For most people, one of the most challenging aspects of personal finance is learning how to spend less money. And it’s especially hard once fall gets here, and it’s socially acceptable for most of us to start spending more.
Think about it — everywhere you look, there’s an ad for pumpkin spice lattes. And your kids may be begging you to take them to the pumpkin patch or buy them a pricey Halloween costume. Plus, most of us are starting to think about buying Christmas presents.
But fall doesn’t mean your financial goals have to go out the window. So if you’ve noticed you’ve been spending more than usual, here are eight ways to cut down on expenses this fall.
1. Avoid Eating Out
One of the easiest ways to cut down on your expenses is to stop eating out. If you eat out twice a week for $25 each time — which is easy to do for a family of four — you’re spending an average of $200 a month just on eating out!
If you frequently find yourself eating out, take some time to figure out why. Is it due to a lack of planning? If so, take some time to plan out a meal schedule for the week. Your meals will be much healthier, and you’ll save money.
And resist the urge to stop by Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte. It feels like a fun treat, but you’ll pay over $5 per drink. Millennials spend an average of $2,008 on coffee annually — think about what else you could be doing with that money.
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2. Look For Free Mood Boosters
Seasonal affective disorder is a real problem, and some people feel unhappy or down once the seasons change. When you don’t feel your best, it’s natural to look for ways to spend money to compensate.
But this is always a losing plan — spending money is never a long-term solution, and you’ll feel even worse when you’re falling short of your financial goals. Instead, look for free ways to boost your mood.
For instance, listening to a podcast and taking a walk is completely free and will likely improve your mood much more than spending money ever could. You can check out my blog post on low-cost self-care tips for more ideas.
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3. Implement a “No-Spend” Weekend
Another way to cut your expenses is by periodically implementing a “no-spend” weekend. This is exactly what it sounds like — a weekend where you don’t spend any money at all.
Instead of going out to eat or to the movies, you can cook your meals at home and watch something on Netflix. Be sure to check out this blog post for more ideas for what to do during your no-spend weekends.
4. Set Up a Holiday Sinking Fund
Many unexpected costs come up throughout the year, but the holidays aren’t one of them. You know you’ll spend a certain amount of money buying presents and hosting family for the holidays every year.
The best way to handle this is by setting up a holiday sinking fund. With a sinking fund, you start setting aside money now to pay for a future expense. That way, you don’t have to go into debt to cover your holiday expenses.
And look for ways to cut down on your holiday expenses. For instance, if you have a large extended family, maybe you could all draw names on who to buy presents for. That way, instead of buying gifts for 10 different people, you only have to buy for one person.
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5. Limit Your Electricity
Electricity counts for a significant part of your household budget, and it’s a necessary expense. But there are ways you can limit your usage and cut your utility bills over time. And the easiest way to do this is by being more mindful of your usage.
For instance, don’t run the dishwasher unless there’s a full load. Don’t leave lights on in your house all day or leave the computer running. Turn down your thermostat in the evenings, or turn it off altogether when the weather is nice.
In addition, you can start to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs and a smart thermostat. Your electricity provider may even provide a smart thermostat for free or with a rebate. The point is, even small shifts can go a long way toward lowering your bills.
6. Re-Evaluate Your Subscriptions
Many companies offer low-cost subscriptions, and because they’re affordable, it’s easy to keep paying for them long after you’ve quit using the service. Taking some time to look through your bank account for any subscriptions you’ve forgotten about.
If you haven’t used the service for a month or more, it’s time to cut it. And that includes gym memberships. There are tons of affordable, at-home workout programs you can do, so why keep paying for an expensive gym membership you aren’t using?
7. Hit the Thrift Stores
If you live in a part of the country where the seasons change, you may use fall as a reason to go shopping. After all, October can be a great time of year to stock up on hoodies, sweaters, and boots. And the truth is, we all need new clothes from time to time.
This year, instead of hitting the department store, why not browse through different thrift stores? You can find really nice secondhand clothing, and it will cost you a lot less than what you’d pay to buy those items brand-new.
8. Implement a 24-Hour Rule
And finally, if you’re someone who struggles with impulse buying, create a 24-hour rule on all purchases. When you see something you want to buy, you take at least 24 hours to think about it and decide whether or not the expense is really necessary.
You can implement a 24-hour rule on all purchases or just expenses over $50. It’s up to you how you do this, but the point is to give yourself time to think things through before buying something. And if it is a necessary purchase, you can use that time to shop around and see if you can find a better price somewhere else.
The Bottom Line
Fall can be an expensive time of year, and if you aren’t careful, your expenses can start going up without you realizing it. This fall, start looking for ways to intentionally cut costs and be mindful of your spending patterns.
Have you tried any of the ideas outlined in this blog post? Let me know in the comments!