The new year is the perfect time for goal setting and dreaming big. For us, one thing that goes hand-in-hand with those two things is updating our monthly budget. My husband and I decided a while ago that talking openly and honestly about our finances is a must for our family. Sometimes this involves talking about how we can cut expenses or find creative ways to bring in more income.
I think it’s safe to say, we’d all love to have a little extra spending money in our pockets. And for some of us, we need more money each month just to make ends meet. No matter which category you fall into, there are some truly genius tips and tricks out there to cut back on your monthly expenses and increase your income.
Here are our top creative ways to cut expenses and increase your monthly income:
Ideas to cut expenses
Bundle or eliminate monthly bills:
Cancel cable and opt for a few, cheaper streaming services. Hulu offers a lot of network programs the day after they air on cable. Disney+ will keep the kids happy for less than $6 a month. This combined with Hulu comes out to $12 a month as opposed to the average American cable bill which is $107 per month.
Bundle your cable, internet, and phone bill. If you’re not ready to cancel your cable, consider combining it with your phone and internet into a single “Triple Play”. This type of offering can drop your combined costs to as low as $79.99. Another pro tip – if you purchase your own router and wireless modem you will eliminate some of the additional monthly fees you see on your cable bill.
Cancel your gym membership. If you aren’t using it, let it go. If you do use it, but only occasionally, think of creative ways to get in a workout without shelling out a monthly fee – like jogging, hiking, or cycling.
Bundle your home and car insurance. Many insurance companies offer significant discounts for bundling your car and homeowners insurance. Shop around for the best offer you can find with maximum coverage for your protection.
I know you’ve heard of couponing, but have you actually tried it? On average, shoppers using coupons can save $30-$50 a week. Additionally, make sure that you are signed up for the rewards and discount cards at whatever store you grocery shop at.
Buy in bulk – Costco, BJs, Sam’s Club – they all offer bulk groceries at great prices. If your shopping for a small family, ask a friend to split the cost and the products.
Shop at discount stores like Aldi. Just because you are looking to cut your expenses, doesn’t mean the quality of your groceries has to suffer. Aldi offers organic and local produce at an incredibly discounted rate. They sell the Simply Nature brand which is both high quality and organic.
Buy store brand groceries. Often times, the quality and taste are virtually the same as their name brand counterparts.
Spend Less on Food and Drinks
Don’t stop for coffee. Make it at home. Depending on if you get your morning brew at the gas station, Dunkin, or Starbucks, you could be saving yourself anywhere from $1 to $5 a day.
Pack your lunch. This option will always be cheaper than eating out or ordering in. Just consider how different the cost would be to prepare and pack a salad from home vs. buying a pricey salad from a local lunch spot.
Limit dinners out. Review your budget and decide exactly how much you can spend each month on eating out or ordering in. You’ll find this helpful in budgeting for your dining out expenses.
Ditch your car (when you can)
Whenever you are able to opt to cycle, carpool, or walk instead of driving your car. The benefits here are huge. First, you’ll save on gas. You lower your likelihood of being involved in a costly automobile accident. You’ll lower the amount of pricey maintenance and wear and tear on your vehicle. And, remember that gym membership you cancelled? Well, use this as an opportunity to keep fit.
Ideas to bring in extra money
Teach Classes Online
With the growth of the internet, there are so many opportunities to teach online. If you happen to have a teaching license (from any US state) you can teach content at an online school like K12 or ESL at VIPKid.
Check out Teachable or Udemy for vocational courses. I’ve recently seen course offerings on needle point, cake decorating, and scrap booking. With limited technological know-how, you can offer your own course based on your hobby in no time.
If you have a marketable skill, like, writing, graphic design, or web development, you can offer it as a freelancer. If you work full-time or part-time, consider picking up some clients on nights and weekends. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you can always try doing some work early mornings, during nap time, or after the kiddos are in bed. Check out sites like Fiverr, UpWork, and The Mom Project.
Sell Gently Used Items Online
There is a huge market for selling gently used items. My first stop is always Facebook Marketplace, but there are tons of apps for it, too. Check out Mercari and LetGo – they both come highly recommended. And, don’t rule out old standbys like Craigslist and Ebay.
Sell a physical product
For us, it’s our PreparaKit first aid kits. As a nurse, encouraging safety in families is something that is tremendously important to me.
However, you don’t need to start out with something this involved. With sites like Etsy, you can sell almost anything you make – jewelry, apparel, home decor, the possibilities are endless.
Whether you need to cut expenses and bring in more income or you’d just like a little extra money each month for a safety net, I encourage you to check out our Free Family Monthly Action Plan. This Monthly Budgeting Action Plan offers step-by-step instructions to guide you through the exact steps you need to take to set up your own family budgeting plan.
If you think back to your childhood and imagine the one thing you wish you had been taught as a kid, I’m going to bet that money management is going to come up near the top of the list.
After the “birds and the bees” talk, this can be one of the toughest things to explain to your kids. The hardest part about teaching money skills to kids, I think, is taking the extra time and effort out of our already busy schedule to talk to them and show them things about it while also being consistent with it. (Consistency is one of those things that we all have to work on, but when it comes to money that’s especially true.)
If money management skills are something you haven’t already started, it can be done with three really super simple things.
1. Play Money
One of the very first things we did when the kids were around four and six was we started playing the Monopoly board game with them. There are lots of variations on Monopoly right now, including some specifically made for little kids, but the core concept is always the same.
It introduces the concept of collecting money and buying “houses” as well as having to pay rent. This makes learning about money fun and competitive. Nowadays, there are plenty of board games that make learning about money fun and easy, including one called Act Your Wage from money guru Dave Ramsey.
2. Piggy Banks
Another thing we did early on was to buy the kids their own set of piggy banks. Like with any new “toys,” they loved them and couldn’t wait to start putting money into them.
We had “Spend, Save, and Give” banks and explained to them what each was for. The spend and save banks are pretty obvious. It’s important for your kids to decide how much of their money they want to spend and how much they want to save and to see that their decisions with money have consequences.
But the “Give” bank is also important because it encourages your child to set aside money to share with charity groups. There are a lot of different piggy banks you can buy out there, or you can make this a little more personalized by having them create their own.
3. Chore Chart
Finally, we started a chore chart where our kids are able to earn $0.25 for each chore they complete. Now, we aren’t talking about paying them that much for cutting the grass or weed-eating the flower-beds. These are simple things that I knew they were capable of doing like picking up their toys and putting away clutter.
At the end of the day, it was very exciting for them to receive the quarters and then put them into their piggy banks. This teaches them that money isn’t something you are given, but rather something you have to earn.
Getting the Process Started Is Important
The most important thing, though, is to just start. The younger you begin, the better, so they get used to it and understand that “parents aren’t made out of money” and “money really does not grow on trees.”
More Tools and Tips for Teaching Money
We have a few links that may help you to get started teaching money principles to your children: