We all have unnecessary expenses that we spend money on, but we need to figure out what they are. It’s time to cut those bills so that you can make the most of your finances!
How To Avoid Unnecessary Expenses
Financial stress can take its toll on our mental health. Money is something that we all manage and the weight of a lot of things hitting us at once can be very difficult to deal with.
Planning out a budget can be a complicated task, but it will help. Thinking through every expense that you have is the best way to start. When we do that, we often find items that are truly unnecessary expenses. Items you buy and payments you make because you always have, but not because they are vital.
You don’t need to say goodbye to every little bit of luxury. Cutting expenses and deciding on a new budget plan can help you identify which obligations you should keep and which you need to eliminate to make room for small splurges and tiny treats. These “rewards” will help keep you on track and add a little levity to your budget.
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to building your personal finances is figuring out different ways to cut down on unnecessary spending. And while you absolutely have to pay your utility bills, student loans, car payments, house payments, or rent, there are always things to cut. It’s when you add those things up that you see how they can drain your resources.
To minimize these hits to your budget, look for ways to cut down on those expenses. Then the next question you need to address is: What are the possibly overlooked, unnecessary expenses that are eating away at your finances?
Cable TV / Satellite TV Bill
Many American households have a monthly payment of about $100 just to pay for their add-on TV services or cable bill. You may see deals for less, but depending on your area as well as all of the costs that aren’t as clear, you could actually end up paying several hundreds of dollars per month.
There are cheaper options that will save you a good deal of money in the long run. Think about canceling your cable/satellite subscription and using a streaming service instead. Various services provide you with both TV and movie access (think Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Paramount+).
Additionally, you could install a digital antenna if you want to see shows in real-time – and maybe discover some local channels that your cable provider doesn’t offer. This one-time purchase would offer you a significantly lower cost for your television needs.
Credit Card Interest Payments
Not paying your total credit card bill when it is due may help you stretch your budget in the present, but can destroy your future budget in the process. If you are not paying off your balance every month, you’re paying extra fees that add up quickly. Try to live within your means and don’t put more on your credit card(s) than you can pay off completely each month.
Credit card debt can add up quickly. Between impulse buys like items at the checkout counter, new clothes that you may not need, and late-night online shopping, we often look at credit cards as a way to increase the cash flow that we are allotted. This is the easiest way to get yourself in trouble and owe a lot of money.
If you have reached your credit limit on your cards with a high interest rate or carry a large balance, look into transferring the balance to a card with a lower interest rate and work hard to pay it off. Do not add any more charges until you do.
If you struggle with paying off and incurring more debt, see what you can about living off of cash instead. If you continue to add charges to your credit cards that already have balances, every single charge that you add costs more in the long run. If you can pay your groceries, gas, and/or other basic expenses in cash, you will know that they are paid for and done. There will be no additional charges in the future and it is a great way to keep yourself accountable.
Exercising is great — it keeps your body fit and healthy, which is incredibly important. That said, maintaining gym and fitness memberships can be a nuisance to your budget – especially if you don’t use them regularly.
Signing up for a gym membership is one of the best ways to watch money float out of your bank account. It is one of the monthly expenses that we knowingly pay for, assuming that we will get to it next week. Plus, you know that you may be out extra money by way of a penalty if you cancel.
If you have a gym subscription service that you plan to get to “one day,” it is a good idea to get out now. Go through the hassle of figuring out how to cancel and you’ll save money not having to pay those monthly bills. Plus, you can get a better deal right from your home.
In this day and age, there are tons of ways to keep yourself in shape for free. Look for free (or super cheap) classes in the park or at park districts, take a run through the neighborhood or along the beach, search Google for workouts that involve household items (cans of soup as weights, push-ups off of the wall, etc.), or comb through the thousands of YouTube videos that will coach you through free workouts at home.
Cell Phone Plan
Do you need that $100 cell phone plan? The question isn’t whether you want one, but do you need one?
We have gotten to a place in our society where having a cell phone isn’t a discretionary expense. It is something you need to have access to, but you can do it at the lowest cost available.
Eliminating your pricey mobile plan can stretch your budget immensely and there are several options to consider when doing this. You need a phone, but you don’t have to have access to social media or the internet in an emergency. For a very tight budget, a good option is to pick up a basic cell phone that is not a smartphone. This can be prepaid so that there are no hidden costs or late fees, or something that you have a very basic monthly service for.
If that is too basic an option for your lifestyle, cut down on the amount of data you are using and take advantage of free Wi-Fi at restaurants and grocery stores. Be sure to keep up to date on any offers with your current cell phone plan and don’t allow one offer to expire without calling your service provider to see what other specials they may be running at the moment. Your cell phone plan doesn’t have to get out of hand if you don’t allow it to.
Restaurant Meals and Takeout
Dining out or ordering your meals in can be a nice treat, especially on busy nights or weekends. But, if it has become a habit – something you are doing frequently through the week – you might need to rethink your choices.
Frequent ordering out and picking up fast food can eat into your budget quickly – and you aren’t always aware of how much you are spending. Easy dinners that take less time are convenient, so it isn’t about eliminating them, but making some significant change so that you don’t spend more than you meant to.
A great first step is to try cooking at home. Search the grocery store flyers each week and create a challenge for yourself to make meals out of the front page loss leader items. Google the items and see what recipes you can find! (For example, Google “chicken cheese onions recipe” and you’ll get lots of ideas for easy dinners). With some careful planning, there are some easy ways to save by shopping for more at the store. It is more cost-effective, healthy, and often tastes better too.
And when it comes to those coffee shop runs? Do yourself a favor and buy a gift card for the month to the place of your choice. You should be allowed some discretionary spending, but make sure that you’ve put a cap on it. When you’ve run out of money on your gift card, it’s time to make your own coffee.
Subscriptions and Memberships
Take inventory of everything you are subscribed to: magazine subscriptions, newspapers, online services, and club memberships. There’s a very good likelihood that you’ll find that you are still paying for memberships that you stopped using months ago.
If you are still using a service, ask yourself: Do I need it? Can I replace it for free? Is having this subscription worth the amount that is coming out of my checking account each month?
You can read many publications online, you don’t need them in print. You can watch a ton of television and movies either for free or through one platform – you don’t need three.
Do you actually go for that massage or use all of the fruit that gets shipped to you each month? Is there a cheaper way to purchase what you want when you need it? Go through every recurring payment subscription and cut what you can to keep your costs down.
Also, beware of impulse purchases that look really cool at the moment, but will contract you for payments over the year. A good rule of thumb is to sleep on it before ordering. The next time you want to subscribe to something, give it until tomorrow to make your final decision.
Insurance is a very tricky thing. You need to have health insurance because one serious injury to anyone in your household can leave you with a mountain of debt if you don’t have it. But, you may want to assess your coverage with your current insurance companies as well as your options. Is your child in college and does the college have good insurance with a lower rate? That may be a better financial option.
Reevaluate your life insurance over time and make sure that it is meeting your current needs. Have you been paying for term life insurance since your kids were little, but now they’re married with their own children? See if the amounts that you are paying for are still necessary. Your life is important, but if something should happen to you, you don’t need to have as much money available to ensure that your small children (who are now adults) are cared for. Decide what is right for your current life situation and make changes accordingly.
Auto insurance is mandatory, but based on your car, do you need to be paying full coverage? If you are driving a 20-year-old car, carrying only liability might be a more reasonable option since you may have to get another car in the future either way. Are you still paying for an extra driver on your car insurance even though your child is out of the house and now has their own? Think through your circumstances and make the choices that are best for you and your budget.
The bottom line with insurance is that you need to have it, but it is worth sitting down and looking through the policies every few years to make sure that the current terms are still meeting your needs appropriately. If they aren’t right for you or the original situation for which you got the insurance has now passed, make some changes. And be sure that you are always paying your monthly premiums on time.
Figuring out what expenses you don’t need in your daily life can free up a huge portion of your budget. Stop paying all of those unnecessary expenses and use the money you free up to build your emergency fund or add to your savings.