When it’s time to take a serious look at your budget and find places to save and downgrade, you probably already know that all the fun stuff like extra shopping, the good beer and wine, and dinners out are the first to get slashed. But when you’ve already cut back on entertainment and are looking for more ways to save, you’ve got to really analyze every tiny aspect of your bills and spending habits. To keep you from going absolutely insane during this process, just continue reading below to find 15 surprising places you can trim your budget without having to experience a jolting lifestyle change.
1. Interest rates: You might be surprised to learn that banks are sometimes willing to lower your interest rates on loans and credit cards if you just call them up and ask. Don’t ask for something completely unrealistic. Just explain your situation and ask for a lower rate that will make it easier for you to pay them back all their money.
2. Dining out: You don’t have to stop eating out altogether. Just choose one night out a week for enjoying a restaurant meal and choose a couple of appetizers instead of entrees to save money. Order water or sodas instead of alcohol, or if it’s a special occasion, head to a BYOB restaurant that lets you drink your own bottle of wine.
3. Groceries: Buy generic groceries and dry goods, and you can save more than a few dollars, depending on how long your list is. Limit your grocery shopping to one trip per week to avoid overspending and buying things just because you’re craving them.
4. Medicine: Buy generic brand drugs, too for major savings on medicine.
5. Pets: Your pet will be happier just playing with you in the yard than eating snacks or getting a new to every day, so limit how much you spoil your pet.
6. Transportation: Ride your bike, carpool, walk or take the bus a few times a week in place of regular commutes or errand running to save on gas.
7. Bar tab: Order domestic beers on tap and bottom shelf liquor at neighborhood hangouts if you’re just dying to get out. A better option is to buy your own bottle at a liquor store and mix drinks at home.
8. Electricity: Unplug your computer every night and turn up the A/C when you leave your house for major electricity savings that don’t affect your comfort or convenience. Open blinds during the day for natural light.
9. Phone bill: Get on the same plan as your family and cancel any phone lines you don’t need, like a landline. Editor note: I use Skype for my long distance. It’s free for computer to computer calls.
10. Clothing: Buy what you need and try to buy on sale or with an online discount or coupon.
11. Gifts: The next time you see a “buy two get one free” sale, scoop up all three and save them for gifts. Send cards if you just can’t afford to buy a gift for every friend or family member’s birthday – there’s no shame in it.
12. Rent: Negotiate with your landlord, especially if you live in a single family home or a duplex, if he or she raises the rent or you want it lowered because of long running maintenance issues, security problems or a bad economy.
13. Food: Buy items in bulk that you can freeze, and follow portion guides to make food last longer.
14. Exercise: Give up your gym membership and find cheaper ways to exercise: organize an intramural football team, go for a run, or buy a couple of workout DVDs that you can use over and over.
15. Laundry: Hand wash delicate items to lighten your regular loads and hang up clothes to dry instead of wasting electricity or quarters on a dryer.
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This article was contributed by Rose Jensen, who writes about online education at onlinecourses.org.