It’s probably safe to assume we all want to make more money — well, at least a lot of us do.
So how do you make more money (or have more money) without getting a higher-paying job or a raise at your current job?
If you’re trying to pay off debt and save more money, and maybe you’re even in the process of looking for a new job, there’s one very simple solution to increasing your monthly cash flow: Reduce your expenses.
I’m not talking about not buying a latte or buying a $10 bottle of wine instead of one that costs $12 (although, if you drink a lot of red wine, you should consider buying wholesale, seriously).
I’m talking about recurring expenses — the things you’re paying for every month, week, day — the things that show up most frequently on your bills.
How often do you reach the end of the month and realize you spent the money you had planned to save? Overspending and wasteful spending are two of the biggest factors that prevent people from paying down debt and saving more money.
In fact, a recent poll found that 45% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck — and many of them are making a good salary.
If you reach the end of the month and have nothing left to save or put toward debt, you’re living a lifestyle you can’t afford. And until you get a higher-paying job that allows you to live the lifestyle you want, you have to find ways to increase your monthly cash flow.
So let’s take a look at some of the best ways to make it happen!
Increase your cash flow by reducing expenses: 2 steps to take first
Before you can start reducing how much money you have going out each month, there are two things you need to do first.
Figure out what your priorities are
Figure out what your priorities are for both the near and long-term future. For example, buying a house, buying a car, a big vacation, emergency savings, retirement etc.
If you sit down and really think about what your priorities and goals are, it’ll be much easier to cut costs. When your spending and saving habits aren’t aligned with your priorities, you end up wasting a whole lot of money.
So write it all down and continue to remind yourself why you’re making changes in your life.
Start tracking your expenses
Tracking your expenses is one of the best ways to get control of your spending.
Nothing is going to change until you decide to start paying attention to where all of your money is going.
So if you want to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, then you have to give every dollar a purpose that’s aligned with your goals. That’s when you’ll be able to realize which costs are worth it and which ones are not.
And making a mental note of your spending is not a reliable way to keep track of everything – regardless of how good of a memory you have. So consider using one of these apps, which will help you keep tabs on your spending and saving.
If you need guidance on creating your budget, here’s a step-by-step guide and more resources below.
How to start reducing expenses
Start by figuring out exactly how much money you have coming in and how much is going out each month.
Go through all of your monthly expenses and figure out exactly what you’re paying each month on recurring bills and obligations — housing (rent or mortgage), utilities, insurance, transportation, other recurring monthly bills (cell phone, tuition, subscriptions like Netflix etc.) and any monthly debt obligations (like credit card bills).
Identify any areas where you can reduce what you’re paying each month.
Fixed costs (bills that are roughly the same each month)
It’s a little more difficult to change things like your rent payment, but there are other fixed costs that you can reduce with just a little bit of effort and shopping around.
- Insurance: Shop around for a better car insurance rate. Here’s how to get started.
- Transportation: If you have accessible public transportation in your area, try using it for a month and see how much gas money you can save. Maybe even just a few days a week. You may find that it not only saves you money, but also saves you the stress of traffic!
- Cellphone plan: If you’re paying somewhere around $100 a month, you’re paying too much! There are tons of great offers out there for cheaper plans. It may seem like a pain to switch companies, but it can save you a lot of money each month.If you use a lot of data, here are some plans worth considering! (Note that some providers reduce speeds once a plan’s applicable high-speed data threshold is reached.)
- Virgin Mobile: $40 a month
- Straight Talk: $45 a month
- Boost Mobile: $55 a month with auto re-boost
- Metro PCS: $60 a month
- Sprint: $60 a month
- Cricket Wireless: $65 a month with auto-pay
- T-Mobile One: $70 a month with auto-pay
- Subscriptions: When you go through your monthly statements, look for any subscriptions you don’t use or don’t need. You may be paying for things that you didn’t even realize you were being charged for each month, but those little costs can add up to a lot of cash! So cut any that you can and also see which ones you can combine or share with a family member or friend.
- Cut subscriptions you don’t use or that you can get for free!
- Magazine subscriptions
- Audio services: Just use the free version, listening to a 15-second ad is not that big of a deal when you’re trying to cut costs — and when you cut out several $3.99 expenses, that can free up a good amount of cash.
- Combine/share subscriptions
- Share Netflix and/or Amazon Prime with a friend or family member — that just cut each bill in half.
- Gym membership: If you don’t go very often, consider dropping it. If you think you’ll start going or do you use it, look for a cheaper option like the YMCA or another local gym or club. Here are some easy ways to save on a gym membership:
- Sign up for a trial run to make sure you like the facilities and that you’ll actually use them. You can also do a few different trial runs at various gyms.
- Look for deals online: Try sites like Groupon, Guilt City and Living Social to see if there are any deals in your area.
- Check to see if your health insurance coverage includes a discount or deal on a gym membership.
- Credit card debt: If you’re facing big credit card debt, consider transferring it to a card with a lower interest rate. If you can qualify for a 0% offer, those typically give you somewhere between 6 and 12 months of 0% interest. So if you think you can get the total balance paid off within that 0% interest period, it’s worth transferring the debt so you don’t pay interest on it while you get it paid off during that period.Just make sure you know you can get it paid during that 0% offer period, but after that, the interest rate typically jumps up pretty high.
Other monthly expenses you can reduce
There are so many ways to cut costs with just a little bit of effort. It may seem like a pain in the butt and kind of annoying, but once you try it, you’ll see how all the little changes can free up a whole lot of cash each month.
- Groceries: Change where you shop. Annoying, right? Well, not after you see your bills start to drop! Here are a few ways to save on groceries without keeping a giant coupon binder (although that can help, too).
- Switching up your routine can save you a lot each month and over time.
- Grocery staples: Check out Aldi and Walmart
- Organic: Try Trader Joe’s instead of Whole Foods
- Bulk items: Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club
- Party supplies: Dollar stores
- Buy store brands: Try a few different store brand items to see which ones you like. You may find that you actually like some of them better than the name brand and buying generic can save you on average 25%!
- Make a list and only buy what’s on it.
- Stock up during sales: When something you buy frequently goes on sale, stock up on it!
- Use coupon apps: So no binder necessary, but scrolling through a few apps can save you big bucks on your grocery bills.
- Switching up your routine can save you a lot each month and over time.
- Prescriptions: The costs of prescription medications have been dramatically increasing and it can have a big impact on your monthly budget. The good news is that there are actually some ways to reduce what you pay for your prescriptions!
- Shop around for the best price: Prices at different pharmacies can vary by huge amounts – even if the pharmacies are next door to each other. So it’s important to look around for the best price – and the easiest way to do that is to use a site called GoodRx, which will locate the lowest prices on prescriptions in your area.
- Ask your doctor for a generic brand: If the medication is costing you a ton of money, ask your doctor to write you a prescription for the generic brand (as long as there is an equivalent generic).
- Cable/TV/Movies: If you have Internet service at home, you can hook your computer up to your TV and get access to pretty much anything you want to watch. If your computer has an HDMI output, that should work, but you may need a converter – depending on your computer and your TV. Here’s more on how to sync the display. Once you do that, here’s a list of options you have to watch via Internet right on your TV! Some are pay services, but you may find that it ends up being cheaper than a big monthly bill:
Hulu(free and pay options)
Netflix (pay service)
AmazonPrime (pay service)
Sling (pay service)
Sony PlayStation Vue (pay service)
CBS All Access (pay service)
HBO Now (pay service)
Showtime (pay service)
ESPN360.com (only available if your high-speed Internet provider participates)
OVGuide.com (warning: may contain adult content)Here’s a closer look at 9 cheaper options that can cut your cable or satellite TV bill in half.
- Eat at home: Americans spend on average nearly $3,000 a year going out to eat. That’s a lot of money! So if you eat out a lot, try to cut back and start making some meals at home and take your lunch to work with you. Even reducing the number of times you go out per week could free up a couple hundred bucks each month – and after a few months, you’ve got your emergency savings!
- Buy a coffee maker: Americans spend between $500 and $600 per year on coffee purchases. If you’re a fancy coffee drinker, buy a machine on sale so you can make it at home. A few lattes every once in a while won’t break your budget, but if you’re going to Starbucks every day, those little costs add up.
4 top tips to stop overspending and save more
1. Make your savings automatic
One of the best ways to save more money each month is to make it automatic!
If you haven’t heard the phrase “pay yourself first,” it will change your life. Think about your spending habits. When your paycheck shows up in your bank account, it feels like you’re rich — hell yeah, payday is shopping day!
Sounds great until you get halfway through the month and realize you have no money left.
So once you reduce costs and figure out how much you really can save each month, make it automatic.
Automating your savings is the best way to save more money, because it prevents you from spending any extra cash you don’t need to pay the bills.
Figure out what you need to cover your necessary monthly expenses (housing, food, bills etc.) and then have the rest automatically set aside in savings. All you have to do is set up your paycheck so that a portion is deposited directly into a savings account — or other method of savings — and that way you won’t even get a chance to spend it.
2. When you pay off debt, continue making the payment — to yourself!
The obligation of paying off a debt each month — like a car loan or credit card bill -— isn’t very fun. It’s also eating away at your monthly cash flow.
Reducing your expenses is a great way to get debt paid off quicker. Then once you wipe out a debt, continue paying that same amount each month — only to yourself instead of the credit card (or whatever) company!
Take the money you were previously putting toward debt and have it automatically taken out of your paycheck and deposited into savings.
You’ve already figured out a lifestyle and budget that don’t include that money, so when you’re trying to build up your savings, having that money go directly into your savings account is a great way to start establishing better habits.
3. Tax refunds, bonuses and raises
If the money is in your account, you will probably spend it — or at least some of it. If you really want to save more money, take any extra cash that comes your way — in the form of gifts, bonuses, tax refunds or even extra money from a pay raise at work — and put it directly into savings.
If you get a raise at work, live on the same amount you were already getting by on and put the extra cash away for the future. You’ll be glad you did when it comes time for a big purchase or when you start to see that money really grow in a retirement account.
4. Save spare change
OK, so it may not make you rich, but every little bit counts. Take any spare change you have in your pockets, purse or wallet at the end of each day and put it into a savings jar. And don’t touch it! Then at the end of the month, take the money to the bank and deposit it into savings!
For more ways to get a grip on your money, see my guide on 40 ways to take control of your money today!
If you want to set yourself up for success, you have to put in some effort and make decisions you aren’t super thrilled about at the time. But until you stop living a lifestyle that you can’t afford, you’ll never give yourself a chance to get ahead.
Do what you can with what you’ve got — not only will it help you develop better long-term habits, but it will allow you some wiggle room when you really need it. And believe me, you will need it at some point. When you start taking control, you can set yourself up for success — and at the risk of sounding like your mom —you really will be able to do anything you want. It”s up to you, and you’ll see what I mean.