Cutting Back on Expenses

Page 6 of 12

Woman stretching a $100 bill

If you're like many, once you saw your expenses on paper, you may have panicked. We rarely realize how much we're spending, especially when using debit and credit cards as opposed to cash.

Have no fear; there are many ways to save on your must-haves.


Unplug appliances.

Many home appliances and electronics suck power, even when you think they're turned off. This power drain is caused when they go into "standby" mode, which draws very low amounts of power, but is never actually "off". To prevent this, plug electronics into a power strip with an on/off switch, and turn them off when they're not needed.

Change light bulbs.

One of the most cost-effective investments you can make in your home is to switch from incandescent light bulbs to energy-friendly compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). These bulbs provide the same amount of light as incandescent versions, but draw about 1/5th of the power and last 10 times longer.

Look for energy efficient appliances.

The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency run a joint program called ENERGY STAR. This program helps Americans reduce their daily energy consumption, save money and prevent pollution. Look for appliances with the ENERGY STAR logo, and rest assured that they meet published standards for energy efficiency.

Buy a programmable thermostat.

Current models can be bought for well under $100, and can save you a load of cash on your monthly electric bill. Keep your home a few degrees warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter, especially while sleeping and while you're away.

Block out the elements.

Place shade-producing, deciduous plants on the south, east, and west sides of your house, and in front of windows. This will block the sun from beating down on your house in the summer, yet let the rays in when the leaves fall in the winter. Inside use thick curtains to block both light and harsh winter winds.


Change your driving patterns.

Decrease your speed and try to maintain a consistent speed instead of braking or accelerating quickly.

Keep maintenance in mind.

Make sure you routinely change the oil, put air in your tires and replace air filters to get the best fuel efficiency. Read your manufacturer's recommendations and stick to them. Not only will keeping your car maintained save gas, but it'll help you extend the life of your automobile.

Consider carpooling.

If you have to commute to work, consider carpooling. If a coworker lives near you, or if a neighbor has an office near yours, share a ride and cut your workday gas bill in half.

Compare insurance.

If you've been with your current insurance company for a while, call others to see how your premium compares.

Make a commitment to your car.

Instead of buying a new car every few years, buy a car that works for your situation and stick with it for the long-term. Also, buying a used car will give you more bang for your buck. For more information about car buying, check out our Auto Loans 101 module.


Dine in.

Eating out can be a costly expenditure, so as often as possible, cook for yourself and your family. Make a weekly meal plan to avoid last minute fast food runs.

Shop with a list.

Make a list of what you need from the store and stick to it for the most part. If something you'll need in the future is on sale, go ahead and pick it up. Consider allowing yourself to purchase only two items that aren't on the list.

Clip coupons.

Clip coupons, then use them! Regularly review store sales ads and use your coupon when items are on sale. For additional savings, visit stores that double coupons or allow you to use store coupons and manufacturers' coupons on the same item.

Use the same ingredients.

Avoid buying spices and ingredients that you'll use for one recipe only. Try to plan meals that call for common items.


Now that we've covered saving on your necessities, let's talk about saving on your non-essential items.

Websites like and have numerous new and used items for a low price or better yet, free! Before buying a new household item, consider checking out these sites to see if you can buy used.

The cost of raising a family adds up, especially when your children outgrow clothing so quickly. Investigate consignment stores, garage sales and large community consignment events, like Just Between Friends, when purchasing clothing and toys for your children. Or, if you prefer shopping online, check out, a website where you can exchange boxes of children's clothing with others across the nation.

When it comes to entertainment, look for free events in your area or discounted tickets to local attractions. and are popular websites that feature significant savings at local festivals, restaurants and service facilities, like hair salons, pet grooming, etc.

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