How to Squeeze $500 Out of Your Budget

May 20, 2016

We tend to think we’ve done all that we can do to cut back on our spending. We’ve slashed, and there’s nothing more to slash, right?

While it’s not necessarily easy, I believe there is always an area in which we can spend less – we just have to find it (and be willing to sacrifice it).

In a previous post, I shared five ways to save $1000 to give your savings a quick boost. But, what about having lasting, every-month savings? Today I want to challenge you to squeeze $500 out of your budget. I will list some suggestions below, but my hope is that they will spark and generate additional ideas based on your situation.

How to Squeeze $500 Out of Your Budget

These tips are broken down by categories so that you can select the ones that apply to you and combine a few to arrive at $500.

Food

Ahh…food. We need it to survive, but does it have to come from Chipotle? Here are some ways to squeeze some money out of your food budget.

1. Coupon.

Stretch your grocery dollars by couponing. If you’re a beginner, start here.

2. Challenge yourself to shave $25 off your weekly grocery budget.

Coupon averse? Follow these tips for saving at the grocery store without using coupons.

3. Start brown-bagging it.

If you currently purchase lunch five days a week, treat yourself one day a week and brown-bag it the rest.

4. Learn how to make your favorite take-out.

Ordering in a few times a month adds up. Try your hand at making pizza, Chinese, etc., from home.

5. Eliminate or reduce your dinners out.

When you do go, look for deals from Groupon, LivingSocial, etc., to make your dollars stretch further. Consider doing lunch or brunch instead of dinner.

Entertainment / Personal 

Remember when going to the movies cost $2? Me neither. Try some of these suggestions to trim your entertainment and personal spending.

1. Take advantage of free entertainment.

Search for free concerts, plays, free museum days, etc., in your area, especially in the summer months.

2. Borrow DVDs from your library instead of renting or ordering.

Your local library has tons of movies and TV series. You can even request them ahead of time.

3. Cut back on going to the movies.

When you do go, keep your costs low by searching for a Groupon or LivingSocial deal, seeing earlier shows, and skipping the popcorn.

4. Trim back your subscriptions.

Do you subscribe to Netflix? And Hulu? And Amazon Prime Video? Reduce or eliminate, especially if you have cable as well. Convert your newspaper or magazine subscriptions to online subscriptions or cancel altogether.

5. Cancel the gym membership you’re not using (even if it’s only $10).

It’s not a deal if you don’t use it.

Monthly Bills

Have no clue what you’re paying for cable? Combing through all your monthly bills for savings is a good practice to get into. Saving $75 here and $30 there adds up.

1. Negotiate your cable/satellite and internet bills.

Consider downgrading your package, reducing the number of DVRs you have, or simply ask for a discount. (It works!) Or research what a new customer could get for your package with your current provider as well as with a competitor and ask your provider to honor/match it.

2. Cancel your cable/satellite altogether.

Explore alternatives to cable. Get your fix through Netflix, Hulu, etc., especially if you have them already.

3. Review your insurance policies.

Get an apples-to-apples quote from one or two other carriers and ask your current insurer to match, or consider switching. Look through your policies for areas in which you may be over-insured and reduce/drop coverage you don’t need. Be cautious, though, not to reduce needed coverage just to get lower premiums.

4. Look at your utilities.

If you have a choice of gas/oil/electricity suppliers, check rates and consider switching. Be careful of introductory rates that may eventually jump to a higher rate than what you are currently paying. Ask about “budget-billing” where the company averages your usage for the year and provides you with a flat monthly payment. While this doesn’t provide savings, it reduces the surprise of higher bills during high-usage months.

5. Assess your cell/home phone

Like cable and satellite, some phone service providers will extend a discount simply upon request. I had an “off-the-grid” rate for years! Also, ask them to match a competitor’s price or switch providers if you are not under contract.
Consider ditching the home phone if you still have one, or explore options like NetTalk or MagicJack that cost around $40 per year after an initial, low-cost purchase of equipment.

So, are you up for the challenge? You’d be surprised how making a few changes can amount to significant savings. Select a few until you’ve arrived at a monthly savings of at least $500. And be sure you have a specific goal in mind for your new-found savings so that you will reap the benefits of your sacrifice!

 

I would love to hear if you plan to try any of these suggestions or if you’ve come up with some of your own. Please let me know in the comments below.