Generally speaking, cutting your budget means restricting what you spend and cutting back on luxuries, but doesn’t sound too much fun does it? In this article we will show you how to get what you need for less, keep more of what you have and feel good about not buying the stuff that you don’t need!
I know that’s a bit of a tall order and we are all in very different financial situations so what works for one person may not work for another, it’s never going to a be a one size fits all.
We get it, but that being said, there are a few things we can all try, and even if only 1 or 2 of them work for you, you’ll still be a step ahead of where you are right now so you’ve nothing to lose ………right?
CLICK HERE to take a look at our specially designed “cut your budget” spreadsheet.
Why do you need to cut your budget?
Let’s start with your “why”.
No-body cuts their budget for the pure joy of the experience, so what’s your driving force?
Do you want to cut down on spending because you feel like you “kind of should really” or do you have a more pressing reason?
Are you trying to pay off debt, buy a special gift, save for a holiday, a car, or simply just financially survive the pandemic without going bankrupt or maybe even survive after bankruptcy?
Whatever the reason, please get a notebook or open up a file on your computer and write down your “WHY”.
The next question is about how long you need to cut your budget for. Is it a short-term solution you’re looking for, maybe just to spin out your money until until payday? Or do you need to make some longer-term changes?
Either way you will need to wrap you head around what this means on a day-to-day basis. If you cut back too much and try to stick to it indefinitely then unless you have some superhuman powers (you really should find a way of monetizing these if you do!) then you will break at some point.
We all know what that means……
Breaking a budget is like breaking a diet, it activates the “f*ck it” button.
We don’t just go back to spending (or eating) how we did before the restriction – oh no, we SPLURGE…….
We go mad with excess just because the restriction felt too restrictive. We human being are not build for this kind of constraint.
So what’s the solution?
No, I’m serious.
If you are sticking to a strict budget for a week, put a few $/£ aside for your reward at the end of the week.
It’s not, honestly. This is backed by a load of actual research and science stuff.
So before we dive into all the practical solutions that you can start to apply to your budget planning, get a piece of paper out right now (or use that same file that has your WHY in it) and write down how much you will allocate to your reward and what that will be.
Great, lets move on to the plan!
Product from phase 1:
6 PRACTICAL steps to cutting your budget
1. Start tracking using a book, spreadsheet, or planner
The first step in editing your budget is to track all your income and expenses.
You can start by writing down everything that goes on in your financial life.
There are tons of free spreadsheets and planners (click here to see them) that you can download and use to track your accounts.
2. List down all your accounts
Once you have selected HOW you’re are going to track your finances (see our post here on types of budget), start by listing down all current accounts, checking accounts, savings, and credit card loans.
This stage is essential in finding where you stand when it comes to your monetary decisions.
We have LOADS of tools and spreadsheets to help with this side of things – why not take a look
3. Use coloured pens and highlighters to differentiate between accounts
Some people find it daunting to work through digital spreadsheets and financial management applications so to make things easier and more fun, use coloured pens and highlighters to allocate accounts and categories.
This makes the tracking personal and lets you unleash your creative potential.
4. Create categories
Lumping up expenses into huge categories is a good start but it does distract you from seeing the finer details if you leave it there– you do need to work through each part of the budget and pay attention to even the most minute expenses so that you can learn to cut costs in the right places – hopefully where you won’t even notice it.
Remember, you are doing this because you want to, because you want more freedom with your money and money to spend on yourself and loved ones – remind yourself that this is a good thing you are doing.
Break down every expense into its own category.
For example, start with FOOD.
This could then be broken down into:
- Take out
- Eating in restaurants
- Big bulk shopping store
- Small local store
- Farm shops
- Amazon delivery shops
- Freezer shopping
- Organic wholefoods
- Household essentials (not food but you get the point)
Remember 1st step is just writing down what you already spend, we don’t need to worry about the cutting bit just yet.
I’ve developed a spreadsheet that you might want to use especially for the exercise: SEE HERE
After food move onto household bills, insurances, credit card bills, etc……
5. Work on each category to reduce your budget
Now that you have organized your expenses into different categories, it is time to study each one and come up with a plan to reduce your budget.
The obvious ones speak for themselves;
- Can you reduce eating out?
- How can you reduce your grocery expenses?
- Is there a way to reduce the TV bill?
- Do you REALLY need the TV? There are so many free or inexpensive streaming services around these days, take a good look at all your options.
- When was the last time you checked your insurance policies?
- Is your mobile contract up? Can you get a SIM only deal cheaper?
- Could you switch utility provider?
- Can you move some credit card debt to 0%?
- Are you on the best mortgage product?
Start by reading our article on Topcashback, there a number of options for saving with these kinds of services that pay you to switch providers, and if that fails – just call up your existing provider and ask for a discount!! (honestly it works – I’ve done it!)
Do what works for you
Keep in mind that cutting budgets looks different from one household to another.
A mom of 5, a single retire, and a newlywed couple will all have different options when it comes to where they feel that they have to spend money and where it is least important.
Remember – you don’t have to break your back trying to fit into what everyone else is doing, do what works for you.
Similarly, if you try something and it doesn’t work for you, try again or make small adjustments so that you can live comfortably – or at least sustainably.
Even though it is difficult at first, you may find that there are things you felt you couldn’t live without when you started this work but after a few weeks you really just don’t miss them.
Push through these feeling though, it’s a readjustment and it will pass, just like giving up smoking or carbs, the pain will pass and you’ll feel soooooo good!
Always keep the end in mind and focus on the final objective of the cutting.
Let’s dig deeper into how you can cut spending in specific household categories:
Cutting the grocery spend
The best way to cut spending on your grocery budget is to find local shops that provide high quality REAL food at the cheapest price.
There are always less expensive stores that you can buy from in bulk but keep In mind that this can sometimes be a false economy as we often end up buying 20 of something that we don’t really want just because it’s a good deal!
If you are on the fence about buying 1 of this item, don’t buy more just because it works out cheaper.
This is especially true if you have debt. If you spend $50 on something that will last you 6 months (or longer) but maybe don’t even need in the first place, those items have cost you $50 PLUS the interest on the debt you could have paid off with that same $50.
To explain what I mean – a $50 balance on a credit card at 20% apr costs you about $10 per year, $500 costs you $100 and so on.
I know it doesn’t look like much if we just look at 1 purchase but how many times over the year do you buy stuff “just in case you might need it” and then it sits in the cupboard or garage gathering dust when you could have used that money to pay off a debt that COSTS YOU MONEY every single day.
This is what’s called an opportunity cost. You spent the money on 1 thing and by doing so you LOST the opportunity to put it somewhere else.
Get minimalist with your spending – purchase DELIBERATLY.
Use up what you have in the many cupboards and freezers around the house and buy only what you need to make meals for the next week, and then the next and so on.
Track how much you are NOT spending by doing this.
You can also look into local farmer’s markets that might give you more for less and shop at times when the supermarkets are marking the days items down before they go out of date.
If you are shopping only when you need to, or you can freeze the items you buy – it’s a great way to save.
Another way to cut the grocery spend is to stop eating out. (no surprise there eh?)
When you reduce the amount of eating out that you do, you’ll be forced to cook more nutritious meals at home – who knows, you might even like it.
This will save a lot of money in the long run, especially when you realize that you can make tasty food at home! Check out these One Pot Meals and Easy Sheet Pan Dinners.
Cutting the budget for alcohol
Like most things, cutting the budget for alcohol requires a step back and rethinking of your choices, not to mention and understanding of addiction. We all have addictions, it’s just that some are more socially acceptable than others.
I am by no means an expert in this field but i did love reading this Russell Brands book on addiction – “Recovery” which you might find is worth a read or a listen.
The first step is admitting that you need to reduce expenses on alcohol. From there, you can brainstorm ways to cut down your spending.
Why do you drink? Is it because you want to fit in with your friends? Maybe you need to cut out alcohol altogether. Find a way to save money while still keeping your life in balance.
Cutting the budget for pets
We all love our furry children, sometime just a little too much!
I’m guilty of this myself, I’ll not spend money on the expensive coffee that I like but I will buy yet another indestructible dog toy (that’s usually destroyed in less time than it would have taken me to drink the coffee!).
But when you need to pay off debt and save money, it is time to start looking for best way to cut spending on your pets.
Consider buying pet food in bulk or sourcing more inexpensive suppliers.
Buy pre-owned pet toys and beds or make your own at home and be sure to neuter or spay your pets so that you don’t end up with more mouths to feed.
Budgeting with Children
Involve kids in your budgeting journey – it can turn out to be something fun for them.
Let’s be honest; you can get smaller children excited about almost anything, the bigger ones maybe not so much….
Let them join in on a no-spend month and find ways to get them to help you with cooking homemade meals and educate them in concepts like minimalism and zero waste.
Minimalism and being more deliberate with purchasing
Minimalism is a great concept to follow when it comes to cutting down your budget.
The minimalism movement is gaining a lot of popularity all around the world today. People are standing up against consumerism – the concept that your happiness depends on buying shiny new things which although it gives us all a temporary little high is not actually connected to real happiness.
If this is and issue for you, take a look at our article on shopaholics, it might be a real help.
Consider being deliberate – buy only what you need to survive. This way, you stop expecting happiness from material goods.
How to cut your budget without feeling too deprived
Cutting your budget down is great and all, but what will you do when you feel deprived and unhappy? Here are a few things to keep in mind before taking the leap:
Do the self-work
It’s easy to say that you’re going to quit all unnecessary spending – but think of the last time you make a cold-turkey decision like that – did you stick to it, or did you end up falling off the horse?
It’s probably the latter.
We need to understand that some of the things we spend money on give us comfort and foster emotional connection.
We can analyse our spending habits and create budgets until the cows come home but you will never be able to let go of these expenses until you do the self-work needed to break your compulsive spending behaviours and addictions.
In addition to doing self-work, consider leaving some leeway in your budget.
A budget that is too tight and restrictive is like a tightly would elastic band– it’s bound to snap. Treat yourself occasionally with the one thing you want.
Or, in the words of Ramit Sethi (see above video) in his book I Will Teach You To Be Rich:
“Spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.”
What would you most like to be extravagant with? Going back to the point I made at the beginning of this article, in addition to your little “I stuck to my budget reward treat” try to think of one or two luxury expenses that will bring you joy in the face of all the expense-cutting you are doing.
Be deliberate with ownership
Buy only things that bring direct value into your life.
Remember that the things you own are not a representation of who you are.
You don’t need to own something just to feel good about yourself, cutting back and reducing spend can feel like a very negative thing to do but if you instead decide to be deliberate with what you own it’s much more of a positive reinforcement.
Being more purposeful allows you to prioritize the things that matter to you. This way, you can save that money you would have wasted so that you don’t have to settle for less in the long run. Having money saved up means that you can make better choices in the future.
Being more focused about what you consume by way of retail therapy and planetary resources frees up extra cash to invest and gain more money in your account.
Make money from things you already own
OK so it’s a no brainer that cutting spending on unnecessary things is always a good idea both for your budget and the planet.
However, there are other ways to free up resources, so you don’t have to pinch pennies and feel deprived. In this case, you could sell some of those unnecessary things you have accumulated over the years or even make and sell things for resale.
Explore your hobbies and find something that you can monetize. You could join a Facebook group for knitters and sell your designs there or check out some of these posts on side hustles.
Also, check out 10 Things in Your House You Can Sell to Make Money Fast.
Cutting business budgets
When it comes to a business, it’s even easier to write off expenses as necessary or essential, often we can be a little more forgiving and ready to assign expenses as “business critical”.
Look for ways to cut costs and optimize your resources -are there office supplies that are lying around unused? Maybe you don’t need all those professional subscriptions, or you could just need to review your insurances to make sure they are still fit for purpose and your getting the best deals.
Another great way to cut your business costs is to invest in digitalized marketing methods. Increase social media marketing and reduce traditional marketing. Try switching to networking instead of advertising. Consider growing your mailing list to capture more customers.
You could also cut your business budget by creating effective time management. You can use software to track employee time usage and billable hours. Set reasonable expectations for the amount of time a task takes to be completed. You can also offer incentives and bonuses to motivate your employees to work harder.
Check out our wide range of budget sheets, calculators and printables HERE
PROS of cutting the budget
- Making the ultimate decision to cut your budget saves time and money
- You can pay off years of debt
- You are setting a great example for your family and children
- You get closer to achieving your financial goals – whatever they may be!
- Financial Freedom is within your grasp!
- Peace of mind
CONS of cutting the budget
- It isn’t easy to give up on things you like
- It can be time-consuming to create a budget from scratch
- Your friends may have some resistance to your changes in spending habits and your new found “financial status”
- You have to stick to it every day so that it becomes a sustainable habit.
- there will be good days and bad days – take the rough with the smooth, they all pass eventually.
Cutting your budget can only be successful when you do a deep introspection on what makes you tick.
Sometimes, things like fast food and retail therapy are ways to cope with difficult emotions. Decide on what you need and why you are buying stuff you don’t need.
Address any feelings of unworthiness that you are filling with food, drugs, shopping, or any other costly habit. Having a great budget and cutting it to the bone is irrelevant if these issues are not addressed.
If you are doing your best and there is still no wiggle room, get some help. There are loads of charities and funds around at the moment that can help you through a tough patch. Here are some resources to help you out:
Don’t forget that you are never alone. Get into a community where you can discuss your issues without judgement. Most of all, do not judge yourself, and never think that there is no way out. There is ALWAYS a way to resolve these things – It really is only money at the end of the day, and it can be fixed!
I found this great article for more budget cutting tips and trick on “the motley fool” (great money site!)