Changing your spending habits is difficult, but the financial rewards are worth it. Many of us make spending decisions without taking the time to think about how they fit into our overall budget. Over time, those mindless purchases can really add up and put a strain on our finances.
Every so often, it’s a good idea to reassess how you’re doing financially and to look for areas you can improve. These five tips can help you get started cutting your spending.
1. Get Rid of Cable
Many younger people are already “cord-cutting”, but anyone can benefit from eliminating a monthly expense devoted solely to entertainment. Cable television packages now have to compete with many other entertainment options that are free or significantly cheaper, with more alternatives becoming available all the time.
Not only can you use subscription services like Netflix or Hulu for a fraction of what you pay for cable, you can also get tons of entertainment for free on YouTube or rent movies at no charge from your local library.
2. Develop a Weekly Grocery List
You’ve probably heard that shopping when you’re hungry is a mistake, and shopping with a list can also be a bad idea. You may be tempted to buy things you don’t actually want to eat or forget to get the things you really need.
By developing a weekly grocery list to use repeatedly, you can make sure you always get the things you use frequently. Add extra items to the list when you want to try a new recipe or get some variety.
3. Create a Spending Journal
It’s pretty easy to figure out what you pay each month for fixed expenses such as your rent or mortgage, but variable expenses can be harder to estimate. You might think you know how much you spending on dining out, but are you sure?
Try tracking all of your expenses for a week. You can use your phone to snap pictures of your receipts, then figure out if your budget estimates are accurate. There are also many types of smartphone budget apps.
Once your know what you’re spending, you may find some obvious areas to shore up. Maybe Starbucks is your weakness, or perhaps you spend more at happy hour than you thought. These little fixes can have big payoffs, but you have to spot your problem areas first.
4. Don’t Overuse Credit Cards
Credit cards are convenient and may offer other benefits, such as cash back reward. Unfortunately, it’s easier to overspend when you use a credit card.
If you found that you’re spending too much when you go out for drinks, just bring enough cash to cover what you plan to spend. Not having your credit card means you won’t tempted to break the rules and ruin your budget, and you can finally start paying down your credit card debt.
5. Rethink Your Gym Membership
Investing in your health is certainly worthwhile, but how often do you actually use your gym membership? If you aren’t taking advantage of the gym’s facilities, maybe you should cut this expense from your budget for a while.
Even better, you can get rid of your gym membership and build an inexpensive home gym or work out at a local park. Start small with a few pieces of equipment, and keep adding items as your fitness level—and your financial situation—continues to improve.
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