Have you added up all of your monthly expenses lately, or are you too afraid to look? By the time you account for things like rent/mortgage, utilities, cable and internet, groceries, gas, car insurance, health insurance, daycare, lawn care, and car payments, what’s actually left of your paycheck? The answer for many people is very little. But what if we could tell you that it’s possible to reduce your monthly expenses without completely compromising your lifestyle? That’s right – there are ways to save hundreds of dollars each month without living off ramen noodles. Let’s take a look!
1. Stop Eating Out
The quickest solution to cutting monthly expenses is to stop eating out and start cooking your own meals. Sure, it takes more time, but that extra time can save you a lot of money each month. Kevin Mercandante over at OutofYourRut.com has already run some calculations, so let’s look at those to get an idea of how much you can expect to save.
For a family of four, it costs roughly $25 to buy a standard meal from a fast food chain. If you go twice per week (which is pretty easy to do), that’s $50 per week. Add that up over the course of an entire year and you’re spending $2600 on greasy hamburgers and fries. For a family of four, visiting a mid-priced restaurant – think Appleby’s or Ruby Tuesday – once per week, the annual cost comes in somewhere around $4,000.
So, let’s say your family of four grabs two fast food meals per week and goes to a sit down restaurant every Saturday night. You’re essentially spending $520 per month eating out ($6,000-plus per year). That’s outrageous!
While eating at home isn’t free, it’s incredibly cheap when compared to eating out. Depending on different factors like where you shop, whether you buy in bulk, what type of food you buy, etc., the price of eating in is typically less than half of what it is eating out.
2. Refinance Your Home
If you own a home, now is the time to refinance. Let’s say you purchased in the early to mid-2000’s. You’re probably paying a 30 year fixed mortgage somewhere around six percent. Well, did you know current rates are hovering around four percent? Using this calculator from BankRate.com, you can figure out just how much you’ll save each month.
In many cases, you may be able to save a few hundred dollars per month. While that’s fantastic for you short-term financial goals, you’ll also be happy to learn that you could possibly save hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest over the course of your loan. (As a side note for those with car loans, it may be possible to refinance your vehicle, as well. It’s definitely something to look into).
3. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Another simple way to save some money each month is to install a programmable thermostat in your home. Also called “smart” thermostats, these gadgets automatically adjust to your lifestyle and increase or lower the temperature based on your preferences and the time of day.
According to Energy.gov, by turning your thermostat back by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours (or while you’re sleeping), you can save between 5 and 15 percent per year on your heating bill. In other words, you can save roughly one percent for ever degree you set it back. If your annual heating bill is $1100, you could end up saving between $110 and $165 per year with some simple adjustments.
Start Saving, Keep Living
You don’t have to be a “cheapskate” to save money. As you can see, there are normal, everyday things you can do. The important thing to remember is that it all adds up. The old mantra that says “every penny counts” holds true. Saving $5 on food at the supermarket may not seem like a lot, but that $5 eventually turns into $50 or $100 in a matter of weeks.
Sit down with your family and discuss the tips mentioned in this article. Are any of them practical in your situation and how can you set goals for trimming monthly expenses? There are plenty of other things you can do to save, and you won’t know whether they work until you give them a try.