12 Easy Things to Cut the Fat Out of Your Budget

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me….12 Frugal Things

When you want to save money or pay extra toward your debt, sometimes it’s easy to think about big ways to save money and forget about the little things. Here are 12 frugal things you can do this week to save some extra money. Every little bit counts.

  1. Pack your lunch. If you spend $5 on lunch 5 days a week, you’ll save $25 a week by packing your lunch. That’s $1,300 a year…not chump change!
  2. Give up the soda. In our area, a twelve pack of pop costs around $3. If you go through one twelve pack a week, by giving it up, you will save $150 a year.
  3. Cut back your cable/satellite package. You can save $5-$10 a month by dropping down to the next level on your cable package. That’s $60-$120 a year.
  4. Don’t buy magazines. You can get them from your local library. If you save $3 a week by not buying, that’s another $150 a year.
  5. Get Active. Walking will improve your health, which will impact your medical budget. Even if it saves you only two doctor’s appointments this year, that’s an extra $40 if you have a $20 copay.
  6. Speaking of health, stop smoking. If you smoke a pack a day at $2.25 a pack, you save $67.50 over the course of a month and $821.25 over the course of a year. And that doesn’t even include the amount you’ll save by being healthier.
  7. Make the switch to CFL bulbs. You can save up to $30 a month by using CFLs instead of regular light bulbs. Assuming you save $20 a month, that’s $240 a year.
  8. Have a meatless meal once a week. If a package of meat costs $3, cutting out meat from one meal a week will save $150 a year.
  9. Drop the DVD rental package. My husband and I did this earlier this year, and we haven’t missed it. Our lower tier membership was $9.99 a month. We’re saving $119.88 a year.
  10. Sell your books on half.com. It’s really easy to list your books by the ISBN number. It only takes a few minutes. I listed mine at the beginning of last year, and I make an average of $10 a month with very little effort. That’s $120 a year.
  11. Use generic medication. You can save around $3 by using generic ibuprofin instead of Advil. And using a generic prescription medication can save you even more. When I switched to a generic prescription, I saved $36 a month! That’s $432 a year!
  12. Track your spending. By tracking your spending, you will avoid overdraft fees, most of which are around $25. If you have to pay an average of 3 overdraft fees a year, tracking your spending will save you $75.

If you save the maximum in all of these areas, it comes to $3,718.13! That’s a lot of money! I realize that most people aren’t going to be able to do everything on this list, but let this be a springboard for you to think of the little things you can do to save money. Then add up all the money you can save. You might be surprised at how the little things add up over the course of the year.

This wraps up the 12 Days of Christmas – Personal Finance Style! Make sure you work your way through the whole “song”! On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me….

16 thoughts on “12 Easy Things to Cut the Fat Out of Your Budget”

  1. Ok these are all good ideas except buying generics– be careful with prescription meds because some people can be sensitive to switching. Some medicines do work better than others. Each person metabolizes meds differently. There is no price on good health.

  2. If you smoke, I’ll give you another reason to quit NOW–in Wisconsin if you are in the nursing home on Medical Assistance you get to keep $45 of your pension/social security dollars, the rest goes to assist M.A. in paying for your care. $45 a month does not pay for a lot of cigarettes! And it leaves zero $$ for anything else.

  3. I agree with Jolly Green Girl. Our monthly electric bill was cut by $5/month simply by unplugging unused appliances–I hate to admit that I don’t use the treadmill enough to keep it plugged in every day. :)

  4. Great tip on CFL… I have all the lights with CFL and my electric bill for 2 bedroom apartment is around $50. I also suggest you turn off any electricity you don’t use.. Better yet unplug them or invest in power surge to click on and off. That will save you more money.

  5. In response to cellie on the soda thing- I’m likewise hooked on Coke (the dark liquid kind). It’s hard to give up- probably one of the few affordable luxuries around.

  6. Big fan of your site.

    You left out a big one- use public libraries! I haven’t bought a book for as long as I can remember. This is because I borrow books. If a book I want is not available, I use the library’s website to make a request- and voila it works!

    And anyway the public libraries are paid for with our old tax dollars- so why not use it to the fullest extent possible.

  7. I have to disagree with “give up drinking soda.” It’s one of the cheapest drinks out there (2 Liter is $1) – so unless it is “give up buying drinks” and use tap water instead might save you a few bucks.

    Love the idea about stop buying magazines – if you do like them, then try Ebay – way cheaper to get a subscription than to buy them every month.

  8. Great list. But #1 isn’t an absolute savings because your grocery bill will just be higher. And $5 for lunch isn’t bad – most people pay more than that, and would definitely benefit from bringing food from home.
    And one meatless meal a week will definitely save you money. You DON’T need to sub in TVP or soy protein. You can go with beans or a high-protein grain (such as quinoa). In fact, I’d recommend cutting meat out of the majority of your meals – it was never intended to be the main course. Don’t worry, you’ll still get enough protein in your diet. Most people already get too much.

  9. Hey Debtfretter, in Canada we’re in the same boat. No smoking inside any public area (including enclosed bus stops etc.) and a pack costs around $10 bucks CDN due to all the tax. I would think people would get the message, but they re just too thick headed. Maybe it’s all the toxic chemicals they breath in every day? Plus, it makes them smell and look like Yuck. It’s the only way to describe it.

    On another note, I wouldn’t think you would save a total of $1300 off of the bringing your own lunch, what are you eating, your compost? The bring from home lunch costs money too, probably around 3 bucks. In order to have the same variety as is available around my work it’s probably going to be more. Plus, to keep stocked up with fresh deli meats and produce you’re going to have to make a trip to the grocery store more than once a week, which if it’s 10 miles away at 25 cents a mile to run a vehicle will be $2.50 so you save 7.50 a week, or 390 bucks a year.

    Give up Soda/Pop? How about giving up bottled water and use filtered water from home. It’s well known that most bottled water is just filtered municipal water. People will pay $1.25 at vending machine for this trash.

    Switching to CFL bulbs may have negligible gains in climates that need to heat their homes. All the ‘wasted’ energy from regular bulbs is wasted in heat. When it’s colder than room temperature outside using a CFL will ‘save’ no electricity since your heaters will just come on more. Plus they need to be disposed of as toxic waste, cost way more to manufacture due to the components involved. For anyone that’s not in a year round air conditioning area it’s worth thinking about.

    Having a meatless meal, possibly. Though, to have a well rounded meal you are going to have to replace the missing proteins with TVP or Soy protein . . . which tastes like poo (not that I eat lots of poo to know). It’s not like you’re saving money here, just replacing one item for another. Though I have found if you make a Taco with 50% TVP and real ground beef you don’t notice and you still have the wonderful fatty taste from the beef. So any ground beef nights you could do a 50/50 mix.

    Getting active. It doesn’t save money in Canada since we have provided health care. I really think their should be a ‘fat tax’ here since why should my tax dollars pay for my neighbours bypass surgery because he’s a fat slob and I keep fit . . . well, not fat anyway, I’d hardly call myself fit. (my neighbour isn’t really a fat slob, just making a point.)

    Dropping the rental package? If it’s only 10 or 15 bucks that the same as renting 2 movies or 2 games one time a month. If you watch a lot of movie and rent games I think these services make sense.

    Cutting the cable and satellite. Two generations ago they had something like 2 channels. Two generations before that no TV at all? Why do we even need any of it? We have rabbit ears on our TV and get 3 channels. We also have a DVD player and a Wii which see the most TV use. TV is just a huge way for advertisers to sell you things, I would argue the world would be a fantastic place with no TV.

    The only real tip here I see is track your spending and cut out the things you can live without. I hate to say it, but David Bach’s Latte Factor already covered this.

  10. In response to traciatum –
    I happen to agree with you on most all points, but I think that your ideals come in to play here, and you can’t force those on other people. I, too, have a TV and I use it only to watch movies. I also own a Playstation but it’s only used when we’re having a party. But saying that the world would be better without TV is your opinion and I don’t agree. I generally dislike TV and am not a fan of most of the crap out there, but I am particularly in love with a number of TV shows that are adorable (Project Runway! Grey’s Anatomy! House!). I watch these shows on DVD though, and don’t watch much else.

    I think her point above, however, was to stop the rental package if you don’t need it – especially if you already pay a load of money monthly for cable service (Early Retirement Extreme wrote a rant about this recently, as he does so well :)).

    The idea in the original post is one that we talk about often and are always finding different ways of saying: Don’t spend money anywhere that you don’t have to! And earn extra money (even tiny bits) because it can make all the difference. This list is nice because it brings up some over-discussed items and some not-so-mentioned items.

    The funny thing is, I actually just recently quit both Netflix and Blockbuster (yes, I had both…). I was using the services for 2-3 movies a week and so I definitely thought the money was worth it for the use I was getting out of the service. The last two months, however, I’ve watched 1/2 a movie (!). That’s when I decided to call it quits. I think they store your queue for up to two years though, so if I’m ever in a movie mood again I’ll know where to go.

  11. Those are great tips! For me, I found that bringing my own lunch to work and making a budget where I allocate every dollar at the start of the month have made the biggest impact on my monthly finances. I’m saving a lot by not eating out every day and making a budget is like getting a raise.

  12. Hold the phone everyone. Here in Australia one 25-pack of cigarettes costs almost $15! Yes, it’s true. It is almost entirely government tax, designed to force people to give up. Last year smoking in nightclubs and bars was also banned, and much to everyone’s surprise, it hasn’t affected business. People just smoke outside … but heaps of people have given up smoking! And at that price, who could blame them!

  13. Those are some great ideas on how to save. I’m thinking about putting up some of my books on half.com, since I now am a heavy library user and I only have so much space. :)


  14. Same in Michigan. Even generics are over $4 a pack. I don’t know how people afford to smoke!

    Great list. I think having things spelled out like this is what some people need to have their “Aha Moment!”

  15. Nice list! In OH, smokes are over $3 a pack (I see them at the stores, I don’t smoke). Many of these can actually save you more than what you listed. $4,000 can easily be saved and redirected toward debt reduction, a special savings account, or investments. Great list!

  16. Here in Seattle, WA, a pack of cigarettes costs roughly $4.50-$7.00 a pack! For people up here, there’s a hell of a lot more saving to be had by quitting smoking :D

    Good list. We walk in the same footsteps ;)

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