Several years ago, my husband and I realized that we weren’t realizing our financial potential. We weren’t hugely in debt or spending frivolously… but we were getting ready to have a family. And although it wasn’t any sort of emergency, something about the prospect of having kids made us realize how important it was for us to learn to live on less. So after some soul-searching, we decided to do just that.
To get the ball rolling, we began looking for ways to cut back on our monthly expenses. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to figure out where we should cut.
After tracking our spending for a few months, we realized that a) our food spending was out of control, b) our entertainment budget was not where it should be, and c) our car payment was eating up far too much of our expendable income.
What I Was Willing to Give Up to Save Money
From there, we embarked on a journey to figure out which expenses we wanted to get rid of. Here are five expenses I willingly gave up (and don’t miss at all):
Although I once watched reality TV like it was my part-time job, I was more than willing to cut the cord to cable and go without. Since our monthly cable bill had grown to almost $80 at the time, the savings were just too big to ignore.
But we didn’t cut television out of our lives completely; instead of cable TV, we invested in a Roku box and signed up for Netflix streaming for only $7.99 per month.
Saving over $70 per month on cable television also had another side effect; all of a sudden, we had a lot more free time.
This strategy took a few months. After paying car payments for the first few years of our marriage, my husband and I decided to put an end to this practice altogether. Instead of paying the minimum payment on my car, we opted to double or triple our payments for several months until my vehicle was paid off altogether.
Not having a $350 car payment was such a huge relief that we vowed never to have a car payment again. For us, that has meant driving used, older model cars and paying cash for them — but the trade-off has been more than worth it.
Although we didn’t give up dining out altogether, we did drastically cut our grocery and food budget. Where we were once spending upwards of $900 or more per month on food, we settled on a $500 monthly allowance to take care of groceries, household supplies, and restaurant meals.
Even though we have two children now, we’ve only bumped our grocery and food budget up to $600 since. We stick to it by creating meal plans, eating cheap, simple meals a few times a week, and limiting our restaurant meals to weekends and special occasions.
Although I love spicy Thai food and not doing dishes, this was one compromise I was more than willing to make. Saving $300-$400 per month on food has made it easy for us to make huge financial strides over time.
I really love going to the gym and have periodically signed up for month-to-month gym packages since, but we were smart to eliminate our monthly gym membership many years ago.
We were paying over $70 per month when we first decided that it wasn’t worth it. And although I used the gym occasionally, we definitely weren’t getting our money’s worth.
Now that we don’t have a gym membership, we exercise outside when it’s nice and supplement with exercise videos and some basic equipment in our garage. I don’t miss that $70 monthly expense at all, and I feel a lot less guilty when I don’t have time to work out.
When we originally started tracking our spending, we noticed that we were spending a lot on miscellaneous purchases. None of the purchases were worrisome on their own, but they added up in a big way over time. It’s amazing how quickly $20 or $30 at Target, a few new outfits, and an unplanned night with friends can completely wreck your budget!
Once we tracked our spending and began using a zero-sum budget, all of those unplanned spending opportunities went away. If something wasn’t in our budget at the beginning of the month, we didn’t buy it. Period.
Learning to Live Without the Extras
Even though these changes might sound drastic, they weren’t hard to get used to at all. In fact, cutting down to a bare bones budget taught us a lot about what we really need in life – and it’s not much.
And now that we can afford to add some of these expenditures back, we still don’t. I’ve learned to love the frugal, simple lifestyle we currently enjoy. And now that I know it’s possible to have happy life without all of life’s luxuries, the money we’re saving is just icing on the cake.
What are you willing to give up to save money? Are you thinking about cutting back?