7 Easy Ways to Lower Expenses
Without Lowering Your Quality of Life
Easy Ways Young Professionals Can Lower Personal Expenses
As we adjust to our new, more monotonous and isolated lives, many of us have also found ourselves coping with tighter financial constraints and a reduced sense of fiscal security.
Many of our jobs don’t seem as secure as they did 6 months ago, and lots of us are directly experiencing the effects of a slowed economy.
Fortunately, there are a number of tools we can use and small changes we can make that will help us weather this storm while still enjoying our day-to-day lives.
7 Easy Ways for Young Professionals to Live More on Less
1. Look into Discounts
The answer is always ‘No’ until you ask!
A strategy that has saved my customers, friends, and me a significant amount of money is just asking for a discount.
It may seem like a strange thing to do, but a lot of times, a simple, friendly phone call or email to a vendor or company you work with can translate to less money coming out of your pocket.
For example, if you’re working from home and/or driving less, reach out to your auto insurance and see if they’ll lower your price to reflect fewer miles driven.
Or if you’re buying something online, reach out to the company and ask if they have any coupons they can offer – this may not work with Amazon, but many smaller merchants are happy to provide a 10% or 15% coupon code.
2. Explore Buying in Bulk
For those of us who live on our own or with just a couple of other people, buying a Costco-sized pack of toothpaste or a 30 lbs. bag or rice may seem like overkill – and it probably is.
But as the unit price of these items is often significantly lower than the unit price of buying the non-bulk variants, finding family members, friends, or neighbors that will split essentials with you can save a dramatic amount of money over time.
Splitwise is a tool that makes keeping track of shared expenses easy and fair.
3. Review Your Subscriptions
According to a NY Times article from early 2020, the average American spends roughly $640 every year on digital subscriptions and memberships alone.
This number doesn’t take into account monthly, recurring charges for things like cable and satellite TV, gym memberships, or subscriptions for physical goods like razors or subscription boxes.
However, if you’re anything like me, you quickly lose track of all the places your money is automatically going on a monthly basis.
Taking the time to review your various subscriptions and cancelling the ones that are no longer of value to you can be a quick way to easily lower monthly expenditure.
The following are some things to consider regarding subscriptions:
- Unless you’re one of the few people that actually goes to the gym on a regular basis, do yourself a favor and cancel your gym membership if you’re not using it. Working out at home is not only much less expensive, but it’s probably also safer. (Remember, gyms make most of their money from people that don’t go!)
- Nearly all streaming services let you cancel and resume your subscriptions at will, so instead of subscribing to all of them at once, consider only subscribing to one or two video services at a time. Likewise, if there is a show you are dying to watch, instead of paying for the corresponding streaming service for the 3 months the show is airing, wait until all the episodes are available and only subscribe for one month while you binge the show.
- As more and more apps embrace subscription models, it’s easy for mobile app subscriptions to slide under the radar. Make sure to review your mobile subscriptions through your phone to ensure you really need all of them:
- iOS – Open Settings, tap on your name at the top, and then click on “Subscriptions.”
- Android – In the Google Play Store, tap on the menu icon, and then click on “Subscriptions.”
- Recurring subscriptions for physical goods, like Billie or Dollar Shave Club, Amazon’s Subscribe & Save, or ______ of the Month boxes may be convenient or even fun, but they don’t necessarily always present the best value from a strictly economic perspective. In many cases, non-subscription alternatives may prove to be a better bang for your buck.
- Finally, closely check your credit card and bank statements for a couple months to identify any monthly charges that slipped under the radar or that you may have forgotten about.
4. Embrace Generics
This is a small change, but buying store brands can save a lot of money over time.
In many cases, generic products are literally manufactured in the same facilities as their brand-name counterparts, but consumers can buy them at a significantly lower price due to large purchase orders put in by companies and lower operational overhead.
When possible, go ahead and try the store’s brand – you may not even notice the difference!
5. Eat In More
Admittedly, as people who love going out to eat, this was a hard change for my wife and me to make, but after realizing how much money we were actually spending at restaurants (thanks to Mint, mentioned below), we decided to cut back and start cooking more.
Yes, cooking often takes more time and definitely more planning, but in addition to often being healthier than restaurant food, we realized that we could get many more meals per dollar when eating in vs. eating out.
That’s not to say we never get food from restaurants, but we committed to ourselves that we were only going to go out or get takeout as a planned thing rather than just going out to eat whenever we weren’t sure what to make at home.
One of the tools we used as we got more comfortable cooking at home was a service called EveryPlate.
Unlike some of the other meal kit options out there, EveryPlate was a lot more affordable, pricing each meal at $5, which relative to dining out, seemed to be a good value.
We eventually stopped the service, but thanks to the recipes we learned and the confidence we gained, we continue to cook tasty, well-rounded meals at home.
So even if you don’t fancy yourself much of a chef, there’s no better opportunity than quarantine to embrace your inner Guy Fieri and take regular trips to Flavor Town.
6. Take Charge of Your Money
If you’re really serious about taking control of your finances and making your money work for you, using a tool like Mint or YNAB is essential.
Mint is a FREE budgeting tool owned by Intuit (the company behind QuickBooks) that takes many of the bookkeeping principles from their commercial software and applies them to personal finance.
Mint syncs with your bank, credit card, and investment accounts – allowing you to categorize your expenses into different buckets to give you an accurate picture of where your money is actually going.
With that data, Mint helps you create budgets to guide your future spending.
When you also consider the other useful features that are bundled in, such as credit score tracking and bill reminders, Mint presents a very easy to recommend (and did I mention free?) tool that is worth the time it takes to set up.
If you want to take your budgeting to the next level, the tool you need is You Need a Budget (or YNAB for short).
Whereas Mint presents more of a historical view of your finances, YNAB is all about budgeting proactively and assigning a role to money that you have coming in.
It’s an incredible tool for people who are trying to save for something big, pay down debt or student loans, or just really take their spending into their own hands.
There is a cost to YNAB ($11.99/mo. or $84/yr.), but they offer a free trial if you want to give it a whirl, and based on the experience of people I know who use it, YNAB will definitely pay for itself. (And as a bonus, in addition to webinars and classes offered directly by YNAB, there is a very active and supportive community of YNABers on Reddit.)
7. Be Mindful
If there’s one thing you should take away and really internalize when it comes to your spending, it’s that you should use your hard-earned money mindfully and consciously.
In this age of non-stop, hyper-targeted advertisements, ‘free’ two-day shipping, and one-click payments, it’s easier than ever to spend a little here and a little there without truly having a sense of where your money is going.
To practice financial mindfulness, whenever there is something I think I want to buy, rather than pulling the trigger on the spot, I tell myself to wait a week. If I still want it a week later, I’ll buy it then. More often than not, I end up not making the purchase.
So before you go out to eat, sign up for that service, or buy that thing, take a moment to consider if it’s really how you want to part with your money.