Day #30 of the January Money Diet – Trim Monthly Expenses

Mow your own lawn

Keeping our monthly overhead as low as possible is an important savings strategy. The expenses we pay month after month, year after year, can really add up. Companies love to commit us to automatic monthly payments, so we need to be vigilant about evaluating our ongoing expenses.

Look at each of your regular monthly expenses and ask yourself whether you’re truly getting your money’s worth from your hard-earned dollars. Could you eliminate something and pocket the savings each month?

Utilities and Other Monopolies

By now you probably know many people who have cancelled their home telephone service, and simply use their mobile phone for calls. How much do you spend each month for a land line? How many quality calls do you receive, and how many telemarketing calls do you receive? Can you still justify the cost?

Are you happy with your cable or satellite TV bill? Break down your monthly bill and divide it by the number of shows you watch. Is it worth it? Some people don’t pay a nickle for cable TV yet still enjoy dozens of free stations. Forbes writer Amadou Diallo explains various ways to eliminate cable and save a bundle.

Many of your favorite programs are probably available online via the network’s website, and YouTube often features clips or full programs of popular shows. You might also be able to connect your laptop or mobile device to your TV and watch shows from your favorite networks right on the big screen. Tom’s Guide has straightforward advice about streaming video from common devices to your TV, either using a cord or doing so wirelessly.

Other Ways to Save

Speaking of entertainment, do you subscribe to Netflix or another service with a monthly fee? Could you get movies from the library or pay an occasional small fee to Redbox instead? And what about subscriptions to periodicals? If you find you’re regularly recycling publications without reading them, perhaps it’s time to do your reading online or check out publications free from the library.

Does your dog go to the groomer regularly? Learn how to do it yourself, and save both time and money.

Could you cut your own lawn and let the lawn service go? (What about eliminating your lawn altogether and replacing it with hardy clover, xeriscaping — or edible plants?)

If you belong to a gym, are you going often enough to justify the expense? Could you jog, walk and work out at home?

Spend an hour doing the math with your health insurance plan’s various offerings. The true cost for the convenience of a small co-pay for doctor’s visits can often be quite expensive. If you’re healthy and generally only go to the doctor a couple of times a year, you might save hundreds of dollars by increasing the co-pay on doctor’s visits and prescriptions.

How About You?

Today’s challenge is to go through your regular monthly expenses with a ruthless eye, and see if you can find anything to trim or cancel. If you’ve recently found a monthly expense to eliminate, be sure to let us know about it!

As our no-spending month winds down, I feel deeply grateful for each one of you — for your commitment, enthusiasm, ideas and comments.


The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Day #30 of the January Money Diet – Trim Monthly Expenses

  • Jennifer

    Military Discounts!

    Many phone companies and cable companies will give at least a 10% discount to Veteran’s monthly bill. Some restaurants and home improvement stores do, too! Just ask 🙂

  • For a home phone, I’ve been using Basic Talk, which connects to my internet and costs about $12/month.

  • Cindy

    I changed my health insurance plan to have a higher deductible and have lower monthly payments. Based on my health, that made sense for me and I believe will save me money over time.

    I called Verizon, my cellphone carrier, and asked how I could save money. They just said they would reduce my second cellphone bill by $10 a month (not a limited time offer, just a permanent reduction). They also looked at my usage, and based on that, I decided to go to a plan that allows less usage and pay $10 a month less. So that was $20 a month.

    I called Comcast and asked a similar question and ended up saving about $40 a month.

    My friend decided to give up her home phone line and put the $40 a month towards her retirement account.

    I review my auto and home insurance every time it comes up for renewal and am willing to change companies if needed in order to save money and still get good coverage.

  • Tricia

    I am constantly looking for ways to cut our expenses. We review our expenses at least once if not twice a year. Some expense cut options can be implemented regularly, without the other family members noticing the adjustments.

  • Catherine Godfrey

    I’ve enjoyed this month. I’m going to keep it going. We don’t have a landline so that’s onc less bill. Reducing cable has been a harder step, but we are working on it. Way to much time is wasted in front of the TV

  • Well… I think my monthly expenses are already pretty low – though there is room for improvement especially with groceries and cat food. What can I say, we’re all foodies around here!

    I’m still WAY wedded to my landline – I spend an average of 3 hours per day on the phone so having a decent connection is important to me. And I have Netflix with the BluRay option – but all told we probably watch around a dozen movies/shows per month and it’s our main form of entertainment, so I think it’s worth it.

    I guess the thing for me is being able to identify places where I know I could cut if I needed to – but deciding not to. It makes me very conscious of the fact that it’s a luxury not just an “expense.”

    Anyhow – thanks for this month. Even though my finances are pretty stable, I still got a lot out of it, especially where organizational inspiration is concerned!

  • Lisa Morowski

    I felt pretty successful this month, until today’s challenge! While I do cut my son and husband’s hair, and we do our own lawn fertilizing, we still pay, in my opinion, too much for our cell phones, cable, and internet. TV is a main form of entertainment, so we get our moneys’ worth, and we also have Netflix, from which we watch at least two to three movies a month or more. We analyze all these bills constantly, but can’t seem to cut them without discontinuing the service. We still have a landline because we don’t always get the best cell phone reception in the house, despite having four smart phones. This is one area we are definitely indulging in and would rather cut things like going out to eat, or traveling more to be able to continue them.

    These posts have been very helpful at reminding me to save and not spend, and while I won’t figure my final monthly budget totals until I grocery shop tomorrow, I am pretty sure we saved some money this month that can be set aside for emergencies and a vacation. Thank you for the challenge!

  • Meghan Chaffee

    Hello! First I have so enjoyed reading each of the money saving articles you have posted. It has been a challenge and a joy to see what we are doing and what we could be doing. Saving money or cutting back became so real when my husband lost his job in June. Yes he had unemployment, no insurance and our son became very ill during this time of no insurance and was in the hospital. One of the first items I learned is doctors and hospitals will work with you. Most have programs that go by your income to as how much you pay for the visit, hosptial stay etc. Out sons bill was over 30,000 and we paid 200.00. Phone company with dish network as a package is checked yearly but at that time i was able to cut that bill by 60.00 a month by decreasing our programming which we watch very little to begin with and decreasing items or little things on our phone bill. We have a pay as you go cell phone as we live in the area where there is no cell service. Recycling became very big for us. Prescriptions became a concern due to the price when you have no insurance. One of my needed medications is 5,000 a month. My co pay was 60.00. We found the pharmaceutical companies also worked with us regarding grants for those who could not afford their medication. Insurance for vehicles was reviewed many companies compared and we ended up saving 90.00 a month. These are just a few things that I had to do at the time. Now he has a job for which we are very thankful but we continue to live as we did when we were faced with the trial we faced. Blessings!

  • Lynn Louise

    I have 1 more car payment to make and then it is all paid for. Will be nice not to have that expense everymonth. The money will go into savings. Also I have picked up an extra day at work so will be having more income to add to our savings. I cut my son’s hair last week and that saved us $15. I have made homemade yogurt which saved $$$. We negotiated a super low rate with our cable company but if they raise the rates, I am ready to drop them completely and try one of these other options. We dont’ watch TV much anyway but I do look forward to a few shows every week. Our heat is turned down and we are saving alot this winter with keeping it down. I found a relative who has some quilting frames so my project for February is to get 3 quilts made. I have so enjoyed this post and all month long I have looked forward to your emails Eliza. I am going to try to keep this up for a few more months and see how much we can save. Thanks for a great month!

  • Baylee

    I look at our expenses monthly to evaluate how we do each month and what to improve on. To help us cut back on extra spending, we give ourselves allowances per paycheck. I get $20 a paycheck and the hubby gets $40 due to his bad habit of dipping. He already gave up caffeine which has cut back his allowance tremendously. Also, we live on a military base so our utilities are paid for with our housing allowance. However, we make sure to save energy as much as possible and every few months, we get a check in the mail for $30! It definitely is great for us, especially when our neighbors and friends use so much energy they end up paying!

  • Laura

    This is so great and something I’ve been working on since our income has decreased from me staying home with my boys. We no longer have cable, we rent movies and books from the library, I cut my boys’ hair, including my husband’s, and we rarely eat out now. There’s always room to cut more, and I’ll take another look at our budget again! On a happy note, I’m so ecstatic to say that with the money we saved this month and from selling a few things, we were able to put an additional $800 towards the student loan! Yippee!!

  • Rosemary Carstens

    Thank you a ton for this month’s program, Eliza! You’ve kept me focused and I plan to continue on into February. I’ve been successful at some things, but still spent more on a couple of big items that came up than I wanted to–a home improvement that couldn’t wait and new glasses (in my case, a very expensive prescription). But February is a fresh opportunity! I analyze my ongoing monthly expenses every January and usually call the cable company to see if I can get a better deal. I notice someone here says they get their network programs through their Roku–I have a roku and love it because I record everything to avoid the ads, but I’m not certain how you do what they are suggesting. I have to look into that because there are only a few network shows I watch and I’m paying too much for cable for so little return. Still, I don’t want to give up those few shows! My landline is another big expense, but also one I’m not ready to give up yet. Sigh. The expense I have that I most dislike is my homeowners’ dues, which continue to go up but there’s no way to cut back on that until I’m ready to move.

  • Jennifer

    I cut my boys’ hair this month and it didn’t turn out half bad!

    We recently cut our satellite bill and went to Roku. It is a one time purchase and then streams live channels and on demand shows from the Internet. Fabulous and no more bills! Of course you can still subscribe to monthly services like Netflix through it. Amazon Prime has been great, too and that also comes on our Roku device.

    We also started making our own bread this month. With six kiddos, a loaf of bread is gone in a flag and organic bread has become expensive over the last few months along with dairy products. We are using more coconut and almond milk; and olive and avocado oil instead of butter.

    This month has been fun and like a game for our family. We all participated together and got through the challenges that we will keep up throughout the year. I’m so glad I found you and thank you so much for the motivation!

  • SanDandy

    We review our utilities yearly. We turned off our 120.00 monthly cable last year. We never really watched it.

  • I review my monthly expenses every 6 months or so. While I do have Netflix, I completely dropped cable. My attempts to use a Leaf antenna didn’t go so well, so I am happy to watch on my computer or connect it to the TV screen. HuluPlus worked well, but I decided I didn’t need it after awhile.

    One thing I did do, was bookmark live streaming news on my computer and download a few news apps to each of my devices, not to watch regularly, but to be ready if there is an emergency.

    I appreciate the January Money Diet and am a happy follower of your blog now. Thanks for all you do.

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