Inside: How to cut expenses and balance the family budget.

According to experts in the field of finance over 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with the average person in their mid-forties to mid-fifties carrying over $137,000 in debt. Many of these same people have high-interest rate credit cards and no matter how hard they try to pay them off the debt doesn’t seem to decrease. People get in over their heads with debt and before you know it they think there’s no way out. Even if you only have many small bills each month altogether they can add up to a lot.

I’ve heard the story a million times and have fallen into the trap myself of saying, what’s another $100 a month when we can get a new couch or appliance. Well, that $100 a month may be more than you can afford and could put you further into debt that you will never escape.

If this sounds like you, then you may want to consider ways to cut expenses on the family budget

How to cut expenses and balance the family budget

Stop dining out

One of the best ways to spend more money than you have to is by eating out.  A typical meal for a family of 4 can average anywhere from $30-$60+ each time. If you dine out twice a week that can be $100 a week. Do that 4 times a month and that’s $400 and almost $5,000 a year. And those numbers are on the conservative side.

Instead of going out to eat, cut expenses and spending time at home cooking and eating in. There are various recipes available online to mix up the menu enough to keep everyone happy.

 

Cut the cord on cable television

Cable television pricing has gotten out of control. The problem I have with cable is even though you have hundreds of channels to choose from, there is never anything worth watching and most movies are 20-30 years old. All for an average monthly cost of around $200+ a month or $2400 a year.

There are many alternatives on the market these days to help cut the cord and cut expenses. Your first choice is an over the air HD antenna that you use to receive all the local network channels and more for free each month. You can also opt for a smart tv with built-in Netflix with prices ranging from $8.99 – $15.99 a month based on your plan choice. There is so much programming on Netflix that you will always have something to watch.

Lastly, options like Hulu Live TV, YouTube Tv, and Sling all offer the ability to watch live programming with a smart tv.   Prices on services like Hulu Live Tv begin at around $40 a month with an on average savings of around $160 a month compared to cable tv.  Check with each service to verify what channels are offered in your area as some providers offer channels that others don’t

 

Reduce expenses on your grocery bill

With your monthly food bill being one of the largest bills in your household, there are several ways to cut expenses at the grocery store. If your family is like mine we tend to waste food as well. We have high hopes of having salads with our meals and before we know it, the bag of lettuce is brown and wilted. The best way to eliminate wasted food is to plan your meals for the week in advance of shopping. This way you are only purchasing what you need and not getting anything extra that can spoil.

Another tip to cut expenses is to utilize coupons whenever possible. Many stores will offer double coupons or provide BOGO (buy one get one) purchases. Consider buying in bulk whenever possible as long as what you purchase has a decent shelf life.

Always use any leftovers for another meal the next day. Many dinner meals re-heat well for lunch and it’s like getting two meals for the price of one.

You may also want to consider purchasing store brands/generic brands vs. the big brand names. Many of these items are the same and you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two. I do quite a bit of shopping at some of the big box stores like Costco/BJs and Sam’s Club and often buy their store brands as I prefer them to other brand names.

 

Look for free things to do

Look into free things to do in your area or close by. Having fun with your family doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Most of the things you can do outside are free of charge like hiking, fishing, swimming, running, sightseeing and more. Take a walk through the local park with your family or bring a blanket and have a picnic.

For more read my article entitled How To Vacation On A Budget And Have Fun

 

Downsize

If your kids are grown and moved out of the home and you’re looking for ways to cut expenses, it may be time to consider downsizing. Downsizing may not be an easy thing to do as you need to uproot yourself and possibly move out of your neighborhood and away from your friends. However, the positives of a move to a smaller place or less expensive location may outweigh the negatives.

A new location could potentially save you on mortgage and tax payments. We moved into our house on Long Island in New York in 1999. Since that time my taxes have nearly tripled. What was an attractive tax rate at $4,500 per year is now becoming a huge burden 20 years later. At some point in our lifetime, we will have to decide where we want to spend our retirement or more likely what we can afford.

 

Consolidate your debt

However you got into debt is something you want to avoid going forward but the damage is already done. The best thing you can do at this point is to figure out a way to consolidate your debt into one payment and eliminate those high rate credit cards you might have.

Consider home equity loans or debt consolidation companies. There are so many out there so make sure you do your due diligence in finding the best rate with payments you are sure you can make. Once you’ve secured a debt consolidation loan you MUST destroy the credit cards that got you into this mess in the first place. If you don’t you risk being right back in the same place 5 years from now with more debt.

 

Lower your thermostat

Studies have been conducted by the Department of Energy that estimates a savings of about 1% for each degree of temperature adjustments over 8 hours. This might not seem like a lot but every little bit helps.

During the winter months lower your thermostat to around 68 or 66 degrees while people are home and then turn it down 5 degrees more while you’re sleeping or away. When it’s time for the air conditioning set the thermostat for 75-78 degrees and 80-82 when no one is in the home. This could save you on average $85-$100 a year.

In the summer months never try to cool your house more than a 10-degree difference from the outside temperature. You could put undue stress on your AC unit and potentially freeze or damage the compressor. Your electric bill will also go through the roof as it will be running all day long in an attempt to cool the home.

 

Shop around for insurance

It is beneficial every couple of years or so to shop around for better rates on auto and homeowners’ insurance. There are also discounts available to bundle the two together.  Make sure that the coverages are equal and if there are substantial enough savings then make the switch.

We’ve switched between a few of the major carriers throughout our life but shop around. If nothing more you keep your current insurance company honest.

 

Cut expenses and do your own work around the house

I used to spend anywhere from $35-$40 a week on a landscaping service until I started to realize how much money it was costing me in the long run. I decided I could put that $160 a month to better use. Sure it’s nice coming home to your lawn already being cut but it’s not a hard job to do on your own.

The same goes for other jobs around the house that you might typically outsource to someone else. You’d be surprised how much you can save by doing your painting, flooring, and plumbing. If you don’t know how to do something ask around for advice or look it up on YouTube.

I recently had to replace a lighted visor in my car and was unsure how to do it and didn’t want to pay a dealership $200 for the job. Instead, I ordered the part myself and did a quick 5-minute search online for a video explaining the process. 10 minutes later I had the part replaced.

 

Sell unused items or look for part-time income.

If the money you take in monthly is less than the money you are putting out, then you have an obvious problem. Aside from cutting expenses, you can look for ways to increase your income. There are always items around your home that you no longer use and can sell. Try posting the items on local Facebook groups or Craigslist or eBay.  I’ve personally had great success using all three sites.

We also put items on the side in our basement for an annual garage sale. See if any of your neighbors are interested in joining in a neighborhood garage sale and make it a fun event for everyone. We’ve netted $500 or more at our garage sales.

If you need to generate extra income look into part-time work at nights or on weekends. Check into the various gig economy offerings from companies like Uber or Door Dash. The gig economy allows you to work when you want to as opposed to being on a set schedule. You will receive a 1099 from these types of jobs so make sure to put money on the side for taxes.

 

If you’re looking for ways to cut expenses from your home budget these are just 10 places you can start. There are many more options if you think hard about where you spend your money monthly and where you can cut back.

What do you do in your life to cut expenses on the family budget? Share your tips in the comments below and make sure to sign up for our weekly update email.

13 Comments

  1. Stephanie S.

    I love this list! We actually cut cable a few years back, and it really was one of the best decisions we made. We find that you can actually watch a lot of shows online for free. We use Roku, and love it! Also I have found that it is most helpful when we create a menu, and write out of grocery list. I’ve noticed when we do this it makes it easier to just pick up the items we need to create the meals on our menu. And it has helped that we started lowering our thermostat as well. This was such a great list! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Melanie williams

    You are so right here, it is important to save for sure. I personally think that your ideas here are really useful xx

    Reply
    • Scott DeNicola

      Thanks for the comment Melanie!

      Reply
  3. Subhashish Roy

    I know how important it is to cut down on expenses when costs are going over the roof day by day. Every penny saved is like money earned which can be channelized towards my holiday expenses. I sold off my car before I shifted back to my hometown and now use Uber. Since I never liked driving and had a huge outgo on a driver in addition to the other costs of maintaining a car, I feel much more comfortable now. We hardly eat out these days and keeping the AC on optimum temperature during summers also results in quite a good amount of savings. Nice helpful thoughts Scott.

    Reply
  4. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia

    Cutting expensive means you have to get a bit creative, which can turn into a fun challenge. I’ve always loved the idea of cooking together as a family, turning it into a collaborative activity – it takes me back to my younger days when I was my dad’s sous-chef! 🙂 Staying out of debt isn’t always easy, but once you get used to the changes and see the benefits it brings to you and the family, I think it becomes so much easier to continue. These tips are great for anyone trying to get out of debt (or avoid falling into debt). There is nothing fun about living paycheck to paycheck! Great list Scott!!

    Reply
    • Scott DeNicola

      Thanks LuLu

      Reply
  5. Alexandra

    This was a very good article and there were a lot of points made that have me thinking. We never eat out so that isn’t a problem in my home. The food thing can be a pain because my kids always complain about eating leftovers and while we still do, it just weighs me down emotionally. However, we really don’t have much of a choice. Plus, I have done missionary work in third world countries and it absolutely KILLS me to waste food. I will never get those images of starving people and animals out of my mind. We need to appreciate what we have and utilize it to the full.

    I also really agree with you about cable TV. We never have it because it is quite an expense but also, I really don’t want my kids watching stuff on television that would have been rated R in the movie theaters when II was growing up.

    What really interested me was what you said about the thermostat. I’m not sure how I could possibly do what you said in the summer though as everyday can be close to 100 degrees! And I am very frugal with the thermostat. I just cannot afford a high electricity bill. But if we should never set the thermostat lower than 10 degree from the outside temperature then I would have to have it set around 90 degrees for maybe 6 or 7 months and we just wouldn’t make it!

    Reply
  6. Sonia Seivwright

    I really want to save BIG this year. However, I feel I am not getting enough pay in order to support myself. Particularly with childcare. I have to cut out on a lot of things and still not enough. I don’t know what else to cut

    Reply
  7. Britt K

    When I first moved in with my husband, one of the first thing to go was the cable television. We need a top of the line internet plan anyway so that I can continue running an online-based business, so why not leverage that and stream what we want to watch? Right? This past May we upgraded to an Amazon Firestick, and we’re loving it! I wouldn’t be surprised if the market as a whole continues to shift more and more in that direction moving forward, with more people stepping away from the expensive cable packages.

    Reply
    • Scott DeNicola

      Cable TV by me in NY is ridiculously priced.

      Reply
  8. Smita

    I remember moving to Switzerland and getting shocked at how expensive everything was (compared to India, no less! It was a huuuge change!) – from groceries and restaurants to public transportation. We were not in debt, thankfully, and just had to come up with a strategy to keep our expenses low. Cutting out restaurants was the first thing we did – not only did it help us save, it helped me become a better cook as well! I now have an excel sheet every week with the meal & shopping plans. For groceries, we went for the store brand as much as possible. We even made trips to Germany since stuff there is much cheaper than Switzerland 🙂

    Reply
  9. Erica (The Prepping wife)

    Being a prepper, I am always interested in ways to cut expenses and generate more income. That way I can build up my savings account. Too many people can’t even handle an unexpected bill of $500, and that is concerning. Because unexpected expenses can and do happen to all of us. For me, eating out is a massive expense. While delicious, it isn’t cheap, costing my husband and I an average of $50-60 every time we go out. I much prefer eating at home, because I make delicious food, as you’ve read my recipes. But it is just more fun to me to spend time in the kitchen cooking a meal with my husband.

    Reply
    • Scott DeNicola

      Being able to cook well helps! 🙂

      Reply

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