November 12, 2006

The Lazy Man's Guide to Budgeting: 101 Painless Ways to Cut Spending

The average American today has over $9000 in credit card debt yet spends over $4.00 per day on coffee. Think about that for a second...

What that stat tells you, is that even when we're in bad financial shape they don't like to save. Most of Americans have credit cards with 10000 limit guaranteed approval because don't want to give up on life's little luxuries in order to cut costs.

With that in mind, we have compiled a list of 101 tips to help you trim your debt without having to give up too much.  Some of these tips only get you small savings every day but keep in mind that altogether these savings really add up...

Lifestyle Change? Nah, Just A ‘Readjustment’
You cannot cut spending without checking how you are doing on your finances presently. So you need to rework your budget (IF you have one!) and reassess your priorities.

Coin_1 1. Necessary Evil: Budgets are painful, tedious and downright boring. But if you want to fix that leaking money tap, a budget is the only thing that can help you. It will help you keep tabs on how much and on what you’re spending, and save you some money in the long run. (If you need help with creating a budget, you could try these sites: Quicken, Microsoft Money, or Moneydance)

2. If you are not single, it is important that you work with your partner to keep you spending habits in line. Both of you must agree on a budget for it to work.

3. Always keep a little money aside for emergency or unexpected expenses. This way your budget will not go into a disarray in case of an emergency.

4.Cutting your spending doesn’t mean you should become a miser. Pinching pennies will only drive you crazy and isn’t good in the long run. It’s a lot like crash dieting – the results may be immediate but definitely not permanent.

5. Get your bank to help you save. Instead of transferring your entire salary into your household account, get 5 to 10 percent of your salary automatically transferred to a savings account.

6. Got a salary hike? You will probably want the big screen plasma TV or the latest SUV now. For a change, instead of investing your money on these, you could consider increasing your 401k or IRA contribution.

7. Stop buying gadgets you don’t need. Those sales guys may make it sound like life isn’t worth living without a propane-fueled weed torch or a call forwarding facility for instance. But do you really need to spend enormous amounts as fees just so you don’t use these thiSidekick ngs? Next time, before you buy anything, try and figure out which ones you really can live without.

8. Cut down your spending on luxurious items. Do you know that just cutting some small luxuries can mean a lot to the bottom line? Mary Carlomagno, author of Give It Up!: My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less, cut back on a single expense every month to see how it changed her life and her finances.

9. Cancel that gym membership NOW! According to a study by Harvard, signing up for a gym membership is one of the best ways to prevent exercise AND lose some hard earned money. The same goes for those information websites that come at a price. Do you really need to know about any and every kind of product under the sun before you make a purchase?

10. Is that super-saver deal really worth it? Most times, offers that come as package deals, are just another way of making us pay for more than we use or need. For instance, if you pay a ‘little’ more on your magazine subscription, you can get five for the price of four. Do you really have the time to read four or five magazines? Figure it out and THEN pay the money.

11. Learn more about retirement and use your retirement funds. If your employer is giving you anything by way of matching retirement funds and you aren’t using it, you are losing big money. For instance, you may be able to save a lot of money on medical and dental fees if you use the coverage offered by your employer.

12. Pay your bills as soon as they come in. This is the best way to avoid wrecking your budget.

13. Use cash. Whenever you can, use cash instead of credit cards. Don't EVER use your credit cards to purchase daily items like groceries. And don’t forget to note down your cash purchases.

Money Crunching

14. If you have a mortgage, you could think of refinancing it. Even a 0.5 percent difference in rates can save you a considerable amount of money.

15. Got a work bonus, or some unexpected money recently? Save the money for things you want to buy but cannot afford right now.

Geico 16. Raise your auto insurance deductible. This will make your premium fall. The money that you save can be added to your savings account.

17. Never pay more taxes than what you owe. Of course you will get a refund but you will lose the interest you could have earned if the money was in the bank instead.

18. Special treatment from your bank: You don’t need to be a special customer to get preferential treatment. All you need to do is ask for it. You could ask your bank for a no fee checking account or your credit card company for lower interest rates. You can also check for discounts at shops.

19. Come out of the ‘use-n-throw’ mode: One of the best ways to avoid major expenses is to maintain the high-cost items you own. That means, if you take good care of your car, refrigerator, lawnmower, you can have them running efficiently and lasting much longer. This way, you can save thousands on utilities, repair bills, and replacement costs.

20. Health care is costly and could be one of the biggest drains on your resources. You could try locating free or low-cost community services such as clinics and health care offered at family centers.

Maximize Credit Card Benefits

Credit cards aren’t all that bad if you know how to use them:

21. High credit card interest: If your credit card company is charging you a high rate of interest, it’s going to take longer to eliminate that debt. You could call your credit card company and ask them to lower your interest rate, or you could get yourself a lower interest card.

22. When you transfer to a lower rate credit card, use the cash advances to pay off the balance on your other credit cards or other debts. A word of caution: Read the fine print before applying. Some cards charge a higher fee for transferred balances.

23. Waiver of your credit card fees. You could ask your bank to waive your credit card fees or you could go in for a no fee credit card.

24. If you have a balance on more than one credit card, pay off the highest interest debt first. And while you are paying it off, don’t forget to make minimum payments on each of your other cards. Repeat the process until you’ve paid off all your debts.

25. Better still, you can automate your card payments. This way, you don’t have to worry about late fees. Just ensure that you don’t charge too much to your card.

26. Avoid ATM machines that charge fees. A better idea is to withdraw a fixed amount each month and stick to it.

27. Try to get something back from your credit cards. For instance, you could look for credit cards that offer some kind of reward or probably low APR – anything that could lower your overhead expenses.

28. If you’ve paid off your credit card and don’t want to use it any more, you MUST call the company and ask that your account be closed. That will help you resist the temptation.

Food For Thought

Shopping is fun. That’s until you add up everything and see how big a dent the grocery bill, clothes bill and other bills make in your monthly budget. Here’s how you can lower costs:

29. Try to plan your meals before you shop. Once you’ve done that, make a list of all the items you need to purchase.

30. Budget your purchases. You should have a general idea of how much money you would have to spend for your purchases. Try to limit yourself to this figure. If, for some reason, you just have to spend more than you anticipated, try to cut corners somewhere else. Probably you could leave eating out until next week.

31. Comapre prices. Always compare prices of national, store, and generic product brands. Sometimes store brands may work out to be cheaper and as good as national brands. Thoroughly investigating each purchase can help you get the best value or you may decide that the purchase isn't worth the money.

32. Always skipped the ‘expensive’ grocery stores? They may not be as expensive as you think – large grocery stores often offer more discounts! One trick is to use coupons whenever you can in conjunction with the weekly sales items.

33. You can also purchase items for less with the ‘buy one get one’ sales offers that grocery stores have every now and then. But remember, these offers generally come on items, which are close to their expiry date. So you must ensure that you can finish it all up before that date.

34. Downsize: Always go in for the super-size ice-cream tub? Try one size smaller. It’s also healthy to have lesser.

35. Never shop when you are hungry, tired, or rushed.

36. Try to distinguish between items you must buy and things it would be nice to own. Everytime you pick up something, first ask yourself if you really need it or whether you are buying it on an impulse.

37. Delicious? NO! I know it’s easy to stock up on food from the pre-made section. But the deli counter could also make your purse lighter by a load of money. You can actually bring down your weekly grocery bill by 20% percent if you skip the deli counter. All you need to do is wake up a little earlier than usual and prepare some of your own food!

Receipt 38. Check your receipts. If you are anything like most others, (and me) you’ll just bag your bill and hope to check it sometime in the future. Wake up call buddy – store receipts can have errors. Errors that can involve you losing more than a little money! Make it a practice to check your receipts. And what can you do with the money you save? Go in for the super-size ice-cream bucket for one!

39. Ever asked for discounts on the purchases you made? I know, even I was shocked I could actually do that. In reality, many retailers are ready to sell an item for less than the listed price. The problem is most consumers don’t think of asking.

No More Shoppin' Till You Drop

40. Play the ‘either-or’ game: Get an idea of the competitive prices of the things you want to buy from other stores or even the Net. And if your store doesn’t offer you a reasonable price, try another one.

41. Pay cash. There are three benefits to it:

- When you use a card, the retailer, restaurants, and hotels have to pay anything between 2 to 5 percent to the credit card company. With cash, there is no such problem.

-Secondly bargaining becomes that much easier. It’s not easy to refuse hard cash you use.

- And finally, you will not try to buy something that’s way off your budget.

42. Know yourself: This one’s more for the female of the species. We tend to have this habit of buying something that looks spectacular on the mannequin. Once you’ve paid a bomb and bought it, you realize you don’t look too good in it. So what do you do? Stash it away in the deepest corner of your closet.

43. Just because something’s coming at a discount, it doesn’t become a must-have. Understand your requirements and see if the things you buy match them.

44. Every time you feel you need to buy new clothes, check your closet first. You many not realize buy you probably have quite a few clothes or shoes you may not have worn more than once.

45. Often when you buy things off the net, you realize that they aren’t the right size or color. What do you do – stash it away or return it? If you value your money, you’d probably want to return and get a refund or an exchange – either way, you don’t lose that money.

46. You may not be able to use this tip this year, but you could in 2007. One of the easiest ways to save money on winter clothing is to buy early. Usually, around September, department stores offer a discount on their winter merchandise. Sometimes, these stores may offer newspaper coupons for an additional 15% off sale merchandise.

47. Winter shopping. If you are late for winter shopping at department stores, you could still try discount stores like Value City or the outlet malls. These stores usually sell coats for less than retail.

48. If you cannot wait till next September, you can maybe do your winter shopping after the current season is over. You’ll be surprised to know that you can find winter coats for nearly 75 percent off the retail price.

49. Fashionable clothes: Have a taste for fashionable, branded clothes but not the money to buy them with? Don’t worry, all you need is some patience. Most high-end department stores have clearance sales at the end of the season and you can get incredible deals at these sales.

50. If you’ve got kids, your budget is already stretched to the limit. You could lighten your burden though by stocking up on school supplies for next year. All you need to do is make bulk purchases every time there is a clearance sale at your store.

51. Gardening need not be an expensive hobby. Instead of buying gardening supplies, you could use old spoons, spatulas and other things to dig, smooth and weed plants in pots or small areas.

52. If you love to buy and read books, you should try shopping online. Sites like, offer great discounts on some items and usually sell books much lower than list price.

53. Try ordering your prescriptions through mail order instead of your local drug store. You will see how much prices fall on this one

No Pain Fun

This bit wasn’t easy – how are you supposed to have fun without spending some money. Well, there are ways to reduce the expenditure without losing the fun:

54. You like buying different types of things? Your call. But ensure that you use ALL of everything. Turn bottles upside down and drain to get the last bit from them.

55. Eating out can be enjoyable, but it can also be quite costly. But that doesn’t mean you curl up at home day after boring day. Here’s one little nugget: Instead of eating out for dinner, try lunch. While the menu selection is usually identical, the prices are much lesser. That’s because dinner is a more popular time for eating out.

56. Avoid costly extras unless you are ready to spend that extra bit. This will save you money AND will help you do justice to the main course. And, if you forgot, stay away from the dessert. Have water instead of wine or other expensive drinks. It’s healthy and cheap.

57. If you have children, you could check if the restaurant you are dining at has a ‘kids eat free’ night.

58. Look for coupons. Quite a few restaurants offer 2-for-1 specials on certain days of the week.

59. Do you have eating habits? Another lovely tip is to eat a homemade gourmet dinner and then go out for dessert. This gives the feeling of having eaten out and doesn’t weigh so heavily on your wallet.

60. Friendly get together: If you love to have friends over but cannot afford to entertain them on a regular basis, ask everyone to bring over food and wine.

61. Watching movies: Love to watch movies but cannot afford tickets for every movie that’s showing in town? Well, try a video swap instead. Most of us buy DVDs, and videos, watch the movie once and forget about it. What you could do is swap your videos with your neighbors, friends.

62. If you love to travel during vacations, off-season’s a good time to travel. This way you get lower prices and no crowds. And wherever you can, try getting accommodation in discount hotels. They are good AND cheap.

63. Cheap travel: Another way to travel cheap is to go in groups and get group discounts.

64. Look for free entertainment and recreation. For instance, you could go to the park, spend a day at the beach, join a book club... anything that you find interesting.

65. Love books? If you love books but don’t want to buy them, you could always join a library.

66. Want to read magazines but cannot afford all the ones you want? Try magazine swapping. The technique is the same as that of a video swap.

Utilities: You Can Save Here Too!

67. Power saving tips: If you need to leave certain lights like your kid’s bathroom lights switched on through the night, you could install energy-efficient bulbs. They provide four times as much light and last ten times longer than regular bulbs.

68. Do you really need to bathe in boiling hot water? You could lower the temperature on your hot water heater and save a load of money in heating. You could also insulate your hot water heater to save money.

69. Winter dillema: Winter does not automatically mean your home has to be HOT. You can set your thermostat at a reasonable level like 68 degrees in winter and lower heating costs. The same goes for summer as well.

70. Use of Microwave: Whenever possible, try to use your microwave instead of your oven-- it’s more energy efficient.

71. Try to do your laundry once or twice a week. This way, you’ll be able to do full loads and save on water, and electricity.

72. Fix anything that’s leaking – faucets, running toilets – everything can make you lose water.

73. Stick to basic phone service and avoid any features that you don't use like call forwarding or call waiting. This saves you a lot of money.

74. Save on Calling. Nowadays most of us have at least one landline and a cell phone. If you don't do much long distance calling; and your cell phone offers free long distance, you can stop your long distance access on the other line.

75. Try to avoid heating up your oven for just one item. For instance when you cook food, try to make extra – two roasts, two pies. You save time, electricity AND money.

76. Switch off unused appliances, lights and other switches. Whenever you leave a room, ensure that you’ve switched off everything unless you plan to return in a few minutes. And when you go to sleep, don’t forget to turn the telly off.

77. Switch off your computer when you are not using it. If you didn’t know, your computer uses way too much electricity when left switched on.

78. Have a gas furnace? Don’t forget to turn the pilot light off during hot weather. The pilot light wastes gas and produces unwanted heat.

Common Sense Savings

Sometimes, the money is lying there waiting for you to pick it up. Only you don’t seem to notice. Check out these methods:

79. Don't misplace your money. Watch the ground and see if you can find pennies lying around. You probably don’t realize the amount of money that just gets lost because you misplace it. You'd be surprised at how quickly you can come up with a hundred pennies. And while you are at it, don’t forget to check the car floor, under the couch cushions.

80. Want a good haircut from an up market salon but don’t want to pay the price? One way to do it is by going to the salon on training day. This way you can get your hair styled by the top stylist at almost no price at all.

81. Don’t throw away leftover food. You can put them in serving sized containers and fridge. Next time you are busy or tired, you’ve got dinner waiting in the fridge for you.

82. If the quantity of leftovers isn’t too much, you can add it to dog or cat food occasionally. This stretches their regular food and reduces the cost.

83. Whenever you eat at a fast food place, save the unused packets of ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper. This will stand you in good stead on picnics or trips out of town.

84. Try cooking food from scratch. You could do this on weekends and cook enough for the week and freeze the food. This will save you a load of money and is much healthier than any take away.

85. And no, you don’t need to always follow manufacturers’ instructions. When you do your laundry for instance, just because it says on the box that you need a full cup, doesn't mean that you really need that much. Use your common sense and reduce the quantity of your usage to see the products last longer.

Car_1 86. Maintain your vehicle to ensure that it doesn’t run into problems. If the tires are not inflated well, oil’s dirty, air filters are clogged… your fuel costs will rise considerably. You can cut your fuel consumption by up to 10 percent by just taking good care of your vehicle.

87. Avoid multiple trips whenever possible. If you need to go to town for something, try to club it with a few other things so that you consolidate your trips and get the most out of fewer trips.

88. When it comes to cars, idling aren't good. All you’re doing is driving up your fuel costs. Make it a rule to turn off the engine if you are going to be parked for more than half a minute.

89. Save on your fuel. Research shows that you can cut fuel costs by 30 per cent if you drive carefully. Surprised? So was I. What most of us don’t realize is that accelerating and braking all the time is the most expensive way to drive a car. And then there is also the wear and tear on brakes. You can save a lot of money by just being aware of the cars around you, keeping your distance AND driving carefully.

90. Do you really need that air conditioning on all the time you drive? It adds to fuel costs, so try to use them only when you need to.

91. If you are planning to buy car, try to do it around the end of the month. Most companies have sales targets to meet and the month-end is a good time to get the car at lower rates.

92. Use a hot water bottle instead of an electric blanket to stay warm.

93. If you have a garden, it’s a good idea to plant perennial flowers instead of annuals. This ensures that you don’t have to spend money every year for plants and can enjoy your garden for years.

Bet You Didn't Know This

94. Get money that’s owed to you. Don’t know how to do it? Read Assets Unknown: How to Find Money You Didn’t Know You Had, by David Folsom. Alternately, you could check out

95. Get products at cheaper rate. There are many websites on the Internet that offer goods at dirt prices or even for free. For instance, there’s a giant exchange of products and services at no cost.

96. Ever heard of reward programs? Quite a few departmental stores, book stores and other types of shops offer rewards cards that automatically record your purchases at that particular store. This helps you get a savings reward coupon annually.

97. When out purchasing anything, never stick to one retailer if you want to save money. Always shop around to know about the best prices on offer.

98. The net’s here to help you again. Heard of Refund Cents? All you need to do is pay a subscription fee to get alerted on new deals. You can save on almost everything from groceries to clothes.

99. Go Goodwill Shopping. No, I’m not joking. You’ll be surprised to know they have brand new merchandise at dirt cheap rates.

100. Did you know that companies offer freebies – all you need to do is ask. You can call Freebies magazine or search under “freebies” on Google. To get a list of freebies.

101. If you don’t like the idea of freebies, you could ask companies for coupons. You can either check or contact a company directly for coupons.

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Having cash and having your wallet stolen = Lost money.
Having Credit Cards Stolen = Credit Card Company's Problem.

Posted by: CashIsn'tKing | Nov 13, 2006 4:39:31 PM

Great tips! The amount of money than can be wasted, especially without a budget, is truly staggering. One of my favorite books in this area is Schweich's "Crashproof Your Life". He has really thought about these issues in depth. I review the book here:

Posted by: Manny | Nov 13, 2006 4:48:48 PM

A very good list... although canceling your gym membership may be a little overboard.

Posted by: Marc | Nov 13, 2006 4:51:40 PM

You shouldn't turn off your car to avoid idling for more than 30 seconds - that's an idiotic thing to do; you burn the most fuel when you start your car, moron.

Posted by: article sucks | Nov 13, 2006 4:53:18 PM

Tune out the hype. Start forcing yourself not to scan for deals, watch commercials, look at catalogs, and the like. If you don't watch the hype you will probably be satisfied with what you already have.

Posted by: Tim Geisler | Nov 13, 2006 4:53:29 PM


I think much less of you now that you have said that.

There have been multiple studies to prove this wrong.

(It comes out to about 0.001 mpg lost)

Posted by: Nick | Nov 13, 2006 4:53:54 PM

You shouldn't turn off your car to avoid idling for more than 30 seconds - that's an idiotic thing to do; you burn the most fuel when you start your car, moron.

Also true.

It's also better to let your computer go into standby then to turn it on and off. At startup extra power is used to spin the drives up.

Posted by: Nick | Nov 13, 2006 4:55:12 PM

ITs really easy to save money. Dont spend it unless it is needed to keep you alive

Posted by: EliteGamer | Nov 13, 2006 6:20:01 PM

You missed a very important one. For avid readers and DVD about going to your local public library? You can get this stuff FOR FREE.

Posted by: Glenn | Nov 13, 2006 6:46:30 PM

Wow. Use cash? This is awful advice. Why why WHY spend cash when you can float money for 45 days, build credit, and accrue rewards/points. And as anon said, you don't lose anything if its stolen.

Posted by: Vince | Nov 13, 2006 6:55:46 PM

The Number 1 way to pay off Debt is electronic banking. The key is to pay each creditor multiple times a month. There isn't any good reason for a debtor to pay his debts only once a month (your debts will just accrue interest for thos 30 days). There is absolutely NO reason to wait for your monthly bill to pay it and NO reason to send it back via snail mail (possibly saving you the cost of postage as well).

So If you normally pay off a creditor say $250 once a month month ...
TRY paying this credit through online banking twice a month and up the ante to $150 X 2 for a total of $300.

I repeat, I repeat NEVER EVER NER EVER trust your creditors to automatically debit your funds (especially the phone companies who ar NOTORIOUS for their terrible billing Practices)...
You MUST make the payment through your own bank.


Posted by: numbahwan | Nov 13, 2006 7:25:31 PM

so your telling me i can just walk up to someone in the bank and tell them i want a better interest rate on my credit card?
ive never heard of anyone doing that before!

Posted by: jett | Nov 13, 2006 9:46:20 PM

so your telling me i can just walk up to someone in the bank and tell them i want a better interest rate on my credit card?
ive never heard of anyone doing that before!

Posted by: jett | Nov 13, 2006 9:51:03 PM

[...]101 Painless Ways to Cut Spending[...]

Posted by: Top Ten Lists | Nov 14, 2006 5:26:47 AM

Your driving tips are right on the money. For people that don't quite believe you can save that much fuel (and thus $$), check out this study that shows a graphical comparison of fuel saving based on altered driving habits.

Posted by: VnutZ | Nov 14, 2006 5:44:44 PM

Another several money saving tips:

1. Avoid commercial bottled water! It's way overpriced and totally unnecessary for those whose municipal water supply is safe. Instead filter your own tap water with either a faucet or pitcher filter. It'll taste as good or better than the bottled water.

2. Use your dryer sheets more than once.

3. When shopping at the supermarket, be sure to check the price per unit when comparing different brands and sizes of a certain product. Sometimes the 64 oz. bottle of ketchup may cost more than the 32 oz.

Posted by: BW | Nov 14, 2006 7:50:56 PM

so your telling me i can just walk up to someone in the bank and tell them i want a better interest rate on my credit card? ive never heard of anyone doing that before!

YES, it would seem banks are fighting to keep customers these days. I had a friend who just called Citi to make sure his rate wasn't dramatically increased after he missed a payment. They not only said it wasn't (when it should have been) but also offered to waive the fee involved for the missed payment.

Posted by: Forex Blogger | Nov 15, 2006 3:22:34 AM

I found a cool new business called wireless guardian, at It seems these folks have mastered a method to review bills, beat up the carrier and save companies money each and every month. My firends concrete company with 17 phones went from $1700 a month to $850 a month. It was totally easy and affordable. They charge 15% of the annaul savings but only invoice after he saved the money - no up front cash outlay. NICE>>>>

Posted by: tom | Nov 17, 2006 7:56:47 AM

fast loan

Posted by: fast loan | Nov 17, 2006 8:18:33 PM

Wow, that list was exhausting and thorough! I have one more tip to add. Use and eBay. Such great sites to save money. I've probably saved hundreds of dollars using those two sites.

Posted by: The Information Bank | Feb 27, 2007 11:30:58 AM

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