If you want to attack your debt and pay it off fast (and who doesn’t want that??), you have to free up money in your budget to put extra toward you monthly payments. It sounds easy, but you’ll need to have a good action plan to help you spend less each month so you can apply that extra cash to debt elimination. By using any (or all!) of these simple ways to add hundreds to your budget every month, you’ll be crossing the finish line to paying off that nasty debt in no time!
1. CUT OUT THE EXPENSIVE PRIMPING
It’s common to be in the habit of getting a haircut every six weeks or getting mani/pedis on a regular basis, but this routine is costing you big time. Assuming you pay $25-$35 per haircut, you’re spending about $300/year just to get your mop cropped. When you add other luxuries, like hair color or highlights, waxing, or facials, you’re really wracking up a hefty bill.
Give your locks a break from all the harsh chemicals and go natural. Let your locks grow out and donate them to Locks of Love. Have you’re girlfriend trim your hair or give yourself a good, old fashioned buzz cut for the summer. Have a girls night and do each other’s nails and facials. Add a bottle of wine (or three) and have a hellavu good time while you’re at it.
2. MEAL PLAN
As a nation, we have a bad habit of outsourcing our food. We often zip through the drive thru or grab take out because we’re pressed for time or don’t have a plan for dinner. The rush between work, picking up the kids, making it to soccer practice, and feeding our bellies can be hectic. If you don’t have a plan in advance, you’re bound to be buying lots of food through the week, which is bad for your health and your wallet.
Every Sunday, sit down and map our your dinners for the week. Be specific. Try to plan meals that contain ingredients you already have on hand so you can be using up your staples without spending extra at the grocery store. Plan easy, quick meals on the nights you work late or have plans and more involved meals on weekends when you can make more time for food prep.
3. EAT OUT ONLY ONCE A WEEK-MAX
This directly relates to Tip #2. If you’re meal planning, you won’t HAVE to eat out all the time but you’ll still WANT to eat out. Limit it to once a week to protect your eating out budget. It will keep money in your wallet for sure. Be mindful of where you eat out too. If you’re serious about paying off debt, you won’t be doing to the fine dining restaurant that leaves you $100 poorer. Be thrifty by going out to restaurants that offer specials. Denny’s offers “Kids Eat Free” nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Applebee’s has happy hour and half priced appetizers after 9:00 p.m. Take advantage of these promotions so you can enjoy a meal out while keeping the cost to a minimum.
4. SHARE A MEAL
It might seem like I’m on a food soapbox here, but you’d be amazed at how much money we spend on food. It’s ridiculous….and what’s worse is we don’t even realize it! Restaurants tend to serve big portions, which is kinda nice if you like leftovers, but a total waste if you don’t. Try sharing a meal with your honey or friend. Guaranteed you’ll be full and your bill will be half as much. Worse case scenario: you’re still hungry and you get dessert to split.
5. SHOP WITH A LIST
We LOVE immediate gratification. We’re drawn in by really good marketing (advertisers totally know our psychology and use it against us). If we don’t have clarity on what we’re going to the store for, there’s no way we won’t get sidetracked by all the “stuff” we see. This applies to ANY store. If you’re going for groceries, make a list of only what you need for the week and stay focused to only seek out those things. Ignore everything else. If it’s not on the list, it’s not in the cart. If you’re doing to a clothing store, write down exactly what you’re looking for and buy nothing else. If you’re just going shopping for fun (aka window shopping), leave your dang wallet in the car. Temptation is powerful. Set yourself up for success to resist it.
6. HAVE PURGING MONTHS
A purging month is when you either use up everything you have on hand or you eliminate what you don’t use. Choose two months a year to purge. Eat all the food that’s been sitting in your cabinets for months. Use up all those trial sizes of shampoo before replacing your full size bottle. Blow through every last tissue and roll of toilet paper before buying more. Rid out closets and only save the clothes and shoes you absolutely love. Donate the rest and take the tax write-off. By the end of the month, you’ll see major savings with zero sacrifice.
7. ADJUST YOUR INSURANCE POLICIES
If you’re a safe driver with a $1,000 emergency fund in place (and EVERYONE should have $1,000 emergency fund), there is absolutely no reason why you should be carrying an auto insurance policy with a deductible of less than $1,000. Having a low deductible in fear of getting in an accident is costing you hundreds every year. Your emergency fund will protect you from being out of a car if an accident happens and raising your deductible will spare your budget. This applies to homeowners and renters insurance as well.
8. BUY GENERIC
We all want the best of the best….but you don’t NEED it. Generic is usually pretty darn close to the brand name stuff at a fraction of the price. You can live without the brand name, fancy pansy stuff long enough to reach your debt payoff goal. Once you’re debt is paid off, you’ll literally have thousands more to your name that you can blow on brand name everything (if you really want to spend your money that way). The only thing I won’t buy generic is paper towels because I’ve found the generic brand doesn’t absorb so I just end up using twice as much. Everything else, from toothpaste to soap to canned goods is generic….and I barely even notice.
9. HIT UP YARD SALES FOR KID STUFF
My daughters are three and four years old and I have yet to buy any clothing for them that costs more than $1. As soon as yard sale season opens, I’m out early on Saturday mornings scooping up all the little girls clothes I can get my hands on to clothe my kids for the year. For about $60, I have clothes for every season…for both kids…for a full year. I find pricer items like winter coats and snow boots too, which saves my clothing budget like you wouldn’t believe.
Baby stuff is even easier to find because babies grow so fast. You’ll likely find clothing that’s only been worn once. Once worn clothes for $.50 a piece? Sign me up!
P.S. There are other sweet deals at yard sales aside from kid’s stuff. I snagged a sweet workout bench, free weights, and a golf bag with clubs, all for under $50. Hello new hobbies. Bye bye debt.
10. CANCEL CABLE
It’s easier to do than you think. Nobody needs 200 channels. Nobody. Between Netflix ($8/month), Amazon Prime, or Hulu, plus free local antennae channels, you’ll have enough entertainment to keep you occupied until your debt’s paid off. You’ll literally save hundreds by canceling cable. Know what will happen when you do? You’ll find something else to do with yourself than sit on your butt in front of the tube! Or you’ll watch something on one of the channels you get for free! Or you’ll rent a Redbox for $1.50 and do a happy dance about no longer spending ridiculous money on something you don’t need!
11. CANCEL MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTIONS
Between the internet, Podcasts, Flipboard, and the local library, there’s endless opportunity to peruse all the articles your heart desires….and it’s all free. Absolutely love your Money magazine? I don’t blame you; I love mine too. So, instead of paying for the subscription, I offered to drop off the recycling for my office building so I could pull all the old issues of it. It takes me about 15 minutes once a month and I get my pick of magazines for $0. You can do this too….or just look in the magazine bin at the recycling center and pull out what you want.
12. FIND DEALS ON GROUPON OR YELP
Groupon and Yelp often have great deals for restaurants, local attractions, and vacations. While traveling will most likely be infrequent while your hightailing your debt payoff, we all need to get away from time to time. Take advantage of 40-70% off hotel stays with Groupon and plan a weekend getaway without killing your budget. Save on your eating out budget by purchasing a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant at a fraction of the price.
Get back to the good old days and barter for goods and services. We all have special skills and talents that others don’t have. You might be great at baking homemade bread but can’t fix the leak under your sink. Ask your friends who their favorite plumber is and see if he’ll exchange a working sink for a loaf or two. Got a garbage bag of toys your kids don’t play with? Exchange them with the mom down the street and you suddenly have “new” toys to entertain your kiddos (for FREE). It never hurts to ask if bartering is an option. The worst thing that could happen is you get a “no” and the best thing that could happen is you save hundreds on the things you need simply by lending a helping hand or exchanging something you already have.
14. DITCH THE GYM MEMBERSHIP
Gyms stink for more than one reason. Statistics show many people spend an average of $60/month on gym memberships they rarely use. If you’re not in the gym at least three days a week, scrap it. You can easily integrate fitness and good workouts into your routine without the membership. Watch some YouTube fitness videos and workout at home. Get outside and run (on the actual pavement). Troll Craigslist or yard sales for gently used exercise equipment and build your own little gym at home.
I used all these ways of adding money to my budget during my debt payoff phase and can attest that my life really didn’t get any worse in doing so. In fact, it got a lot better. I spend less time and money on things that weren’t all that valuable to me and gained a sense of pride living a simpler, more money-conscious lifestyle. The benefits were so much greater than the costs and as a result of making a few little shifts, I was able to pay off $87,000 of debt in 18 months. Having cable TV doesn’t even compare to the awesome feeling of being debt free. Try it. I think you’ll agree.
Nicole Iacovoni is a Psychotherapist, Author, and Wealth Building Coach. She truly believes anyone can transform their life and has devoted her life to helping clients claim their power to create magical lives by harnessing effective financial management strategies. She believes that taking control of your finances leads to living a more productive, organized, calm, and happy life. She is passionate about helping others experience the power, control, joy, and security of effectively managing money, maximizing earning potential, investing wisely, and doing the inner work necessary for us all to realize our true worth.