A while ago, for one month, myself and a then work colleague lived money-free—I cut expenses by 100%, pretty much! The job I was in at the time paid for my accommodation and transport, so all I had to worry about was food. On the second day of the experiment, however, we met a ‘freegan’ who regularly collected food thrown out by all the supermarkets in town. So, following her lead, we went along, filled up her truck with perfectly packaged food, including toothpaste and other essentials, and lived money-free for the month.
Now, I’m not suggesting you go and rummage around in supermarket bins for a month to cut expenses, because, for one, I think it’s illegal in many parts of the world! Still, there are many other ways you can cut your expenses and have lots of your monthly income left to spend, save and enjoy.
1. Write down all of your expenses
How many times do you hand over $1 or £1 for something and think, “Oh, it’s only a dollar,” and then repeat the same process every day for a month? Be mindful of where you’re spending your pennies and write down everything you spend for a month—you can then see where to cut costs in the future. Trust me, this one really does work.
2. Cut out the takeaway coffees
Get yourself a nice flask and make your own coffee. If you’re serious about cutting your expenses and you still buy a takeaway coffee every morning, buying a flask will save you at least $80 a month.
3. Cycle or walk to work
I know many of you probably have long train or car commutes, but 10km is still do-able on a bike, right? And if you’re a little on the lazy side, invest in an electric bike to help you up those hills in the morning. Ditching the train or car for a bike is a serious money saver; plus, you’re getting fitter at the same time!
4. Shop in thrift stores (at least some of the time)
You can get designer items for pennies; you can find cheap tat and upcycle it for next to nothing, and find one-off clothes you’d never find on the high street. So, if you’re looking to update your wardrobe or buy new stuff for your home, check out the cheaper alternatives first.
5. Buy the unbranded products in the supermarket
You may only be saving pennies per item, but there really isn’t much difference in the taste—do not be seduced by pretty branding! The only difference, for example with unbranded tinned tomatoes and branded ones, is the lack of salt and sugar and you can add that yourself. Why pay loads extra for it?
6. Take your own lunch to work
Yes, it’ll take up a few extra minutes of your evening, but wouldn’t you prefer to have an extra $100 at the end of each month instead? Over the course of a year, that’s a saving of over $1,000.
7. Bulk cook your meals
Set aside a few hours on Sunday and make a load of different dishes to prepare you for the whole week. Pop them in the freezer and you won’t be tempted with takeaways or packaged meals midweek.
8. Compare gas and electricity prices
Are you really getting the best deal with your gas and electricity? It only takes a few minutes to compare deals on an online comparison site.
9. Cut out the pricey drinks
Perhaps you don’t drink much, but for a lot of people, spending a good proportion of their monthly salary on expensive boozy nights out is part of their monthly regime. If this rings true, try cutting back or going alcohol-free for a month to see how much you save.
10. Keep a penny/cent collection
Throw your loose change into a jar, then count it up at the end of each month and see how much you’ve saved—over time, you’ll be surprised by how much money you’ll make.
11. Use Freecycle
In the UK there’s a scheme called Freecycle, where you can give away your unwanted furniture, or anything else you no longer need, for free. Obviously, in return, if you need any household essentials—kitchen table, bicycle, bookshelf … you can just log on to the site and see what’s available.
12. Ditch the large overdrafts
If you’ve got an overdraft of $1,000, chances are you’ll spend it each month if you’re not careful with your money. If you’re scared to lose the overdraft completely, halve it and see if it makes you any more cautious with your money.
13. Clear out your unwanted stuff
Have a car boot sale, sell your unwanted things on eBay … if you’ve been living in the same house for over a year, chances are that unless you’re super-organized, you’ll have at least a few things that are worth selling to make some extra money.
14. Share car journeys
If you drive to work alone every day, see if there are any other people who live near you so you can share journeys and cut your costs on petrol. It’ll pay off in the long run.
15. Re-evaluate your insurance
Whether it’s life, health, or travel insurance, shop around, compare prices and make sure you’re getting the best deal for the least amount of money. Remember though, that cheapest does not always equal the best.
16. Change your phone deal
Do you really need all those minutes and extras? Is there a cheaper phone deal that will save you money in the long run? Shop around and see what other phone deals are out there.
17. Do not take out any pay day loans
The adverts may be appealing, but the interest rates on pay day loans make these companies no better than con artists!
18. Dry clean at home
If you’re a regular at your dry cleaners, cut costs by buying a home dry cleaning kit and a spot remover pen.
19. Take another look at your internet bills
Can you get a better deal elsewhere? Do you live in an apartment block? If so, perhaps you can share an internet connection with those around you—providing you trust them.
20. Make more gifts for people
Now that we’re coming up to the festive season, rather than splashing out on expensive gifts for people, cut expenses and make your own cards and presents—at least for some people. The gesture won’t be forgotten. Plus, everyone knows the gift of time far outweighs the gift of money.
21. Cut back on expensive cleaning products
There are loads of ways you can make your own cleaning products; for example, vinegar and baking soda work wonders for cleaning your drains; spray lemon juice on surfaces to get rid of stains and streaky grease marks; and use vinegar to scrub up wooden flooring.
22. Simplify your beauty regime
We can all be seduced by fancy creams claiming to minimize pores, get rid of wrinkles and leave our skin looking healthy and plump; but, in reality, all your skin needs is a good diet, plenty of water and hydration. Try ditching expensive creams for almond or coconut oil. It’s really cheap and will leave your skin looking incredible.
23. Cancel your gym membership
Get on your bike, jog round the park, and lift weights at home. You could even organize regular work out sessions for free with others who want to ditch the gym. You don’t need to pay to be fit!
24. Turn your lights off
When you leave a room, flick the switch and cut expenses on your electricity bills. If you live with forgetful people, place little stickers by the switch to give people helpful reminders.
25. Replace bulbs with energy saving ones
Cut expenses and save the environment at the same time. It’s a no-brainer!
26. Pay for things with cash only
Allow yourself a certain amount of money each week and spend only that amount. Unless you’re constantly checking your finances, there’s no way you can keep up-to-date with what you’ve really spent if you keep paying for things with your credit or debit cards.
27. Tell your friends and family that you want to cut expenses
If you’re ever tempted to spend more than you intended, tell everyone you spend time with what you’re doing. Or even better, arrange for a group of you to all cut expenses at the same time.
28. Get savvy with deals
Sign up to Groupon, or get Amazon deals sent straight to your inbox, and save heaps of money on theater tickets, holidays, restaurant meals, and much more.
29. Take care of your teeth
Brush your teeth twice a day and don’t forget to floss. If you don’t take care of your teeth now, you’ll pay the price in expensive dental bills years down the line.
30. Be grateful for the money you have
Change your attitude towards money and be grateful for what you have rather than complaining about not earning enough or having enough of it. You’ll be surprised by how much a simple change of attitude can help you to manifest more money and help you cut expenses.
If you think there are any useful tips missing from this list, please leave a comment below.