It’s easy to be tempted to spend when payday rolls around and money drops into your bank account. You think you have plenty of funds to spare — but a few days later, you’re left wondering where all your cash went and wishing you knew how to cut back and spend smart.
If you’re spending more than you make, the first thing you might do is cut back on purchases you don’t really need. But what if you already run a tight ship and have to trim costs that are essential to your everyday life?
Trying to lower your basic living expenses can feel tough, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, to spend smart and live within your means, you just need to make a few tweaks and develop some solid money habits. Let’s look at a few of them.
Check your spending
If managing money is like steering a ship, how can you possibly get to your destination without a map or knowing how many supplies you have on deck? To chart your course (and make the needed course corrections), you’ll need to monitor your income and spending habits.
There’s no need to painstakingly track every purchase with a check register or spreadsheet (unless old-school methods are your cup of tea). You can see how much money is coming in and out by looking at credit card and bank statements or by using a free money management app.
Cut back on subscriptions
Subscriptions can pile up unknowingly. In fact, according to recent research, Americans are spending an average of $275 a month on subscriptions, from food delivery boxes to streaming services and fitness apps.
To knock off how much you dole out each month on subscriptions, look for redundant areas. For instance, you might be paying for three streaming subscription services when one will do. Also, think about free alternatives. Many public libraries have movies you can watch for free.
Turn off the lights
Small changes, such as turning off the lights in a room when you’re not in it, can help you save on your power bill. If you want to save even more power, turn off any power surge protectors you have and unplug your appliances and gadgets that gobble up energy even when they’re not in use. This kind of passive energy consumption is called phantom or vampire power and can actually account for a surprising amount of your power bill.
Check your tire pressure
Surprisingly, not keeping your car’s tires properly inflated could drive up the amount of money you’re paying for fuel throughout the year. Avoid these costs (and the possibility of having to change a flat tire on the side of the road) by checking the pressure in your tires regularly. Once a week is ideal, or whenever you fill-up at the gas station.
Buy in bulk
Purchasing essential items you go through quickly in bulk can help you save. Personal items you need and use consistently — think toothpaste, toilet paper, pet food, trash bags and laundry detergent — are good examples of what to buy in large amounts, but not all things should be purchased in bulk.
Avoid bulk-buying perishable items you might grow tired of or that will go bad by the time you get around to using them. For these items, you could consider splitting them with a friend, roommate or family member. That way, that 20-pound bag of oranges or 10-pack of yogurt won’t be tossed in the garbage in a few weeks’ time, and you’ll have saved money at the same time.
Opt for generic products
When grocery shopping, skipping the name-brand version of a product and tossing the generic one into your cart results in instant savings. Compared side by side, the ingredients are typically the same and the quality is usually comparable. The major difference tends to be the cost. Some store-brand groceries can cost about 25% less than more popular, name brands.
Next time you’re at the market, question that brand loyalty. Try the generic version.
Create a habit of using coupons
You might have memories of your grandma clipping coupons out of the Sunday mailer and stuffing them in her purse before heading out to the store. Fast-forward to the present and coupons are so much easier than that. If you want to be nostalgic and print out your coupons, you totally can. But if you don’t have a printer or you never have any ink, download our app to get cash back offers delivered straight to your phone — and cash back straight to your PayPal.
If you make it a habit to check your Coupons.com app two or three times each day (you probably check social media waaay more often than that), you can save regularly on everything from cleaning supplies to frozen foods to personal care items with just a quick tap.
Try not to overthink it
To reduce your spending, you don’t need to make dramatic changes to your lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be hard, complicated or a frustrating experience. You just need to spend smart and with intention.
Discover more ways to save on your essential spending by checking out more articles on our Coupons.com SAVE blog.