When you finally make the decision to do whatever it takes to get out of debt, it pretty much requires going into survival mode. Here are some ideas to eliminate spending.
- Stop eating out! People spend more on food than any other area in their budget, besides housing. In some cases people spend more on food than they do housing! This is the quickest and easiest way to eliminate some spending. Start cooking at home more and save eating out for treats and special occasions. Click HERE to read a previous series, "cooking on a budget". It talks about menu planning, shopping, and how even the busiest people can cook at home.
- If you have a membership to a warehouse store, figure out if you are really saving money. Personally, I found that I could get better prices on items in a regular grocery store using their sales and coupons rather than buying bulk items from Sam's or Costco. It might be different for your family, but it's worth doing the math to see if you could save that membership fee and even save money at a regular store.
- If you already have a cell phone, it might be time to get rid of your home phone. We did that and saved around $47 a month. We still have a landline plugged into the wall, because it's the law that even if you don't pay for home service, you can use a landline to call 911.
- Look into other ways to bundle or restructure bills. Start shopping around. All of the cable companies offer bundle deals for cable and internet...and phone if you can't part with that land line because maybe you don't get good reception in your house. Always ask for a better deal and do your homework. If they say this is the best you can do let them know that another company has offered you something better but you prefer their service. Once they know you are thinking about going with a competitor, they will usually offer you a better price. If you are trying to get a deal from your existing company and the person you're talking to isn't offering you anything, ask to speak to the customer retention department. One caution, do not threaten to leave unless you are ready to say, ok, go ahead and terminate my service.
- How brand loyal are you and is it time for a breakup? Food brands, clothing brands, shampoo...anything. Is there a specific reason you are brand loyal? For example, I have extremely sensitive skin and have only found one kind of shaving cream that doesn't make me want to scream from razor burn and itching, so I'm not going to try anything new. But do you really need to have someone's name stitched on the label of your sweater? Do you really need to spend more than my phone bill on salon shampoo and conditioner? Did you know that a lot of store brand foods are actually made by the same company that makes the name brand stuff? Think about buying generic or non name brand items to save money. Sometimes you can get the name brand food cheaper when it is on sale and you have a coupon. Also, you can find designer labels at thrift stores that might be like new or just need a button sewn on or a stain removed. Look around and see what really saves you money.
- Think about how much gas you are using. I drive a full size truck...yes, really...and I cut my monthly gas bill down by $200. I did a few things to get to this point. There are some activities that I cut out because they were so far away. There are more than one grocery stores in a certain chain, so I go to the closest one to whatever I'm doing the day I go to the store, or I give the list to my husband who drives right by one everyday to and from work. Try carpooling the kids to school, going to work, going to church and other activities. Plan days to stay at home and do cleaning and laundry or family activities. When you go to do errands, plan your route so that you go to the furthest place first, then work your way back home in the most direct route without backtracking.
- Limit what you do for your kids. I know them's fightin' words for some of you, but remember, it's time to get serious, and if kids know they are doing what they can to help out, they almost always want to. You might need to stop or cut back allowances. You might need to tell them to pick only one sport or one lesson. What do they enjoy and/or are really good at. Stop paying to belong to every league, and to take every lesson that their friends take. We are done keeping up with the Jones' as all that has done is help get us into debt. Kids don't need elaborate expensive birthday parties, especially when very young and they won't remember it. Keep it low key and fun. Memories are more important than matching tablecloths and fancy $30 a dozen cupcakes. It's time to meet their basic needs, not their every single want. This won't be fun or easy if your kids are used to getting a lot, but again, if they know it's for the good of the family, they will usually be on board. Sticking to it will be well worth it. Studies show that after food, most of the budget goes towards kid's activities and purchases that are not essentials.
- Limit clothing for the whole family. How many outfits do you have for each season? How about your kids? I recently asked my husband to keep only 12 of each item in his closet. 12 polo shirts, 12 button down shirts, 12 sweatshirts, etc. I picked 12 because that is two weeks worth of work clothes plus Sunday. Saturday is usually spent in camo pants and a torn or stained shirt of some kind. Even then if you consider 12 long sleeve shirts in with the 12 sweatshirt like shirts he wears, he could actually go a month without repeating outfits. Do we really need that many clothes? If the seasons are only 3 months each, and if you follow a rotation, the most you will wear something is 3 times a year. I'm not going to tell you how many times you have to wear something or not, it's just a guideline we use to keep our closet from busting at the seams. I still feel we should cut down even more, but it's hard. What is easier is to say we obviously do not need to buy any clothes...even something on MEGA sale. Spending $5 on a shirt we don't need is a waste of $5.
- Above all, think through all the services you are paying for. The gym, nail and hair appointments, dry cleaning, housekeeping, subscription radio, newspapers and magazines, clubs, you get the idea. What can you do without? What could be stretched further, such as haircuts every 8 weeks instead of 6? For example, I got rid of everything in my closet that said dry clean only and I won't buy anything new that requires this. That may not work for everyone. You might have the kind of job where you have to wear a suit. But could you air it out in the dryer and get another wearing out of it before it has to go to the cleaner's? Can you find deals, coupons or ask for a discount there? I quit paying for a gym membership as it was very far away from my house and I could only use the pool due to my physical limitations. With gas and membership, it was costing me over $10 every time I went to use the pool for an hour. Not worth it to me.
You have to decide what will work for your family. I can tell you everything I did, but you don't live where I do, have the same size of family that I do, have the same amount of time that I do, etc. That doesn't mean that you should say, my family needs all of these things so we're not giving anything up. Chances are if you are reading this, you need some kind of financial help, so you DO need to figure out what you can do and where you can eliminate speding. Like I said it may not be easy or fun, but once you get to a financially stable place, it will be soooo worth it!