If you feel like you spend too much money, you aren’t alone. Here are some painless ways to trim your budget.
Cut fees you pay to your credit card company for late charges, overdraft fees from your bank, and monthly maintenance fees from your budget.
A 2018 survey conducted by MoneyRates1 shows that Americans pay too much for their checking accounts. The average monthly maintenance fee for a checking account is $13.51. That’s over $160 per year. With many no-fee checking account options online, there’s no reason to give away money. 30% of all checking accounts don’t charge this fee. 78% of online bank accounts don’t charge this fee.
Overdraft fees are another unnecessary expense. Checking account owners pay an average of $26.32 every time their accounts dip into negative numbers. At some banks, you can opt out of overdraft protection. Transactions may be denied if you don’t have the money in your account. If you’ve seen your account drained by overdraft fees, it may be a good idea to find out if your bank will let you skip overdraft protection.
ATM fees, ranging from $2 to $6 per transaction, occur when you use an out-of-network ATM machine. In some cases, you could be charged twice. Your bank charges their set fee, but you may also have to pay the bank that owns the machine.
Over time, these small charges add up. Many banks have an app that shows the location of the nearest ATM machines in their network. When shopping around for a new account so you can lower fees, make sure there are no-fee ATM machines near your home and workplace.
There’s no need to wonder if you got the best price or feel bad when you realize the thing you just bought went on sale the next day. There are hundreds of price-watching and price-comparison apps to make sure you don’t overpay. If you do, there’s even an app to help you get money back on your purchase.
Here are some well-reviewed apps to try:
You don’t need to comb through your bank and credit card statements to locate forgotten subscriptions.
Two services, Billshark and Trim, promise to find all the active subscriptions you currently pay for every month. You’ll get a list of subscriptions and the option to cancel any that you no longer want. Both services are free.
Stopping recurring charges, especially for services you no longer want or use, is a hassle. It’s necessary if you want to get a handle on spending or simply want to save as much money as possible. Many services you sign up for online are difficult to cancel and require at least one call to customer service.
TrueBill users who cancel a minimum of one subscription could see a yearly savings of $520.2 With this service, users get a monthly summary of their recurring charges. They can cancel any subscription quickly and easily. TrueBill gives users a snapshot of their financial activity over time, helping you to identify areas where you could save money painlessly. They’ll even negotiate lower rates and one-time credits on bills with major companies.
You may have heard about the popular “envelope method” of budgeting. It’s foolproof, simple, and has worked for many people who have problems keeping track of their spending.
After allocating the appropriate portions of your paycheck to bills, decide how much of the leftover money you are willing to spend in various categories. For example, you may create a budget of $100 per week for lunches out, $150 per week for groceries, and $35 per week for little things like the occasional cup of coffee or a few drinks during a night out with friends. If you get paid weekly, you’d withdraw $285, which represents your total cash budget, from your bank account. Place the appropriate amounts in each of the three labeled envelopes.
When you’ve spent the money in an envelope, your budget for that item is gone for the week. This spending strategy is great for people who are trying to recover from overdraft fees, who would like to stop using credit cards, or who are trying to pay off debt.
If you like the idea of restricting your spending in certain categories but aren’t excited about carrying cash, check out the budgeting app built on the envelope method idea.
Mvelopes offers a basic app that connects your bank accounts, so you can create an online envelopes budget. You can access your virtual envelopes with your smartphone, so there’s no need to carry cash. You’ll still be able to keep tabs on spending in real-time, though. The service is free for the first 30 days, so you can see if it’s a good fit. Then, you’ll pay $4 per month for the app.
Some of the most famous home organizing experts believe that you can’t keep a cluttered home clean. Streamlining your possessions will free up space and help you cut down on the time it takes to tidy up. It may also add money to your bank account.
Selling your unwanted and unneeded stuff will also help you think differently about your purchases. If you go through the exercise of ridding yourself of things that are in your way, you’ll be less likely to spend your hard-earned dollars on new clutter.
While eBay may be the first option that comes to mind for selling gently used items, you have many other options.
Check with local thrift stores to find out if they purchase used clothing and household goods. You could get cash on-the-spot. Resale shops may let you open an account and consign items. Typically, they take 40-50% of the sale price and you get the rest.
In some geographical areas, Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist work well for selling furniture, electronics, vehicles, and name-brand clothing. These types of transactions can be a bit more time-consuming. You’ll have to communicate directly with buyers, settle on a price, and arrange to meet up.
Mercari is a popular online marketplace for used and new name brand clothing and accessories. They take a cut of every sale, but transactions are easy if you have a newer smartphone and the ability to take a few clear photos.
Tradesy, ThreadUP, and Poshmark are other popular online marketplaces that connect buyers and sellers of name brand and high-end clothing, shoes, and accessories.
If you have your eye on a high-end item but just can’t stomach the price tag, check these online shopping portals to see if someone is trying to sell one that’s gently used or in like-new condition.
If you want to cut down on the money you spend at the grocery store, try making a meal plan and visit the store just once each week. Start with what you already have at home in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Make a list of anything that you’d like to use up during the coming week.
Use the website MyFridgeFood to help you find recipes requiring those ingredients. For example, if you have a whole frozen raw chicken, cream cheese, garlic, a pound of hamburger, macaroni noodles, a can of red beans, a can of pinto beans, a jar of salsa and lemon, your menu may look like this:
Make your grocery list based on your menu. So, you’ll need lettuce, cheddar cheese, milk, fettuccini noodles, another pound of hamburger (for the chili), flour or corn tortillas, corn chips, enchilada sauce, and a frozen veggie pizza. Check your spices to make sure you’ll have everything you need for the week, as well.
Keep the recipes as simple as possible. Start by planning for just four to five dinners per week. By basing your meal plan on the food you already have, you minimize waste and buy only what you need.
Meal planning also allows you to stretch the time between visits to the grocery store. This minimizes the temptation of impulse purchases.
If you have a hectic day ahead and making dinner will seem like an overwhelming task, minimize the damage by planning. For many families, the crock pot prevents a $60 budget-blowing dinner out. If that isn’t your style, or if you don’t have time to set up dinner in the morning, plan to pick up a bucket of chicken and pair it with an easy-to-assemble salad and drinks at home.
The drive-thru is expensive. You can probably do better if you think about your options a bit. Does the grocery store closest to your house have rotisserie chicken? Grab one and add a side of mashed potatoes from the deli. Buy a bag of grapes and some baby carrots. Dinner will be on the table in just moments. It probably won’t cost more than two big bags of fast food. You may even have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
A warning about meal planning and cooking at home:
If you are new to cooking, are used to eating out multiple times each week, don’t regularly grocery shop or don’t keep a well-stocked pantry, go slowly when you try to trim this part of your budget.
People who hate to grocery shop, dislike cooking, and prefer to eat prepared foods may fail at meal planning if they rush into it. Look into meal delivery services in your area. Some grocery stores sell prepared meal kits. These are a healthy and easy alternative to cooking from scratch. Meal kits with carefully portioned ingredients and assembly instructions delivered weekly may give you a delicious reason to eat at home a few nights each week. They are also less expensive than eating in restaurants.
For many people, understanding how much money they actually spend is an important step to saving money every day. Making a budget isn’t fun, but it’s a necessary part of keeping track of your financial affairs.
When you create a budget, look back at your financial records to figure out how much money you regularly spend. If you want to budget $50 per week for lunches during work hours, but you currently spend $75 per week, you’ll have to adjust your habits to stay within the lower budget amount.
Getting into a routine is important, so schedule a time to look at your accounts each week to make sure you are on track with your new spending goals.