As much as I hate millennial stereotypes, I’m going to feed into one of them for a second and complain about how much adulting sucks somtimes. I have to make my own breakfast. I have to wash my own clothes. And, being an adult is just really expensive…
… like, really, really freaking expensive.
Even the things we know we have to pay for, the ones we budget for every month, can hinder your ability to pay off your debt or reach early retirement. And for anyone living paycheck-to-paycheck, even the most basic expenses can be hard to manage.
But more often than not, there are ways to lower or even cut some of the most common monthly household expenses. Even if you're sitting here thinking: “meh…I do a good job on my expenses already“, there's probably still some things you could cut back on if you wanted to.
The reality is that all of us go through ebbs and flows of feeling like we've got a good handle on everything, to thinking we're spending too much and need to cut back. So if you're looking to free up a little more cash next month, I've put together a huge list of places that you can start.
Your most common monthly household expenses (and how to cut them)
To keep this as organized as possible, I’m going to list out each expense group and then talk about specific things to cut within each group.
1. Home expenses
For many people, mortgage or rent is going to qualify as one of their most common monthly household expenses. And, owning a home, or renting one, comes with more costs than just a mortgage or rent.
Refinance for a lower mortgage interest rate
Depending on when you purchased your home, you might be able to lower your mortgage, and the amount you’ll pay overall, by refinancing your home at a lower interest rate. Interest rates are currently on the rise, so it’s something you might want to think about sooner than later.
To make the biggest dent in your long-term payments, I’d suggest not adding any extra time to your mortgage… as in don’t refinance for another 30 years.
Move to a smaller home
If you’re trying to reduce your monthly expenses, a smaller house is typically going to save you money. There’s the smaller mortgage or rent (depending on where you live… I mean New York City is going to be expensive for even the smallest apartment), less to pay in utilities, property taxes, etc.
You could even go wild with downsizing and move into a van. Sara from Tiny Van Big Living wrote about #vanlife and debt in How Living in a Van is Helping Me Conquer $172,000 of Debt. Her story is amazing!
Stop blasting the heat and AC
Saunas and igloos are neat, but you don’t need to live in either. Lowering your heat and AC by just a few degrees can reduce your utility bills and lower your monthly expenses.
Get better light bulbs
About a year ago we switched every single bulb in our house to LED bulbs, and we immediately started feeling the savings.
Even though the initial investment is high, it could be a few hundred dollars depending on the number of LED bulbs and type you get, you will see your energy bill drop – LED bulbs are 80% more efficient than incandescent ones.
M$M tip: If you are wondering whether or not LED light bulbs are worth it, read here.
Lower the temperature of your hot water heater
Utilities alone could probably qualify as one of the most common monthly household expenses, and lowering the temperature of your hot water heater can lower that total by just a little… you will also stop burning yourself in the shower. You’re welcome.
Do you have a cleaning person? Pay for laundry service? Hire a person to take care of your lawn?
Remember, we’re millennials, and even though we might whine about doing things on our own, we’re actually pretty capable. More importantly, insourcing will save you money.
This is a basic necessity and one of the most common monthly household expenses, but many of us go wild here and eat more than just… I don’t know… rice and beans. And because good food is sooooo good… steakkkkk… it’s easy to overspend here.
Be a smarter grocery shopper
Once you decide how much you can spend at the grocery store each week or month, stick to that budget by paying attention to unit costs, not shopping hungry, buying generic brands, and making a freaking grocery list.
I’m not good at any of those things, but I know I should try to be.
Curb going out to eat so much
Let’s say that you and your spouse average $40 on your restaurant bill and you go out for dinner twice a week. Over the course of the month, you’ve spent $320 on dining out. Eat out one less time per week and you’re saving $160.
To really save here, walk away from the vending machines and gas station snacks, start bringing your lunch to work, and avoid drive thrus. Your budget and your diet will probably be much healthier.
Start meal prepping
If you’re finding it difficult to make lunches or dinners everyday, take a few hours at the beginning of each week (or during the weekend) to prep the majority of your meals. You’re essentially making grab-and-go meals that just require reheating. It’s also great for portion control… so a bonus there too.
Stop wasting so much food
I’m really guilty of this, but I still hate, I mean HATE throwing food away. There’s the guilt aspect… your mom telling you that there are starving kids in Africa. But, you’re also just throwing your money away.
Throwing food away is causing you to spend more on your groceries – it’s just that simple.
If you’re clueless as to how you’ll use those near death foods, here’s a list of 10 Smart Uses for Food That’s About to Go Bad.
If you’ve been around M$M for any length of time, you know my stance on cars – buy used and Yukons for life. Despite some obvious big feelings about car stuff, though, I will try to keep it to myself so I can help you reduce one of your most common monthly household expenses.
Get rid of your car payment
Well, that didn’t last too long…
Here’s why I feel so strongly about this one: cars are depreciating assets that can cost you more in taxes, interest charges, and insurance.
When you ditch your car payment and buy used, you are banking the hit someone else already took.
Drive a car with better gas mileage
If the cost of fuel is burning down your monthly budget, driving something with better fuel mileage will save you money. Now with that said… I don't want you to go out and finance a brand new car just to save money on gasoline. But, if you're driving a gas guzzler and think you can get into something affordable without having to borrow a bunch of money, it could be an option!
Call your car insurance company
Here are some options for lowering the amount you pay for car insurance:
- Call your insurance provider to make sure they are giving you the lowest rate possible.
- Shop around and find a lower rate.
- Raise your deductible to lower your monthly payment.
That’s three things right there that will help you reduce your rates.
I know some of you are going to have feelings about good debt vs. bad debt, but I’m going to go ahead and say that the average American probably has too much debt… that’s not good. And, while you may not think of debt as a monthly expense, if you are paying for it every month, then it’s become one of your most common monthly household expenses.
Refinance your student loans
Refinancing student loans isn’t the best idea for everyone, read more here to understand why, but when you’re a good candidate, refinancing your student loans can save you thousands of dollars every year.
The money you’re saving on interest, by refinancing with a company like Credible, can help you focus on reducing debt as one of your most common monthly household expenses.
Call your credit card company to negotiate your rates
If your credit score and payment history is decent, you might be able to save on your monthly credit card bills by calling to ask for a reduced APR.
This might seem like a negligible amount of money, but over time it’s those little things that really contribute to your financial well being.
Really focus on your debt
Debt, to put it bluntly, is probably always going to make up a good portion of your monthly expenses if you never really focus on paying it off.
Once you’ve gotten rid of your debt… easier said than done, I know… you’ll free up money for other things.
M$M tip: For some debt payoff motivation, read The Real Reason I Live Debt-Free.
Even when you are lowering your most common monthly household expenses, you’re still going to need to find ways to relax and unwind. I do this with wine and the gym, but we all have our thing. Find a way to reduce that by a little and it’s a win-win.
Get rid of cable
With the popularity of streaming services, it almost feels like cable has become that old guy in the room who still goes to college parties. You let him hang around when you really should just tell him it’s time to go.
Instead of spending around $100 a month on cable, try Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Heck, you could even try them all and probably still save money.
Cancel your subscription services
After you’ve subscribed to too many of those streaming services, or meal boxes, razor delivery services, beauty bags… whatever, it’s probably time to say goodbye to at least a few of them.
Most of these are just unnecessary crap… fun crap… but unnecessary.
Find the free stuff
I want you to do something right now.
Open a new tab on your browser, type “free things to do in [name of your city],” and you will immediately have a list of things to try.
Now you can’t say that there aren’t any free things to do near you.
Say “no” to your friends
This one is hard, but for many millennials one of our biggest entertainment spends comes from agreeing to go to every event, dinner, or party that your friends invite you to. I’m talking trivia nights, pub crawls, charity events, happy hour, etc.
It’s okay to say “no” to some of this stuff. And if your friends are jerks about it, then be honest and tell them that you’re trying to spend a little less money. You might be surprised to hear that many of them are wanting to do the same.
6. Health care
I’ve talked to many, many readers who say that the cost of health care has gone beyond just one of their most common monthly household expenses, too actually become their largest.
And before I give you tips for lowering your costs, remember that M$M is a non-political site, so please keep that in mind before you sound off in the comments.
Raise your deductibles
Just like most other forms of insurance, home and auto, raising your deductible will lower your monthly bill. Before you do this, though, check to make sure you have enough set aside to cover that deductible.
Start going to the doctor
Well-visits, or annual check-ups, are the services your doctor provides to keep you healthy. It’s a type of preventative care that is intended to update your vaccines, check blood work, and to just check on things before they become major issues… major issues meaning major costs too.
At the very least, see your doctor once a year for these visits. They’re covered by most health care plans, so there’s really no reason to ignore them.
Get to know your health care plan
Health insurance plans are expensive and confusing and all of that literature they give you about updates can easily end up in the recycling. But, before you toss that stuff out, read your coverage options to know which doctors to see, when you should go to the ER vs. urgent care, etc.
While I know it’s boring stuff to read, knowing your plan can save you money.
Try a health care sharing ministry
My wife and I just joined one last year and we’ve been really happy with how it’s gone so far. It costs less than traditional insurance and offers similar coverage options to what we think of as traditional health insurance.
You can read more about it here: Is a Health Care Sharing Ministry Right for You?
This is catch-all for anything that didn’t really fit into the categories above but still makes up some of your most common monthly household expenses.
Stop paying for convenience
This is something that I’ve been thinking about writing an in-depth post on because I’ve started noticing this trend of basically paying for easier and easier access to things – GrubHub, Postmates, etc.
It’s not just food delivery; it can be buying a cheap shirt at Walmart when you know it’s going to fall apart in a couple of months. Sure, Walmart was probably more convenient and cheaper, but you’ll likely have to keep buying more new shirts over and over again.
My point with this one is to just stop and think about what you’re spending your money on. Will putting just a little more effort, time, and sometimes money actually save you money in the long run? Probably.
Rethink your cell phone bill
Cell phones are pretty much necessities at this point, and every family I know claims this as one of their most common monthly household expenses. That doesn’t mean you should be paying what you are paying for cell service though.
There are discount providers. We don’t all need the newest iPhone. You can bundle your cell services with your internet provider. You can even turn the tables and ask your parents to join your family plan.
Promise I’m not talking cars here!
If you have a line in your budget that is meant for any of the following things: clothes, electronics, household items, books, etc., then buying those things used will reduce that expense. And with all the Marie Kondo-ing everyone is doing at the moment, there’s probably some pretty nice used stuff just sitting at your local Goodwill right now.
Reduce the amount you spend on self-care
By now you’re all probably pretty familiar with the idea of “self-care”… even guys do it… but self-care can get real expensive real quick. Choose a DIY options or find free self-care options… I had to Google that one… I’m still new to it.