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6 Ways to Cut your Expenses and Improve Your Budget

My wife is a saver. I am a spender.

In 10 years of marriage we started off in a place where my inclination to spend was a big problem because we moved for my job as the housing market crashed, leaving a Condo we couldn't sell, and she had trouble finding work in our new city due to being 'overqualified'.

So, very early on we got on a budget. We used a modified version of Financial Peace from Dave Ramsey and started using the envelope system for anything outside of bills. At the start, my envelope didn't have much in it! $5 a week was my 'spending money'! We'd get to the end of a month and I would have nothing, and my wife would have $20. Our date nights for almost a year were $5 'hot-n-ready's' and a Redbox movie!

Thankfully, with her budget skills, good planning, and God's favor we got on track and, for the vast majority of our marriage, have been much better financially. In fact, for a good 2 years we kept our budget in terms of bills and 'big' purchases, but neither of us thought twice about having a latte every day, picking up a pizza, or going to do something fun.

Dave is a wise man when he tells you 'live like no one else so that later you can LIVE like no one else!'

Coming into 2018 though, we again found the need for going back to a more strict budget. My wife left her main job to be able to teach our kids at home and have more time with them. Also, I went from working as a pastor full time to working as a pastor full time AND getting into real estate! (HA!) Thankfully, we have no debt beyond our home (for the moment...) but as we re-evaluated our budget we agreed that we still needed to make some cuts to allow us to do what was needed, and still save some for later.

Maybe you're in a place where you are just starting, and it feels a bit overwhelming looking at your budget and seeing the income fall far short of the expenses...

Or maybe you're seeing some progress, but you want to see more growth in your net worth and savings, as you prepare to invest in a home or in real estate...

Or maybe you're good and just want to save more of your hard earned money!

Whatever the reason is, here are 6 areas to look at that COULD save you some cash:

1) Car Insurance.

This is a competitive market and industry, and many companies bank on brand loyalty and name recognition. True, some don't provide the same level of service, but a quick google search of reviews for service will tell you who to avoid. So do yourself a favor and compare quotes.

I switched 18 months ago from a Big Name company to a smaller one, and I have a lower deductible, roadside assistance, higher payouts for injury, AND  rental care coverage, plus everything else I had before, and I save almost $180 a month!

2) Cell Phones

Yes, in certain markets you have to be careful of coverage issues. but for the vast majority of us you can use a trac fone from Wal Mart and talk on it just fine.

My wife and I were with Verizon since cell phones became a thing. Yes, I am THAT old! But this year, we looked at our $200 a month bill and said 'forget it.' Now, I have a different carrier, a bill that is HALF that, my coverage in my market (Northern Kentucky) is just fine and my apps work great too, AND I get Hulu for free. So as a bonus, I saved another $7 a month on my TV watching, and have given up nothing except name recognition.

*DO check in your area as you compare to make sure the carrier you consider has service coverage and is up to date on their network! It's not savings if your phone never works!

3) Make your own food and take your own lunch.

Blasphemy, I know!

But listen, even if you aren't a gourmet cook, invest in a simple cookbook ($10) and an insta-pot ($70-$120 depending on the brand)... spend 15 minutes in prep, throw it in the pot, and VOILA!

Ok, it IS a bit more complex than that, but seriously, not much. My wife is an excellent cook and she still uses her insta pot 3-4 times a week. She's made soups, Indian food, roasts and veggies, pasta dishes, chicken dishes... and then you take some simple dollar store containers and put the leftovers in. Watch the savings pile up as you stop eating out so much.

I bet you enjoy it more than that burger, too!

4) Pay stuff on time!

On the pastoral side of things, I shake my head sometimes at people who get into tight spots because they have a bill due...that is due every month...and need help. Yet they go out to eat several times a week, see Reds games in person, have the newest devices the day they come out, and keep their fridge stocked with beer.

Listen, do all of that if you want to. But for heaven's sake, create a budget, set your bills on your schedule, take time every week to sit down and look at the schedule, and pay stuff on time! in 2015, Americans paid almost 12 BILLION DOLLARS in credit card late fees...

that's JUST credit cards!

Listen to me, as a pastor, a friend, or just someone you found online: DO. NOT. BUY. CRAP. IF. YOU. CAN NOT. PAY. YOUR. BILLS.

No dinner dates. No movies with friends. No new Jordans.

Create a budget. Find your Net Worth. Set a Payment Schedule. Ask for help if you need. In fact, in a few days for those who follow the blog in the Northern Kentucky area, I'll be posting a listing of several area agencies that offer various kinds of assistance.

5) Buy in Bulk

Let's be real... you can never actually have too much toilet paper.

So, declutter a little and head to your local bulk supplier. Mine is Costco. As an Executive Member, I pay more, but I get a % back each year on my purchases. I've never had a year that my cash back didn't pay for the membership, and more.

Besides getting a better price on certain personal care and cleaning items (be real: that 4-pack at your local grocery store on sale is still more per roll!) there is also the discount on gas, which for me is a big deal!

No, that doesn't mean you need to go buy 500 tubes of toothpaste and stock up like dental doomsday is coming. but if you shop wisely on your budget for the things you actually use, you'll save money.

6) Use your Library or buy E-books.

The other day I saw that a favorite author of mine, who also happened to have died several years ago, had released a new book. Him being dead and now having put out a third (that I know about) book since ceasing to live was especially impressive to me. The $24.99 price tag on his new work, however, was not.

My kids love to read. I love to read. My wife loves to read. I also happen to be a trained speed reader, so when I am not distracted I can knock out a 900-page novel in a day or two. But reading, for all its value, is an expensive hobby.

It doesn't have to be though if you got to the library and take advantage of your own tax dollars. The newspaper that I could buy, the magazines that I could buy, and the books (and now music and movies and even VIDEO GAMES) that I could buy are all available for free, or for $1 for me to take, use, and return.

It's really a no-brainer. I get the benefit of the resource, my kids have a great time exploring the topics that interest them and playing with Munch the Turtle, and I don't have to clutter my house with another book when I'm done reading.

Now, sometimes a book is so valuable to me that I want a copy I can go back to anytime. And while I do like the feeling of actual paper, if I am going to be efficient and save money, buying an e-book will always be a better option. They are cheaper, easy to use and carry (on my iPad, personally), and I can highlight, cut, and copy text to share or use when I prepare messages for my church.

What other tips do you have, or tricks do you use to save money? Leave me a comment or send me an email to 



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