Tired of being told that the best way to save money is to buy energy efficient light bulbs and make your own coffee? Annoying, right? This advice is superficial and most moms aren't buying a daily latte anyway.
To really cut monthly expenses, it's time to dive a little deeper. Let's begin.
This article is all about how to cut household expenses as a stay at home mom.
How to reduce monthly expenses (as a mom)
It's no secret that money is tight for many people these days. Whether it's inflation, a change in your husband's job, or just a desire to have more money left at the end of the month, sometimes cutting expenses from the monthly budget is the way to go.
1. Conduct an audit
The first step in saving money is to understand what comes in, what goes out, and most importantly, where it's all going. For the previous 3 to 6 months, print off your bank statements. If you've already made some recent changes, a three-month bank statement is acceptable.
Grab some highlighters and go through your bank statements line by line. Mark what expenses you have that are non-negotiable.
This will include:
- car insurance
- health insurance
- mortgage payment
- car payments
- debt repayments such as student loans
- energy bills
- cell phone bill
Next, go through all the needless costs and which ones will be the easiest to eliminate. Make a list of which expenditures we'll get rid of first, second, third, and so on. You may do this in phases if you need more time to adjust.
Here are some categories of unnecessary expenses to get you started:
- eating out
- fun shopping trips
- going to the movies
- cable bill
- new gadgets
An audit is just the beginning. Once you have a handle on where your money is going each month, you can take action.
2. Take the easy wins
Signed up for Showtime and never watch it? Cancel it. Spending $90 a month going to fast food places for lunch? Commit to dropping that habit.
You may not be aware of all leaks while you're getting started. Food and entertainment expenses are just a few examples. You might have other easy fixes in your budget. Start there.
Cutting there expenses does not mean that you will have to give up all the things you enjoy spending money on. It simply means that you will be careful about where your money goes.
You aren't making big lifestyle changes here; just become more aware of everything.
Note: this does not mean eliminating all fun spending from your budget! It just means if you're spending money on something dumb that you don't even like, cut it! It's an easy win.
3. Negotiate Utility Bills
If you're not careful, your monthly expenses might include a significant amount of money spent on cable, internet, and cell phone service. Slowing down your connection isn't an option if you use the internet for work. However, if watching television is essential to you, you can cut the cable and access Netflix or Hulu.
Note: do NOT fall into the trap of signing up for all the streaming services, thinking you'll save money. They add up. Pick one.
Call your phone company. Ask about discounts you can get. If they have any, ask for them! Some companies offer discounts for the military, first responders, and teachers.
If you qualify, congrats! If not, ask about other ways to save.
Look into a cheaper cell phone plan or simply ditch the data plan altogether if your children have smartphones and access the internet at home with them. You can also purchase an inexpensive used smartphone for yourself.
4. Deal with debt
If you are in debt, it is essential to get started paying that off as soon as possible. If you or your husband have a high-interest credit card or two (or more), this will be the first thing on his list of expenses to pay down.
Contact a nonprofit credit counseling agency to help you. They'll help you consolidate debt, negotiate lower interest rates, and communicate with your credit card company.
Don't be ashamed if you're trapped by high-interest credit cards: it's very, very common. But you'll never be able to cut monthly expenses if you're tied to these payments.
If you're the type to get into credit card debt, it's best to accept that. Forget about rewards programs and all the supposed benefits of using credit cards, and pay cash for everyday expenses.
5. Watch your food expenses.
Grocery bills add up fast.
The two best tools to keep your food spending in check? Meal planning and using curbside pick-up services.
Ordering your food online and picking it up outside the store may be one of the best money-saving inventions ever. Using curbside pick-up means no more last-minute impulse purchases in the checkout line. It means no more forgetting things in the store and having to make a second trip. It's a huge money saver.
Meal planning saves money because it eliminates having nothing to make and ordering last-minute takeout. You'll know what you're eating for the week, so there's no excuse not to cook.
Try to replace mindless food costs by packing homemade lunches for your husband and eating at home yourself. If you're going to be out for the day, plan your future meals and bring a lunch. Make sure you aren't wasting food and eat your leftovers.
6. Look at entertainment costs.
How much are you spending on entertainment each month?
Many moms make the mistake of totally cutting their entertainment budget and saying they can entertain their kids for free. Nope. Even if it's small, you need an entertainment budget.
Your budget for this will include:
- art and craft supplies
- toys and games
- passes to parks and museums
Making minor adjustments like this makes budgeting less difficult. It's possible to turn it into a game. Have the entire family determine how to have the cheapest family date night. Family nights at home, board games and popcorn, and going out are all viable alternatives.
Stay at home moms have the advantage of being home when most people are working, so you can take advantage of less-expensive times for movies, bowling, and other fun things that might be otherwise out of your budget.
7. Monthly expenses you can easily control.
Stay-at-home moms have the gift of time. You can use your time to be productive in ways that will save money for your whole household. These are small things that add up over time but don't expect massive changes from any of them.
- make your own cleaning products
- fill reusable water bottles before you go out
- plug all your appliances into power strips that shut off automatically
- hang up your laundry to dry
These are all monthly expenses you can control. If you want to save money, start with these and see how much of a difference they make each month. You may be surprised!
8. Set up a savings account
Believe it or not, a savings account will help you spend less. Why? When you have extra money left after paying your bills, it's human nature to spend it.
But if you have a designated place in your bank account for all that money to go, you'll be much less likely to fritter it away.
Aim to have at least three months of living expenses saved. A cushion will help you in the event of an emergency or unexpected expenses.
9. Determine your ideal monthly expenses
If you're like most people, you'll be shocked by how much money is in the unnecessary spending category. This is good news. It means you can cut expenses without a drastic lifestyle change.
Sit down with your husband and write down your ideal budget. Be realistic here. You each need and deserve spending money. You might need to cut expenses by pulling back on little things but streaming services and your gym membership.
But there's another possibility: that you're simply living beyond your means.
You might need to make some more extensive changes. Let's explore.
10. Look at your biggest expenses.
The next step is to look at your most significant expenses and find ways to reduce them. If you can knock out a few of the bigger items each month, saving money will be much easier in the long run.
The fact is if you have a mortgage you can barely afford, you'll never get anywhere.
If you want to save money each month, start by looking at your most significant expenses and see where you can adjust.
There is no shame (in fact, there is great wisdom) in realizing you can't afford your monthly payment for your home and need to downsize. If your housing costs are out of control, it might be time for some hard choices.
Here are some alternatives you may not have thought of:
- Moving to a smaller home
- Refinancing your mortgage for a lower monthly payment or eliminating private mortgage insurance
- Moving to a less fancy neighborhood (you'll save on HOA fees and your general lifestyle)
Of course, moving is a huge decision that you and your husband will decide together. But sometimes an enormous change is what you need to cut expenses.
After your home, your car payment tends to be the biggest drain on the monthly budget.
First, answer this question: do you really need a second car as a stay-at-home mom? You might. But in the era of grocery delivery, Uber, and working from home, is there a way that the two of you could share a vehicle?
Here's what you'll save:
- auto insurance premiums
- property taxes
- maintenance costs
- your car payment (obviously!)
Even if this isn't a long-term solution, a few months or years without these monthly payments will help you get ahead.
11. Consumption = spending habits
At a certain point, it's time to face reality. You can just buy what you want all the time. Of course, we all have monthly expenses, but if you're not mindful of your spending habits, it's easy to let them get out of control.
A straightforward way to reign in your spending is to ask yourself if you really need an item before buying it. Are you buying it because you're bored, lonely, or stressed?Where will you put it? In six months will just be another thing you're decluttering?
If your personal shopping habit is getting your family into credit card debt or just hurting the household budget, take a hard look at why you're shopping so much. It's a habit you can absolutely break.
Stay at home moms are great at helping save money
While it may seem daunting, cutting household expenses is possible. You can start by making small changes, like renegotiating your utilities or watching your food spending. Once you handle those areas, look into other ways to save money, like using curbside pick-up for groceries or taking advantage of cheaper entertainment options. With a little bit of effort, you can create a budget that works for you and your family.