow Dave Ramsey’s advice and sold our whole life policy near the beginning of our journey. We now have new term policies which save us a significant amount of money each month.
This is one of the main reasons you need to make a written budget every month BEFORE the month begins. Without a budget, even if you are naturally frugal, your money will disappear!
Before we started writing out monthly budgets on purpose on paper, we were frugal, but still money would disappear. We used to spend mindless amounts of money on eating out, Kohls, Target, home décor, gifts, etc. I would think I was saving my family so much money by shopping the clearance racks for kids clothes and home décor. But the thing is, this category looking back used to literally be hundreds of dollars per month before we started tracking it! Hundreds of dollars and I can’t even tell you what I bought that was so important.
We still include a miscellaneous category in our budget because things come up that we didn’t anticipate. But it’s small. $20 small. And now we have it in CASH so that when the money is gone, it’s gone.
Our Budget: Then and Now
This is a baseline of some of the changes to our budget that have allowed us to put so much extra money towards debt. Obviously this doesn’t take into effect that I was working in June 2013, but we also had daycare for two kids that we don’t have now.
You’ll see that right now we’re saving $475 (used to be $600 when we first moved) on our mortgage each month. That’s because we want to get out of debt so bad that we literally sold our house and moved to a cheaper house when I quit my job! You may think that small changes such as saving $50 on a phone bill isn’t worth the effort. But making small changes in lots of categories can add up!
It’s a combination of working extra, cutting our expenses, and paying off debt in the debt snowball. It is HARD WORK, but it is SO WORTH IT!