7 Things I've Given Up to Prune My Expenses
Getting out of debt is much harder than getting in debt. I know, I know that’s obvious right? Well sure it is. The problem is people don’t seem to think about it when they overspend, buy things they don’t need, and live for the moment.
We live in a “I deserve it now, therefore I’m getting it now” world. Living this way is not honoring God first with your wealth. Deuteronomy 8:17-19 says: “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth…It shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish“.
God expects us to be good stewards with our money, and if we don’t honor Him and acknowledge that all income and weath we may have come from him, than the outcome won’t be pleasant. Deuteronomy 8:18-19 is a stark reminder that we should not forget where our money comes from and is a warning of what can happen when we do.
As part of honoring God and being a good steward, my wife and I have been working very hard to eradicate our debt. Next to making more money, the best way to do that is to prune your expenses. Here are 7 things I’ve done to do just that:
1 – Eating lunch in the food court
We have a really nice food court in the building where I work. There’s an Italian place, a Chinese restaurant, a fast food chain, and a chain hot sandwich shop. It is so tempting to just grab something to eat downstairs and bring it back to desk. The problem is, it’s expensive. I like eating at the hot sandwich place, as they have really great salads. The salads are $5.00. On average, I work about 20 days a month. If I eat there everyday, that’s $100/month or $1200/year. So I stopped. I now pack my lunch, and only eat in the food court maybe once or twice a month.
2 – Starbucks coffee
We also have a Starbucks coffee shop in the building. Not to mention the 2 that I pass everyday on my way into work. I absolutely love Starbucks coffee, the smell, the taste…But again, it’s expensive. Even to get just a basic Grande size coffee (as opposed to the more gourmet coffees likes the Latte’s, Cappucino’s, etc.) is $2.00. Assuming you get 1 coffee per day for 20 days, that’s $40.00/month or $480.00/year.
I buy Starbucks pre-ground at the grocery store for about $8.00. Two bags last me a month, so that’s $16.00 per month instead of $40.00. It doesn’t taste exactly the same, but good enough for me.
Yes I know, I could drink Folgers or Maxwell House and get it much cheaper, but I enjoy my coffee and it’s one thing I am willing to spend a little more money on.
3 – Avoid places where I tend to spend money
I wrote a full article on this the other day. But just by avoiding places where you tend to spend money, you can save a great deal of money, and have less stuff which is always a good thing.
Only go to the store when you need something and bring a list. Only purchase the items on the list. If you’re bored one day, don’t go to the mall, go the park, visit a friend, but avoid the stores!
4 – RV Camping
We love to camp and particularly love to camp in an RV. I am just not a tent camping kind of person. I like the outdoors, don’t get me wrong, but only when I can close the door and avoid the nasty side of the outdoors (rain, bugs, critters, etc).
We have had a travel trailer (a pull behind camper) for about 12 years. We made it a habit to try to go camping at least once a month. It was great family time. We enjoyed seeing new places and the adventure of staying in remote locations. Not to mention it’s nice to just bring your own home, bathroom and kitchen with you.
The problem is RV Camping is expensive. Pull behind campers for the size we need run about $15,000 – $30,000. They depreciate like nothing I have ever seen. Camping runs about $30 – $70 per night. Add to that insurance, items required for the camper, well you can see where I am going with this. Oh, and I forgot, you have to have a big vehicle to pull it.
We sold our camper and the Dodge Ram Diesel pickup truck I had to pull it. It freed up more than $700.00 a month for us. We’ll go back to it, but we’ll be a great deal smarter the next time. Anyway, this saved us $700.00/month or a whooping $8400/year!!
5 – Renting Movies
We have all put stopped renting movies. Every so often we’ll watch one and when we do we usually just order it through our cable provider where they are cheaper. We used to rent 2-3 movies a weekend, which works out to be about $48.00/month or $576.00/year. Instead of watching movies, we watch various TV shows, or just turn the TV off altogether and read, work our our hobbies, or head outside with our kids.
6 – Watering the Yard
Not sure about yours, but my yard looks terrible. It’s all dried up and yellow, and I now have more dirt than grass. In the spring it looked like a golf course, now it looks like a desert. The same cycle occurs every year. Spring, re-seed, fertilize and water…grass is beautiful and green. Summer comes, grass burns up and dies. Fall, re-seed, fertilize and water…grass is beautiful and green until it goes dormant for the winter.
What a waste. Every summer, we are under water restrictions, and frankly watering my lawn really cranks up the old water bill. To the point of doubling it.
I am tired of fighting and endless battle, so we stopped watering it. I’ll still do some basic maintenance and watering in the fall and spring as we live in a neighborhood and I respect my neighbors enough to keep the yard looking nice, but I refuse to work so hard and pay so much money for it. It just isn’t worth it.
By not watering my yard every night, I save about $40/month or $480/year on my water bill.
7 – Buying generic brand clothing
In the past, I always purchased brand names. Not for vanity reasons, but because I thought the quality was better. In same cases this is true. For example, I have had a pair of Doc Martin dress shoes for about 6 years. I wear them practically everyday. They are reaching the end of their life, but have been an incredible pair of shoes. I mean 6 years!
In general though, you can get just as good of quality from non-name brand versions. I now own 2 pairs of Sam’s Club member mark jeans. They are in the closest next to my Levi’s. My Member’s Mark fit better, have heavier material and seem to wear far slower than the Levi’s. I have worn Levi’s all of my life, but no more. Member’s Mark for me going forward.
I am not sure of the savings per month, as I don’t buy clothes for myself monthly. But I would suspect just comparing item to item cost, I have cut my clothing expenses in 1/2. So being conservative, let’s assume I spend $500/year on clothing, I now only spend $250. That’s $21.00/month or $252.00/year.
Using these numbers, but following these 7 steps, I now save at least $949.00/month or $11,388/year!!!! Those are huge numbers. I say at least because I really can’t account for how much I have saved by avoiding places I like to spend money.
Take a long hard look at your expenses. Look for any opportunity you can to prune your expenses. This might involve making some really hard choices, like we had to do with our RV. Sometimes you have to sacrifice in the short term to gain in the long.
What have you done to reduce your expenses? What tips can you provide to other readers? Jump in, we would love to read about your ideas!