Not too long ago, I had a habit of spending money without even thinking about it.
I would go to the grocery store without a list, or head out on a Saturday afternoon to wander aimlessly from one store to the next.
I’d never buy just one thing from Walmart, and usually walked out of ALDI with another gadget or household item I didn’t really need (that ALDI Finds aisle is dangerous!!).
This thoughtless spending pattern began to take a toll on my money-saving goals.
When I would reconcile my budget at the end of the month, I found that I was always going over budget in the same categories: groceries, personal spending, and household items.
Now that I have started a minimalist lifestyle, I’ve become more intentional about the purchases I make and the items I bring into my home.
Here are 9 expenses that I either virtually eliminated or significantly cut to save money.
# 1 Processed Food
Let me say off the bat that I have not completely eliminated processed food from my diet.
I still eat bread, tortillas, frozen potatoes, and other processed foods for those nights I don’t cook (usually on weekends), or when I just feel like something comforting.
The foods that I have cut back on are processed snack foods and convenience meals.
Frozen meals, potato chips, cookies, cake mixes, popcorn, granola bars used to be my favorites. I still enjoy them, but rarely.
These packaged foods can be expensive because you are paying for convenience. It’s easier to pop a dinner in the microwave for a few minutes than to actually prepare a meal.
Now, I lean more toward fruit, yogurt, peanut butter, and nuts. They are healthier and more filling, which means you can eat less (saving money!) and feel satisfied.
# 2 Paper Products
I used to go through paper towels like nobody’s business.
I was constantly using them during meals, to wipe up spills, dry my hands, and wipe down the counters.
A pack of paper towels can cost $5 – $10 which adds up and can be better spent on elsewhere.
I was also buying napkins, paper plates, and cups for times when I didn’t feel like washing dishes. This was a result of me just being plain lazy. The only option here was to simply stop buying them and use regular dishes.
After reading an article sharing shocking information about paper waste in the United States, I felt compelled to be even more mindful about my paper consumption habits.
# 3 Beauty Products & Services
One of the biggest budget busters for women is beauty products and services.
YouTube, Instagram, and other social media are notorious for heavily influencing people’s spending habits, especially on beauty products.
My weakness was natural hair products.
Years ago when I stopped perming my hair and went natural, I needed help learning how to maintain and style it.
There are literally thousands of YouTube videos on natural hair care, and I spent hours watching them.
I thought I had to try every natural hair product on the market and quickly became a product hoarder. These are not your $3 – $5 shampoos and conditioners. No, they range from $8 – $10 and up!
Now, instead of watching YouTube for product recommendations, I find tutorials showing me how do do my own hair using low cost, natural products.
I also save trips to the nail salon for special occasions and avoid buying new makeup products, until I run out of what I have.
# 4 Cell Phone Service
I’ve had cell phone service for over 20 years and always assumed that the more expensive service plans were superior.
So, naturally, I chose the popular carriers with the highest rates. At one point, my cell phone bill got up to nearly $80 a month! For me, that’s two weeks’ worth of groceries!
I wised up and switched to Republic Wireless, a no-frills carrier that uses Wi-Fi calling, and partners with Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks when Wi-Fi isn’t available.
Unlimited talk and text costs only $15, and I pay $5 for 1 GB of data. I found that I don’t really need unlimited data because I’m either using my home Wi-Fi, or an open Wi-Fi network when out in public.
# 5 Housing
I have moved twice over the past several years to save money.
The first move was in 2016, when I sold my first home after living there for 6 years.
It was a 3800 square foot house with a full finished basement, more space than I could ever need as a single woman with no children.
Although I loved living there, it was too much house for me. It also needed a lot of work.
Instead of investing my savings and future income into a house that I knew was too big for me, I decided to sell. I used the profits to pay off my student loan debt.
The second money-saving move came when I downsized, moving from a 2 bedroom apartment to a 1 bedroom apartment. I have saved approximately $200 per month with this move due to cheaper rent and lower utility costs.
According to an article by The Balance, your housing costs should be less than or equal to 25% of your income. If yours exceed this, I highly recommend considering a move to save money.
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# 6 Gym Memberships
It took me years of wasting hundreds of dollars on gym memberships to learn that I am not a gym person.
Other than a once a week Zumba class, I never used the gym. I am a bit of a germophobe, and the disinfectant wipes were always dried up or nowhere to be found!
Also, exercise doesn’t come easy for me and, the simpler my routine, the better.
I prefer to pull my hair up, put on comfortable clothes, and walk a few feet to my apartment complex fitness center, or my living room, to get a workout in.
So, now I save my money by going for a walk or finding a workout video on YouTube.
# 7 Groceries
As I mentioned earlier, I was notorious for going to the grocery store without a list.
This led to buying things I didn’t need, or more of what I already had on hand. Now, I use my inventory meal planning spreadsheet to take stock of what I have before going grocery shopping.
I’ve also become more realistic about what I will actually consume.
I rarely buy fresh produce, opting for frozen instead. As a single person, I know that I cannot eat an entire bunch of fresh anything before it goes bad. I usually end up having to throw it away.
With frozen produce, I cook enough for a few meals and and put the rest back in the freezer.
# 8 Dining Out
I absolutely love dining out, especially at restaurants I’ve never tried before.
However, I am fully aware that a good meal out can get expensive really quickly, so I’ve come up with a solution: I budget for it!
I created a restaurants budget category for my monthly budget and set a realistic amount to spend. I also forgo fast food restaurants, choosing instead to save my restaurant budget for sit down restaurants.
You can definitely have an active social life on a budget, including enjoying your favorite restaurants.
# 9 Excessive Clothes Shopping
After I lost over 25 lbs in Fall of 2017, I went on a clothes shopping spree!
I was so proud of my weight loss, and wanted to try different styles that I hadn’t previously had the confidence to wear.
But, instead of choosing high quality pieces that I could mix and match, I went out and bought a lot of low quality items in various patterns and colors that didn’t suit my style. Turns out my style didn’t change just because I lost weight.
I basically spent a lot of money on clothes I ended up getting rid of when I completed the KonMari Method clothes declutter.
Now, I buy fewer pieces that are timeless, classic and interchangeable. But, I’m still working on investing in higher quality.
I’m frugal by nature, and it’s still difficult for me to spend more money on things, even if they are of better quality.
I am a work in progress.
What Things Have You Cut Out Of Your Budget?
Which items have you reduced or completely eliminated from your budget to save money? Have you missed those things? Please share below!