If you’ve ever searched “how to save money” on Pinterest, you’ll be bombarded with money-saving challenges, no-spend rules, and tips to lower the cost of your Starbucks order. Not buying coffee is great and all, but here are a few places you can save that will make a real difference in your monthly budget. If you’ve already cut your budget back as far as it can go, here are some major ways to save on those big-ticket items.
This might be one of your largest expenses each month. Sometimes where you live is not in your complete control, but if it is, selling your house, moving cities, or even changing states entirely might be a good way to cut this big expense back.
When we bought our home, we found that we actually were spending less on our monthly home-related expenses than we did while we were renting. This might not be the case for you though. Maybe you’re in a house right now and renting a place would actually be much cheaper. Look for some other options for your current situation and consider some unique approaches. Could you get a roommate to split the bill? Can you rent out space or AirBNB a room? Can you move to a different city and save big on mortgage and taxes?
For reference and ideas on how to price compare, here’s our comparison between renting & buying:
If the idea of moving overwhelms you, consider some less intense ways to lower this expense. If you own your home, look into refinancing your mortgage. THIS is a free tool for figuring out how much your monthly payments might be. If you rent, consider transferring to a different apartment unit, something slightly smaller, or with a lower monthly rent.
If you’re stuck where you are, that’s okay too — because another huge expense that might be eating away at your paycheck is food…
Food is usually the next largest expense next to our homes. Although you may have already cut out a lot from this category, there are many ways to cut corners and save on some of the essentials.
You don’t necessarily need to invest in a Costco or Sam’s Club membership — but finding a friend that will let you use theirs can be a huge help. Consider shopping together and splitting the cost of some pantry staples. The huge quantities and big savings mean you’ll likely get more for your money and without the big initial investment.
Plan your meals with simplicity. If money is really tight, the last thing you need to worry about is cooking up new and fun meals. Stick to the basics to get the nutrients you need without breaking the bank. Choose a cheap carb (rice), meat (ground beef), veggie (broccoli), and fruit (bananas) and work that into as many meals as humanly possible. Buy those basics in bulk to save more and make big batches to eat for lunch too. Google “Dirt Cheap Meal Plan” for ideas on dinners that are super cheap.
When you do go grocery shopping, look for the off-brand items and store-brand packaging as much as possible. There’s no shame in the coupon game, sign up for store rewards, Fetch, Ibotta, and Rakuten (affiliate links) to get cashback on what you’re already buying. Pay attention to your store deal days and shop on the days they offer the best deals.
Many grocery stores will have a cart or area near the bakery with discounted bread or soon-to-expire foods. Check that every time and plan meals around whatever you find.
Depending on your need and the resources in your area, check for local food pantries and discount grocery stores. There are some really wonderful companies that can help you if you’re having a rough time, don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you need it.
If you need more help with meal planning and ideas, check out THIS post about meal planning for a month at a time and where to shop for groceries.
If you have a lot of debt, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Dave Ramsey, it is the number one method for getting out of debt and a process my husband and I are currently working our way through. When I tell you it’s life-changing, that is not an exaggeration. You can take an assessment of where you are with your money for free HERE.
Besides just having a method and plan for paying down debt, there are some other options to help you manage large debt payments as well.
Car loan you can’t afford? Sell the car and buy a cheaper one. House payment you can barely make each month? Sell the house and rent. Old debt and creditors hunting you down? Call them and offer a settlement instead. Sometimes getting rid of the expensive thing is the only logical option.
Other times, the debt is something not easily dumped. Refinancing might be your next best option. If you’re paying massive interest on your student loans or car payment, look for a new lender. Many lenders offer promotions that can save you a couple of payments and help you get ahead. Just be very careful when transitioning from one lender to another that you have a game plan for paying off the debt and that you’re not going to get hit with higher rates down the road.
If you’re really drowning in debt, start to look for other options to get the debt forgiven or apply for temporary assistance. Sign up for an income-based repayment plan on your student loans. See if you qualify for any help through your job (or if you can switch jobs to someone that helps you pay for school). After going through the Dave Ramsey plan and paying what you can — maybe bankruptcy is a decent option for you. Consider all other options before this, but definitely do your research if it’s something you really need to consider. Remember that many “lawyers” are going to try to sell you on this idea — be very wise and slow to make these choices and do research before choosing a team to help you.
One of the next biggest expenses for my family after food and housing was medical insurance. I work for a very small business that didn’t offer insurance through the job, so I had insurance that was going to cost $350 per month for just me. My husband had separate insurance through the military. When we started looking into the cost of having kids, we quickly realized we just couldn’t afford it.
I know there are a ton of different articles that know way more than I do about insurance, so I’m just going to stick to talking about the option my husband and I chose — please keep in mind, this solution may be as simple as finding a new job, applying for medicare or simply switching insurance providers.
For the past three years, I have been a part of Christian Healthcare Ministries. I had heard of healthcare sharing ministries through Dave Ramsey’s show, but I never gave it much thought until we were facing this big bump in medical expenses. We knew we wanted to start trying for a baby in 2018, so I needed to find something that would cover maternity costs without breaking the bank. Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) is a nonprofit health cost-sharing ministry where Christians share each other’s medical bills. Because CHM is not technically insurance, it works very differently from what you may be used to.
I pay a flat rate of $205 per month to be on the gold plan. This plan covers 100% of any costs exceeding $500 and up to $125,000 per illness as long as it falls within their guidelines. This saved us well over $6000 per year in healthcare costs.
If you want to read more about CHM specifically, I have an entire post HERE talking about the specifics. The point here is that typical insurance is EXPENSIVE, but you don’t have to rely on it to get affordable health care.