Whether the economy is sinking or soaring, knowing how to cut expenses at home can leave you with more money in your pocket for beer, a new car, retirement, or whatever else your heart desires.
- Know where you stand. Before you can start cutting expenses at home, it's pretty much essential that you have a basic idea of what those expenses are. Otherwise, you won't know whether your cost cutting measures are successful, and you'll end up frustrated. Try setting up a spreadsheet tracking your regular and irregular expenses, or use an online program such as Mint.com.
Focus on the big budget busters. Most people won't even consider learning how to cut expenses at home unless they have a very strong need. If you're in the danger zone and you need to cut expenses quickly, your best bet is to attack your largest areas of spending (which you should have discovered during the first step). This will vary from person to person; someone living in his or her parent's basement will likely spend a lot less on housing than someone who has just bought a McMansion.
Make those tough choices. If you've started with trying to cut expenses that take up a large part of your home budget, chances are you'll have to make some hard decisions. If you've gotten to this point, it's time to get real. Maybe you really do have to sell your dream house at a loss, or maybe you need to commit to surviving on rice and beans for the next few months. Realizing that you most likely won't have to live with these choices forever can help you get through difficult times.
Fill in the cracks with the little things. Just because you start with cutting big expenses doesn't mean you can't get some decent savings out of changing your smaller spending habits. For example, getting rid of cable can add up to significant savings over the course of a year. The best thing is, you can easily decide to cut something small (like coffee or your weekly bottle of vodka) for a month or two, just as an experiment, and come back later with a better feeling of how the presence or absence of the item has affected your life. You might be surprised to find you don't miss getting wasted at the bars every Saturday, but you can't live without your favorite aftershave.
- Be positive and creative. Instead of focusing on all that you're losing by cutting expenses at home, think about how these things can have a positive effect. You might lose some weight by learning to cook more meals at home. If you stop going to an expensive gym and start running in the park, you might bump into someone cute who lives in your neighborhood and would love to be your jogging buddy. Who knows, you might even turn your experience of taking on a renter into a bestselling novel!
Tip: Take things slow. You might want to jump right into cutting expenses at home, but it's much more likely to stick if you treat it like building a new habit: take small steps, and build up your skill slowly over time.