Welcome back to 12 months to get good with money, a series of bite-sized steps to take over each of the 12 months of the year to get good with money slowly. Let’s recap the past few months:
In January, you made a budget.
In February, you made savings goals.
In March, you separated your savings accounts and learned about automation.
In April, you made a plan for your taxes.
In May, you learned the general concepts of investing and did research on the investing vehicles that are available to you.
In June, you created your investing plan.
For July, we’re going to do a budget brainstorming session to determine where you can spend less.
As you guys know, I don’t typically talk about tips for spending less. I’m not as interested in cutting expenses as I am in using money with an intentional plan. I also feel like this type of content is so emphasized in the personal finance space, when in reality, it’s one very small piece of the puzzle and can be harmful to your money mindset if you focus too much on sacrificing things in your budget.
That being said, it is one piece of the puzzle, and we’re going to tackle it today as part of our 12 Months to Get Good with Money series. There are three main categories to look at when you’re seeking to spend less money and save more.
Category #1: Necessary fixed expenses
A lot of the time, when we think about saving money, we think we need to start by cutting back on our discretionary spending, like dining out and buying new things. This is fine, but we tend to neglect the fact that one of the best opportunities to save more money is to find ways to lower our recurring expenses.
Here’s the goal for this category: Look at your insurance, utilities, and other necessary fixed payments.
How to lower:
a) Shop around for a cheaper option. Chances are, you can find a better deal than what you’re currently paying. If you don’t want to go through all the hassle of switching providers, you should…
b) Call and negotiate – there are so many costs that we don’t think of as negotiable, but are. Your phone, internet, insurance, and so many other fixed expenses aren’t as set in stone as we think. In many cases, especially if you’re a long time customer, you can call and negotiate the amount you’re paying. Use a lower amount you found with a competitor as leverage. The worst thing they can say is no– which means that nothing will change at all.
This month, just aim to lower one fixed expense through either switching providers or negotiation. Next month, attempt to lower another.
Category #2: Subscriptions
What subscriptions– if any– are you willing to cancel or change in order to save some money? I personally think that subscriptions can add so much value, but often we aren’t using every single subscription for what it’s worth.
There are tons of examples of this in my life– when I realized I was using Spotify mostly just to listen to podcasts, which is something I can do on the podcast app, I decided to discontinue my premium account. My partner Brian paid for Disney+ last year, only to realize that we really never used it for 99% of shows/movies that we wanted to watch.
Take a look at your budget/bank account and really be honest with yourself about whether or not your subscriptions are worth it to you.
Category #3: Variable expenses
Now, let’s talk about the one that seems the most straightforward: our variable expenses.
You guys probably know at this point that I’m not going to shame you for buying coffee or eating out. I don’t want you to have to cut spending on anything that is truly important to you– and I am not the person who gets to determine what’s important to you; you are.
So many people in the person finance space would have a n existential crisis if they spent as much money on eating out as I do, but I get a lot of value from not having to worry about cooking or doing the dishes, having special dining experiences with my friend or my partner, and, of course, eating delicious food. I wouldn’t even consider cutting this expense just because it isn’t strictly “necessary.” Money is not for just meeting your basic needs; it’s a tool to improve your life.
My message is that I want you to be highly intentional about each and every purchase and confident that the value it’s adding to your life is worth the price.
So, look at your variable spending for the month, and ask yourself:
- Is my spending aligned with my values and my goals?
- Are there any categories I’m not getting true value from? What amount can I lower these categories by?
- Is saving this amount of money more important to me than spending it on this category?
Be very honest with yourself here, and don’t feel like you’re not doing enough if there’s nothing you want to cut down on in this category. Contrary to popular belief, money does not have to be about huge sacrifices– it can be about following an intentional plan to improve your situation over time.
None of these steps are possible without a budget! Don’t forget to get your free budget template.
If you want more guidance with goal setting, mindset shifting, and budget brainstorming –> Get Your Money Map Workbook