We are just about a third of the way through the year on this budget of ours, and we’ve learned a few things about reducing our spending. Some of it we’ve learned through failure: we’ve gone over our grocery budget by $1.49 and we still have three days left in the month. Here are the three areas we’ve pushed harder to tighten our budget. Maybe they can help you tighten your budget.
Step one is to not buy stuff. The best advice I can give about how to spend less money is to buy less stuff. Sounds simple, right? And it really is. Try this experiment next time you’re at the store and you feel like buying something: instead of buying that thing, don’t buy it. Just walk out. See how it feels. The first time you try this, it may not work. You may have to go back to the store later because it turns out you really did need that thing. Because maybe that thing was toilet paper. But if you try this experiment a few times, you may find that it works quite well, and you may take the next step: not going to the store at all. Check out how this idea worked out for us when we tried 60 Days of Buying Nothing. Spoiler alert: we failed.
Step two is all about groceries. I find that food is the easiest thing to control in the monthly budget. Scratch that. It’s the part of the budget that can get out of control the easiest, but that can be reigned in without too much blood, sweat and tears.. It’s not necessarily easy to just decide to stop spending as much money on food. We get into our habits. We grow accustomed to our lifestyles. But you simply put intention behind every purchase you make, you’ll find that you can save money. Imagine, if you will, that you actually couldn’t afford to waste food. If buying two loaves of bread meant one might go bad before you ate it, you might buy that second loaf later in the week. Or you might not buy it at all. Check out How to Save Money on Groceries in Three Easy Steps for some specifics that have helped us.
Step three is car insurance. What seems to be working well for us is switching to Metromile. Now we pay a low monthly fee plus a couple cents for each mile that we drive. It works out great, because we don’t drive that much, and it encourages us to drive even less. We ride our bikes instead. Even though I took a trip to the coast last month, in addition to all the normal driving, we still spent half what we’d been spending on car insurance. We only spent $65 last month. Metromile. Check it out. May not be your thing. But maybe it is. And what’s more, driving less means less money spent on gas and maintenance. My brother tracks every cent he puts into his car, from the initial cost to purchase, to maintenance, car insurance, gas and licensing fees. He also tracks his miles, and then he figures out how much he pays per mile. If you thought about how much it costs to drive to the store every time you drove to the store, you may consider biking, or walking, or taking a tip from step one and not going to the store at all.
Even though we’ve gone over our budget on groceries this month, and last month, and in fact we’ve gone over budget on two to six categories each month, we’re still under budget for the year. Under by $385. And even though we spent an unbudgeted $500 on passports for the whole family, we’re still under for this month by $50. We’re saving money in areas we didn’t expect even while we spend more than expected elsewhere.