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101 Ways to Trim Your Budget


Managing your finances is never easy—just ask any of the millions of Americans who struggle on a daily basis to live within their means. The key to successful financial management is effective budgeting. Unfortunately, creating a budget and sticking to it can be extremely difficult—but it is doable. Read on for 101 ways you can reduce your budget (and your stress) with a little planning, patience and practicality. So, are you ready to take control of your financial future?

First Things First

  1. Make a budget. Distinguish between your “wants” and “needs” and see where all your money is going. You can even do it online—many sites offer free, easy-to-use budgeting tools to get you started.


Now that you know where your money is (and where it’s going), it’s time to start making decisions about what matters most. Follow these tips to get going.

  1. Prioritize your “wants.” This is where you’re going to be making the big cuts, so figure out what you care about and what you can live without.
  2. Eliminate the unnecessary. Do you have a gym membership you never use, or every single premium cable channel? Cancel whatever you don’t use regularly or don’t get your money’s worth from.
  3. Consider lower-cost options for your “needs.” Can you get Internet service cheaper from a different provider? Do you really need a cell phone and a home phone? Are the designer jeans really worth it? Assess, evaluate and make changes as necessary.
  4. Be realistic. Be careful not to get so idealistic that you create a budget you can’t live up to.
  5. Put away the plastic. Credit cards can be real trouble on a budget because they provide the oh-so-alluring "just this once" opportunity to splurge. But those "just this once" uses add up quickly and before you know it, next month's budget is blown paying off this month's indulgences. Make it easier on yourself—leave the credit cards at home.
  6. Consolidate your debt. Know what you owe and make a payment schedule to get it paid off. And don’t just pay the minimum due—at that rate, it’ll likely take years to get it off your back.
  7. Start saving. Treat your savings account like a bill—set a monthly amount for yourself (whatever you can afford) and start putting it away. Even if you can’t afford to save much now, the fact is it goes hand-in-hand with successful budgeting and will be vital to successful financial planning in the future.
  8. Be honest with yourself. Identify your spending habits and determine whether or not you need to exercise a little more self control.
  9. Start a Spending Diary. Keep track of receipts and monitor cash in-flow and out-go to make sure you stick to your budget.
  10. Carry cash. Instead of a debit (or worse, credit) card, get your allotted spending money for the month in cash. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
  11. Treat yourself! Set reasonable goals for yourself—such as, “No eating out for two weeks,”—and reward yourself (in moderation) when you meet them.


Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to look at ways to cut costs elsewhere. Let’s start with the obvious.

Room & Board

Home is where the heart is. It’s also where a large percentage of your money goes. Follow these easy tips to reduce your spending.

  1. Look at your living situation. If your rent/mortgage is 25% or more of your income, consider moving or getting a roommate.
  2. D-I-Y. Whether it’s fixing a broken toilet seat or replacing a light bulb, do it yourself. It’s not hard, it’s much cheaper and you’ll have a great sense of accomplishment after the fact. And if you don’t, well, at least you still have the money in your pocket!
  3. Turn down the thermostat. Turn it off when you’re out of the house; use fans instead.
  4. Install a programmable thermostat. Set it to turn on about 15-30 minutes before you get home—the place will be comfortable, and so will you, knowing you didn’t waste a whole day’s worth of power.
  5. Power off. Turn off the lights, TV, stereo, etc. when you’re out of the house.
  6. Put in lower-energy light bulbs. They last substantially longer while consuming much less energy.
  7. Install a low-flow shower head. You can drastically reduce your water expenditure by switching to a low-flow shower head—helping the environment and your financial situation in one fell swoop.
  8. Investigate your insulation. A poorly-insulated house is a huge energy waster. Heating and cooling your own house costs enough, let along the entire neighborhood! Inspect your insulation and weather stripping regularly and keep it well maintained.
  9. Say no to cracks. Repair any cracks or holes in your walls and roof to keep the energy inside your house, not pouring out of it.
  10. Bundle up. During colder months, put on sweater and a pair of socks, or get out the electric blanket instead of turning up the thermostat. Avoid turning up the heat unless outside temperatures dip to freezing or below.
  11. Analyze your phone bill. If your bills seem higher than they should be, look into it! You may be over-paying—you might even be entitled to a refund.
  12. Adjust your cell phone plan. Do you always go over your minutes? Find yourself paying to call during daylight hours? Either stick to your plan or get one that works for you.
  13. Three-for-one. Often times, you can get a package deal on phone, Internet and cable service that comes out significantly less than purchasing the three separately. If all three of these items are on your “needs” list, look into packaging your services.
  14. Get to know your fridge. Do a daily check to make sure and eat foods before they go bad.
  15. Pass on paper. Use cloth napkins instead of paper to cut down on household spending.
  16. Wait to wash. Don’t run the washing machine or dishwasher until it’s full. Period.
  17. Wash in cold water. Washing your clothes in cold water is much more cost-efficient than washing in hot (and is less likely to shrink them or set stains).
  18. Embrace the outdoors. On nice days, open a window and let Mother Nature handle your climate control.
  19. Get more from your décor. Redecorate—using the things you already own. Reorganizing a room to change things up a bit can make a big difference (and you can’t complain about the price).


Caring for your home is very important—so is caring for yourself.

Personal Maintenance

Taking care of yourself can get expensive before you know it. While you shouldn’t deny yourself personal care items, it’s important to prioritize your spending so you don’t break the bank. Here are some simple ways to stretch your personal care budget.

  1. Use the recommended amount. If you’re like me, you not only like the pricier products, but you tend to over-use them, too. Follow directions for use—you’ll typically need less than you think, which means you can last longer between purchases.
  2. Cut down on dry cleaning. Hand wash, or use store-bought products for sweaters, etc.—save dry cleaning for the items that can’t be cleaned any other way.
  3. Pamper yourself. A few dollars will buy everything you need to give yourself a great manicure and pedicure—who said you have to pay to be pampered?
  4. Get your hair cut at a teaching salon. These stylists typically are pursuing “hair higher education,” so it’s a great deal. It’s almost laughably less expensive than a salon, and pretty much risk free, since the instructors are on hand to take over if the student doesn’t get it right.
  5. Prioritize your products. Some items, like facial cleansers, moisturizers and make-up, are worth splurging on (a little). Others—hair spray, soap, cotton swabs—not so much so. Pick and choose, and cut back where you can.
  6. Do unto others. Need a massage? Instead of paying $60 plus tip, have a friend come over and trade off giving each other back rubs. It’s more fun and the price is definitely right.
  7. Body in bulk. Buying bath products (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, razor blades) in bulk can be a huge money saver. But don’t go overboard—it’s dangerously easy to overspend when buying in bulk. Sure, it’ll last you longer, but it might also break your budget for the month if you’re not careful. 


Now that your personal care budget is under control, lets move on to a real problem area.

Buying Time

A week of good budgeting can easily be blown by a day’s worth (or less) of impulse buying. When going shopping, whether for food or clothes or what have you, take a list and stick to it. It will take discipline, but mastering it will be vital to your budgeting success.

  1. Plan ahead. Map out your menu for the week and use key ingredients over multiple days.
  2. Set a shopping schedule. Treat grocery shopping like a bill. Allocate funds and do it on a specific schedule (like every two weeks). If you run out of something before your designated shopping day, deal with it. Living on cereal for a few days never hurt anybody.
  3. Clip coupons. Sure, it’s not particularly glamorous, but believe me, the savings add up!
  4. Buy in bulk. Wholesale shopping is great for day-to-day items like toothpaste, deodorant, vitamins, etc.
  5. Search for the sale. Wait to do your shopping when major sales are happening, or between seasons, for a much better deal.
  6. Cut down on subscriptions. Do you really need all the stuff you’re signed up for? Probably not. Anything you don’t really look forward to getting and actually use, cancel.
  7. Don’t fall victim to discounts. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you need it. If it’s not on your list don’t pick it up.
  8. Skip the trends. Stick to classic styles that flatter your figure—they’ll always be in style. Skinny jeans and spandex tights? Pass.
  9. Think maintenance. Avoid “dry clean only” and other hard-to-care-for items.
  10. Don’t impulse-buy. When you go shopping, take a list and stick to it. Period.
  11. Buy the off brand. It’s cheaper and, typically, you can’t tell the difference, particularly with things like condiments. C’mon, the off-brand mustard is just as good, I promise.
  12. Embrace leftovers. Enough said.
  13. Go on a diet. Talk about a great way to curb your food spending! Take advantage of the situation and shed those few extra pounds you’ve been worrying about since January.
  14. Run your errands all at once. It saves time, gas and money. And with a list of things to do, you’re less likely to meander through the stores, picking up impulse-buy items, and consolidating your trips saves gas.
  15. Run errands on your lunch break. With less time to spend in the store, you’ll be less likely to buy things that aren’t on your list.
  16. Cut down on day-to-day “on-a-whim” purchases. Do you really need that bottle of water and candy bar while you fill up your gas tank? Probably not. Think about it this way: saving just $2.50 a day adds up to almost $1,000 a year. That’s much more appealing than a quick sugar fix, isn’t it?
  17. Shop around. Think you’ve found a great deal? Doesn’t hurt to double check. Do your homework to make sure you’re getting it for the best price.
  18. Sleep on it. Before making a major purchase, give yourself 24 hours to think it over (or for your conscience to kick in).
  19. Bring your lunch to work. Paying for lunch out everyday adds up more quickly than you’d think. Avoid the temptation by packing yourself a nice lunch, and use the extra time to take a break or run some errands.
  20. Keep a Wish List. This is a great way to curb impulse buying. Want something you don’t need? Put it on the list. When you’ve budgeted successfully, you can use the list to decide how best to spend extra cash.
  21. Shop resale. You can find great deals on cool clothes at consignment and other resale shops. Check out what your local area has to offer—you may have to dig a little, but the deals you find will be worth the extra effort.
  22. Order online. You can often find great deals on the Internet. Do some searching and see if you can’t find a better deal buying over the Internet.
  23. Don’t do delivery. Craving pizza? Save at least $5 (and a good 20 minutes) by going to pick it up instead of having it delivered. Many delivery-focused restaurants will offer additional discounts for take-out orders, so don’t just default to delivery next time you decide to order in.


Remember, it’s all about moderation. You don’t need to deprive yourself; you simply have to be responsible with your spending—especially when you’re having fun.

On the Town

It’s easy to get carried away when spending money on entertainment. Next time you’re in the mood for a celebration, try one of these tricks to ramp up the fun without emptying your wallet.

  1. Bring “Girls’/Guys’ Night Out” in. Instead of going out to eat, invite friends to come to you—and have them each bring a dessert, appetizer or a bottle of something to share.
  2. When you do go out, don’t go overboard. Instead of dinner and drinks out, pick one and do the other at home or at a friend’s place.
  3. Go out for lunch instead of dinner. Most restaurants’ menus are notably cheaper at lunch than at dinner, so hit up your favorite spots at lunch time and try to save enough to be able to take home some leftovers. Presto! Two meals in one.
  4. Host a dinner party. Eating well is much cheaper when you don’t have to pay for ambiance. Next time you want a fancy meal, make it yourself. Invite friends over to enjoy it with you, and maybe even bring dessert.
  5. Fill up on water. Skipping a soda or glass of wine in favor of good old H20 when dining out will easily save you a few dollars. Not only is it the healthiest option, it’s free!
  6. Take leftovers home. You paid for the food (maybe even over-paid) so take it with you. It’ll probably taste just as good tomorrow.
  7. Going to the theater? Skip the snacks and enjoy the show. Cutting down on overpriced movie-theater snacks makes going to the movies a pretty affordable outing.
  8. Don’t over-indulge. Limit your drinks, skip dessert.
  9. Dining out with a friend? Consider splitting an entrée.
  10. Designate a driver. Cabs can get expensive; getting pulled over, even more so. Pick a designated driver and avoid both of these situations.
  11. Go low key. Skip the martini bar downtown and hit up a neighborhood pub. You’ll probably spend less (and cause less trouble) in a more laid back atmosphere.
  12. Save it for a special occasion. Making going out on the town a special-occasion activity will not only protect your wallet, it will help you enjoy the nights you do head out all the more.
  13. Get connected. Most communities (especially college towns) have all kinds of free events going on—art festivals, movies in the park, craft fairs—get a hold of a local community organization and find out what fun, free events are going on in your area.
  14. Keep track of what you spend. It’s easy to get carried away where entertainment spending is concerned. Failing to remember your night out doesn’t put the money back in your wallet. It’s all about self-control.
  15. Opt for low-budget entertainment. Instead of hitting the club scene, get a group together to go bowling—it’s dirt cheap and a lot of fun, especially with the right group of people.
  16. Host a movie night. Skip the theater (and overpriced popcorn) and invite friends over for a movie marathon.

Remember that having fun is free—all you have to do is find it.

In the Driver’s Seat

Automotive expenses are easily one of the most costly (and unpredictable) spending areas. You can save money on gas and lessen the risk of unexpected car spending by following these easy steps.

  1. Consider carpooling. With gas prices climbing, cutting down on driving can be a big money saver.
  2. Rethink your commute. Do you live in an area with reliable public transportation? Examine your daily routine and look for ways to find ways to make it more efficient.
  3. Rise and shine. Avoid sitting in traffic by getting to work earlier. Not only will you save time, your boss will be impressed by what he/she perceives to be your dedication to your job.
  4. Keep your car well-maintained. Regular check-ups will help you avoid major, unexpected repairs.
  5. Check your tire pressure regularly. Under-inflated tires can hurt your gas mileage. Just like the rest of your car, keep your tires well-maintained.
  6. Sometimes, spend more the first time. Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? It’s not. If you buy the cheapo product to save cash (windshield wipers, for example), you’ll likely end up paying more in the end, as you’ll have to replace them sooner than you would had you bought the better-quality product to begin with. That’s not to say you should buy the most expensive product in the store—the top brand will typically have lower-cost models as well, which is what you’re looking for. The quality will be much better than the “discount” option, and the price is generally pretty reasonable.
  7. Turn on the cruise control. On long car trips or when driving on the highway, use cruise control to regulate your gas expenditure and, ultimately, save you money.
  8. Roll down your windows. When weather permits, turn off the A/C and enjoy the breeze.
  9. Get what’s coming to you. Call your insurance carrier and make sure you’re getting all the discounts you’re eligible for: safe driver, good student, etc.
  10. Find yourself driving less? Tell your insurance company—you may be eligible for a discounted rate.
  11. Become insurance savvy. Shop around and make sure you’re aware of all your options. It will take some homework, but you could end up saving, big time.
  12. Budget for repairs. We all know that car repair can get expensive, and quick. Start a car repair fund so when problems arise you can deal with them without increasing your debt.
  13. Leave the keys at home. Do you live close enough to your job that walking or riding a bike would be a reasonable option? Give it a try! It’s healthier, cheaper and less stressful than fighting traffic.
  14. Break out the bucket. Skip the car wash and clean your car yourself.
  15. Lighten up. Remove any heavy items you’ve got in the trunk of your car or on a roof rack. The extra weight cuts into your gas mileage—if you don’t need it on this trip leave it at home.
  16. Get the best deal on gas. Wholesale shopping isn’t just for household goods and cleaning products. They typically offer members gas at discounted prices, too.
  17. Maintain your speed. Stop-and-go driving is a major gas-guzzler (not to mention the damage it inflicts on your engine). Be patient and follow the flow of traffic. In this case, spending more time in the car will save you money in the long run.


Ultimately, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


Still need to scrape together some cash? Here are a few other ways to effectively trim your budget and make the most of your money.

  1. Pay bills on time. Avoid late fees—at that point you’re just giving your money away! Make a schedule of when all your bills are due and stick to it.
  2. Pay bills online. It’s not much, but you can save a few bucks each month in stamps, easily.
  3. Leave the nicotine behind. Smoking is a bad habit—we all know it. So quit already, and save yourself not only the cost of feeding your habit, but maybe even the cost of major medical bills in the future.
  4. Survive the holiday season. Buy gifts, wrapping paper and ribbon in bulk to save time and money. Re-gifting is another great way to maintain a budget during the holidays—if you can get away with it.
  5. Work for it. Getting a part-time job is a great way to give yourself (and your budget) a little wiggle room. Plus, the more time you spend working, the less time you have to shop.

100. Donate to charity. Don’t forget to save your receipts—come tax time, your generosity is deductible.  
      101. Save your bonuses. Put your holiday bonus away for a rainy day rather than blowing it as soon as it’s in the bank. You’ll appreciate they money more if you spend it on something you actually need.

For more tips and tricks, use these tools and resources to help you on your way to better budgeting.

WisePiggy.com – Can you Stretch Your Paycheck?
iVillage – 66 Ways to Save Money Every Day
The Lending Tree – Budgeting Tips for College Students
The Lending Tree – Credit Card Resources
American Media Association – Healthy Budgeting Tips
EdFund – Less Is More: Smart Budgeting

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