Have you ever made any big life changes and let the finances slide a little? I certainly have. With all of life’s ups and downs, it seems the moment something significant happens, finances are one of the easiest things to let go.
Moving is one of those life-disrupting moments. When we moved to a new home 2 ½ years ago, life felt crazy and cash was tight. To compensate for moving expenses and other related changes to the monthly cash flow, we cut our savings by over 50%.
We had all good intentions of it this being temporary…you know, until we got settled. Regrettably, one year later, our spending remained the same and savings continued to suffer.
Between a new home, new commutes, a new school and a new side hustle, life just seemed to take over, with finances suffering the most.
Side note: During this busy time, I stopped reading personal finance blogs and books. In the years prior to the move, I read about personal finance in one way or another every, single day. Coincidence? I think not! 🙂
Something needed to change. We had goals and dreams for the future – and we weren’t going to get there at the rate we’d been going.
My husband and I are both types of people that tend to dive right in and figure out things as we go. We had a brief conversation about it and, one day, decided to increase our automatic savings by 15% (I would honestly recommend a little forethought and planning here)! The 15% was a significant cut to the cash flow we had become accustomed to.
How we were going to do it, we didn’t exactly know but, with our frugal history and knowledge, plus more effort and a little less convenience, we knew it could be done.
How did we decide where to cut?
Even though our spending had increased with the move, I had continued to track expenses through my own spreadsheet and I also utilize Personal Capital (which, by the way, tracks your spending for you – check out their free financial software here). Expense tracking was a lifesaver.
I combed through the past few months’ expenses and focused in on the variable expenses that were under my control, such as food, clothing, household expenses, home improvement, and entertainment to decide what would make the most impact to cash flow.
How we lowered our expenses
Groceries ($200-300 savings per month)
Groceries were costing us between $550-600 each month at that point. I have successfully kept them under $300 ever since. Other families that share their low grocery spending online provided inspiration, plus the fact that I grow some of our food and cook helped me realize I could do it.
Grocery sales are great, but I discovered they prompted me to buy more food than I needed. I began studying the ads, stocked up only as much as needed and limited my shopping frequency. Coupons usage stopped at this time because I discovered I was buying things just to get the discount.
I continued to cook (and bake) most of our food. Since I’ve done this for years, it wasn’t necessarily an added change, but definitely helped ease the transition to a lower grocery bill.
Gas (average of $150)
Some of this savings was simply a drop in fuel prices, but we made a few tweaks to help boost the savings.
- My husband and I decide each day who drives the most and that person drives the more fuel efficient car.
- I batch errands and keep all errands within the same vicinity (or wait until I have more than one errand in a certain area).
- I don’t leave the car running when waiting for my daughter (even when it’s freezing cold).
- We stay home more on weekends/evenings.
- I prepare as much as possible so we don’t run out of necessary items, eliminating last minute trips to the store (milk, toilet paper, etc.).
Lawn Care/Garden (average $100)
We moved to a home on one acre in desperate need of landscaping. Initially we had worked on building up the lawn through seed, fertilizer and aerating, started a garden, and planted trees and perennials. To cut back, we instead planted seeds and split perennials in the fall to fill in planting areas for free. In addition, we only buy fertilizer and grass seed when we know it’s at rock bottom prices.
Internet (average $50)
We had been paying around $80 for high speed internet. My husband called our internet provider, asked for introductory pricing and got it. The introductory price ran out just last month, so he made the phone call once again and got the bill back down to $30. This goes to show how important it is to call and ask for a better rate.
Utilities (average $20)
To reduce utility bills, we used energy saving strategies, such as LED light bulbs, adjusting the thermostat, and a few others. The three main ways we effectively reduced the electric/gas bill are detailed in this post.
Other (pet food, clothing and “other” expenses – average $100)
When I see a low price, I think “bargain” and tend to buy more willingly. Even though I typically only shop for clothes in thrift or consignment stores, it still adds up (only $4 for those jeans?! Throw ‘em in). I stopped frequenting the thrift stores and drastically cut back on clothing for myself and my husband.
Regular monthly purchases, such as pet food and toiletries, presented an area for more savings. By simply finding lower prices on those items, I could cut expenses. I stock up and/or buy in bulk at the lowest prices to have enough of these items to get by for a few weeks.
My “other” category on my expense tracking spreadsheet was running $100+ each month. Since this was a very vague category, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what those “other” expenses were. Come to find out, when you really try to avoid buying things that aren’t absolutely essential, these “other” expenses basically disappear on their own. Apparently “other” doesn’t equal “need”.
There you have it – how we cut over $600 from our monthly expenses. Over a year later, we are successfully keeping our expenses down. And our lifestyle? Our lifestyle hasn’t changed a bit and we haven’t felt deprived in the least! For us, the crucial factor was to become more conscious of spending and squelch unnecessary shopping.
Where have you been able to save the most on your monthly expenses? Where would you start to cut expenses if you needed to?
Here are some tools that I use myself that you may find helpful:
Want to painlessly save more each month (without even lifting a finger!)? Try out Digit. I really thought I was saving all I possibly could. Digit proved me wrong. See my review and updates on how much I’ve saved here.
Personal Capital tracks your expenses for you for free! Have all your accounts in one place and utilize their free expense tracking tool! I use their free net worth and expense tracking tools. Sign up for a FREE Personal Capital account.
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