My husband and I have always tried to use our money wisely and have never felt that we needed to buy things just to keep up appearances. These two traits were especially helpful when decided to really clean up our sloppy spending and use the savings to build our emergency fund.
I won't sugarcoat things--it was uncomfortable looking at our finances under a microscope. I can now safely say that a spending analysis is right up there will small children and leggings on the List of Things That Never Lie.
We had a tendency to use our debit cards for nearly all of our purchasing, which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. With a card instead of cash, it was too easy to spend without actually feeling like we were spending (the curse), but when it came time to take a close look at our spending habits, we discovered that our bank had an online tool to automatically categorize where our money went each month (the blessing).
What we learned was that we had black holes in our budget that were sucking away our income at a startling rate.
The biggest culprits? These five things that we no longer spend money on:
Our expense from eating in restaurants, picking up milkshakes for the kids, and grabbing a quick bite from a sandwich shop averaged almost double what we were paying for groceries each month. After we saw the numbers, it was an easy one to let go.
MoviesWith ticket prices for our family of four totaling almost $50 per trip, we skip first-run theaters and wait for the DVD to arrive at Netflix. For an occasional treat, we visit a gorgeous second-run theater in our town that charges only $2 per person. They get most major releases only a month or two after the first-run showings.
Cable TVNone of us had any separation anxiety when it came to dropping the one-hundred and fifty channels of reruns and advertisements in order to hang on to the $100 per month that we were pouring into it.
HaircutsYes, you've reached the point where we sound like crunchy granola back-to-the-land folks. We're really not, I promise. Instead, we learned that cutting our own hair instead of going to the barber or the salon every six weeks saves us between $60 and $115, not including the tips for the stylists. My husband is former military and still shaves his head while I have curly hair that's pretty forgiving. I cut my kids' hair to their requested length and style.
I worked in a salon over a decade ago and learned a few tips from stylists that make this task much easier, but you can learn everything you need to know from the numerous helpful tutorials at Youtube.
Trends/FadsNo "YOLO" t-shirts or emoji-print clothing here, thanks. Each member of the family worked to define their style and determined which types of clothing would best fit their needs. Now we have basic wardrobes of staple pieces and will only occasionally accessorize with something quirky or new, and the majority of those are purchased from second-hand shops.
Putting an end to buying things that would be out of style and piling up in the donations bin every few months saved us both money and time--less time choosing what to wear each day, less time spent on laundry, and less time trying to find a creative way to organize and store more clothes than we have room for.
Your Turn: If you could cut five things from your normal routine that would save you $300 (or more) each month in order to have that money to put aside for travel, to pay off debt, or to reach a goal of your choice, which five things would you eliminate that you wouldn't miss? Did my family eliminate any that you couldn't live without?