Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. I would earn a little money with no extra cost to you. The opinions expressed are my own. Read my disclaimer to learn more.
Updated: [April 2019]
Wish you had more money in your budget?
Wish you could save more money every month?
Now don’t roll your eyes at my silly rhetorical question. I know you want more money in your budget and to save more money.
The good news is you can find more money IF YOU USE A BUDGET. In 2013, I started using a budget for the first time and was amazed.
Here’s a few things I learned from my first couple months of budgeting:
- I bought stupid things I didn’t need
- I spent WAY too much money going out to eat
- Beer is expensive
- I hated making my car payment every month
- Student loans are stupid and were more expensive than I could afford- I thought I’d never pay them off
- This is not the most efficient way I could spend my money
- I definitely need to start tithing
Those first couple months helped me realize I needed to change my habits and learn to save more money. Those student loans weren’t going to go away if I didn’t change a few habits.
How Can a Budget Change Your Habits?
Unless you’re on a budget, changing your money habits can be really hard to do.
Willpower and determination will only get you so far.
The amazing thing about a budget is that it allows you to see how much money you spend, and what you spend it on.
A budget also helps you see where you’re wasting money.
As sad as it made me, I knew I had to cut down on delicious beer and going out to eat. I cringed when I typed those big numbers into my budget, so my wife and I both stopped going out to eat.
If we never made a budget, we probably wouldn’t have made that change.
Our budget influenced our habits.
Are You Ready to Cut Expenses and Save More Money?
It’s time to stop spending money on things that drain your budget, or find more frugal ways to enjoy the things you love.
These are simple tips that I learned in my budgeting journey and I know they can make a big impact on your budget and help you save more money.
Disclaimer: you don’t need to completely cut everything out of your life at once. That’s not what I’m saying. Use your budget to guide you and cut one or two expenses at a time.
Some of these will take time too. So get a couple quick wins before working on the bigger money saving tricks.
If you want to save more money in your budget, make some of these changes as soon as possible.
1. Get Rid of Cable: Netflix is Better Anyway
I still can’t believe how much money I spent on cable during college. I definitely didn’t need 1,000 channels. I only watched about 5 anyway.
It was such a waste of money.
I haven’t had cable for YEARS and I still get a “sweet offer” in the mail every few weeks to bundle my internet with cable to “save” all kinds of money.
However, cable has about a bajillion channels I don’t want or need. Of course I can use DVR, but why do I need to record when I can just watch Netflix or Hulu.
Netflix and Hulu have everything I “need” when it comes to tv shows and movies. I can pause, stop, rewind, and watch over and over again.
Plus it’s crazy cheap! It’s only like $10 a month. And if you split it with a friend and share the same account, it’s even cheaper. (Thanks Jacob and Amanda for your kindness 🙂 )
The only thing I really miss out on is sports, but I can track everything I need on my phone.
2. Pay Off Your Vehicle ASAP!
I love not having a car payment.
It frees up a couple hundred dollars in our budget for each vehicle. I know people who have a $500 truck payment. That’s $6,000 a year for a truck, not to mention any repairs or maintenance costs that might pop up.
You will always need to invest in repairs and maintenance, so why would you want to make a car payment on top of that?
We just bought a new to us car and wrote a big fat check for it. It felt amazing! We saved for a little over a year and it was totally worth it.
I know it’s not always possible to buy a used car and pay cash. You might already have a newish car with a big payment and feel trapped. It’s okay, I know someone who can help.
Learn more on how you can ditch your car payment here.
3. Stop Going Out to Eat, Or at Least Limit Yourself
Every time I go out to eat, I’m shocked at how expensive it is. Even splitting entrees and getting cheap meals, it’s tough to get out the door without spending $30 for me and my wife.
A few weeks ago we got a babysitter and splurged on a date night to Famous Daves. We spent $50 without breaking a sweat (don’t worry, we budgeted for it). My mouth actually still waters when I think of that meal.
How many times do you go out to eat every month? How about every week?
If it’s more than a few times per month, you’re sitting on a jackpot of extra money in your budget!
Cooking from home can be a pain, but it saves so much money. When my wife and I started aggressively paying off our student loan debt, we stopped going out to eat completely!
It was extreme, but it made so much extra room in our budget. We also started meal prepping and learned how to survive on $60 a week for food.
4. Switch to a Less Mainstream Cell Phone Carrier
I didn’t even realize there were other options for cell phone providers. Maybe you don’t either.
Most everyone I know is part of the big three: Sprint, Verizon, or T-Mobile. However, you don’t have to be stuck paying for their expensive services.
Nerdwallet wrote a great article to compare different carriers and different types of plans. Every family’s situation is different so it’s important to shop around and find what fits your needs the best.
Don’t be afraid to be unconventional if it makes sense for your family. Especially if you save more money in the process.
5. Brew Your Own Coffee at Home
I used to hate coffee.
However, in the last year I’ve switched to the dark side, roast that is. 😉
It all started with the classic Pumpkin Spice Latte, and then very slowly, I branched out and tried other sweet, sugary coffees from either Caribou or Starbucks.
No matter which fancy coffees you get from these stores, you’re forking over big time cash. Yeah, $5 doesn’t seem like much, but it sure adds up. Especially if you AND your spouse get a beverage.
Twice a week turns into $40 a month easily! Compare that to brewing your own coffee at home, and it’s not even a contest.
We generally only make coffee on Saturday mornings, and stretch a pound of beans to last for a couple months. That’s $10 over two months, we’re talking about pennies per cup.
You can even get your Caribou or Starbucks flavors, just by a pound of ground beans at the store and brew it at home.
6. Only Buy New Clothes to Replace Old Clothes
My wife is a big clothes shopper, but she doesn’t buy just to buy. She’s a very practical person and she typically only buys clothes if she wants to replace an older item, or something she never wears anymore.
It’s a great system to prevent yourself from just buying clothes for the sake of buying them.
Your spending becomes intentional and purposeful.
If you haven’t tried this, it’s a great way to evaluate the clothes you wear and minimize both your wardrobe and your shopping bill.
7. Buy Clothes from Second Hand Stores
Clothes are expensive, so I want to share another tip that will help you save more money.
Goodwill and Savers are stock full of clothes begging to be worn. Not everything is great, but you can definitely find awesome shirts at crazy cheap prices.
You’ll need patience and perseverance to sort through each rack of clothes to find a diamond in the rough, but it can be worth it to save more money.
If you’re not willing to buy used clothes, stores like Kohl’s run sales all the time. You’d be amazed what you can find in the 50-75% off racks.
I can think of 5 shirts off the top of my head that I LOVE that I’ve gotten for less than $10.
8. Buy House Decorations at Antique Stores
Rustic is a huge trend in house decorations, especially if you watch enough episodes of Fixer Uppers. If you buy any rustic furniture, tables, or wall hangings new from a store, the prices are OUTRAGEOUS!
A sweet trick to get the same look for a fraction of a cost is antique stores. 95% of the decorations in our house came from antique stores. They give our house a nice rustic touch and we only paid $10 here or $25 there.
If there aren’t antique stores where you live, garage sales are another great resource for cheap decor. It’s definitely hit or miss, but patience usually pays off.
We didn’t go out and buy all of our decorations at once, and I think that helped too.
When we saw something we liked, we snatched it up and found a place for it to fit. Plus one of our favorite free dates is to wander around antique stores just to see what’s there and goof around.
If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it. 🙂
9. Get Really Good at Home Improvement
If you own your house, it’s only a matter of time before something breaks. When that happens, the biggest expense is the labor costs.
I hate paying someone hundreds of dollars to do something I can learn to do myself.
This last year, we had to dig into our emergency fund for a few house emergencies.
- Our oven started on fire
- Our thermostat broke and nearly froze our house
- Our kitchen faucet needed to be replaced
- A section of shingles came loose
- The hot water heater needed new heating coils
We found a way to do most of these repairs ourselves, with help from friends so we didn’t need to pay for labor.
Thankfully we have amazing friends that love teaching others how to fix stuff. My buddy Kyle is a home improvement guru, but he didn’t start out that way.
He took one project at a time and learned how to fix it himself.
Kyle and his wife Jess have an entire page on their site Life with Vigor dedicated to their own home renovations.
That’s something anybody can do, even a level zero handyman like me!
If you don’t feel super confident, find a friend who is and ask them to help you learn. Then you’ll slowly build your own set of skills and become more self-reliant.
The more projects you learn to do yourself, the more money you can keep in your pocket!
It’s also good to have an emergency fund in your back pocket to help cover up front costs of repairs.
10. Stop Buying Bottled Water
I get really annoyed everytime I buy bottled water.
It’s totally unnecessary if you plan ahead. I also live on a huge lake that has the best water in the world. All I need to do is remember to fill up a water bottle when I leave the house.
Not only is bottled water overly expensive, it’s terrible for the environment. Plastic never decomposes, so every piece of plastic that’s ever been made is still around.
Most of it ends up in land fills or floating in the ocean, destroying ecosystems.
Buy a water bottle and save more money on bottled water and save your environment.
I have a few Nalgene bottles I love! Yeti is another great brand. Heck, one of my students fills up a gallon jug and carries it around school. Find one you like and bring it everywhere!
11. Rent a Movie Instead of Going to the Theatre
This is a no brainer. Redbox is $1.62 or so for a movie. The theatre is easily $10 a ticket. Even if you go to a matinee it’s still at least 600% more expensive for a movie date. Then if you’re bringing kids, yowza!
I really love going to the theatre, but I refuse to pay full price. If you really love the theatre, save your date night out for the cheap movie nights or find a matinee of a “must see” film.
And yes, I like to write “theatre” instead of “theater”. It just looks cooler and I feel fancy 🙂
12. Utilize Your Local Library
The local public library is so underrated! I love to read, but I hate buying new books. Public library to the rescue!
I just picked up two books to read over vacation. I’m SO excited!
Yeah it’s a pain to be pinned to a due date, and to renew books, but if you’re really concerned about finding more money in your budget, check out the library. 🙂
These days the library isn’t just for books either. If you have a library card, you can check out movies, tv series, cds, books on tape, and magazines. If these are items you usually buy new, you just put a lot of money back in your pocket each month.
Your bookshelf might be sparse, but your bank account will thank you for it!
13. If You’re Brave, You Can Cut Your Own Hair
I only recommend this for the brave and bold.
A decent set of hair clippers cost about $50-75, so there’s an initial cost up front. It costs me $24 for a haircut with a tip so it’ll only take three haircuts to cover the costs of going to the barber.
I only need a haircut every two months or so, so this doesn’t completely break the bank. I also tend to let my hair grow out a little past my comfort zone to the border line afro stage before I cut it, so maybe you shouldn’t follow my example. 🙂
Yep, you read that right. I can grow an afro.
If you’re a normal person and get your hair cut every month, that’s $24 a month, or $288 a year. Clippers generally last at least a few years, so you’re saving boat loads in the long run if it doesn’t stress your partner out too much to cut your hair. For us it was way too stressful.
Also, I don’t recommend clippers for long hair. Only cut long hair if you really know what you’re doing. Otherwise you’ll pay someone just to fix the disaster.
14. Buy Off Brand Products at the Store
Companies would have you think that the brand name item is the best quality on the planet.
It’s also way more expensive compared to the generic brand. Most consumers however, can’t tell the difference between Coke and RC Cola when doing a blind taste test.
If your taste buds can’t tell the difference, it’s not worth the extra money.
We buy a lot of off-brand foods and ingredients. It doesn’t diminish the flavors or the experience of eating, but we notice that our dollars stretch farther.
This extends beyond just food too. Household products run cheaper if you buy the generic brand. Everything from laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and dish soap to toilet paper and paper towels.
15. Go on Cheap or Free Dates in Your Town
I’m a firm believer that not all dates need to take place at fancy, expensive restaurants. The magic of dates is often in the time you spend together, and that doesn’t need to cost a lot of money.
Here are a few great date ideas to spark your imagination:
- Pack a picnic and go for a hike in a scenic or favorite place
- Wander around antique stores
- Have a game night
- Act like a tourist in your own town. Bring a camera and take silly pictures.
- Go for a walk. Getting out of the house and moving can create great conversations
- Sit in a coffee shop and play cards, or cribbage
- Go to the beach with books and floaties
- Garage sale together and dream of your future house
- Dream and make goals together. What do you want your life to look like in 5, 10, 25 years?
- Go to the animal shelter and pet puppies or hold kitties on a rainy day. Bring your self control or you’ll walk out with a new pet.
- Wake up early, make breakfast, and watch the sun rise
These are just a few of the things we like to do. Most of them are free, but all of them are cheap. Here are a few more cheap date ideas to get your creative juices flowing. I even have a printable PDF you can print and hang on your fridge.
If you really love going out to eat, learn how to do it frugally. Split appetizers and entrees. You still get the experience, but it only costs half as much.
If you have kids, try creating family date nights once a month. You all get to spend quality time together being intentional, and you don’t have to spend money on a baby sitter.
Build a fort and watch a movie, go to the park and play, hit up the beach, or have a nerf gun war in your back yard.
Get creative and have fun!
16. Go on a Stay-Cation Instead of a Vacation
Everyone loves to get out of town and go on vacation. It’s fun to leave work and worries behind and create amazing memories with people you love.
It can also be really fun to do the same thing but stay close to home.
One of my favorite memories with my wife was our one year anniversary “stay-cation”.
At the time, we were saving our big trip to Ireland for our five year anniversary (which is this year, holy crap!), but still wanted to celebrate one amazing year together as husband and wife.
So we decided to take a couple days off of work and rent a hotel right in town. It was the off season, so it was much cheaper, and we had an “in” because we used to work at this hotel.
We got a suite, ordered pizza to be delivered, and munched on fancy cheeses and fruit.
We talked for hours, reflecting on our marriage and played cards. The best part was spending quality time together, which happened to be both of our love languages.
It was amazing and so much cheaper than flying somewhere extravagant. I wouldn’t change a thing.
What Changes Can You Make Today?
It takes a certain mindset to change your lifestyle and make changes to really save more money. It also takes defined goals and dreams to motivate you to sustain the changes. I know first hand.
Find something on this list that you think you can do, and get to work. Start changing your lifestyle one habit at a time and start saving money. Your future self will be happy you did.
Let Me Know in the Comments
What do you think? What have you cut out of your budget to save more money? Was it worth it?
Our budget and goals changed our lives and it can change yours too.
Click the image below to go buy a $5 budget spreadsheet so you can start tracking your spending, cutting expenses, and saving money.
It’s only $5 and could change your life. What are you waiting for? ??
I love the many ideas you have shared. Keep up the good work and tks for the huge eye opener.
Thanks! I hope it helps!
Dude, great list! #1 is spot on. We easily started saving $100/month when we dropped DirectTV and opted for Roku and Netflix. My daughter is a hair stylist and would be horrified if I cut my own hair ?.
Haha hopefully she hooks you up with free haircuts every once in a while!
Great post. I’ve been doing many of these for years and it has made a difference, especially over time. You end up not missing the stuff. MoviePass is my latest mini-splurge recently…it’s almost paid for itself after a week, and I have 11 more month’s to use it. It’s cutting cord on cable that freaks me out a little bit, but if I can figure out a way to have very fast internet without the cable, I’d consider it.
Thanks Jim! I actually miss cable sometimes, especially when I can’t watch my Minnesota Twins! But you’re right, the savings really add up over time and the longer it’s gone, the less you miss it.
We actually buy water bottles in bulk since the filter in our fridge is stuck. We reuse the water bottles to make toys for our dog. Basically we get fury material and sew the water bottle into the material. We also reuse them in a bunch of other ways too. But when we are out hiking we fill the water up in fountains with reusable water bottles.
That’s an amazing reuse of water bottles. Are you still talking bottled water water bottles? Our dogs love crinkly toys too and they last so much longer than anything with a squeaker.
One thing I didn’t see you mention was a television antenna. My husband put on on the end of our roof and we get 26 channels in high definition quality free. No monthly subscriber fees. One time cost, we get all the local and national tv stations. We get internet only, and have Netflix that comes free with our T-mobile cell service.
We have a large garden, we planted fruit trees, berry bushes, strawberries and we start vegetables from seeds each spring versus buying plants at the big box stores. We eat fresh delicious fruits and vegetables. We freeze, do canning, pickling and I make jams for our use and to sell extra. Some significant sweat equity, but we save thousands a year on our food bill, eating healthier, organic food.
I bring water to work in a 1/2 gallon jug as we have well water, better tasting and no plastic taste like the bottled water. I brew and bring my coffee to work in an insulated stainless steel travel mug.
We insource most of our home repair and other projects.
We do haircuts at home. I was tired of paying for bad haircuts at the barbershop for my boys and bought a good quality set of Wahl clippers, cape, neck strips and hubby already had shears, combs and clips as he had been cutting my hair for me. So we save well over a grand a year after firing the barbershop and salon. .
We buy store brands of products as they are really not any different than the national brands, just different labels.
Holy crap this is amazing! You are crushing it! All of these add up to so much a year.
What do you do with all of your savings? Pay off debt? Invest? Save up for fun stuff?
We try to be responsible with our finances, to work smart, not just hard. My husband retired and is collecting a pension from federal civil service and had reserve military service that he will be collecting on soon. He has retirement savings he hasn’t touched and we have the current house with a good interest rate and manageable monthly payment plus a second home that became investment rental property. We invested in our businesses of the rental property, keeping bees, raising chickens and the garden that are my husband’s full time job now. He was raised to be frugal and worked on a farm as a teenager, getting hands on experience. He bought some farm equipment, mostly used, a couple pieces new. We sold honey, eggs and jams last year and plan to sell more this year. The side businesses generate some income and have been great deductions on our tax returns. We are planning fun stuff of a couple vacations and a newer truck. Hubby saw his income dropped 65% when he retired, his was over $100k, we were prepared for it.
You have an amazing story. Thanks for sharing.