Everyman’s Guide to Decreasing Expenses

by Mr. Cheap

Much like my recent post on finding extra income if you’re poor and unskilled, this post is about methods for reducing your expenses, which SHOULD be possible for most people. If you’re not doing any of the things listed, and *still* have trouble getting by on your salary (which is at least equivalent to full-time, minimum wage work), please send me an e-mail at cheapcanuck@gmail.com and I’ll try to help you work something out…One of the best parts of cutting expenses instead of increasing income, is you pay for almost all expenses with after tax dollars. A dollar saved is worth more than a dollar earned (since the government will do its best to take as much as possible of that earned dollar away from you).

I’m not saying everyone should do each of these things (I don’t). These are just ideas for ways that most people could spend less money (if that’s your bag, baby).

  1. Stop using recreational drugs. This includes legal and illegal. Tobacco, alcohol, pot, etc. Stop doing all of them. Even if you’re smoking Rothman’s (sniff). Ben Stein has some interesting thoughts on this.
  2. Stop eating out. I was able to save hundreds of dollars when I started preparing food at home instead of eating out all the time. If you miss the social element of dining with friends, start having each other over to your houses and cook for each other. Similarly to eating at home, you can save money by making your own meals instead of buying pre-prepared meals.
  3. Cancel your cable. You don’t need TV. Really! You can even become like this guy.
  4. Cancel your internet. It pains me to add this one, as I’d go and collect empty bottles for $20 / month before I’d cancel my internet. HOWEVER, you CAN surf at your local library and most people could get by with 30 or 45 minutes there each day.
  5. Move into a smaller living space. If you’re in a house, move into an apartment. If you’re in an apartment, move into a smaller apartment (or get a roommate). At the most extreme, rent a room in someone else’s house or a rooming house. At the ultra, ultra extreme consider living in a vehicle (maybe talk to family / friends before you get this desperate though).
  6. Get rid of your car(s). If you need your car to get to work or school, move somewhere closer that you can walk / transit from. If you have more than one car, consider selling the extras and getting by with just one. I’ve never owned a car. Maybe you can’t get rid of it if you’re living in it though ;-).
  7. Quit your job. A common idea in many blog posts is whether you’re further ahead or not having a second parent work. Crunch the numbers and see if you might be further ahead staying at home instead of working.
  8. Cancel any / all memberships. Get rid of gym memberships, Netflix, etc. Re-occurring expenses are killer.

Debt reduction blogs will have FAR more ideas than presented here, but these are some areas I’d look at trimming if I was spending more money than I was earning each month (or if I wanted to stop working with less savings). The basic theme is these are all wants, rather than needs. Learn the difference, get rid of the wants that aren’t worth the money you’re paying for them, and LATER in life, when you have more cash, re-introduce them to your lifestyle.

What are the first areas you’d look at cutting out of your lifestyle if you wanted to trim your monthly expenses?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Four Pillars

Great ideas – very realistic!

Mike

2 Steve Hanov

I’m sure some people will roll their eyes at cancelling their TV subscription, but it’s easier than they think. There is a lot of content available on the Internet. Once, we had people over and instead of watching a movie, everyone just choose their favourite YouTube clips and we had a blast.

Plus, most of our shows are posted online for free anyways. CBC is great at this — eg. http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace has all their shows available.

One thing you left out is the phone — I doubt anybody REALLY needs both a landline and a cell phone. Pick one and cancel it. I lived with only a cell phone for about 5 years. When I moved in with my wife we switched to a landline, because it’s way cheaper. If you absolutely need a cell phone, get a “prepaid” plan.

3 Jerry Hung

Think about it, if people cancel internet, there may not be many people visiting you, or RSS subscribe 🙂

I agree to a lot of things, but one should not decrease the expenses to the level they are not comfortable. It’d kill me to NOT have internet and TV (just because of sports and my free PVR)

I’d love to get rid of andline if I can (right now landline + prepaid cell)

4 Mr. Cheap

Steve: Great suggestion, I definitely should have included phone!

Jerry: And if people stop smoking, my Rothman’s stock will take a dive. I give, and I give and no one appreciates it ;-P If anyone give up your internet connection, please keep reading us at the library!

People have to make a decision what makes them more uncomfortable, not having sports on TV and a free PVR or being in a financial situation that gets worse every month – these suggestions were for people who are having trouble living within their means – *NOT* a list of things EVERYONE should do. If you like your Internet and TV and can afford them, enjoy!

5 GIV

Eating at home, having dinner parties and cancelling the TV are great ideas. Seriously. Everyone should try them. Your quality of life actually improves as your expenses decrease.

And thank you for “a dollar saved is worth more than a dollar earned.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. I had never really realized it consciously, but it’s true.

It probably explains why whenever i feel financially strapped, my impulse is always to decrease the outflow (cut back on things) rather than increase the inflow (do more paid work) as my quality of life decreases when I do that. The thought of working even more to enjoy my life even less is ridiculous, so I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore.

6 Kyle

Give up beer and crack? You’re asking too much. I would be prepared to give up a few luxuries, though, such as food and housing.

7 Jerry

Eating at home – especially with friends – is some of the best insurance for saving money and still having a good social life. We did this just last night and it was a blast! I think that getting rid of TV can lead to using the internet for entertainment, as well, on sites like hulu.com.
Jerry

8 telly

Ahhh…love the Onion link – always a quality read. 🙂

Anyway, I definitely agree that cutting expenses is by far more agreeable than earning / working more.

Satellite or cable is a common item that many people believe is a MUST. I recently drove past a low-income housing project and counted 3 satellite dishes on one particular unit! And it’s funny how many times one of the students in our rental properties is two weeks behind on rent but has empty beer bottles stacked up 8 cases high in the backyard. 🙁

9 WoolyWoman

I’d get rid of the cell phone before I got rid of the cable 🙂 I lived without a cell for awhile (so unheard of these days!) and the only time I missed it was when I was hiking by myself because I enjoy the security of having this as a back up in case something happens (twisted ankle, bear encounter, crazy bush men etc.). But then again, I can’t always get cell phone service for the areas I do hike…

10 Uncle B

Before the great depression hits, Build a small, solar/geothermal heated, super insulated survival home in the ‘burbs or country side.
Grow a garden there, greenhouse if possible.
Compost for the garden.
Get Solar/battery electrics, cell phone, LCD TV and computer, low voltage microwave oven, composting toilet, use urine in garden compost, go to low tax area, use a solar chargeable battery/plugin car, Buy a pressure canner and can garden, and any meat, fish or produce bargains you find. Go bow hunting, deer meat if cooked properly is better than beef anytime.
Never vote for that idiot Harper again, he apes Bush and Bush ruined the greatest superpower the world has ever known.

11 Todd

Dropping cable would be fine by me, but not so much with the wife. 🙂 I think limiting the dining out has helped my budget more than anything else, and has probably helped us from a health perspective too. The biggest part of this was lunch at work. Talk about getting a raise!

12 VT

I can never do No. 4. Here in India we dont have that facility. You guys in the developed world are real lucky to have it. 🙂 🙂

Its not that we cant have it. They can have internet connection. But people always misuse it! 🙁

13 Mr. Cheap

VT: Also in China and India there’s such competition for labour that none of my income producing ideas would make much sense. These are all pretty Canada-centric ideas (sorry!)

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