23 Ways to Cut Back on Spending and Expenses

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · March 08, 2023 · 13 minute read

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23 Ways to Cut Back on Spending and Expenses

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably wondered how you can cut back on spending. Maybe you tend to drop a lot of dollars on impulse purchases as you go through a typical week, or perhaps you are just feeling the pain of living during times of high inflation. Or maybe it’s a combination of both.

If you are looking for some relatively painless ways to spend less, read on. There are all kinds of ways to slash expenses that don’t require much, or any, sacrifice. These can include trimming back some of your recurring bills to tweaking your typical shopping habits. You’ll even learn smart ways to avoid the temptations that can lead to overspending.

Ready to improve your cash flow? Here are 23 simple ideas for how to cut back on spending.

23 Ways to Cut Down Your Spending

Ready to start saving money? Pick and choose among these ideas to find the tips that suit you best.

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.

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

That might mean magazines or newspapers you rarely read, online software you aren’t using, and/or shopping services and other memberships that aren’t worth it anymore.

If you’re looking to save money faster, you might cut down on multiples. For instance, do you really need membership at two different yoga studios? Just one might be fine.

2. Cutting the Cord

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

Just don’t let that get out of hand. You likely won’t save on streaming services if you sign up for Netflix, HBOMax, Hulu, and a couple of others.

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. Research better deals available elsewhere and cite those when talking to a customer service representative.

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 H2O 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.

This 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 Mealime and Yummly, among others.

Not only will this help you avoid impulse buys at the supermarket and ordering takeout, but you will likely be able to buy in bulk, cook once and enjoy the leftovers, and otherwise streamline your budget and your life.

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 toward interest and you may be doing little to chip away at the principal.

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

If you can swing it, consider putting more than the minimum payment towards your bill each month. This can help you pay off credit cards faster, so you’re not spending so much money on interest.

6. Renewing Your Library Card

How else to cut back on spending? 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. There are also services on your computer and phone that let you stream digital media; check out Kanopy and Hoopla, for instance.

7. Carrying Cash

There’s something about using 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 can also help you become more aware of and intentional with your purchases. You see exactly what you are spending as you go through your day.

8. Eliminating Bank Fees

How to cut back on expenses can involve taking a look at just what fees your bank may be charging for your checking and savings accounts.

They might include service fees, maintenance fees, ATM fees (if you don’t use their in-network machines), minimum balance fees, overdraft or insufficient funds fees, and/or transaction fees. And all those charges can eat away at your funds.

You may be able to cut your monthly spending by switching to a less expensive bank, or going with an online-only financial institution. When it comes to online vs. traditional banks, the former tend to offer low or no fees.

9. Clicking Unsubscribe

Do your favorite retailers fill your inbox with tempting sales alerts, whether that’s 75% off, buy-one-get-one offers, or free shipping? One effective way to cut back on spending is to get off their e-mailing lists.

Sales and great deals are happening all the time, but 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.

10. 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.

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.

Recommended: Impulsive or Compulsive Shopping: How to Combat It

11. 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).

Here’s why: You can improve your vehicle’s gas mileage by an average of 0.6% and up to 3% with proper tire pressure.

Recommended: How to Save Money on Gas

12. 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 as 7 Minute Workout, Freeletics, and Nike Training Club, among others.

13. 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. Many experts suggest 20% of your take-home pay, as is outlined in the 50/30/20 budget rule.

You can do this by automating your savings. This can mean you set up an automatic transfer from checking to put money in a high-yield 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.

14. Turning Clutter Into Cash

If you’re thinking of hiring a company to haul away stuff you no longer want or need, think twice. It can be easy to sell your unwanted items. There are dozens of places to sell your stuff, thanks to sites such as ThredUp, Poshmark, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace. Or you could host a yard or stoop sale (just make sure to check if you need a permit).

15. Reviewing Home and Auto Insurance

Here’s another way to cut back on spending: Review your insurance payments. You may be able to considerably cut your costs by taking some time to shop around and compare prices.

Many insurance companies also offer a 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.

16. 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.) Dining out? You can save by ordering water instead of pricey beverages.

17. 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.

18. Shutting off the Lights

A super easy way 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 and chargers that aren’t in use.

19. Cutting Back on Bigger Expenses

If you’re looking to have more money after paying bills, you may want to address the biggest expenses in your overall budget. For instance, in terms of housing, you might consider downsizing, moving to a more affordable area, or getting a roommate. This could significantly reduce your monthly expenses.

Also take a look at car payments, if you have them. If they account for more than 10% of your take-home pay, 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.

20. Unfollowing Social Media Influencers Pushing Products

If you, like many people, shop from social media because you see new products being promoted, you may want to unfollow those accounts. That FOMO (fear of missing out) feeling can be powerful when you see an influencer pushing new kitchen gadgets, comfy socks, or other products. By eliminating that temptation, you can cut back on spending.

21. Uninstalling Shopping Apps on Your Phone

Shopping apps can be hugely convenient; maybe too convenient. If you find that apps encourage you to one-click your way to too many products and credit card charges, delete them. You can always reinstall them later if you have more wiggle room in your budget.

22. Buying Used and Second-Hand

A fun and frugal way to shop can be buying used and second-hand. You might hit a local thrift store for clothes, cookware, and other items. Check out a local library’s book sale for new reading material, and if you need a new kitchen appliance, see what major retailers have in their “open box” section (items that were returned with minimal or no use or perhaps floor models).

23. Do Some Bulk Buying

Check out the deals to be had by buying in bulk. That can mean joining a wholesale club, like Costco, or shopping at a local grocery store that has grains, nuts, and pasta sold from large containers to help you save at the cash register.

If you don’t have room to store, say, a pack of 12 cereal boxes or 24 rolls of paper towel, split purchases with a friend or two. You can all cut back on expenses that way.

The Takeaway

Cutting back on spending doesn’t have to involve a complete overhaul of your lifestyle. You can focus on lowering your recurring expenses (housing, insurance, utilities) and also cut back on unnecessary spending, especially impulse buys. If you pay with cash, delete shopping apps, and unsubscribe to marketing emails, you may find there’s a lot more breathing room in your budget.

To make it easier to stay on top of your spending, consider opening an online bank account with SoFi. With SoFi Checking and Savings, you can easily see your weekly spending in our app, plus you’ll earn a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) and pay no account fees, both of which can help your money grow faster!

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


How do I cut back on unnecessary spending?

Often, a mix of two tactics can help you cut back on unnecessary spending. First, look at how to reduce recurring basic bills, such as dropping a streaming channel or two, lowering your car insurance, and avoiding excessive banking fees. Next, tackle daily spending. You might reduce your daily latte habit, and look for free concerts and museum nights in your area vs. pricey entertainment. Also: Don’t let yourself give in to marketing ploys, like “buy one, get one” and free shipping, which can encourage you to overspend.

How can I drastically cut my spending?

To drastically cut your spending, try creating and sticking to a budget and using cash instead of credit so you are less likely to ring up debt. Also consider deleting shopping apps, emails, and influencer accounts that encourage you to shop, and putting yourself on a one-month shopping freeze, meaning no purchases except true necessities.

How do I mentally stop spending money?

If you are overspending, think about your triggers. Do you shop when bored or as a weekend activity? Find other ways to fill your time, whether that means reading or taking up a sport. You might also try the 30-day rule, which means that if there’s something you feel you must have, you might make a note of it in your calendar for 30 days in the future. Don’t buy it unless 30 days later you still feel it’s vital. Such feelings often dissipate over time.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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