I was amused today by an article my credit union newsletter that was titled “How to Save up to $1,000 in a Month”. It had 14 items:
- Lunch out $30/ week: pack your lunch and save $15 or more every week. Save $60
I’m spending about $6 a week at the taco truck this summer and about $24 a week during the school year. I probably could save almost what they claim here, if was willing to take the time to make sandwiches every morning. Is it worth it?
- Groceries $100/week: The average person wastes 40% of the food they buy. Combat that statistic—use or freeze leftovers before they spoil. Save $160
We spend more like $200 a week on groceries for a family of 3, but we waste almost no food. Maybe 3–5% of the produce we buy goes bad before we get around to eating it. Our grocery bill is high because we buy almost entirely fresh organic produce, dairy products, and meat. Of course, we buy very little in the way of prepared foods (especially not canned goods), so our spending is mainly on high-quality foodstuffs.
- Soda $6/week: Drink water—you will be doing your wallet and your body a favor. Save $24
I don’t drink that much soda—maybe averaging $1/week getting soda in restaurants occasionally. My wife does drink fizzy water, though, and probably averages $5 a week on it.
- Eating out $50/week: Skip “burrito night out” and make a special dinner at home for less than half the cost. Save $150
We eat out quite a bit—possibly coming close to this $50/week. Generally it is because we are too tired (or sick) to cook, so we’d have to find some way to get more time to get any savings here.
- Pet grooming $35/month. Why pay someone to wash your pet when you can do it yourself for free! Save $35
Our cats groom themselves. The big expenses for them are food (one needs “sensitive stomach” food) and vet bills. I buy the largest bags of cat food I can find (they keep getting smaller each year).
- Premium cable TV channel $99.99/month. Switch from premium channels to a $7.99 online subscription. Save $92
When I bought my house 26 years ago, one of the first things I did was tell the cable company to take out their unsightly cable. I do occasionally watch a (free) video online, and we pay about $60 for 10Mbit DSL service and unlimited (US) long-distance phone.
- Car loan payment $377/month. Take advantage of today’s low interest rates and refinance your auto loan. Save $137
I’ve never had a car (or even a driver’s license), and neither has my wife. My 17-year-old son has no interest in learning to drive.
- Auto insurance $225/month. Shop around for better rates or make adjustments to your current policy. Save $40
No car, so no auto insurance.
- Mobile phone bill $80/month. Combine your individual mobile plan with that of a trusted family member. $25
No cell phone for me or my wife. My son does have a prepaid phone, which he got in order to be a “prefect” on a school field trip in May. He uses about $12/month (at $2 for each day he uses the phone). My wife and I pay this, since most of the calls are for our benefit (telling us he’s coming home late) or for school.
- Gas $150/month. Save an average of $400 a year by properly inflating your tires, and another $265 a year by cutting one driving day out of every week. Save $55.
No car, no gasoline.
- Specialty coffee $15/week. Save the money and make a tasty coffee drink at home. Save $60
I don’t drink coffee. I make tea for myself at work and at home, at a cost of about $2–3 a week.
- Gym membership $40/month. Instead of paying to run on a treadmill, run along the beach or on the track at a local school and cancel your gym membership. Save $40
What gym membership? I rely on my bicycle for aerobic exercise, and I do some sit-ups, leg lifts, push ups, and chin ups at home with my son.
- Electric bill $100/month. Save over $250/year by unplugging electronics that are not in use, turning off lights when leaving a room, and cleaning the dryer exhaust duct and the coils under your refrigerator regularly. Save $22
Our electric bill is about $40/month (somewhat more in winter, when we use more lighting and the fan for the furnace runs). We should clean the refrigerator coils and the furnace filter more often, but I doubt we would even notice it on the bill.
- Clothes and shoes $200/month. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it—and if you do need it, buy it on sale or at a thrift store. Save $100.
Our whole family maybe spends $200–300 a year on clothes. My clothing budget comes to about $50 a year, much of which is for replacing my cycling shoes every three years. My wife does shop the thrift stores (generally buying only designer labels). We occasionally buy new clothes, but generally at online clearance sales.
Almost none of the advice they gave would save us any money. If we were living on a much smaller income, we could probably spend about $200 a month less (by never eating out), but there’s no way we could cut our expenses by $1000/month. Our big expenses are education for our son, and health and life insurance, none of which are particularly dispensable.