Dumping debt takes a sacrifice that can sometimes be uncomfortable. Let’s face it. Even though we know living debt free is a better choice, the hard work needed to achieve debt freedom isn’t always fun. My husband and I didn’t pay off $107,000 in consumer debt on a whim. We made small changes in our spending choices. When those caught on, we found other ways to save money. Before long, we were able to save more money with those small changes.
A good goal is to free up $500-$1000/month extra in order to pay off debt.
$500 extra!!! That might seem like an enormous goal when you think about it in whole numbers.
Going through a few common examples, I’m sure we can help you save more money in your budget by making small changes.
Remember, these changes are only temporary. As Uncle Dave says,
“Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else.”
1. Phone Service
I’m still amazed at the amount of money we were paying with our Sprint phone service. Right now, I’m using Republic Wireless and my husband is still with Sprint.
My last three months of phone bills average about $15/month. My plan is $25/month for 1 GB of data. Republic Wireless refunds your account each month for any unused data. Not rollover minutes or any of that nonsense.
That’s money back in my pocket. No extra effort required.
What effort was required? Making a decision to make that change. Why did I wait so long? I was throwing away good money for no reason at all.
Our Sprint phone bill was $71.
Total average monthly savings: $56
2. Exercise Smarter
67% of Americans that have a gym membership never use it. Those memberships are costing us an average of $58/month.
I broke down last winter in a bid to recapture health and fitness, and signed up with LA Fitness at $45/month. Now that the weather is breaking for most of the country, explore budget friendly alternatives.
Explore the great outdoors. This is the cheapest way to get your healthy back. Stepping outside for a walk, a run, bike ride – or my absolute favorite – tennis makes a real impact on your bottom line (pun intended).
If you must work out in a gym, look into your local YMCA, consider health facilities connected with your employer, or try a streaming service.
I’ve been using the Daily Burn for the last month. This was a great alternative to gyms for me. With a 2 and 4 year old in tow – that’s not always feasible. For $12/month, I can get up while everyone is snoozing and get in 30 minute 7 days a week.
I haven’t actually made it to 7 days yet, but you get my drift.
Total exercise monthly savings: $33
3. New To You Clothes
According to a survey done at North Dakota State University in 2010, the average household spends 3.8% of their income on clothes. That shakes out to about $2000/year or $166/month.
As adults, I firmly believe that shopping in your closet is the best way to conserve cash while dumping debt.
Children don’t always have such a luxury. Especially little ones. They grow so quickly it can be hard to keep up.
We’ve done the following to cut back on shopping expenses:
- Stay away from the malls. This is fairly easy because off brand, lower cost shopping options are plentiful. I’m sure you have plenty of options so there’s little need to name names. You can even head online to compare prices with ease.
- Case the kiddie consignment shops. I’m a converted believer. Once Upon a Child is an awesome chain. They also buy used clothes on the spot. The wait on weekends can be excessive – keep that in mind when selling clothes. However, I’ve come out with a $20-$30 haul by selling gently used clothes. Take the cash and run or apply it to your current purchase.
- Swap with friends. People with kids know other people with kids. If not, find some. Closets need to make room for the next size and parents LOVE to offload items that no longer fit. Heck you might even get a dinner out of it if you pick up the items. This strategy works well for little ones who grow seemingly overnight and don’t wear things long enough to wear them out.
- Browse online resale sites. My new favorite is cost effective and a time saver. As long as you don’t need it tomorrow (that happens), then sites like ThredUp.com are fantabulous. They also stock women’s clothes and accessories – sorry guys. This is my referral link, but use it and you’ll get an extra $10 to apply to your purchase. Combine that with the TAKE40 coupon code to take 40% off your first purchase. Invite a few of your friends and receive a $10/credit for each person who uses their free gift. ThredUp is the gift that keeps on giving. They do send a massive amount of emails. Adjust your account settings to turn those off.
With two children ages 1 and 3, we spent about $500 last year on clothes using these strategies. About $41/month.
Total monthly clothing budget savings: $125
4. Interest Rate Savings
Do you have student loans? Private student loans?
What’s your interest rate?
If you don’t know or haven’t looked recently, add that to your do list. While you’re at it, contact every credit card company in your wallet and request an interest rate reduction.
Need a little motivation?
The US Public Research Group conducted a survey that found over 50% of those who called and asked for an interest rate reduction lowered their rate by 6%.
Given that the average household with credit card debt has a balance of $9600, the interest portion of your monthly payment on that balance when paying just the minimum is $128/month. Now of course that value changes – albeit slowly – over time if you don’t add more debt to the credit card balance. For the sake of explanation, we’re going with $128.
Stay with me, I’m going somewhere.
A change in interest rate from 16% or 10% cuts that interest owed to $80 this month. Can you spare 10 minutes to save nearly $50/month.
I think you can.
Bonus Material (Refinancing is not a simple change, but could save you thousands. So it’s worth mentioning.)
If you have a private student loan, you need to check out SoFi or Social Finance. They are a new-ish crop of finance companies that offer student loan borrowers an alternative when paying off that loan.
I would only do this if I had a private loan with a high interest rate because federally subsided loans may offer more benefits in terms of interest rate negotiation, income base repayment programs, or income interruption assistance. Private student loans holders this is for you.
SoFi has even moved to a application process that doesn’t consider your credit score. They claim to focus more on your ability to repay and current financial picture. You can log in and play with their calculators to determine your potential interest rate.
Fixed interest rate loans start at 3.5%. Those with private student loans – check your interest and head over to SoFi if your current rate does not compare.
Total interest payment savings: $50
5. Save Money on Food
You have to eat. You may not need to pay as much for it.
I’ll admit, I’m no foodie. I don’t do coupons. Meal planning is not my strong suite.
Even with all these limitations, I was able to save 30% on my weekly shopping bill by doing one simple thing.
I switched grocery stores. I’ve been delivered from grocery store snobbery.
If you’d like more help on other strategies to shave money from your food budget, check out a couple of helpful podcasts and previous posts:
- Tame Your Grocery Budget with Simple Ways to Save
- Coupon Savings Tips with Extreme Coupon Experts
- How to Menu Plan to Save Money
- Get Started with Coupons
I was spending about $100 a week at my local, big advertising grocery chain store. Moving to a low cost, quality grocery reduced my costs to around $70/week.
You can also save tons by endeavoring to cook more meals at home and eat out less.
Total monthly savings: $120
When I add up a typical way we were able to save more money, I get a monthly savings of $380. Just a hair’s breath from the original $500 goal.
None of these items caused much if any heartache.
Expect maybe cooking.
Cooking most meals at home was the biggest challenge – for me. I had to keep in mind cooking at home is better for our wallet and most importantly for our family’s health. So I made the adjustment.
These are simple changes that can save big time. Add these tips to save more money with some more aggressive steps and you’ll enjoy a real boost in momentum towards paying off debt.
For those paying attention – I know you are – you might think that either I can’t count or have a typo in the title.
The final change may not be considered so small, but it really does help.
Are you creating a regular budget?
Creating a plan of what your money month will look like before you start spending is the best way to find extra money without a second job. I’m so convinced, I challenge you to find an extra $200/month in your budget.
Do you have other small changes that save big? Leave a tip for others below.
This post does feature referral links from ThredUp, Republic Wireless, and SoFi. All opinions are my own. I only affiliate with companies that will enhance the debt free journey. Full Disclosure Statement