We all know there are things to cut when paying off debt that are easier than others. So, you’ve decided to get serious about cutting down your spending.Congrats! I'm here to encourage you, because honestly, no one really likes to talk about it cutting back. Especially when you're used to living large. Let me slap you in the face with this honesty though— cutting back is one of the biggest components to successfully paying off debt. You know it, and I know it.
Even if you're not in debt payoff ninja mode; maybe you want to contribute more to your retirement fund, your emergency savings, or just live more comfortably within your budget…cutting back costs is the best, fastest, most immediate way to make all of those things happen.
And while all of this looks great on paper, it can be tough to actually make the lifestyle changes that are necessary sometimes – take a look at my February No-Spend Challenge for an example.
But when it comes down to it, what do you cut? Where do you start? It can be hard to discern between the things you love, wants, and needs. No one likes to say this either, but sometimes there is a gray area.
I've done a lot of research on this, and here are my first five things to snip (read: the easiest to live without) when you're trying to live skimpy.
5 Things to Cut When Paying Off Debt
Nights on the Town
Listen ya’ll. I am terrible when it comes to saying no to plans. I’m typically the first one to agree to karaoke, drinks, or an evening at the theatre for a variety of reasons:
A) I'm single and need to be entertained
B) I have ADHD and crave shiny, glittery distractions
C) I work from home. Mama gets lonely and wants to socialize with real people and not in front of a computer.
Unfortunately for my wallet these types of plans tend to lead to a lot of other purchases along the way. Take this for example: you go out expecting to only pay for karaoke…which leads to drinks….which leads to food (read: end of the night pizza and maybe if you're feeling fiesty MORE DRINKS) and finally a tip.
Now all of a sudden you’ve doubled your initial spending! So when it comes down to it an evening with Netflix and ice cream might be a more frugal alternative.
Alcohol – Honestly, the top of things to cut when paying off debt.
No! Not My WINE!
Alcohol is a costly habit to keep up when you’re trying to save money. I certainly know how nice it can be to come home to a glass of wine or two, (see Awkward Money Chat, particularly season 1 and my gross wine mouth, for proof) but it can really pad your grocery bill.
Alcohol can also take a toll on your bill when eating out. So if you're trying to maintain your social life while cutting back, try going out and only ordering water or a soda.
When it comes down to it, ordering out is almost always going to be more expensive than making something at home. I’ve actually tried going a whole month without eating out – if you know me, you know what a big deal this was! After that challenge I am definitely more aware of how pizza and Chinese food suck up my food budget now.
My advice to those of you who suck at cooking? Find a food blogger or recipe site and practice! (One of my favorites is BudgetBytes – delicious and frugal!) Seriously, the more you do it, the better at it you will become. Blue Apron also offers bomb ass recipes and will ship ingredients to your door, so it's the taste of take out for a friendlier price.
I eat almost all of my meals at home now unless I'm meeting someone, it was a big shift about six months or so in the making, but I feel a lot better (and so does my wallet!) I promise yours will too.
You knew this was coming, didn't you? Of course clothing is going on the list.
But if you’re anything like me shopping can bring with it a huge temptation to overspend. I’ve been pretty honest on the blog about my relationship with my shopping addiction, and if you’re looking to cut costs it may be a good time to audit your clothing spend.It doesn't have to be for forever, but if you're serious about debt payoff, try a no-spend clothing challenge for 3 months, 6 months, or a year.
Obviously not everyone goes on road trips or cross-country flights every month, but even just cutting back on driving around all the time can save you money on gas and parking costs. And if you do tend to travel a lot and have debt, maybe forgo the big trips until you can get your head above water, or try saving up for the trip so you don't have to worry about adding to your debt.
If you live in the city, try walking to the store if it’s nice out or carpooling with friends if you’re in a more suburban area. This will also help you avoid unnecessary spending – you don’t want to buy so much you can’t carry it home!
I know the title says five things, but I couldn't resist throwing in this last one. Back in my pre-blog days I used to be a hardcore magazine addict. Like every time at the grocery store throwing one or two onto my items on the belt. Magazines nowadays are like $5 a piece, that's $40 a month if I bought two each week. Yowza.
I loved those Magazines, but now I save them as a sick day or beach vacation treat. I always look forward to the beach, but I also love laying there in the sun with ten magazines and devouring them one by one. It's become my little vacation ritual.
Also if you hate clutter – magazines pile up fast in the nooks and crannies of your home, so think of it as a smooth move for both your budget and debt payoff and for keeping your home streamlined and efficient.
Maximize Savings By Leveraging Technology to Save the Extra
So you're cutting costs and putting away extra for debt. Good for you! But what if I told you there are (now) apps you can take advantage of to help you save even more of that “Extra.” My favorite technology is Qapital, a new app that works much like Digit in that it analyzes your spending to sock away little amounts you won't miss. You can even set it to save by rounding up your purchases or put away raising increments every week.