Money Saving Tips

6 Ways to Trim Your Budget, Not Your Lifestyle

6 Ways to Trim Your Budget, Not Your Lifestyle
Written by Oana Schneider

Finding quick and painless ways for putting some money aside without giving up your habits and without feeling you are making too much of a sacrifice in your usual lifestyle is, indeed, one of the biggest challenges in personal finance nowadays. But it’s totally doable! 

Cutting household expenses doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to trim your necessities – it’s just matter of figuring out what is really necessary and what is not. The best idea is to cut recurring expenses, not the temporary ones, so that your savings add up in time.

Also, don’t try saving money on the important things in your life (education, retirement fund, safety, and so on), because the few bucks you will manage to put aside in this way will come together with a sense of personal frustration and psychological discomfort.

Read this article and find out more about how to maintain your lifestyle without breaking the bank (bonus: a very good advice from our friends, Billcutterz.com)

In order to help you find the right balance between cutting expenses and still maintaining the lifestyle you currently enjoy, we have designed a list of 6 smart ideas that will help you reduce your expenses, but not your comfort.

Shop Smarter – Best Ways to Trim Your Budget

Stocking up on vouchers, deals and discounted gift cards for places where you do your regular shopping is a good start. And since last minute purchases rarely bring big economies along, making a bit of planning ahead of buying medium and large items will definitely pay off.

There is a best-time-to-buy for all the products and there are specialized websites where you can get tips or tricks for major off-season or end-of-season discounts. For example, mid-fall is generally a good time for shopping, because that’s the period when large stores have to empty their stocks in order to make room for Christmas merchandise.

Don’t forget that every impulse purchase accounts for an unplanned expense that finally adds up to many planned others, so it would be wiser if you would get accustomed with checking if what you’re buying is really a need or a want. Patience is also important – waiting for a few more days before buying a costly item means you will have more time to find a bargain. And of course, there will always be Black Friday!

If you are shopping online, learn where and how to find coupon codes, so that you fill the voucher box whenever you are buying a product or a service. Some online shopping sites even provide you with the option of earning some cash back on every purchase!

Moreover, statistics show that there are deal sites for almost every product category; signing up for some of those will keep you posted with the best offers, and if you’re not attracted by the perspective of tons of ads and newsletters in your email inbox, you can always mark them as spam and save you the bother.

Don’t simply pass by garage sales, consignment shops, or thrift stores! You will be amazed how many functional, good quality products you will find there for a price considerably lower than you would have expected. And once you’re in for a few bargains, you will find it hard to stop shopping there for regular products of less importance.

Also, whenever you find the opportunity, try swapping instead of buying! Studies reveal that an average family can save up to $600 a year only by swapping children’s clothes and toys! Have some friends and neighbors over your place and start swapping household or handmade items, clothes, books, small furniture, or toys!

Have Fun For Less

Find coupon deals and offers for fun things to do in your area! Perhaps they have a special offer at the aqua park or they have weekly discounts on dance classes – keep yourself posted! For a cheap evening out, try a walk in the park instead of your regular noisy pub. Check out your local ads magazine – there may be also good sports or theater performances organized by your community’s library or college!

Why not go see the movies in the morning? You may save up to ¾ of the regular price ticket and you will enjoy the same projection, after all.  Check up your local offer of free tours and enjoy some outdoor time: take a hike, ride a bike, or simply go to a special place to watch the sunset. Free fun!

Have some good quality time with your family! When is the last time you pulled out your photo albums and your family videos? Learn how to make non expensive handmade cards and gifts that come together with symbolic value for each of your folks’ anniversaries or whenever you celebrate a special occasion.  And very, very important – bring back home birthday parties!

To end up with, what about organizing a game night instead of an evening out? It is far less expensive, you don’t have to make reservations and sit in line for tickets; besides, for a funny twist, you can always add silly bets on household chores. Every once in a while, a pot luck party with the neighbors will cheer you all up on a really low budget!

Reduce Your Bills

The first step towards this goal is to reassess your contracts with the utility companies. Call them to check if you are getting the rate that best suits your needs and decide if all the services you are paying for – premium cable channels, call waiting, and the like – are really relevant to you.

If you experience disruptions in your services, ask for refunds! It’s absurd to pay monthly charges for cable or satellite when you’re not getting them, and service providers are forced by regulations to resolve legitimate complaints.

The next thing to do is to get some updated information on the best rates for car, health, and house insurance plans. Make sure you are benefitting from the best offers and discounts and see if you can get a more cost-effective payment plan and reimbursement limits.

Concerning your energy bills, make sure you unplug home gadgets and devices while you’re not using them. Also, using a clothesline instead of the electric dryer will save you around 5% on the bill. Don’t forget to invest in a programmable thermostat that will help you customize your home ambiance while saving energy money – you will be surprised how quickly it will pay for itself.

If you are not a big fan of sports, you may just as well ditch you cable services for good – there are good broadcasts on online TV websites, and, of course, there’s always Netflix or Hulu, where you can get a fully customized media experience for a much cheaper rate.

Whatever you choose to do, remember that there are things one should never save money on (also, don’t forget the 5 Important Things to Remember When Trying to Save Money, courtesy of Billcutterz.com).

Travel More, Spend Less

If you’re planning to save some money, you don’t have to throw away your travel agenda! There are a few tips that will help you with your holiday arrangements on a limited budget. First of all, choose the deal over the destination; be open-minded and check weekly online tops for budget travel deals – you may encounter very surprising destinations you didn’t even know about!

Then, make arrangements with your usual airline company or travel agency for fidelity cards or discounted gift cards! You will also find some of these that can be used for accommodation providers, restaurants, and other touristic facilities. Oh, and don’t forget about last-minute deals – studies reveal it is very common to find discounts as high as 75% on cruises and tours, if you are ready to go in a short time span!

If you intend to stay longer than one weekend away, you may also consider home exchange programs; if your stay is shorter, try couch-surfing. Basically, there are advantageous online arrangements that you can make in advance for every kind of trip, be it business or pleasure!

Cut Food Costs and Reduce Waste

To prevent your skepticism on this one, be sure from the very beginning that this section is not about eating less or purchasing cheap and unhealthy food.

These are definitely unreliable solutions that you shouldn’t adopt if you don’t want them to interfere with your lifestyle. Instead, try planning your meals in advance, make shopping lists and go to the grocery once a week to make sure you have all the necessary ingredients.

Coupons and deals will also help you maximize your savings and get a few free items each time. If you have one nearby, try shopping at discount stores – their display and appearance may not be exquisite, but you get important discounts to all the items. Another important advice is to buy bulk during sales period and store your food for longer periods in a deep freezer.

There are some other tips to keep in mind: invest in a water filter instead of buying bottled water each time; buy seasonal products for more savings and follow happy hours in grocery stores.

If you choose to eat out, follow the deals and the discounted gift cards from local restaurants; if you are keen on gardening and you have some space available, plant your own spices and vegetables to enjoy seasonal products almost for free!

You can also put aside a few bucks if you learn how to can fruits and veggies, and, last but not least, prepare your coffee and lunch at home to save up as much as $150 a month!

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for DontPayFull.com as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.

15 Comments

  • When I shop online I always try to use coupon codes. It saves to signup to a website as well, as they will email you the latest deals with a code you can put in to sometimes save some cash. I still go to the Salvation Army sometimes to buy clothes. Their used but in decent shape. And sometimes there is other good items to, cookware or glasses.

    To save on our electric bill I always try to keep lights off that shouldn’t be on. And I turn my computer off when I do not use it. We do not have cable, we get along fine with Netflix. 🙂

    • When it comes to keeping the lights off, I’d recommend using smart home lighting solutions. It’ll cost you a pretty penny upfront, but you’ll wind up better managing your home’s energy use. Smart home equipment can control your lights, thermostat, and virtually any electrical plug. You can control each light or fixture from your smartphone or computer and analyze your electricity usage and uptime. Just a thought!

      • That’s a good idea for the long run, but finding the spare cash to set up can be difficult. However it’s be awesome to be able to control my lights from my phone, I’d convince guests that it was ghosts 😛

  • It’s true. You don’t need to spend a fortune in order to enjoy your days and nights. You can do tons of activities that don’t cost a fortune. Some of these activities are even free, so that’s great for individuals looking to trim their expenses without reducing or cutting back on their lifestyle choices. Don’t think you have to spend money in order to have a one-of-a-kind experience.

  • I agree totally with making your own lunch and coffee, you can spend $5 or more a day if you just grab something from a convenience store, you can spend even more on fast food or a restaurant. Even at $5 thats $1300 a year! I pack my own lunch, I bought nice re-usable containers and take something everyday if i can. It doesn’t matter I take leftovers or salads with juice or milk- which I buy by the gallon. i save any container I can re-use and use that til it is no longer good rather then buy sandwich bags or wrap. You would be surprised how long a bottle can last.

    I also started to do something else sort of weird, i saw online these things called fairy jars, they are glow in the dark jars made with craft paint. I added these to the hallways where I always kept a little light on, I set it right under the light. Well I put these lights on timers now to save electricity and they shut off and the jars glow. they glow a very long time and pretty bright the paint was not expensive and I used a recycled olive jar some glitter and a piece of old Jewelry. It helps on the electric bill and I can still see where I am going at night.

    • Everything you said about packing lunch is so true. I kept telling myself, “Oh, it’s just $5, that’s a good price for lunch,” before realizing how quickly it all added up. (And that’s some painful math to look at once you consider it over the year!)

      That’s SUCH a cute idea for lights, though. I’m using that!

    • Yes! I’ve only started budgeting and I was gobsmacked when I realised how much I spend on lunch. It doesn’t feel like much but it sure adds up :/

      Your light idea sounds amazing! I’m impressed that glow in the dark craft paint can cast enough light to see by!

  • I love to use sites like groupon to find discounted giftcards for things like restaurants, starbucks, even the nail salon. We try to go with free entertainment as much as possible. We enjoy bike riding, hiking, and visiting the nearby beach. BUT I love being able to find discounted tours and fun activities too. Going on the edge season before or after the peak months for the location helps too.

  • Thanks for sharing. So many people do not realize that there are ways to save at least a little on most of the things your family needs – but you have to be more conscious of what your spending.

  • I’ve started to shop generically from the tips in this website, and I’m actually pretty surprised at how much I’ve saved and how much the food tastes the same. I’m really happy with my decision so far, and I’ve been able to put my money into better use. I’m currently saving up for some leftover Christmas gifts I want to get myself, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

  • Love this post! Majority of these things I have already started to enforce in my life have seen such a huge difference! I have switched my cable to netflix and Hulu which has been a god sent lol. I also live on groupon and coupon sites. You would be surprised on how many deals you can find online! Also another suggestion is finding out what discounts are offered from your employer, I work for the county and found out I get discounts from Verizon and auto companies. You never know what deals your employer may offer so its worth inquiring !

  • Some great ideas here. I like to bulk buy items to save some money whilst sticking to my preferred brands. I also scour newspapers and the internet for coupons and online discount codes. Finding out what employee benefits your company offers is also worthwhile – mine offers discounted insurance and gym membership.

  • I’ve always been good at most of those things — my mom taught me to shop smart, and I was always on the look out for “What To Do For Free In Your City”, taking advantage of any “trial classes” (usually to be found for dancing/pilates/karate classes!) and free art expos. I’ve never been too good at wanting to research boring stuff like insurances though. I cut my money by not having cable like you suggest!

    My biggest fall is on planning and not wasting. No matter how much I plan, it does not seem to be working out for the best. I always lose so much veggies and leftovers! Have to share the fridge with two other people, and sometimes stuff just goes bad. 🙁 I should learn to can, though.

    Thanks for the article!

  • Great post. Makes me feel good that I already employ many of the tips on this list, and it gives me ideas of where I can save even more. I’ve really got to start checking out the thrift shops more often. I’m also not the best about bringing my own food/beverages from home, but I try to remember as often as possible. Thanks for the tips!

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