Ever notice how your monthly expenses always seem to equal whatever salary you’re making, even after you get raises? The phenomenon is called “lifestyle creep” and it can keep you from reaching all kinds of financial goals, from paying down debt, to saving for retirement. One way to get lifestyle creep under control is to have any future raises you earn directed into savings. Consider diverting the raise to savings via direct deposit or increase the percentage that you contribute to your retirement account.
While you are waiting on that raise, here are a few things you can do right now to cut your monthly expenses.
Make a Budget
The first step toward cutting expenses is to make a budget, so you know exactly where your money is going. Start with major categories, like rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation, meals, clothing, and entertainment. Then break it down even further to ferret out items that are ripe for reducing. Many people, for example, are surprised to learn just how much they pay for pricey lattes and snacks from restaurants and vendors that would cost a fraction of that amount if they were made at home or purchased at a grocery store.
Lower Your Mortgage Payment
The biggest monthly expense for many people is their home mortgage. If you haven’t examined that loan since you bought your home years ago, it’s quite possible that you could save a lot of money – both now and over the life the loan – if you refinance at a lower interest rate. To know whether refinancing makes sense, you’ll need to add what you’ll spend on closing costs into the calculation of your new monthly payment.
Get an Insurance Checkup
If you have a car, you absolutely must have car insurance. But it pays to shop around periodically to make sure you’re getting the best deal. If you have a decent emergency fund on hand in case of an accident, one way to lower your premiums is to increase your deductible. Also be sure to examine your policy for “extras” you may not need. For example, you could be paying for roadside assistance both through your insurance policy and through AAA.
Examine Your Auto-Payments
Putting your regular bills on auto-payment can be a really smart way to protect your credit rating by ensuring you’re never late with a payment. However, if auto-pay causes you to keep paying for items or services you don’t really need or use, it’s no bargain. A few common culprits include unused gym memberships, subscriptions to magazines that aren’t read, and cable or satellite TV plans that include loads of premium channels that are rarely watched.
Cut the Cord
If you’ve already ditched your land line, good for you! If not, doing so is one of the quickest and most pain-free ways to trim your expenses. Most all of us have our cell phones with us all the time anyway, and if you really like the feel of a traditional phone in your hand, a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) plan that provides phone service over the Internet is a lot cheaper (free in some cases) than traditional land line service.