Consider your meal planning, grocery shopping, and dining out
- Make a weekly meal plan as a family, and create your grocery shopping list accordingly. That way, you only buy what you need and waste less.
- Keep an eye on weekly sales and specials at your favorite grocery stores, and adapt your meal plan accordingly.
- Compare prices between store brands and name brands—and between different stores. Knowing where to shop for the best deals on your go-to foods can help trim your bills.
- Cook in larger batches, and plan to take advantage of your leftovers to cover other meals through the week.
- Consider when to opt for non-perishable items, such as canned and boxed goods, which keep longer and can come in handy in a pinch.
- Buy heavily used items in bulk, but don’t overdo it. Always double-check the unit price and expiration dates of what you’re buying, and make sure you have enough storage space at home for your bulk buys.
- Cut down on your paper-product usage. Switching to cloth napkins and washable cleaning cloths can be a simple way to use fewer paper towels.
- Consider limiting how often you choose take-out, delivery, and restaurant dining. Of course, it’s OK to treat yourself each week or month, but cooking and eating at home can be a real cost-saver.
Reassess your child care needs
- If you’re not working, you may be able to cut back on or eliminate child care. This can certainly save you on a major expense, but keep in mind that caring for children, especially young children, can often feel like a full-time job in itself.
- If your employer offers a dependent care FSA benefit, those can be a good option and can save you money on federal income taxes. Just be sure you know the balance and how to access it. Keep in mind that the money is often considered “use-it-or-lose-it,” so be sure you’ll spend it all before funding the account.
Find ways to drive down your transportation expenses
- Do a price comparison for auto insurance. You could also explore ways to “bundle” your insurance plans together for a discount, if your insurance provider offers.
- Take advantage of any commuting benefits your or your partner’s employer offers.
- Save on gas—many retail and grocery stores offer gas discounts and incentives for purchases. Remember to avoid the pitfall of spending more than you normally would for a marginally better discount that won’t offset the extra spending.
- Consider putting your essential transportation costs on a rewards or cash-back credit card to take advantage of that modest discount. Just be sure to pay off any credit card balance in full each month so you’re not accruing interest on top of your essential costs.
Explore ways to trim your utility bills
- Use energy-efficient lightbulbs. They might cost a bit more up front, but today’s LED bulbs use far less electricity and last much longer than traditional incandescents, so you’ll likely come out ahead in the long run.
- Turn off lights and unplug electronics when not in use—inexpensive power strips or surge protectors with an on/off switch work great for this. It may not seem like much, but it can really add up across your whole home.
- Install a programmable thermostat, and mind your temperature settings. Remember you can usually rely on your wardrobe to stay comfortable whenever possible.
- Think about installing low-flow shower heads and faucets to help reduce water use.
- Remember that a dishwasher almost always uses water more efficiently than hand-washing your dishes.
Take a hard look at your phone, internet, cable, and streaming service subscriptions
- Call your providers to evaluate your rates and see if you qualify for any discounts or bundling options they may be offering.
- Think about paring down cable boxes if you have more than one.
- If you live near a city, see if you can use an over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna. Many municipalities offer free access to the major broadcast network channels and public broadcasting channels.
- Evaluate your usage of premium channels and streaming services. It’s all too easy to sign up for these and underutilize them—or even forget about them altogether.
- If you have a smart TV or a streaming device, explore the free and ad-supported streaming options they make available—there may be more options than you think.
- Don’t forget that many public libraries offer digital content—audiobooks, CDs, DVDs, and even streaming options—available to borrow at little to no cost.
- If you still have a land-line phone, evaluate how often you use it. Many families are “cutting the cord” these days and relying on mobile devices instead.