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How to Cut Back on Spending

March 17, 2021 · 9 minute read

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How to Cut Back on Spending

If it often feels like more money flows out of your bank account than flows in, or you’re saving for a large upcoming expense, you may be looking for ways to cut back on spending.

You may also be dreading the process.

But the truth is, cutting back doesn’t have to be painful. There are all kinds of ways to slash expenses that don’t require much, or any, sacrifice, from trimming back some of your recurring bills to making a few minor tweaks in your daily spending habits.

Ready to improve your cash flow? Here are 20 simple budget-cutting ideas to try.

Ways to Cut Down Your Spending

1. Canceling Subscriptions

There’s a decent chance that you are leaking money on a subscription service that you are not getting much value from.

Even if the fee is small, if you’re paying it every month (or even every year), those drips can add up.

Consider scanning your checking account and credit card statements for things you’re paying for on a recurring basis, and consider cancelling anything you don’t really need.

That might be magazines or newspapers you rarely read, online software you aren’t using, streaming services you don’t find yourself watching very often, and/or shopping services and other memberships that aren’t worth it anymore.

If you’re looking to save money faster, you might consider getting rid of a subscription that you do enjoy in the name of cutting back on spending. If you get Hulu, Amazon and Netflix, for example, consider if it’s possible to use just one or two, instead of three.

2. Cutting the Cord

If you’re paying a high price for cable each month, you may also want to think about switching to a streaming TV service. This budget-cutting move could save $40 to nearly $100 per month.

If you are not quite ready to cut the cord, you may still be able to shrink this monthly line item just by calling your cable service provider and asking for a better deal.

Before you reach out, it can help if you arm yourself with some information about what exactly you are paying for, and what the competition is charging.

3. Revisiting Your Cell Phone Plan

Another way to significantly cut monthly spending is to take a closer look at what you’re paying for your cell phone service, and exactly what you are getting.

You can then compare this with the competition and, if you see a better deal, call your provider and see if they will match it.

If you don’t see much wiggle room, you might consider going with one of the smaller MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) that lease coverage from the major carriers, such as Cricket Wireless, Metro, and Visible.

Or, if you just need a basic plan, you can look into Consumer Cellular or H20 Wireless, which often offer affordable cell phone plans for individuals.

Before switching carriers, however, it’s a good idea to make sure that the carrier has strong coverage in your area. Saving money is great, but may not be worth it if you don’t get quality service.

4. Getting Into the Meal-Planning Habit

An easy way to cut back on food spending is to make a meal plan and a firm shopping list before you go to the grocery store. To cut spending even more, you can check your store’s weekly ads and plan meals around what’s on sale that week.

You don’t have to be a pro at meal-planning. It can be as simple as picking a few basic recipes that you want to make throughout the week. You may want to try a meal planning app, such as MealTime, that offers recipe ideas and then creates your shopping list.

When you shop without a plan or a list, you may be tempted to buy things that look good but you don’t need or can’t use.

Meal planning can also automatically reduce your take-out and restaurant bills, since you already have what you need to throw a lunch or dinner together at home.

5. Actively Paying Down Credit Cards

If you’re currently only paying the minimum on your credit cards, a big chunk of your payment is likely going towards interest and you may be doing little to chip away at the principle.

Doing this every month can increase the amount of time you’re in debt, and increase the total amount of interest you’ll end paying.

If you can swing it, consider putting more than the minimum payment towards your bill each month.

The faster those credit cards are paid off, the faster you can reallocate money that was going into interest–and essentially out the window–into your pocket (or, even better, into a savings account).

6. Renewing Your Library Card

If you’re a reader and love books, a fun and easy way to cut your spending is to fish out that old library card, or if you don’t have one, stop into your local branch and apply for a card.

The library can be a great resource for more than books. For example, you can often access magazines, newspapers, DVDs, music, as well as free passes to local museums.

These days, you can often get many of the benefits being a card-holder without even going to a library. You can often get audio books and e-books, as well as access to online publications, all from your computer or phone.

7. Pressing Pause on Purchases

When you see something you want to buy, consider giving yourself 24 hours before you pull the trigger.

During that time you can shop around for something similar, but less expensive, decide to wait for your target purchase to go on sale, or may lose interest in the item altogether.

If it’s an expensive item that is more of a “want” than a “need,” you might want to give yourself 30 days. A month later, you may decide you can easily do without it.

If you do still want it, however, that’s a good sign that this purchase will add substantial value to your life, and isn’t just a fleeting desire. If you can make room for purchase in your budget, then go for it.

Pressing pause helps you make spending decisions from a slower, more thoughtful place, and can be a huge help in cutting back on spending.

8. Carrying Cash

There’s something about plastic that can make it feel like you are not really spending money.

That’s why an effective way to cut back on spending is to take out enough cash at the beginning of the week to cover your daily expenses for that week and then leaving your credit and debit cards at home.

Or, you might try the envelope system, where you designate an envelope for each expense category, then put enough cash inside to get you through the week. When you run out, you can’t spend anymore.

Using cash not only places a harder limit on your spending, but helps you become more aware of your choices.

When you can literally see your money going somewhere, you may find yourself becoming much more intentional in the way you spend it.

9. Eliminating Bank Fees

Unless you’re vigilant about checking your statements, you might not even notice the fees your bank may be charging every month for your checking and savings accounts.

They might include service fees, maintenance fees, ATM fees (if you don’t use their machines), minimum balance fees, overdraft or insufficient funds fees, and/or transaction fees. And all those little nips can take a toll over time.

If you see that your bank is hitting you with one or more monthly fees, you may be able to cut your monthly spending by switching to a less expensive bank, or going with an online-only financial institution, which tend to offer low or no fees.

10. Clicking Unsubscribe

If your favorite retailers fill your inbox with tempting sales alerts, one effective way to cut back on spending is get off their e-mailing lists.

Sales and great deals are happening all the time, and generally the best time to purchase something is when you really need it.

If the enticement to spend doesn’t constantly land in your inbox, you’ll be less likely to click through and buy, and you won’t even know what you are missing out on.

11. Consider a 30-Day Spending Freeze

One quick way to change your spending habits is to put yourself on a 30-day nonessential spending freeze.

Or, if that seems too tall an order, you might pick a category (such as clothing or wine) to stop spending on for a month, or agree to entirely avoid a specific retailer for that period.

A spending freeze can immediately pay off by leaving more money in the bank (or fewer bills) at the end of the month.

And, once you start seeing the payoff of not giving in to impulse buying, you may find yourself spending less even after the freeze is over.

12. Keeping Your Tires Properly Inflated

A simple way to cut weekly spending on gas is to stop into a local station that offers free air once a month, and do a quick air pressure check on your car tires.

If they aren’t inflated to the optimal PSI, you’ll want to fill each one to the maximum recommended amount (as stated on the tire or in your manual).

Every two PSI of air you’re able to add to your tires can improve your gas mileage by 1%.

13. Working Out at Home

Instead of paying for a monthly gym membership, consider free exercise options, such as going for a walk, run, or bike ride around your neighborhood.

You can also find at-home cardio routines, resistance workouts, yoga classes and more for free online (YouTube is a great source). If you’re missing the social aspect of the gym, you always invite friends or neighbors over to work out with you.

There are also a number of free workout apps that can help keep you motivated, such sa Fitness Blender, 7 Minute Workout, Freeletics, Nike Training Club, and FitOn.

14. Saving Before You Spend

One of the best ways to cut monthly spending is to siphon off some savings before you even have a chance to spend it.

You can do this by setting up an automatic transfer from your checking into your savings account on the same day each month, possibly right after your paycheck gets deposited.

And it’s fine to start small. Whatever the amount, since it’s happening every month, it will build up before you know it.

15. Turning Clutter Into Cash

Clutter can actually cost money, since it takes up square footage in your home (if you’re paying for a storage unit, even more so). And by getting rid of it, you may be able to clear a fair amount of cash.

Luckily, it’s easier than ever to sell your unwanted items, thanks to sites such as ThredUp, Poshmark, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace.

You may be surprised at what some items turn out to be worth. A simple Google search for the brand name and product can steer you in the right direction for pricing.

If you have a lot of stuff to get rid of, consider having a yard sale.

16. Reviewing Home and Auto Insurance

If you own a car or a home, you’re most likely making monthly insurance payments. You may be able to considerably cut your spending just by taking some time to shop around and compare prices.

Many insurance companies also offer a good discount if you bundle your homeowners and auto policies together. If you currently use two separate insurers, it can be worth asking what kind of discount each would offer if you bundled the policies together.

And you don’t have to wait until your current policy is up for renewal to change insurance providers. With most companies, you can leave at any time without having to pay for the remainder of the policy.

If you find a better deal, you can also give your current insurer a chance to match their quote.

17. Drinking More Water

Getting plenty of water can not only help you stay healthy, but it can also help you cut back on spending.

When you’re food shopping, for instance, you can skip over sodas and even bottled water in exchange for free tap water at home. (If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, consider getting a pitcher with a water filter.)

Even when you’re out to eat, you can save by not ordering a beverage in exchange for free water. You may also want to drink a glass of water before you go–this can help fill you up, so you end up ordering less.

It’s a good idea to take a refillable water bottle with you whenever you go out.

18. Using Apps to Earn Cash Back

You can cut your spending even after you’ve made your purchases by keeping track of your receipts and using a cash back app, such as Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, or Shopkick.

While each app works a little differently, you can generally use cash back apps to download digital coupons, purchase specific items, and then scan receipts to claim your cash back.

You may also be able to add your store loyalty card number and avoid the need to submit a receipt.

19. Shutting off the Lights

A super easy to cut monthly spending is to simply turn off the lights whenever you leave a room or leave your home.

You may not notice the impact immediately, but the savings on energy costs can add up over time.

It can also be helpful to unplug any unused electronics. Older devices and cable boxes can actually use a fair amount of energy if they are left plugged in even when they’re not being used.

20. Cutting Back on Bigger Expenses

If you’re looking to substantially cut back on spending, you may want to address the biggest expenses in your overall budget.

Since where you live is a major expense, downsizing or moving to a more affordable area could make a huge long-term difference financially. Or, if you’re seldom home, you might consider getting a roommate.

If your car payment is more than 10 to 15 percent of your monthly income, you might want to consider trading in your car for one with a lower monthly payment. Or, you might want to think about buying a less expensive vehicle with cash.

The Takeaway

Cutting back on spending doesn’t have to involve a complete overhaul of your lifestyle.

You can get started by looking at all of your recurring expenses and seeing if you can reduce or, if possible, eliminate, at least some of them. Even if the amounts are small, they add up simply because they come every month without fail.

You can also cut back on unnecessary spending with a few behavior changes, such as waiting before you make purchases, carrying only cash, shutting off the lights, and getting into the meal-planning habit.

To make it easier to stay on top of your spending, you may also want to consider signing up for a no fee bank account with SoFi.

With SoFi Checking and Savings, you can easily see your weekly spending on your dashboard in the app, which can help you keep track of your expenditures and help you stay within your budget.

SoFi Checking and Savings also doesn’t have any account fees, monthly fees, or many other common fees. And, withdrawing cash is fee-free at 55,000+ ATMs worldwide.

Ready to start saving money? Check out SoFi Checking and Savings today.

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