Last year my husband and I had many many conversations about our budget. What we could do to still maintain our current lifestyle, but cut back on our spending? At first, the thought of this conversation makes me cringe. Budget and money conversations are never fun with your spouse, especially when it is about making changes and cutting back. Anyway, it was something that needed to be done and now that it has been about a year it has been great. Do we have millions of dollars now? Absolutely not. Are we financially free? Not at all. This is not a pay off all debts in X amount of months technique. What we do have is a little more room in the budget to feel comfortable and not as stretched thin.
The best part is that we made some small changes that have not affected our lifestyle at all. This is more of a budget clean-up vs a budget over haul. The great thing about cleaning up your budget is that you will be able to see what just a few little changes will do. It may want you to clean up your budget even more, or inspire you to completely overhaul your entire budget. But I say, start small and see the little changes go from there.
Decide What Changes to Make
- Cable TV- call your provider and see what you can do. We were planning on canceling our TV all together but when it is bundled with the internet, it was the same price for us. So now we have basic basic cable, around 25 channels and Netflix. We originally had hundreds of TV channels and some movie channels as well. This was something that I was most worried about giving up because watching TV is the thing I do every night to unplug from the day. The honest truth is that I still watch TV every night before bed, maybe more than I should. There has really not been any change, except our cheaper cable bill. We do occasionally miss the movie channels, so we have been taking advantage of Redbox once in a while.
- Simple Grocery List/Grocery shopping- This is something that was really a big change for me. I needed to be more aware of what I was spending each week on groceries. The first thing and maybe the easiest thing I did was simplify what we were eating. By that I mean, less options and making dinner with less ingredients. What I mean is buy 2 snack options for the week, not 10. I know its hard when you are grocery shopping with your kids and they want everything! I would buy so many options at one time and things would go bad because we just couldn’t eat everything fast enough. Now we have 2, sometimes 3 options at any given time and usually everything gets eaten in the week so we have less waste. Another thing that I did was pay attention to what I was making for dinner. Was I making something that required a teaspoon of an ingredient that I would never use again? If it did, what could I substitute it with that was an everyday item if anything? Most of my recipes now only require a few ingredients with a lot of them being pantry items that I already have. Most crock pot recipes are simple but still have a lot of flavor.
- Professional Manicures & Pedicures- I do sometimes make an exception to this rule for example if I have a special event like a vacation but for the most part, I have been doing my nails at home. I did invest in Essie Gel Polish. Which is a little more expensive than regular nail polish, but it is still cheaper than getting your nails professionally done, Even just 1 time. It has been something that I do not miss at all and now do my own nails more than I would have them professionally done.
- Kids activities- My kids have preschool and 1 activity or sport that they do on a weekly basis. Last summer, as a means to save money, I did not sign my kids up for any extra activities or take them to “kid places” that were not free. We had our annual pool pass and that was it. What I discovered was that they didn’t need all those extra things to entertain them. They were completely fine and entertained by themselves most of the time. I did utilize the free things in our neighborhood like playgrounds and park district activities when we all needed to get out for a bit. Taking a step back and not scheduling out a full weeks of activities made me realize that simple activities or no planned activities was not a bad thing. Doing this helped me save money and really just simplify our schedule.
- Different products for different things- buying/making 1 product that has multiple uses. For example, my DIY Shower/multi-purpose spray that is simple to make and can be used virtually anywhere in the house. One product with multiple uses. Another example would be baby products or personal care items that you can buy for multiple purposes. This saves money as well as simplifies your house and different routines.
- Magazine subscriptions- I used to read magazine all the time! Of course I miss it sometimes but if I get in the mood read a magazine, I will go to the library and check out a few of them. That way, I can still get my magazine fix without having to pay for one and having the extra clutter at home.
- Take out/going out to dinner two or more times a week.- I have to admit that sometimes this one can be really hard and did require some adjustments. I am not saying that we never go out to dinner or order a pizza, but it is now reserved for special occasions. My husband and I still try to have a date night once in a while. What we did stop doing was going out to dinner/ordering take out as a fall back to not having dinner plans. It is more planning and more work to always eat dinner at home but it does save us A LOT of money and it is usually the healthier option. I always try to have some frozen pizzas on hand when we are in a pinch or when its been a long day and the last thing I want to do is cook dinner. Some frozen pizzas can be pricey, but they are still cheaper than having one delivered. I also try to have something in the freezer or pantry that I can easily make even if i didn’t plan anything for that night.
- Cheap/trendy Clothing. Now for me this change came more when I became a stay-at-home mom. I just didn’t need that many clothes anymore, but it did take me a while to realize it. I was and still am someone who cares about what she wears and looks like and was in the habit of always trying out the newest trends and always getting new outfits for work and going out with friends. When I finally realized that I wasn’t wearing most of my clothes as a SAHM. I had my few staple outfits that I would wear on a weekly basis. When I was reviewing my budget, I knew I could massively cut down on what I was spending on clothing and accessories. It also helps keep everything simple. What I did to stop spending so much on clothing, was actually “invest” in clothing. I starting spending more money on less clothing and thought about what I really wear on a weekly basis. I am usually very causal, athletic wear and simple t-shirts and sweaters. So I bought nice, quality pieces that I loved of those items. Mostly in basic colors that will go with everything. Spending more money on quality pieces makes me want to wear them more often. Instead of once or twice with a cheap trendy piece. I tried to create a capsule wardrobe that I enjoy wearing. I sometimes have a few trendy or not so basic pieces to mix. But for the most part, my closet is very simple and I am liking it.
Important questions to ask yourself when reviewing where your money goes.
- Can I spend less on this but still maintain the lifestyle that I currently have or want?
- How important is this to me?
- Can I get this item a different way for a less money or free? (examples: downgrading/ cutting cable or using the library)
- Can I simplify a certain part of my life? (examples: cleaning routine or grocery list)
Take a few minutes to review where your money is going. Everyone’s list is going to be different. Even small changes will make a difference.