In my previous post Becoming Credit-Card Free: Our Journey, I talked about how we had to reduce our monthly expenditure so that we could find extra money to put towards paying off more than the minimum balance due on a credit card each month. Although we never thought of ourselves as big spenders by any means, we realised that we had to make some changes to how we spend and how much money we spend each month before spending it, instead of the other way around.
Writing down all our expenses on a piece of paper, and being honest with ourselves in compiling that list – we used several months’ worth of bank statements and quite a lot of bills – we could see very clearly how much we spent, where, when and on what exactly. Once we had these figures on paper, it was easy to see how much was too much and where the leaks in our wallets were! We then had a better idea of which leaking tap we needed to tighten or close for good.
In this post I share with you how we fixed those leaks so that we could reduce our expenditure each month. It worked for us then, it still works for us now.
1. We cancelled our paid TV subscription. This was a huge saving for us, not only each month but we now no longer spend a total of about R8,000 per year! We don’t even miss the TV blaring all the time, to be honest. We borrow the odd movie from friends but that’s about it. We keep up with the news online for free and watch the odd video on You Tube.
2. We stopped buying magazines. We read magazines online and use the Flipboard app on our phones, all for free. I sometimes borrow the odd magazine from the library at work. There is just so much information available online at no cost at all that we don’t miss the magazines that used to lie around the house.
3. I started buying no-name household cleaners in bulk of 5 litres or more, usually at Westpack Lifestyle (but there are other choices). This save us at about R250-R300 each month and now that I’ve been using these brands for quite some time, I can honestly say they are in no way inferior to more expensive brands. It’s really just a matter of adjusting to something new.
4. We stopped using the tumble dryer and we started drying all our clothes on the line outside. This was a huge saving in our electricity bill. There is so much sunshine all the time that there is hardly any need to switch the drier on at all. Even if it has been raining for a few days, it will clear up soon enough for you to take the laundry outside.
5. We also save on our electricity bill each month by not using electric heaters in winter or any type of air conditioning in summer. We make an effort not to leave the lights on in any room that is not being used and we also switch off all appliances at the wall when we’re not using them.
6. I cook a lot of our meals in batches and freeze. For this, I mostly use the slow cooker especially for soups, stews and roasted meats. The slow cooker uses much less electricity than the oven or the stove (read my post on How the Slow Cooker can Save you Money). An added bonus is that you don’t have to stand by the stove the whole time – you let the slow cooker do the job for you!
7. We reuse plastic containers, jars and glass bottles to store food and drinks (you can read more about that in my posts on how we reuse plastic containers, jars and glass bottles). We never need to buy any of these in the shops yet we have more than enough to store jams and konfyt when I make them, to freeze meals in large batches and to keep bottles of water in the fridge.
8. We buy a takeaway meal about once a month or occasionally twice a month, but certainly not more than that. We don’t eat at restaurants, except only on special occasions and that’s probably two or three times a year at most. This really helps in reducing your monthly expenses.
9. We try and be as frugal as we can with our water consumption. You can read my post on Frugal with Water in your Home and Garden for tips on how we save on our water bill each month. Installing a rain water tank for watering the garden is a brilliant idea and would definitely save even more on your water bill, but this is still on my wish list, for now.
10. We budget for our monthly bills and all household expenses. I usually do this before payday so that we can allocate money towards all that is needed first. I then scour the specials for that week, usually via the Alberton Record inserts, and make a list of what to buy that month and where. You can read more about how I save money on our groceries each month here and get some advice on budgeting from Dave Ramsey here.
11. We also budget for planned future expenses such as car services and tyre replacements and start saving in advance, bit by bit each month. We also budget for Christmas holidays and you can read more about that here. This really, really helps in that you don’t have to fork out a largish amount out of your salary on any given month.
12. I am always on the lookout for cheaper car insurance premiums. The value of your car decreases each year yet your insurance premium, even if you don’t claim, increases. So I always follow up on an ad, and accept a call from marketers – you never know when you might be offered a better deal! I remember I once even asked my insurer for a better premium and guess what? I got it!
13. We don’t buy on impulse and we don’t go to the malls just to look around. Although I love shopping – I think all of us girls do! – I don’t normally go the mall unless I need something. When I do go, I go with a list of what I need to buy. We also like to do a fiscal fast from time to time – you can read more about that in my posts Fiscal Fast: No Shopping Week or Month and Stay Motivated During No-Spend Days.
14. We get all that we can from our medical aid. It took us a while to learn about what we have to pay out of our own pocket, as well as what we don’t. If there is anything that the medical aid didn’t cover the previous year, we always keep all our receipts, except for over the counter medication, and claim back from SARS.
15. Claim for whatever you as an individual can claim for on your tax return. For example, medical bills paid out of your own pocket and even charity donations. You can go to the SARS webpage here to check if your favourite charity is registered with them. If they are, they will then issue you with a tax certificate at the end of the financial year so that you can submit that with your tax return.
16. We plan our car trips. If you use a car, plan those trips over the weekend or to the shops. Because we plan, we spend on average the same amount on fuel each week. Sure, there are always those extra trips e.g. visiting family, friends or going out but we plan for those ahead of time.
17. We make sure we pay all our bills on time so that we don’t have to pay any late charges. We frequently used to have a problem with our municipal bill arriving a month after the invoice was due. That’s when I signed us up to receive our monthly municipal bills online at City of Ekurhuleni. We can now view our monthly municipal bill online 2 weeks ahead of its due date and we receive an email and an SMS to notify us when our monthly bill becomes available for viewing.
18. We stopped using fancy recipes to cook or to bake. Some recipes are simple, with fewer ingredients while others give you more complex instructions and a long list of ingredients, which you most probably don’t have at home and need to buy. We tend to look for recipes based on the ingredients we have at hand. Try the Big Oven for some ideas: simply enter a maximum of 3 leftovers or ingredients and allow the website to recommend recipes based on those ingredients. We also often get really creative in the kitchen and use up whatever we have!
19. Going prepaid on your cell phone is definitely much cheaper and you have complete control over how much you spend each month. If you have a cell phone contract that’s about to end, then make sure you let the cell phone provider know at least a calendar month in advance that you don’t wish to upgrade. If you have a cell phone contract that’s still ongoing, make sure that you know how much data, SMS and minutes are included in your plan for you to use. Also think about putting a limit on how much you spend over and above your minimum payment. This will keep your spending in check. It works for us.
20. If you make use of a landline at home, again, make sure you know how many free minutes you have and when you can use them. If you stick to the plan as much as possible throughout the month, you should have minimal additional charges, if any. When setting up a debit order for your landline you can also choose to cap the debit amount and pay the remainder yourself. This will keep your debit amounts in check.
How do you save on your monthly expenses? Please share your tips in the comments below!
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