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Three Steps to Reduce Unneeded Expenses

September 21, 2017
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rsz_istock-497208841.jpgWhen scanning the news headlines, I’ve noticed a common trend: people really like to bash Millennials. Recently, the topic of discussion has been none other than… avocado toast. Wait, what? You heard me—the recent lament of economists has been that Millennials are spending too much money on unimportant items, specifically avocado toast, and not on homes, cars, or savings. If you feel personally attacked when reading headlines like that, or if you think you could use some expense cutting tips, then this article is for you. Here’s a few tips to reduce unneeded expenses:

 

1. Check yourself before you wreck yourself: Even if you’ve never heard the words ‘avocado toast,’ I encourage you to try this. Pull together your checking and credit card statements for the last 6 months, and grab some paper or make a spreadsheet. List out any recurring expenses that you might be able to cut. Also list out any expenses that seem high that you might be able to reduce. Be honest with yourself here—no self-shaming allowed, simply be realistic. Do you really need that $6 coffee every morning when you have a coffeemaker at home? Do you really need a new dress for every function you attend? How much do you really use your Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime memberships? Be critical of where your money is going.

2. Follow through: After doing this, it’s really easy to walk away feeling satisfied without making any real changes. In doing so, you’ve just wasted an hour and you’ve saved exactly zero dollars. If you take the time to dig through your expenses, you might as well save some money too! Once you’ve identified your unnecessary expenses, make a plan to cut them. We asked some families to do this, and here were some of their responses:

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  • “This type of review is actually a task that I assign for myself each year, but it rarely gets done.  I am always behind on shopping for cheaper insurance for car and home.”
  • “My mother and brother are on a cell phone plan with us to reduce the cost of the base plan amount.  We split that amount 4 ways and pay our individual line charges.  It only saves me about $20 per month but it helps.”
  • “If I'm realistic, I don't need Netflix, because I rarely watch it. That's a $10 savings.”  
  • “I call my TV service about every 6 months to check for a less expensive plan.”
  • “When I reviewed my expenses I found that I was spending about $400 per month on my yard and pool. I had no idea it was that much!”
  • “I pay $175 per year for a newspaper that is rarely taken out of the plastic bag.”

3. Reallocate: Old habits die hard. Instead of simply saying, “Great, I have more cash! Let’s go buy more iced lattes with my free money,” find a place to put the extra cash. Calculate how much you’re saving annually by cutting your unnecessary expenses, and set a goal to save or invest that money by setting something up monthly that is automated. It could contribute to retirement, a second home, or a child’s education. If you have no immediate savings goals, you could also consider donating it to charity. It will be much easier to change your habits and stick to your savings if you have a clear goal in mind.

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Byron Ellis

Written by Byron Ellis

Byron is the Managing Director of The Woodlands, TX division of United Capital Financial Advisers, and a well-known financial educator. In addition to helping families with their financial life management, Byron is a weekly columnist that has the ability to turn complex topics into clear and interesting essays.

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