Ideas to Cut Monthly Expenses...

Updated on July 03, 2011
C.F. asks from Arvada, CO
17 answers

Hello all,
I am a single mom and on a shoe string budget. Just spent several hours today paying bills and being depressed about it! What are ways that you all make your money stretch? I have called my CC company and lowered my interest rate for 6 months, I am thinking of calling the bank where my car is financed and asking them if they can lower my payment. I am unable to get local TV wtih out cable, so that is the lowest it can go. I am frustrated and want so hard to not be spending money uselessly. I costco shop or use coupons as well. Also, if anyone has ideas of where to purchase specialty foods (non-dairy, soy products) other than sunflower market for less than the grocery store please let me in on the secret. Any and all suggestions are so greatly appreciated. I know that I am not alone in my situation or frustrations.
Thanks for your help,

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So What Happened?

Wow! Thanks you all so muchfor the great ideas! I am going to check out Dave Ramsey for sure! Thanks for all the wonderful responses, I am very appreciative!

More Answers


answers from Washington DC on

If you own your home - refinance it to get a lower payment.

If you are renting - maybe find a place closer to where you work or to your kids schools so that you can take public transportation to work..

If you can move in with your parents for one year (I know it sounds like forever) and pay minimal rent to get credit cards paid off and money set aside.

I wouldn't refinance my car - personally - it's already devalued enough - and extending the payments on it by refinancing isn't going to help much.

Call your wireless provider - see if there is another plan you can do that will work for you and your family.

Call your internet provider and see what options you have as well.

Call electric and gas to see if they can come out and do a free energy inspection and find out where you can save more money in your place (if you own)...

Simple things to save electricity - turn off all unnecessary appliances - coffee pot, TV, XBOX, Wii, anything that has a little light on it - draws power during the day when not in use.

Ensure that your thermostat is set to 78 degrees while no one is home. If you can run fans instead of the AC - do.

When planning errands, ensure that you are doing things "in order" instead of zig-zagging across town...if you have dry cleaning...find out if they take competitors coupons so that you can save money.

Instead of buying new clothes for you or the kids - go to your Good will or Thrift store - you would be surprised at what people donate!!! I got a Coach purse WITH THE TAGS ON IT - for $50 instead of $300....Calvin Klein jeans...$ you might be surprised at what you find!! :)

Can't help you with the soy stuff...sorry..

You are NOT alone!! Everyone wants to save money!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

Not sure what your car situation is, but getting rid of a car payment would help a TON! It sounds drastic, but is there any way you could drive a cheaper car and pay yourself the payments instead until you can pay cash for a newer one? That's what we have done. We drove JUNK cars for a few years, but with NO payments, so we were able to save several hundred a month until we could pay cash for our van, which should now last us a long time. Not having a car payment is GREAT.

I use my crockpot a lot for cooking and we eat a lot of cheaper things like pasta, rice and beans that can be stretched. Also, scale down your cell phone plan and maybe get rid of cable for awhile?

Good luck!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lansing on

There are a couple of things that I subscribe and save to off Amazon. Namely I get my Almond milk there because it is way cheaper than anywhere around here.

As far as cutting budget, it kinda depends how far you want to go. For me it started off as little things and each year it kinda became more and more. I started off like you, cutting back on all non-essentials. I stopped using my credit card except for emergencies. I got rid of my car payment and now I just fix my junker, if and when it absolutely needs it. Got rid of the cable and we watch movies and tv on netflix. As far as shopping there are programs around here to help with commodities and stuff, like the food bank and u-picks (If you pick so much for the food bank then you get to keep some of it for free). My garden is an essential. Frozen and canned it gets me most of my veggies for the year. Drink choices are milk or water, that's it, for adults as well. Big saving? No more desserts. This includes ice cream, chips, cookies, cake, pies(unless they are homemade from u-pick items) or anything that a hunter gatherer couldn't make. No more eating out ( I make an exception for special occasions - maybe once or twice a year). You want to get real nitty gritty? Cloth toilet paper and feminine napkins. A towel instead of paper towel. Make your own laundry detergent and cleaners. The final thing I can think of? We have a box that is presents for people. When I see really great sales, I buy whatever it is and it goes in the box, and then when we need a present for someone I pull something out of the box that I think they will like. Slick deals on the internet usually is where I get stuff for the box. I'm sure I have a hundred more, but that is where I started. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think others mentioned this as well, but cook from scratch. I buy mostly vegetables, fruit, whole grain rice, bread and pasta and make everything from scratch.... of course we buy the occasional frozen food etc.. but it makes so much of a difference weekly if we buy all whole foods, versus more frozen and packaged foods. Also the most obvious thing in your question was that you still have cable... we don't have any type of cable, we do have internet though. Costco has Silk Almond milk in the fridge section for really cheap, we buy that and get the rest of our groceries at whole foods.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

Recently had to do an inventory of the way we spent money and took a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace workshop. (many churches have them in the summer if you're interested). That has helped us alot. We have no more credit cards or their bills, spend cash and have taken on the dreaded budget with great results. I had to force myself into that budget but I love it now. I just couldn't figure out where my money was going! I had to go "hard core" with myself because I just couldn't make a big enough difference doing it any other way. Best of luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Call your cell company and ask about each charge. Consider switching companies. They lower my bill almost every month because always something seems to be off. It is amazing how you can negociate with something that seems to be a fixed amount.

Don't know about your electric in CO but I was able to pay less because of low income. Applying was simple here, but again, don't know about CO.

I'm growing my produce and can't believe how much I'm saving. It took a couple years to get it down, but I'm really getting the pay off now.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Are you saying you use cable? I wasn't sure. If so, drop that and get netflix and/or hulu. We haven't had cable in years. We have no channels, but we love having Netflix. We stream movies through our tv instantly.

I agree, focus on putting as much money as you can on the car payment and pay it off. if you can get a cheaper car (though one that is still reliable). make meals from scratch as much as possible. for snacks, eat apples/bananas. those are pretty cheap. i'm not sure what else! can't think...too tired!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

To help with your food budget, check out Angel Food Ministries

This can really help! You don't have to be a certain income level, but you can use food stamps to purchase food.

The way it works, is, once a month, you order food (July's deadline is probably July 24), and pick it up at a pre-determined location and date (delivery date for my local pick-up is July 31). The food choices are pre-set... different type of boxes.

For example, the $35 signature box will give you 10-12 lbs of protein/meal items, frozen veggies, a bag of brown rice, dried beans, a dozen eggs, 2 q milk, and a dessert item. They say that their average savings for that box is $28, based on 12 different cities, so you can save quite a bit!

That particular box is said to feed a family of 4 for a week..... ("Balanced nutrition and variety with enough food to help feed a family of four for about a week.") There are other boxes available, also.

The food isn't "seconds" or out-dated... it is the same stuff you buy at the grocery store...they have just managed to cut out the middle man, and a lot of expenses of running a store.

It has really helped our budget through my hubby's unemployment, and I've been VERY thankful that I found it.

The only problem is that most of it is frozen, so be sure you have room in your freezer (I have a large chest freezer.... I've always had one, and it is FULL right now.)

If you are on Facebook, they have a facebook page, also. There are many stories and people posting on it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Provo on

I just got through taking a finance class and one of the biggest things they stressed is cooking at home. I know that since you are a single parent it is not easy. I am also a single parent and I feel like I am so busy and so stressed so this seems to be a quick fix for me a lot of times. They also suggested getting rid of your landline if you have a cell phone. My friend just refinanced her car loan. If you have kids in school then often you can get fee waivers. I do not have to dress up for my work so I usually get my shoes at Big 5 sporting goods They have a rack of sale shoes (usually the ones that only have about 10 pair left) and they are really cheap. I got my last pair for $30 off the normal price.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I didn't read your prior responses but I'm an independent insurance agent in AZ. If you haven't already, find one local in your area and they can "shop" around for lower premiums for the same coverage that you already pay on your home/auto. On average, I can usually save people $100 per month! Never hurts to get a quote! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

You are not alone in this. A sign of the times and more people are affected now than ever.
-if you have magazine subscriptions, don't renew them
-check out books from library
-we found shopping at Costco was no longer a savings except when buying a few select items (diapers, bread etc)
-I buy certain things at the dollar store
-I got the cheapest cable pkg they have. Sometimes if you call and tell them you might have to go w/Dish unless there is a cheaper plan they will advise you of that cheaper plan. Dish had $25/mo for 1 yr plan
-Call your cell ph company to see if they have a cheaper plan (hopefully you're not locked into a 2 yr plan right now)
-I do as many free activies as possible in my area: auction to walk around and look at things, park for kids to have fun, library for quiet time in A/C building & story time, my local supermarket has their normal Chinese food section holds a "happy hour" deal from 6-8pm where a normal to go dinner meal wld be $7+ but you get it for $5 and we all share
-Redbox for $1 movie rentals
-See if your Dollar store carries any of the non-dairy, soy products you like
-coupon items tend to be higher so I buy the off brand, store brand
-conserve on gas by grouping as many errands together as possible
-some parks will offer free movie nights under the stars (call your chamber of commerce)
-fairs are cheap entertainment
-walk around the air conditioned mall
-have a picnic in the park
-look at your grocery list and cut out all "unnecessary items)
-try not to buy coffee drinks at Jave City, Starbucks etc
Hope that helps and hang in there!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Saginaw on

we have no cable at all, we get no local channels. it sucks but its what we have to do, i have internet on my cell phone so if i need to check weather i can and if their is a storm my mom watches the radar to let me know if i need to get in the basement! i just refinanced my van and am saving 110 a month, plus the new bank pd off the old bank so i didnt even have to pay junes payment at all which is letting me catch up and even save a little! some gas stations off you a discount if you use a certain type of card, for instance at walmart you get like 3 cents off per gall if you use their cc, or merchandise card or their pre pd card. i dont do the pre pd card but if i return something i get store credit and use that at the pump to save a little money. at speedway you can buy a gas card and earn points and then when you use that gas card to get gas you earn more points and after so many points you get a free 50 dollar gas card, so every payday i buy a 50 dollar gas card! i dont know about the specialty stuff you asked about because i dont buy it but good luck finding it! it stinks trying to be healthy but cant afford it! i always buy 90/10 beef and being broke one week i bought 80/20 and it was so greasy even after i drained it i was sick! good luck and im gonna read the rest of your responces to see if i can get any good ideas too!

edit.....wanted to mention i told my loan office that i intended to just pay half my car payment every pay day(bi weekly) since im going through a local bank and such, she told me that even though monthly im not paying any extra money, but by paying half of it one week and half the next ill save alot of interest and lower the lenght of my loan by a few months, and i always pay extra when i can so im hoping to get it pd off alot sooner! also at my bank if i pay extra one month then the next month my payment due is that much cheaper. there have been months when i couldnt pay my normal amount so called the bank and cause i had pd so much ahead i only had to pay say 100 instead of 500! its my own way of ensuring my car gets pd!



answers from Pittsfield on

Elaine B mentioned Dave Ramsey in her reply. I can not even begin to tell you how much Dave Ramsey has changed our lives! His book, The Total Money Makeover is fantastic (I'm sure it's in your library). We liked the audio version because we don't have a lot of time to read.

You can also listen for free to his radio show through his website (both live and archived shows are free) I usually am bored to tears when I have to listen to financial shows, but his show is different- I really enjoy listening.

Best wishes =o)



answers from New York on

Do you have a cell phone, you may want to look into changing the type of plan you have.

I'm a huge fan of credit cards because I use them to get things at minimal interest (0% for 6 months to a year, with a one time transaction fee), or to get points and rebates, but I pay it off every month in full. You should get those balances paid off, keep one card active for emergencies.

I watch my electric costs by only turning on the a/c when absolutely necessary. If it's hot out, I'll go to the air conditioned mall for awhile. I rarely use the dryer and hang all the clothes out to dry.

I would not do anything with your car payment. Lowering your payment will only spread out the payments and in the end you'll wind up paying much more. However, if you could totally refinance it, that might be an option.

Do you have an Ocean State Job Lot in CO? Typically not a place I'd do food shopping, but I've found a lot of unusual items there, many organic.

I'd suggested eating a meal at a soup kitchen or seeing if you can get some assistance from the local food bank, but this may not work if your on a speciality diet.

Consider getting rid of cable altogether. You could just watch movies (get them from the library, or use the red box). I don't do it, but you can watch movies through the internet since you have internet service.

Good luck.

Good luck.



answers from Denver on

If you have time, plan all your meals for the week. Go to the store once and get only what you need for those meals. Also take a little time to go through your pantry/fridge and eat whatever has been shelved for while, so many times people have way more food then they need in their house and rarely or never use it.

Cutting cable would help but if it is a relaxing thing for you and helps you stay sane then keep it.

I agree with the other poster that mentioned co-living with someone depending on your living situation. It can save a lot to share rent/mortgage.


answers from Las Vegas on

Get netflix for your cable. Watch your light usage. Try and invest in some of those swirly efficient light bulbs or get those on/off power surge strips and turn them off every night so the vampire appliances (tvs, dvd players, plugged in laptops) aren't using power when you don't need them to.

I also agree with Mzkitty, I had progressive I believe for like $140 a month or something like that and I went to the get me insured place who looks at multiple companies and I got some great coverage for $60 a month

Start keeping track of how many times you eat out or where you spend money and see what you can cut down on. Get out in the neighborhood more, is there a park near by? Then you can turn everything off and cut some electricity down.

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