7 Ways To Cut Back If You're Broke

by Erica Florentine

As young people, most of us are constantly seeking ways to cut back when we’re broke. This time of year, we’re likely to find ourselves spending a great deal of money on holiday gifts, and even gifts for ourselves, as we see stores advertising endless sales. However, fast forward a month and we’ll all be cringing when we see the bills from our holiday spending begin rolling in.

I’d like to think we’ve all been in those situations when we check our bank account only to find we have just enough money to pay our bills and that’s it, despite having worked so hard for that last pay check. There was a time when I was so broke that I — and I kid you not — paid for gas in change. The gas attendant looked at me like I had three heads, which was totally understandable, but I really had no choice.

How did I get myself into such a position? Happy you asked. I had become obsessed with shopping at department stores, and I wouldn’t go more than a week without heading there to buy any and everything I even remotely liked. It wasn’t until my car had no gas to actually get me there that I stopped being a shopaholic and started focusing on needs versus wants. Gas was definitely a need. A sparkly dress I’d wear once? More of a want.

Here are seven simple tips for cutting back on expenses and spending, which I’ve learned from those incredibly broke days.

1. Look Through Your Bills To Determine Necessities

If you’re really in a bad place financially, chances are there are some things you’re getting a bill for each month that you really don’t need. Did you amp up your cell phone data plan in case you feel like watching YouTube on your phone? Did you add a million new channels to your cable plan solely to widen your options? Do you pay for Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, all for streaming purposes? Stop and evaluate which of these expenses are really things you need to be spending money on. Try to find at least one thing to eliminate, if possible, or a plan to cut back on.

2. Do A Shopping Detox

One of the hardest things I’ve done to save money is to stop shopping. No matter how you slice it, it sucks… but it helps. The holidays might pose a difficult time to do this as you’re trying to purchase gifts for everyone on your list, but as soon as the season is over, try putting yourself on a month-long shopping detox from clothes, shoes, accessories, makeup and the like. If you find the month passes really simply, try adding a second month to it. If you’re a shopper, it might seem like torture, but it’ll be worth it. A cool part, though? You’ll end up digging through your drawers to find new outfits, and pulling out great finds you haven’t touched in ages. Voila! Everything that’s old is new once again.

Another quick trick is to practice patience when shopping online. Rather than impulsively filling your shopping cart and checking out, let the items sit there for 48 hours. When you come back to the cart, if the items are still those you can’t live without, then buy. Otherwise, empty your cart and smile at how much money you’ve just saved yourself without even trying.

3. Eat At Home

One of the most common ways people come into personal debt is by eating out. Bringing a lunch to work is a huge way to combat this. Depending on your location and types of things you enjoy eating, this could realistically save you around $10 per day. That’s an average of $200 a month.

For me, during the week I’m awesome at cooking meals at home, but on the weekend it’s so much more difficult. I don’t like to be anti-social, so when my friends are all going to try a new restaurant on a Friday night, I quickly find myself tagging along, despite any current financial woes. To avoid having to skip out on meals, try my trick: Have a snack beforehand. Then, ask for a separate check when you get there, and order only a little something versus a full-fledged meal. This way you’ll be able to join the crowd without breaking the bank.

In addition to food, if you’re a coffee drinker, consider making coffee every morning at your house or at the office, versus stopping at the local coffee shop. It might not seem like you’re saving a lot each day, but at the end of the month you’re bound to see extra cash in your wallet.

4. Make A List Before You Hit The Grocery Store

Then, when you get there, stick to the items on the list only. You’ll find yourself filling your cart with well-thought out products that you actually need, instead of checking out with a $300 bill due to impulse buying. According to Huffington Post, it also helps to not go to the grocery store hungry, as you’re likely to buy more things that aren’t necessary.

5. Remove Your Credit Cards From Your Wallet

Are you someone who has a giant stack of credit cards that you love to rotate between? Part of your financial woes might lead back to your tendency to purchase things that seem “free,” but that are actually really far from it. Not only are you likely getting whacked with interest charges, you might also be buying a lot of stuff you don’t need.

To put this habit to rest, remove your credit cards from your wallet, wrap them together in a rubber band, and hide them somewhere safe in your bedroom. If anything, bring just one card — like your debit card — with you when you leave the house in case of an emergency. Since you won’t have the credit cards on you, you won’t even be tempted to use them.

6. Avoid Being The “It’s On Me!” Girl

It’s lovely to be generous, but when it starts taking a chunk out of your wallet it quickly becomes very unpleasant. If you’re someone who is used to always picking up tabs and buying rounds of drinks when you’re out, it may seem really strange and uncomfortable for you to ask others to contribute. However, if your bank account is suffering, this is such an easy way to cut back on spending. The great part is your friends and family will absolutely understand. It’s not like you’ll be asking them to pay your way, you’ll just be having them pay for their own stuff. There isn’t a good friend on the planet that wouldn’t understand your decision to stop throwing down all of your cash.

7. Turn Off & Unplug Electronics

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (61 percent) fall asleep with the TV on. That’s technically about seven hours per night that the TV is on while no one is watching it. Talk about a complete waste of electricity and money! Turn that TV off at night, and whenever it isn’t being used. Same goes for your desktop computer, which can eat up a ton of electricity.

If you power down your electronics you’ll of course save money on your electric bill, but if you unplug them as well you’ll save even more. In fact, unplugging alone could save roughly $100 or more per year off your electricity bill. So, next time you’re about to leave your house, do a quick check for items that are easy to unplug, and yank that cord out of the socket.

After our bills start to pour in following the holidays, we’ll all be in need of a little money saving help. By using some of these tips and tricks, we can easily and quickly begin to see a positive change for our bank accounts.

Images: Pixabay (8)