7 Ways to Curb Your Spending

If you find that what you spend each month exceeds your household income, it's definitely time to sit down, analyze what your actual expenditures are and choose expense items to reduce or cut. Even if you are able to put away some money into savings each month, you may be falling short of your savings goals such as accumulating money for the down payment on a home. Curbing your current spending is the best way to boost your savings rate and reach your long-term financial goals.

Cut your expenses in small steps.

Budget Like a Business

Most small-business owners don't have the available capital to fund every expense category they wish they could, so when preparing a budget they learn to prioritize -- to fund those items that have the greatest chance of increasing the company's revenues and profits. Garrett M. Prom, founder of Prominent Financial Planning, agrees: "I'm a big proponent that a household should be run like a business. No business would ever survive if it didn't have a firm grasp of its projected revenue (income) and expenses. The majority of households have a pretty good grasp of what their income will be, but without a budget, they wouldn't be able to control their expenses. In order to run a successful household from a financial perspective, a budget is critical."

Focus on What Makes You Happiest

Consider which expenditures result in the most enjoyment or fulfillment in life. You may find, for example, that a longstanding habit of buying an expensive cup of gourmet coffee each morning before work doesn't bring you as much joy as taking your family out to dinner once in a while. At $6 per cup over 20 workdays a month, that's a $120 expenditure just on coffee. Another approach is to cut back the number of purchases of an item each month, so the ones you keep in the budget are enjoyed as luxuries. You could make Friday your gourmet coffee day, rewarding yourself for working hard the first four days of the week.

Smart Substitutions

Attending a movie and purchasing the requisite soda and snacks results in a hefty bill for a family of four. Renting a movie from the library is a cheap -- free -- substitute. Use smart substitutions for other expenses. Dust off those hand weights sitting in the garage. Set up a walking schedule to go along with the weights and cancel your gym membership. If your pets are on regular medications, substitute an online medical service that delivers to your door, rather than buying from the veterinarian.

Curb the Urge to Splurge

Don't give in to impulse purchases. Stores set up the aisles to convince you to spend more than you intended. "Giving in to the urge to splurge can quickly and easily bust your budget and put you into debt," says Denise Winston, financial expert and author. "You can curb that urge to splurge by establishing a 24-hour spending stand-down rule, basically agreeing with yourself and/or your partner to wait 24 hours prior to making an unnecessary purchase. You could 'phone a friend' by having an anti-debt buddy that you agree to call prior to making such a purchase," she says.

Track Your Spending Closely

A tried-and-true method of curbing spending is to place the cash for a week's worth of expenses in an envelope for each category of daily needs such as groceries. When the envelope is empty, you're through buying in that category for the week. Another alternative that uses the same concept is to track the expenses each day from the budgeted amount so you know the available amount for future purchases. The concept of "when the money's gone -- it's gone" keeps you within budget.

Buy Used

You know that a new car depreciates tremendously once you drive it off the lot, so buying a used car makes financial sense. However, you can also buy used and refurbished laptops, smart phones, tablets and cameras. Gently used furniture is a fraction of the original cost. Designer wear is available in consignment shops as are children's clothing, toys and equipment. You can save up to 75 percent buying used.

Brown Bag It

It's difficult to buy lunch -- even at a fast food restaurant these days -- for less than $5. If two people in a household both eat out five days a week, that's a total of at least $200 per month. Save that money and brown bag your lunch instead. Ask a few co-workers to brown bag with you. Assign a day for each one of you to bring enough lunch servings for the others, cutting down on the shopping and food prep time for each of you. Keep a few plastic baggies of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate chips in your desk drawer at work and a couple of bottles of water in the refrigerator instead of making a run to the vending machine or the nearby food truck. "One of the best ways to cut personal spending in the short term is to examine the food budget," says Jeremy C. Brenn, a certified financial planner. "With food being so expensive nowadays, it is one of people's largest budget items. Eating or preparing your meals at home and really sticking to a list when going to the grocery store can have a dramatic impact if you're looking to reduce spending in the short term."

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