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4 Big Categories We Cut Spending in once the Crazy Kicked in

I’ve written about how the momentum of debt payoff (or any financial goal) picks up once you get going, and makes you a little crazy. I’ve also already shared 5 things we’re not buying while we’re getting out of debt and 3 semi-hippie things we’re doing to save money.

Today I wanted to share 4 more categories that we’ve figured out how to cut spending in, specifically AFTER we started gaining traction on our debt payoff goal. They’re things we were spending money on while paying down debt, but at some point in the last 6 months, we tipped over the edge and got a little crazier about what we cut spending on. 

Note: there is some risk to this cut-every-non-necessity approach. The risk lies in getting necessities and non-necessities mixed up. First innocent luxuries like cable and snack food get kicked to the curb. But it’s a slippery slope to cutting dates, soap, and toilet paper, all of which belong in NEED categories, in our opinion. If we seem particularly unkempt, crabby, or stinky, feel free to stage an intervention, offer free babysitting, and remind us that skipping showers doesn’t really save that much money 😉

TV/ Movies

We cut cable, so out of that $50 savings we spend $9-ish on one a la carte TV thing [i.e. Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go.] We just subscribe to whichever one has the show we’re into and then put our membership on pause when we’re done with that show. We actually watch less and less TV lately, so one of these types of subscriptions is plenty!

I have to admit, we will miss football season. But we usually end up watching the big games with family, so we’ll mooch the Husker games off our friends and family. #gobigred  

Also, we like watching movies on Friday nights after the kids go to bed, so between Netflix and Amazon Prime or Redbox we can usually find something. If we pay for a movie, it comes from our dates budget category. (Oh, and we don’t pay for Amazon Prime. That would be an obvious no-no while getting out of debt. I have a free account through something called Shopper Consultants. You can read more about it in this post. It’s weird, but legit. #Sketchy #ButLegal)

Groceries

Ok, I admit, we buy food. And we don’t exclusively eat beans + rice, the cheapest meal you could possibly find. But we have cut our food budget way down over the past few months, and find that we’re all just fine. We eat more leftovers, more ‘simple meals,’ throw out less food, eat less junk food, and drink less beer, wine and pop. I plan our meals around what’s on sale, and we don’t eat out. I shop at Aldi, and go to the store less. That helps a lot. I’m working on a detailed “how to spend less than $100 at the grocery store” post, but for now, those are the basics.

Target

Darn you, Target. A friend recently was telling me about setting up a new budget on Every Dollar (which I highly recommend), and she said “I was definitely spending way more at Target than I realized.”

Said every.girl.ever. Ugh.

I had the same realization when we started budgeting more carefully. That store. They just have everything. And it’s always so pretty. I love Target, but for now, I stay away. No more quiet, night-time wanderings around Target with a latte from the oh so convenient Starbucks IN THE STORE… [Come on, I wasn’t the only one who liked doing that sometimes right?!]

I used to do that for some fun alone time and leave my wallet in the car. But even just wandering around makes me want stuff I don’t need and can’t afford during our debt-pay-down, so my time is better spent elsewhere. Sometimes you just have to notice those habits in your life that aren’t helping you get towards your goals, and then stop doing that and get new habits.

My Target exception is if I need something very specific. Then I am allowed to go with a list. I recently went there to replace my yoga pants, which had holes (that’s how you know you need new ones).  I occasionally go to stock up on Target brand diapers. But that’s it. I love Target as much as the next momma, but reducing my trips to Target has reduced impulse spending and increased our monthly debt-payoff amount! #winning

Miscellaneous

We used to have a miscellaneous category of $100 per month. At some point during the last 6 months, we realized everything we were purchasing in this category was optional and unnecessary so we cut it entirely.

Ok, but what about necessary miscellaneous items?

Enter our monthly blow money. This is our catch all. We each have a small amount of spending money allowed every month for whatever we want, no questions asked. Starbucks, takeout, home decor, new shoes or yoga pants, whatever. This category may seem contrary to our whole don’t-spend-money-to-get-out-of-debt-thing. We’ve actually tried cutting it. But, having our individual pocket money category has allowed us to cut other spending and lump it into here.

Some things we’ve spent our blow money on in the last few months include: jeans, shoes, Addie’s room decor, dinner with a friend, a new calendar.

Basically, we rarely have ‘miscellaneous’ purchases any more. Miscellaneous almost always comes out of our individual blow money.

So if I buy a new shirt, that means one less lunch with a friend. Or if I buy Addie a puzzle, no cute home decor item this month. Each of us gets a little spending money which means there’s no guilt-trip-why-did-you-buy-that talks at our budget meetings. Ever. It also means – we can get away with no miscellaneous category for now. 

You can stumble into debt but you can’t stumble out. Sometimes you have to get a little bit nutty. What borderline crazy & culturally weird things are you doing to get out of debt or achieve your financial goals?

Wondering how to cut more money from your budget? Here are 4 surprising categories we stopped spending money in to get out of debt!

19 thoughts on “4 Big Categories We Cut Spending in once the Crazy Kicked in”

  1. yes!!! So often the issue is not knowledge, but motivation, like you said. Good luck! Sign up for my money tips email if you want – that might be a motivating weekly reminder! http://eepurl.com/bPhuNz Also I’m going to release a budgeting email course soon, so if you sign up to get emails you’ll be notified about that 🙂

  2. I am trying to start really budgeting paying bills on time my problem isn’t lack of head knowledge I just have to do it. I have to put together bills debt and income and consistently do!,

  3. I love these tips. I agree about staying away from Target when trying to reach a goal. It is so pretty and relaxing to walk around with a latte and look at things! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Ps. I know what you mean about not cutting since its your entertainment and you don’t go out. One thing we ended up doing once we cut tv was using amazon prime to watch shows and movies occasionally, and then also we started reading more (library books) and both my husband and I started side business projects. Funny without tv we suddenly had time for some side hustle that has proved really fun. Both of us work off our computers- sometimes side by side for the a couple hrs after kids go to bed – and have learned a lot of fun new skills in the process. So the work feels fun and rewarding plus it makes some $ !! Win win!

    Another idea if you’re looking for areas to cut (which you may not be able to cut anything else) – is to write down every penny you spend for 30 days. A lot of times things pop up in a month where you realize you can cut it by writing it down 🙂 good luck!

  5. Wow! That’s a lot for gas 🙁 I could see how that’d be stressful, especially not knowing how much it might be month to month. Have you ever tracked how much you spend in a year on commuter gas? Also- what’s the line of work? Just curious!

  6. $100 is NOT ALWAYS enough for gas. Some people live outside of town AND have jobs that don’t have one specific location. There are carpenters who work themselves out of jobs and have to drive all over. There are archaeologists who must travel. There are many, many careers that mean people must drive, out of their own personal budget not the company. We are fortunate if our gas bill is under $800 in a month with one person commuting. All other categories must be cut before even thinking of cutting gas. We do no personal, for fun traveling because we never know where or how long the commute will be the next month.
    Three teenage boys must eat so we keep a lot of food in the house. Their friends don’t like that the food is “ingredients” not premade food, but they all get fed. The biggest place we can cut is tv. We use it as our entertainment as we don’t go out, but could definitely cut it down. Not sure where else we could cut. Nice tips on Target. Don’t get there too often, but good to know.

  7. those are good tips!! i didn’t know about using your own bags! once i regained some self control, I actually started going again too – for specific things… with cartwheel & a red card debit card 🙂 but the key is self control! that store is so tempting.

  8. I used to feel the same way about Target. Then, my son went to work there and I learned some tricks; you get .05 credit for every bag of your own that you use, their Cartwheel app shows you alternative brands for less as well as store specials, and I got a Target red debit card that saves me 5% on every purchase. With the red card I basically don’t pay tax. I now shop there for household and personal care items on a regular basis.

  9. Saydee – Sorry I missed this comment earlier, somehow! I agree with Sandie. Save up every extra penny until you have an emergency fund of $1000. Then don’t touch that money unless there’s a true emergency that you can’t cash flow – for example, a big car or house fix or an expensive ER visit or something.

    I would put a hold on ANY optional spending until you have the $1,000. Then, how much you allow in the “whatever-we-want” fund is up to you and just depends on how much extra spending you want to do compared to how much time you have till you pay off debt. You could do $25-$50/month. That’s pretty low but allows for a lunch out with a friend or a movie here and there.

    Also – I would advise putting your car in your total debt. Cars are debt and they’re not akin to the mortgage because cars are DEFINITELY going down in value (where as your house usually, but not always, goes up in value). You definitely want that car paid off as fast as possible. Are you familiar with the “debt snowball” idea? http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/get-out-of-debt-with-the-debt-snowball-plan/ cars go in the debt snowball, but not houses! good luck 🙂

  10. Saydee,
    If I may give some advice, save the $160 towards an emergency fund until you have an amount you’re happy with (normally between $500 and $1,000.) Then start putting it toward paying off your debts. That way you won’t need your credit card for an emergency.

  11. fun!! glad it was helpful 🙂 thanks for commenting. i don’t think we have any large liquidator stores but i should look and see – i’ve wondered about how to save on toiletrees without couponing very much or playing the drugstore game. good idea!

  12. Was surprised by the target tip. I never go there. Partly because it’s is in the twin town across the river but mostly it’s too expensive and doesn’t carry the stuff I use. We have 3 large liquidator stores here. One offers coupons and I go there first for necessities like tp and paper towels. Been doing the budget only necessities for 46 yrs and I rarely see a tip I’m not already using but these blogs are so fun to read

  13. Just found this on Pinterest and decided to take the time to comment.. My husband and I actually decided recently to buy an RV and live in it full time. We don’t have very much debt- this decision came out of the necessity to cut our bills down drastically to AVOID incurring debt. We love to travel and decided the best way to make some major changes and save on our monthly nut but not compromise the joy we find in experiencing new places was to give “life on the road” a shot.

    We cut our monthly expenses in half. While you would think there would be an enormous fuel bill to consider, there’s not. In fact, we’ve even saved money there because we aren’t filling up 2 cars, just one we use sometimes and another to get us to/ from our destination.

    I know living in an RV isn’t everyone’s idea of saving money/ cutting costs/ paying off debt, it does force you to consider what you really do need versus what you want or don’t think about consciously. Hell, I now collect the fresh water that comes from my shower as its warming up to use for dishes!

    The best plan for saving money/ paying debt down is the one you stick to and make a way of life…

    Good post- thanks for being you!

  14. In reply to the extra gas/food money, we budget $100/week for gas, which we know is more than enough, especially with the lower gas prices in the past several months. The extra goes into a “surplus transportation” account. This is where the money for oil changes and other maintenance/repairs comes from. We were able to pay cash for our first-ever set of snow tires (and wouldn’t you know…not much snow this year!). Any surplus grocery money each week also goes into a separate pouch (we use pencil cases) for times when we need a bit extra, such as holidays or kids birthday parties (our daughter and her family have been living with us for a year since moving back home to Ontario from 3 years in Nova Scotia. SO happy to have our granddaughters back!!! ????

  15. My latest tip is actually something I’m adding IN instead of cutting out. We have started taking advantage of any free events in our community- local festivals, museum events, etc. Doing this tricks our brain into thinking we’re going out and spending money, so it’s a great way to avoid actually doing it! The only trick is that most free events have optional ways to spend money. Ex: at the Locally Grown Food Fest, opt for free samples and 75 cent donuts, but forgo the 500 different types of locally grown cheese, syrup, jam, etc. (unless they fit nicely into your grocery budget!) or another ex: we go to a monthly event at a local museum which has free entertainment and snacks…. And also paid food. We opt for the free soup, cheese, crackers, veggies, and soda, and then skip the paid alcohol and dinner meals.

    Know yourself and if you can resist the paid extras, (or use your blow money!), but it’s a great way to trick your brain into thinking you’re still going out, while supporting your community at the same time!

  16. My husband and I actually started paying off our debt this month. March 2017 and will be done paying off the majority (not our car or mortgage) in September. We have a major issue with eating out. I work at a restaurant so it’s seriously very tempting! My tips use to go to our “whatever-we-want” spending but that’s tecently been taken over by our money jar. Every 5 dollar bill goes in it. What would you consider a good amount for that category?

    Also, we have roughly $160 left over after gas and food, would you save that or put it towards a debt? We like to have a little wiggle room in our acct for the accidental but $160 quite a lot.

  17. Renee, that is so cool! I tend to get a little crazy, too, when I set out on a new goal of any kind! 😀 Looking forward to following your progress. (I spend a lot of money on food, but I have nearly eliminated food waste. If I have to throw out food, I picture it as throwing out a pile of cash.)

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