Five Things You Can Do Now to Cut Your Monthly Expenses
1. Cut the cord.
Three years ago, wifey and I cut the cord and replaced it with an HDTV antenna to receive over the air signals. Amazingly, today, we don't watch as much TV anymore. Part of that is baby girl (she goes to bed by 7pm and mommy and daddy need to go to bed too). While we were only paying around $45 a month for a basic cable package, there are other people who are paying excessively more on a monthly basis. If you happen to be one of these people, do yourself a favour and cancel your TV package. Worst case scenario, you call the TV provider to cancel and they convince you to stay with a reduced price. When I called to cancel my package three years ago, I was offered $14.99 a month for the next 12 months. A price reduction of almost 66%! If you get offered a lowered monthly rate, great! Now you can save the difference or put the difference towards your most expensive debt! Best case scenario, your TV package is cancelled and you stop watching TV. If you still want to watch TV, you can easily catch the shows you missed on the TV channel's website. For example, you can go to the CTV website and watch full episodes for free! Usually, you have a few days or up to two weeks, but if you're used to a schedule, you just need push the schedule back a day. It's pretty much the same thing. Only, you can choose when to watch it rather than at a specific time. The best part, if you want to watch on the big screen TV, you can Chromecast it (mobile app and on PC using Chrome with the Chromecast extension installed).
2. Don't eat out.
This includes your morning coffee, lunch with the co-workers, dinner with your significant other, etc. Instead, make your own coffee at home. Cook extra the night before for dinner and brown bag the leftovers the next day. If you don't have time to cook dinner, cook an excessive amount on the weekend and freeze portions for work. Or prepare the ingredients before work and throw everything in a slow cooker and have it cook while you're at work. If you've cancelled your TV package, you should have some extra time to prepare noodles or rice or whatever you eat at home. Assuming you buy a coffee and lunch everyday, that's a savings of at least $10 a day (assuming $2 for coffee and $8 for lunch). In a week, that's $50! Assuming 50 weeks of this madness, that's $2,500 a year! Throw that into your savings or reduce your debts with this money as well.
3. Buy groceries on sale and stock up!
Yesterday, I had a strange craving for cheese. Like a sucker, I could have jumped in my car, drove to the grocery store, pay $7.99 for a 450g brick of cheese, and bring it home. However, instead, I just went to the fridge and picked up one of many bricks that I purchased a few weeks ago for $3.99 (less than half the original price!) and opened that up. We have all sorts of cheeses, mozzarella (for lasagna and pizza making), cheddar (great on its own), and marble (great with bread). This past weekend, chicken breasts were on sale for $2.49 a pound. Did wifey and I pick up one package? No. We picked up three packages and stuck all of them in the freezer. Despite buying chicken this weekend, we actually had pork ribs that we purchased a month ago. When fruits are on sale (like bananas), we buy a crud load of them. If we can't finish them before they go bad (rarely do), we freeze the rest. For bananas, we can use them as an egg replacement when baking things like muffins and cakes or as an ingredient to make smoothies. For everything else (like pineapple, mangoes, papaya, strawberries, cherries, etc), they can go in smoothies, baking, or pizza (pineapples only, never tried strawberries on pizza). For a family of 4 adults and 1 baby, our monthly food bill averages $460. If we bought things when we needed it and not when it was on sale, I'd estimate our food bill would be closer to $800 a month. Assuming you can cut your grocery bill by 25% simply by buying in bulk and stocking up, that can go a long way towards your debts.
4. Ride your bike more often.
I read somewhere that the CAA estimates that for the average person, it costs $0.50 for each km we drive. The costs factor in wear and tear on the vehicle, insurance, and fuel. Unless you have an electric vehicle, ditch the car and ride your bike! Even short distances add up. Wifey and I ride our bikes to get groceries on the weekends (weather permitting). The distance to and from the grocery stores is around 7 to 8 km (depending on where the sales are). Based on the CAA, this is around $3.50 to $4.00 a week. In addition to that, we also bike to the doctor's office, community centre, and library. To and from, the distance is around 10 km. That's $5. Let's assume we make this trip every two weeks for 8 months a year. If we also assume 8 months (32 weeks) for grocery shopping, that's $208 of savings. Doesn't seem like a lot. However, $208 put into a credit card at 20% interest will save you around $41 in extra payments a year until you pay off the credit card. This also assumes short distances. If the grocery store, or park, or library are much further than 10km to and back, that's a lot more in savings. If you have a gym membership, you can cut that out now that you're riding your bike more often. Not sure what they cost, but I'm guessing $40 to 60 a month. Since you're not watching TV anymore, you can ride your bike outside to get some exercise.
5. Don't go to the mall.
This one seems stupid, right? Well, if you don't go to the mall, you can't buy stuff. It's actually quite simple. Why would you even need to go to the mall? If you feel the need to go to the mall because you have nothing better to do, take a look in your closet and see if you really need a new pair of pants or a new blouse or shirt to go with your new shoes. Probably not. I'm still wearing clothing from my early 20s. Over the years, some clothes need to be replaced, that's fine. If you only have 2 pairs of jeans and one pair has a hole in an embarrassing spot, please feel free to replace them (unless you feel you can get by with one pair of jeans). At least you have a purpose. Just go to the store you need to go to and get out. Most of the time, visiting a mall only results in unexpected impulse spending. That's not to say I'm completely immune to such spending. The last time I visited a mall, I just had to buy this hat for baby girl who was still 2 or 3 months before she was born. In total, I spent $1.05. It was on clearance at Old Navy. I debated the purchase for so long in the store. Did I really need such a hat? What if baby girl doesn't like hats? Will she like the colour? Would she be able to wear it in a year's time (it was a winter hat)? *sigh*. At least it was only $1. However, some people just need to spend money because it's buy one get one 50% off, or buy two get one free, or spend $50 and get 25% off, or... well, you get the idea. If you have a spending problem and you absolutely need to go to the mall, bring cash. Seriously. If you have to go home to get your credit or debit card, there's a chance you might change your mind. (Especially, if you biked to the mall. It would be so tiring to bike back.) While I don't have a figure on how much you can save by not going to the mall, if you're in debt, it won't help your situation much if you pile it on. Your savings would also be allowed to grow, so that's something to look forward to.
While each of these measures to cut expenses are small, combined, the amount you save each month will surprise you. For some families, this could be hundreds of dollars a month. Even $100 towards savings or debts is huge. Even if you just do one thing on this list, it's a start.