Cut Your Spending by $400 a Month!

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Did you know if you cut your spending by $13 a day, you’ll save $400 a month and $4800 a year! Pay attention to the little expenses because they really do add up. This is currently the most popular article on The Budget Diet, and I’ve just updated it for 2014 thanks to all the helpful comments. If you’ve read it before, read it again…a little frugal living refresher won’t hurt.

Consider this your frugal living menu with 98 ways to cut your spending. I’ve included lots of links to help you find more in depth information on many of these money saving tips, so just click on a link if there’s something you want to learn more about. After you finish reading this article (it’s a long one), here’s a much shorter
printable Cut Your Spending Checklist. Simply put a check mark next to any money saving tips you’d like to try, and you’ll soon find your family saving at least $400 a month! Thanks to Kristy W. for helping everyone save paper and ink by putting together this short 4-page printable Cut Your Spending Checklist

Reduce Your Bills
• Call your utility companies to make sure you’re getting the best rate, and to make sure you really need all the services you’re paying for like call waiting or premium cable channels. A few phone calls usually yields savings of $15 a month.
• If you live in a deregulated state, make sure you’re shopping around for the best electricity rate! It’s easy! In Texas, go to PowerToChoose.org, enter your zip code, see rates, read the fine print and choose a provider. The process is similar for all deregulated states, and there’s no interruption to your service.
• Shop around and compare rates on auto and home insurance. Ask yourself if you could live with a higher deductible or different limits, and make sure you are taking advantage of all the discounts available to you (security system, good student, student away).
• Start using a clothesline and you’ll save about 6% on your electric bill plus your home will be quieter and cooler!
• Invest in a programmable thermostat…it will quickly pay for itself!
• If you’ve had a disruption to your cable or satellite service, call and ask for a refund! We had issues with our cable for a week, and a complaint phone call yielded a $50 credit on our bill. Legitimate complaints may also result in a credit on your cell phone bill.
• Speaking of cable, ditch it and opt for Netflix or Hulu. Unless you watch a lot of sports, this is a great option.

Shop Smarter
• Stock up on discounted gift cards for places you normally shop. How does 15% off at JC Penny or Pier 1 sound? CardCash.comhas a huge selection!
• If you shop online, start with Ebates.com – you’ll find coupon codes and earn cash back on every purchase!
• Shopping online? Never leave the coupon code box blank again! Sites like RetailMeNot offer free coupon codes for just about any product you’re shopping for…electronics, fashion, home and garden, books and more.
• Make sure you’re taking advantage of discounts! Check out this list of 133 Military Discounts or 66 Teacher Discounts.
• Stop making impulse purchases! Get in the habit of asking yourself if it’s a need or a want.
• Don’t keep up with the Joneses.
• Patience pays! If you make an effort to plan ahead, you’ll have time to find a bargain! Last minute shopping rarely yields big savings.
• Shop garage sales, thrift stores, Craigslist, Goodwill and consignment shops first – you never know what treasures you may find! Once you find a few treasures, you’ll be hooked!
• Try swapping instead of shopping. Invite your friends over and swap children’s clothes, toys, books and Halloween costumes. The average family saves $569 a year by swapping children’s clothes!
• Get in the habit of shopping Groupon and other deal sites. No matter what you’re shopping for, there’s a deal site for you! Sign up to receive the best daily deals. No matter what you’re shopping for, there’s likely a daily deal site to help you save money!
• Make sure you’re taking advantage of rewards programs at places you regularly shop like CVS, Kroger and Petco. If you’re tired of carrying around all those rewards cards, there’s a free app called Key Ring where you can store them!
• Do you know the best times of the year to buy for maximum savings? Fall is the best time to buy a grill because stores need to make room for Christmas merchandise. Check out the Best Time To Buy Guide with listings by month.
• Consider homemade gifts and homemade Halloween costumes – you don’t have to be Martha Stewart with my ideas!
• Get in the habit of buying clothes during the end of season clearance.
• Be thankful for what you have instead of shopping for more!

Cut Food Costs
• Always plan meals, make a list and try to grocery shop once a week.
• Buy store brands, this alone will cut your grocery bill by 25%!
• Use The Grocery Game, Inc.to maximize your savings. The Grocery Game helps you combine coupons with sales for huge savings and even a few free items each week. You will save at least $50 a week, and you can get started with a free trial!
• Shop Costco or Sam’s for staples like milk, eggs, butter, cheese and sugar. This is where the real savings are. Remember, everything is not cheaper at a warehouse club.
• Invest in a deep freezer so you can buy in bulk during a big sale.
• Stop buying bottled water! A case of bottled water is about $5 per week, $20 a month and $240 a year! Try a refillable bottle instead…Brita makes a refillable bottle with a filter.
• Buy seasonal produce for best taste and savings.
• Did you know that Kroger sells rotisserie chickens for half price after 7:30? Stock up, chop up, freeze! Check your local grocery for their policy.
• Meijer sells all pre-sliced deli lunchmeat for half price after 8:30. See if your local grocery has a similar policy.
• Check your local bagel and donut shops, you can likely pick up a bargain after a certain time of the day! Our bagel shop sells 1 dozen for $5 after 2:00, and I’ve heard that Krispy Kreme sells a dozen donuts (the ones in the case) for $1 after midnight…that gives new meaning to a midnight snack!
• Eat out for less with deals from Restaurant.com, Groupon.com or discounted restaurant gift cards from CardCash.com. Who wouldn’t want to save 12% at Moe’s Southwest Grill or 9% at Olive Garden? Discounted gift cards are what I call “no-brainer instant savings.”
• Don’t miss out on over 100 Birthday Freebies from restaurants! How’s a $30 gift certificate to Benihanas sound?
• Discover all the Kids Eat Free offers.
• Are you taking advantage of Report Card Freebies?
• Eat in, not out! Those everyday trips to the drive-thru quickly add up – $7 a day for lunch = $35 a week, $140 a month, $1820 a year! Could you brown bag it to work a few days? Check out 5 easy ways to ditch the drive-thru.
• Make your own Starbucks and save about $3 a day, $21 a week, $84 a month, $1008 a year!
• Plant a garden and enjoy seasonal produce for a fraction of the cost.
• Learn to can fruits and veggies.
• Always check out the grocery clearance / managers specials…the deals are amazing!
• Cook from scratch…you’re paying way too much for convenience!
• Try this rule – only order water at restaurants.

Have Fun For Less
Groupon.com is a great source for huge savings on fun things to do in your area like 62% off admission at the Houston Museum of Natural Science!
• Try a high school football game or theatre performance for a cheap evening out.
• How about breakfast and a movie? AMC theatres offer $6 movies before noon.
• Watch your old wedding video and family videos.
• Pull out your wedding album on your anniversary.
• Have a wine tasting night at home and discover your favorite cheap wine. Simply cover a few bottles with brown paper, taste and rate!
• Host a cooking school for your kids – it’s time to stop watching the Food Channel and start cooking!
• Game night is a great family tradition to start! For a fun twist, add silly bets like loser does the dishes!
• Create your own Wii Family Olympics by playing a different sport each night – ideal for winter break.
• Check out FactoryToursUSA.com for a state by state listing of free tours.
• Find free events in your city by doing a quick internet search…the results might surprise you! West Palm Beach offers free concerts every week!
• Pizza Taste Test – buy assorted frozen pizzas, taste, rate and choose your new favorite.
• Start a family tradition of having ice cream sundaes on Saturday!
• Try Minute to Win It challenges at home.
• Bring back home birthday parties! You really don’t need to spend $300+ for an ice skating party or Build-A-Bear party.
• Enjoy the outdoors – take a hike, go for a bike ride, watch the sunset! Mother Nature has a lot of free fun to offer.
• If you’re a Bank of America customer, take advantage of free museum and zoo admission the first weekend of the month. Check their website for a listing of participating museums / zoos.
• When’s the last time you visited the library? Check out books, movies and enjoy free events. Our library offers free yoga and zumba classes!
• Let your kids get involved in Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts or 4H for affordable fun!
• A neighborhood pot luck party is one of my favorite memories, and it’s frugal fun at its finest!

Go Green and Save Some Green
• The Return of the Clothesline – Start using a clothesline or drying rack, and you’ll save nearly 6% on your monthly electric bill according to the Department of Energy…plus your house will be quieter & cooler! If your city or homeowners association prohibits clotheslines, your best option is a cloths drying rack (available at Target, Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond for about $30). If your monthly electric bill is $200, your friend the clothesline just saved you about $12 a month & $144 a year!
• Burn Calories, Not Gas – Walking or riding bikes is budget friendly, earth friendly and figure friendly…so, what do you have to lose? Maybe a few pounds???? Let’s here it for pedal power!
• Consider Carpools – Could you organize a carpool for work, school or after school activities? You’ll save both time and gas!
• Plan Ahead – Are you guilty of running errands every single day or making two trips to the store because you didn’t make a list? There’s more to life than errands, and planning ahead will save you both time and gas money.
• Slow Down – Driving 65 miles per hour uses 15% more gas than driving 55 miles per hour – that’s like paying 40 cents more per gallon! Of course, you’ll likely be the only one on the highway going 55!
• Pay Bills Online – Save trees, save stamps, save money!
• Find a Farmer’s Market – Discover your local farmer’s market, and your budget will love the prices and you’ll love the fresh taste of just picked produce! To find a farmer’s market near you, visit LocalHarvest.org and enter your zip code.
• Stop Junk Mail – Save trees, save your sanity! It only takes a minute to visit DMAChoice.org to remove your name from mailing lists for catalogs, insurance offers and more!
• Reusable Lunch Containers – Instead of a brown bag, carry a lunch box. Instead of zip top bags, invest in reusable bags. You’ll spend a little money upfront, but you’ll save money in the long run.
• Stop Buying Bottled Water – Bottled water has become the American way, and up until a few years ago…I was guilty of buying a 24-pack every single week! WOW…that’s $4 a week, $16 a month and $208 a year for WATER! Stop buying bottled water and start buying refillable bottles for your family to take to work, school and sports.
• Unplug – Phantom Electricity is the electricity that is used when a device is plugged in but not in use. For example…you leave your cell phone charger plugged in all the time, but you only charge your phone every few days…did you know that your charger is still using electricity when it is plugged in but not charging? This is “Phantom Electricity”, and little bits are being used throughout your home everyday hence the name “phantom.” Wasted electricity is not earth friendly, and wasted electricity is wasting your money!
• Recycle, Recycle, Recycle – If you’re not recycling, this is a great week to start! The first step is to have a system and make sure everybody in your family understands it! The Budget Diet girl’s system is two trash cans in the kitchen – one for recycling and one for trash. After a few weeks, recycling will become a habit, and your neighbors will be green with envy when you only have one small bag of trash each week!
• Homemade Cleaning Products – Make the switch to homemade cleaning products that cost pennies to make and clean just as well without harsh chemicals.
• Repurpose – Look twice at things before throwing them away! Could you cut off the fronts of some of your Christmas cards to use a gift tags next year? Could you paint that old piece of furniture or spray paint a chandelier to give it a new life? Save nice glass jars for giving gifts like my 2-ingredient DIY Coconut Sugar Scrub. You’ll never have to buy a box for shipping if you save a stash!
• Compost!
• Check Craigslist for free plants…you’ll almost always find them!

Reduce Health & Fitness Expenses
• Are you taking advantage of your flex plan at work for pre-tax savings?
Save money on prescriptions by avoiding “combo pills.” A combo pill combines more than one type of medication. For example, Lotrel is a blood pressure medicine that costs $70 a month for generic, but you could get a prescription for the two components (Amlodipine and Benazepril) for $6 each.
• Ask your doctor about any money saving prescription options…the last time I did this, we were given a bag full of samples! Ask and you just might receive!
• Order pet medications online from 1800PetMeds.com.Simply place your order online, and they will contact your vet for the prescription. It’s one less errand you’ll have to run this week, and it’s cheaper than buying the medications from your vet.
• Order contact lenses online from DiscountContactLenses.com. It works just like PetMeds.com. Costco, Sam’s and Walgreen’s also offer discount contact lenses.
• No dental insurance? Find a dental school in your area for exams.
• Want a bargain massage? Try a massage therapy school! In Houston, Memorial Hermann Southwest offers a 1 hour massage for only $29, and tipping is not allowed!
• Check out FREE diet websites like SparkPeople.com and MyFitnessPal.com. Simply input your weight, your desired weight, and you’ll get a plan. These sites help you keep a food diary and keep count of calories, fat, protein and carbs. You’ll also find plenty of motivation, tips and support in their online forums.
Get fit for free! Walk, ride bikes, check out my Pinterest Board of at home workouts or try exercise dvd’s. Average savings – at least $40 a month and $480 a year.

Travel More, Spend Less
• Deal first, destination second – this is The Budget Diet’s motto when it comes to saving on travel. It simply means don’t get your heart set on a destination, and then discover the deals don’t exist. Instead, be open-minded about a destination and get excited about great deals. Each Saturday, The Budget Diet publishes the Top 10 Budget Travel Deals.
• Did you know that discounted gift cards exist for travel? Recently, Costco had $300 American Airlines gift cards for only $269.99! How’s that for instant savings? Take a moment to peruse the huge selection of discounted gift cards at CardCash.com – you’ll find discounted gift cards for hotels, restaurants, shopping and more!
• Save on Cruises with VacationsToGo.com’s 90-day last minute ticker. It’s not unusual to find discounts of 75%!
• Consider a home exchange program like HomeExchange.com or AffordableTravelClub.com
• A road trip is always budget friendly! Plan a road trip to please everyone – you set the budget and distance parameters, and each member of the family plans a day!

More Ways to Save
• DIY – could you make it yourself or fix it yourself? Thanks to You Tube, there’s a video to teach you just about anything! You can even learn to fix a leaky toilet!
• Consider swapping babysitting or pet sitting with a neighbor.
• Cut and color your hair at home.
• Cut your dry cleaning bill by switching to no-iron shirts. 5 no-iron shirts from Costco cost $79.95, and you’ll save about $250 a year on dry cleaning.
• Instead of a coin jar, try a $1 bill jar – you have to adjust for inflation, right?
• File your annual income taxes online with free services like Turbo Tax or H & R Block. If you’re lucky their free tax tips might help maximize your refund!

How many ways did you find to cut your spending?

P.S. – Now that you’ve read through this entire article, don’t forget to print the Cut Your Spending Checklist

Please leave a comment to add a tip to this list…thanks and happy saving!

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Image courtesy of: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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In full disclosure, this post contains affiliate links to help support The Budget Diet girl!

461 comments

  1. Kristl /

    Sadly, most Americans are not living within their means, so what seems like common sense to you and I may be just what someone needs to start living a frugal lifestyle.

  2. RachaelM /

    I guess if you are already spending wild amounts of money on useless things then this list will be helpful. But if you are already a low maintenance kind of person/family then this list isn’t very enlightening. And we found that if we spend $40 or less on basics every week and only $15 (or less) on daily needs/food, we saved A LOT more money than if we planned out all our meals and bought them once a week (inevitably we would need something or waste food). The best advice here is to make sure you are getting the best deal on utilities.

  3. Kristl /

    At home hair color is really easy, but I don’t think I’d attempt highlights or some sort of radical color change myself!

  4. Kimberly Dawson /

    Keep in mind trying it save on the haircuts and colors. Most salons and stylists charge more to fix the home jobs. So seeing that cheap box in the store is going to cost you more in the end. Somethings need to be left to the pros.

  5. Technically, donuts are a want, but let’s not get to technical when they’re half price! The Budget Diet girl is all about living the good life for less, and donuts are the good life!

  6. LitteBear /

    This is great, some excellent advice. But I particularly liked the bit about getting donuts half price after certain times of the day especially when only a few lines up it’s talking about planning in advance, “is this a need or a want?”

    Because donuts are a need. Every time.

  7. A little frugal living “refresher” is good every now & then!

  8. Thanks so much for all the info:). I do many if these already but you have ones I never thought of or have forgotten to do:). Excellent!!

  9. Thanks so much for sharing the information on streaming services for sports! That seems to be the biggest objection in most households to ditching cable.

  10. Even sports lovers can lose their cable bill. Just buy the online deals offered by streaming service for NFL or NHL Centre Ice, here are two articles with more information:

    http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/7-ways-to-watch-live-sports-without-cable-192747

    http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-watch-sports-without-cable-2013-3

  11. Kristl /

    Thanks so much for letting my readers know!

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