As a financial coach, one of the most common questions I get asked is “how much is the right amount for my budget categories?” It’s a very thoughtful question.
I wish I had a straightforward answer, like “you should budget $400 for groceries and $100 for entertainment.” But I can’t, because everyone’s budget is going to look different depending on income, debt amount, goals, and life circumstances.
However, there are certain budget categories that you can adjust to save hundreds of dollars every month, instantly.
I’ll be very honest here: this is not a magic formula. Saving money is all about lifestyle choice and opportunity cost. We trade money for increased comfort, immediate gratification, and even better health.
In order to save money, you have to look at the things that you’re spending money on and decide what’s going to get cut out or reduced. If all you do is justify every area of spending and why it’s important, you’re going to have a hard time saving money.
Sometimes it helps to take a fresh look at where your money is going and re-evaluate where you can reduce spending and reallocate that money for specific savings goals.
So with that, here are 7 important budget categories to help you save hundreds of dollars every month.
It’s ridiculously easy to pay for a casual lunch and hardly think about what it actually cost. At a typical cost of $50 for a family of four, it just takes eating out twice a week to spend over $400 in a month! What if you could reduce that to once a week? That’s $200 back in your bank account, or $2,400 a year.
I’m so grateful for the abundance of opportunities that our kids have access to. We could enroll them in everything from ballet to martial arts, from soccer to piano, from Latin and math camp to Mandarin and swimming lessons.
I want them to have enriching experiences and learn all kinds of things, but I also have to place financial limits, not to mention time limits, on activities. How about you? Are kids activities taking up a larger portion of the budget than is reasonable for your long-term financial wellbeing?
Movies, concerts, and events are so fun, but they also cost money. Challenge yourself to a no-spend weekend or even a no-spend month! Enjoy hiking and picnics, volunteering at a charity, reading books from the library, and other simple yet fulfilling activities.
I fully believe in maintaining a grocery budget that feels reasonable and attainable. If you’re new to budgeting, don’t force yourself to cut your grocery spending by 50% in the first month (you’ll get there)! Instead, try to cut $10 a week. That’s $520 in just a year, and you’ll keep getting better at honing your grocery budget skills and saving even more.
I love a good deal, don’t you? With today’s subscriptions like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime, we pay a nominal fee for some awesome stuff. However, these fees quickly add up. Every few months, re-evaluate your subscriptions. Even if it’s cheap, is it really worth the money? Or would you rather save $10-$20 a month more?
This is one category that you want MORE in, of course. With an emergency fund, you have cash on hand to cover unexpected expenses like a car break down, instead of having to pay high interest on a credit card. When you save in interest, you’re saving money. If you have debt other than a mortgage, save $1,000 as fast as you can for a starter emergency fund. Once you are debt-free, aim to build a savings account with three to six months-worth of living expenses.
When you don’t have a car payment, you gain a big chunk of your paycheck back. Plus, you get to control how fast or slow you save for your next new-to-you car. No financial obligation means no financial stress and no interest to pay! It’s not uncommon for households to spend $1,000 or more on every month on car payments alone, not including insurance, gas, and maintenance. Reverse this by paying yourself first for this important savings fund.
What other categories in your budget can you either decrease or increase to save more of your paycheck? Leave a comment below to share how YOU save money!
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