When you want to save smarter without working much harder at cutting down costs for your family or household budget, there are some easy tactics you can incorporate into your budgeting routine so that your bank account isn’t feeling the strain of inflation and other factors that might increase the cost of living for your household. While it’s a good goal to save smarter, there might be some things in your budget that are non-negotiable. For example, you probably won’t be able to lower your rental payments without moving or risking eviction if you’re already renting an apartment through a rental agency. Additionally, if you have a life-saving medication that costs a certain amount of money, you probably won’t be able to shave off some of the cost of that expense out of your budget.
On top of that, some bills like fixed utilities such as a water payment or electrical payment might not be eligible for lowering. Still, that shouldn’t stop you from cutting corners where you can and tightening the purse strings on discretionary spending in areas where you can afford to lower how much you’re paying every month. Even if a bill is necessary for you to pay, you may be able to work out a payment plan or a deal with your provider that cuts the bill into manageable payment options over time. This can make it so that you’re paying as much as you would for the bill while lowering the burden that it puts on your finances in the short term.
1. Cell Phone Bill
While some cell phone service carriers may offer fixed packages that make it so that you can’t lower your cell phone bill, you may be able to pare down your cell phone bill costs by making wise choices to save smarter with your cellphone usage. Even if you have unlimited talk and text according to your cellphone plan, you might not have unlimited data. Data costs can drive your cellphone bill up $10 or even $50 a month, depending on how much you use it and how much your provider charges for data over a certain limit.
As ramseysolutions.com shares, “Try to stay on a Wi-Fi connection whenever it’s available—especially at home or work. And if you don’t have Wi-Fi access when you’re on the go, be smart about it! Don’t download or stream any movies, podcasts, or music unless you’re on Wi-Fi. Those fees for using too much data can add up quickly, and some providers charge you as much as $15 the instant you go over. Make sure you stay within your monthly limit by only using cellular data (4G/LTE) when you need it. Some carriers will send you a warning when you’re getting close to your limit. Sign up for those alerts!” You can also avoid using background data to lower your data costs. Additionally, you should see if your school or employer offers discounts if you use a certain cellphone carrier to get service for your cellphone. Sometimes, taking advantage of new user offers from different phone companies or trading in your phone for a cheaper model can lower your bill, as well.
2. Delivery Services
If you’re used to using delivery services for groceries or other items, it may cost you money. While order fulfillment services can be convenient, they can also be expensive. They can multiply the amount of money you spend on a meal from a restaurant all too quickly. According to the Washington Post, “A McKinsey & Co. report in 2021 estimated that diners end up paying a 40% percent premium on the menu price once the delivery fee, tip and platform service fee is included, while eateries shell out between 15% to 30% of the price of the meal as commission fees. Some restaurants try to recoup the fees with differential pricing for eat-in and delivery menus, or raising prices across the board.
One way for consumers to lower those bills is to stay loyal to a single platform. A $10 monthly fee gets you unlimited free delivery through DoorDash’s DashPass, Uber’s Eat pass or Grubhub+ through Grubhub. The cost makes sense if you order at least twice a month, though some restaurants don’t advertise across platforms so your choices might be limited. To make their offers more compelling and leverage their networks, companies are bundling in other kinds of delivery such as groceries or alcohol. A couple of delivery companies have tried partnerships to reduce marketing costs such as Amazon offering Prime members a free year of Grubhub+, or JPMorgan Chase & Co. giving Chase Sapphire members a free year of DashPass.”
Although it might be convenient to get delivery instead of driving somewhere to buy food, you’re best bet is going to a restaurant if you have to eat out. To save even more money, you can look into coupons for that restaurant or take advantage of deals. Some restaurants may also offer discounts if you buy food through a certain app instead of another. Keep an eye out for promotions if you want to save smarter while still enjoying the little things in life like a meal from your favorite eatery.
3. Pet Care
While some costs of pet care are inevitable, others may be lowered if you’re okay with doing your research and shopping around for a good deal. If you want to save smarter on pet food, you should think about what pet foods may be more affordable for your budget. Depending on the types of pets you have, you might find that making your own veterinarian-approved raw diet is better for your pet than store-brand kibble or wet food options. It could also be cheaper. To save money on vet bills in the long run, you should try to get the best food you can on your budget. Still, if you can’t afford to feed your pet on a long-term basis because your pet food costs are too high, this will ultimately cost you your pet if you can’t keep up with their food bills.
On top of pet food, other costs associated with your pet include boarding options like no cage dog boarding when you go on vacation. To save money on boarding, you can see if some places offer deals during certain times of the year. You can also ask about discounts such as military discounts or first responder discounts if that applies to you. Finally, you can see if there are any coupons available or discount codes floating around the internet for your pet’s needs.
One way to save money and save smarter is by starting a garden. When you use a natural fertilizer like compost scraps, it will save you money and help the environment. You can also save money on grocery bills if you garden since you’ll be able to eat fruits and vegetables from your harvest. If you’re splurging on gardening supplies and the best seeds, you may not save money gardening. This is why you shouldn’t automatically see it as the ticket to lowering your bills.
As extension.iastate.edu explains, “The trick to saving money with a vegetable garden is limiting the costs while maximizing yield. While saving money may be one of the benefits of growing a vegetable garden – let’s not forget that there are others as well. Gardens are a potential means to increase our confidence in food safety and security.” Of course, if you love gardening as a hobby, you shouldn’t completely skimp out on your gardening budget. Just be mindful of how much money you can spend on it.
5. Skin Care
You can also save smarter on skin care. To do so, avoid the acne treatment center. Use over-the-counter products instead, which should be cheaper.
6. Oral Health
While bills at the dentist may be high, you can save money if you brush your teeth and floss regularly. Taking care of your teeth costs very little money if you put in the effort to maintain them. You can also choose a dentist based on payment plans and affordability when you need oral healthcare.
7. Food Waste
Another way to save smarter is by using a cheap trash pickup service. By reducing the amount of trash you produce, you’ll lower your garbage bill. You’ll also benefit the environment by lowering the level of waste you contribute to landfills and other places where we store trash.
8. Electric Bill
While an electrician can be expensive, they don’t have to be. Shop around for cheaper options. Also, you can call a trade school to see if they offer discounted electrical work so their students get a chance to practice their trade while saving you money on work that might not be as polished.
9. Water Bill
While water is essential for showers, baths, drinking, cooking, and more, you shouldn’t invest in the most expensive water purification system out there. A simple water filter should be good enough as long as your municipality doesn’t indicate otherwise. Filtering your own water will be cheaper than bottled water if it’s safe to drink the water near you.
For many people nowadays, grocery bills have become a high expense every month that takes up more of their resources than they would like. Gone are the days when you could feed a family of four on less than $50 a week without some sort of supplemental assistance or food security resources. Although the price of food is rising, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t any hope for lowering your grocery bills. You just have to think wisely to save smarter with your grocery bill.
Sometimes, you can’t cut your grocery budget down. If you have to follow a specific diet according to your doctor’s orders, you may have to shell out a lot of money just to be able to eat appropriately for your health conditions. Still, if you don’t have a health concern that forces you to eat in a certain way and you don’t have dietary goals like gaining muscle or losing weight which require specific diet choices, you may be able to lower your grocery bills. Sometimes, you can even lower your grocery bills without having to change what you buy. You could take advantage of sales and coupons by planning your shopping trips around the best deals. You could also change how much you cook in comparison to how much you eat at restaurants. This could mean purchasing food from a Mexican food distribution that has competitive prices instead of going to a high-class restaurant for every meal.
Your grocery bill may depend on how modest your food choices are and the size of your family. As sofi.com explains, “Let’s say you are a family of four with one child aged 6 to 8 and another between the ages of 9 to 11. According to the USDA guidelines, you might spend $979 a month on a thrifty plan, $1,028 on a low-cost plan, $1,252 on a moderate-cost plan, and $1,604 on a liberal plan.” The article on sofi.com continues, “The USDA guidelines can provide a starting point for a food budget, but they don’t consider all the variables that can affect cost. That’s why building a personal food budget while using these numbers as a benchmark is best. To do so, you can look at your past monthly spending on food and then compare that number to the USDA food budget guides.”
Learning how to save smarter with your financial decisions is important for several reasons. Firstly, if you can’t budget your finances properly, you may risk homelessness, fines, high interest rates on credit cards, and damage to your credit score if you end up not being able to make bills on time. You also may risk getting an eviction or foreclosure on your credit report, which could make it hard to find housing in the future. Overall, it’s better to learn how to budget and work with what you have than live so far beyond your means that you’re stretching your finances to the max. Although you may be able to handle a stretched budget for a little while, it could catch up to you with high credit card payments, collections calls, and more unwanted events.