Couple budgeting at coffee table together.

How To Cut Spending In Your Life

Victoria Araj4-minute read
September 22, 2021

In a nutshell, being financially healthy requires you to do three things: earn more, spend less and ramp up your savings and investments. For those of us who are spending more than we earn, it’s key to focus on lowering our living expenses. But instead of putting in hours cutting coupons and running around to different markets to save pennies on apples, how can we be smart about saving money?

Here’s how to cut spending in your life so you can net the largest wins with minimal effort:

Focus On The Big Three

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the three largest spending categories among U.S. households are housing, transportation and food. By focusing on scaling back these three major spending areas, you can significantly slash your living expenses.

Lower Housing Costs

Consider moving to an area in town that’s more affordable, getting a roommate or moving to a smaller place. When I moved last year I relocated to a different part of Los Angeles and downsized to a smaller place. What’s more, my current apartment includes gas, which lowers my overall housing costs.

If you own your home, you could cut back on how much you spend on housing by renting out a room or your whole house while you’re on vacation, your yard for campers or your driveway for recreational vehicles (RVs). The money you earn by doing so could defray some of your housing costs.

Cut Back On Food Spending

There are many ways you can cut back on your food spending each month. If you’re deciding whether to home in on groceries or eating out, start with what’s easier for you. For most, it’s saving on groceries. Shop generic or buy only what’s on sale. And if you’re like me and are prone to impulse buys while shopping for food, don’t shop while hungry and stick to a list.

You can also cook in batches or try a no-grocery challenge where you use up everything that’s stocked in your fridge until you head out for another grocery run. Eating at home will help you save on food overall.

When it comes to saving on eating out, skip the alcohol or limit it to just one drink. Also consider dining at your favorite eatery during lunch instead of dinner. Furthermore, you can enjoy libations and small plates during happy hour.

Save On Transportation

There are a number of ways you can save on transportation. For instance, see if you can carpool a few times a week with a coworker or opt to take public transportation if you’re a commuter. That will save you on gas plus wear and tear on your car. If you’re coupled or live with extended family, consider switching to a one-car household.

When it comes to buying a car, consider a used car versus a new set of wheels. Buying a used car versus a new one not only saves you money on the sticker price, but older-model cars are usually less expensive to insure. And depending on the make and model of your car, it could potentially be less costly to maintain.

Go For Easy Wins

When I say “easy wins” this means recurring expenses where if you nix or lower the cost you’ll net larger savings over time. For instance, if you save $10 a month on a gym subscription, that’s $120 a year. These expenses are considered easy because (for the most part) it only requires a short phone call or another simple action to save.

Cancel Subscriptions You No Longer Use

Some memberships and subscriptions might be redundant. For example, do you really need an unlimited monthly pass to the nearby yoga studio in addition to a gym membership, which also offers yoga classes?
You can go through your list of subscriptions or credit card statements to see which you no longer need or use. You might discover a digital subscription to a newspaper or a monthly donation to a charity you’ve forgotten about.

Look For Cable Alternatives

If you have cable you’re looking at spending an average of $85 a month (or $100 a month if you subscribe to satellite TV). These days there a handful of cable alternatives such as video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBO NOW, all of which are far less expensive. A monthly subscription to Netflix is anywhere from $8.99 to $15.99.

You can also consider a premium subscription to YouTube, which enables you to access YouTube Originals as well as view videos ad-free and offline. The cost for YouTube Premium is $12 a month, but there’s a 2-month free trial before you start paying. Not only does your local library have a multimedia collection with DVDs, but it also potentially has streaming services that you can hop on to for free.

Hunt For Deals

Saving money on deals doesn’t necessarily have to be time-consuming or tedious. Here are some ways you can snag a deal without putting a ton of work into it:

Shop Sales

Semi-annual sales, Amazon Prime Day, Target Day, Cyber Monday and Black Friday are all opportune times to find a bargain. However, beware of caving in to impulse buys. Before you step foot in a store or browse online, be sure to stick to only things you need to buy. Otherwise, you might squander your hard-earned money while shopping during a sale.

Use A Shopping Browser Extension

Browser extensions do the work for you. They find deals and help you save while you’re shopping online. Before you check out, these extensions apply existing discounts and promo codes on the web. Popular browser add-ons that can help you save include Honey, Amazon Assistant and Cently.

These are merely a handful of ideas on how to cut back on the spending. I’ve found that while there’s loads of resources and information out there, a lot of answers and tactics come from within. Hopefully these ideas will kick-start strategies that work best for you.

Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.