4 Common Expenses You Can Cut From Your Budget Today

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Looking for common expenses to cut from your budget? Here are 4 expenses you can cut today and start saving money every month.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit my old dorm room, the very room that I lived in as an 18-year-old freshman in college. Tons of memories came flooding back to me as I walked through the tiny, shared room, and I loved the nostalgic feeling I got from the experience. After I left, though, I realized how much my personal taste, living standards and financial status have changed since then.

I always say the best way to save money is to live like you’re a broke college student, but I had forgotten what that really meant. Whether we want to admit it or not, lifestyle creep happens to the best of us, and even though I believe I’m super frugal, I was reminded of my own lifestyle inflation during that trip. It was sobering to remember that at one point I was able to live with so much less, with 4 dollars to my name, and I was just as happy then as I am now.

It was a reminder to me that most budgets have some wiggle room built into them, no matter how frugal we think we are. If you’re looking for ways to save money every month or to save for something major, then it’s time to admit to yourself that there are definitely some expenses we’re accustomed to that are downright luxuries rather than necessities. Here are four common expenses you can cut from your budget today and how to live without them.

1. Cable TV


I know I always pick on cable TV, but ever since I’ve kicked my cable habit, I can’t help myself. Living without it and not even missing it has made me realize what a waste of money (and time!) it is. I’m embarrassed to admit that I used to be a Real Housewives and Kardashian junkie, but it was all trash that kept me from doing better things with my time, like reading a good book, writing a new post or playing with my little girl.

Let me repeat: I DO NOT MISS CABLE, and I want to tell everyone I know about it, because I don’t think you’ll miss it either. If you’re a long-time Frugal Rules reader, you know that John made the decision to cancel DirecTV recently to save money and replaced it with the Amazon Fire Stick, which only has a one time cost as a way to still enjoy quality entertainment without the hefty price tag.

2. Books, Magazines, Music and Media


Upon moving to my newly adopted city, I went to my local library, not expecting much since I live in a small town. But when I discovered that I can borrow any book in any library in my state thanks to an inter-library loan system, my mind was blown, and my world (and budget) was forever changed. I now had access to all of the books I wanted, even best sellers.

I was also pleased to discover that my library stocks my favorite magazines (all available for checkout) and current music, a far cry from the stuffy old library of my childhood.

The library also takes suggestions for media that I want them to buy, which was something that helped my budget immensely. When a bestseller came out last month that I desperately wanted to read, I filled out a slip of paper, handed it to my librarian, and had the book in hand a few weeks later, at no cost to me.

If you haven’t been to your library in a few years, it’s absolutely worth checking out again. You might be surprised at what they now have to offer.

Looking for common expenses to cut from your budget? Here are 4 expenses you can cut today and start saving money every month.

3. Restaurant Tabs


One of my biggest budget busters is eating out. Sometimes it’s just too easy to order pizza or head to our favorite restaurant, and while I don’t want to cut that out of our budget completely, I do realize how expensive even one meal out can be. So to help curb my affinity for dining out, I approach grocery shopping in a completely different way now to include all of our favorite foods in our budget.

Because I reason that buying anything at the grocery store is always going to be cheaper than getting it at a restaurant, I now have no qualms about buying gourmet cheeses, freshly baked bread from the bakery or a couple of great steaks at the store. We still get to enjoy restaurant-style meals at home, but we don’t have to tip anyone.

When I complement this strategy with meal planing, it increases our satisfaction eating at home even more. I decided it was worth it to slightly increase our grocery spending for nicer foods, while significantly decreasing our restaurant tabs in the process. It was a worthy trade-off because we eat like kings (on a budget.)

4. That Expensive Cell Phone Plan


Two years ago, we switched from paying $120+ per month at Verizon to paying less than $50 total each month for our two cell phones through Republic Wireless. Republic Wireless and other companies like it are changing the cell phone market, and I’ve been more than happy with my service and my cheap cell phone plan.

Here’s how it works. Rather than paying monthly for your cell phone through a national chain (which is all you’re doing when you get one of their “free” phones for a whopping $120+ per month), you buy your own cell phone at $129- $199 per phone (although they sometimes run $99 specials), and pick a data plan starting at $10/month. The cost of the phone eventually pays for itself after only a few months of savings. It makes so much sense that I feel stupid for sticking with a traditional carrier for so long.

If you’re trying to cut down your expenses, it’s always wise to question every single item in your budget to find out if it’s absolutely necessary. You might find that you can become a one-car family, or that you can drink the coffee at the office and pack your own lunch every day for work.

You simply have to find what area in your budget has crept up on you, experiment to see if it’s something you can live without and then reap the savings.

Do you have anything you could cut from your budget today? Have you ever tried Republic Wireless or a similar cheap cell phone service? Are you saving for any big purchases right now?

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Robin McDaniel

Robin is a freelance writer who chronicles her financial missteps and victories on her blog


  • Me and my husband have an expensive cell phone plan with AT&T. I really want to get rid of it, but he’s afraid he won’t get as good of cell phone signal (even though I tell him that many of the low-cost carriers already use AT&T’s network!). I’m not sure how to convince him to try it, but I’m still holding out hope! Our cell phones are so old we’re expecting them both to kick the bucket any day now, so I might just try a plan for myself to see how it all works, and then maybe I can convince him. I need to find a good one that doesn’t make you sign a contract, though, in case it doesn’t work out for whatever reason.

  • Erica says:

    I am currently stationed in Italy and cell phone plans are so cheap here compared to the $150 we were paying with AT&T! When we get back to the states, I definitely want to look into Republic Wireless. I pay ten bucks a month for Ipsy; which I could probably get rid of. I like make up but I hate buying it so Ipsy is like a fun little treat for me each month. And it’s only ten bucks, so it’s ok right..?! 😉

  • I have a straight talk plan which is $45 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data. I need to figure out how much data I am actually using because it might make sense to switch to Republic Wireless!

    Also, I look back at college from a minimalist perspective and think how did I accumulate so much junk? In college all my life’s possessions fit in a tiny dorm room and it was so much simpler!

  • Ugh, I agree with all of this. Dining out is so expensive and rarely worth it in my eyes. I am a decent cook, so we’re a lot better off splurging for some good ingredients and making what we want at home.

  • We’ve cut down to a very basic $10 a month cable plan (Hubby’s idea) but mostly watch Netflix and Amazon. We switched from Verizon to Cricket and while I can tell there’s a quality drop, it’s very slight and may be more due to the cheap phones we picked than the plan. And we get a lot of our reading material from the library and free ebook downloads.

    While eating out is expensive, it is a treat. We’ve cut back to going out maybe once ar month, and that’s worth it for us. I do notice that if we start going out more often, it tends to snowball.

  • Hannah says:

    I’ve also started buying grocery store food that keeps us from eating out. I try to plan at least two meals that will be super quick to prepare in the evening (usually slow cooker meals or salads with leftover chicken) and a few fancy ingredients too (ingredients for sesame beef are never on sale, but I happily pay full price).

    I think that the best savings tactics include eliminating all subscriptions that aren’t used at least twice a week (especially gym memberships).

  • Restaurants are the worst, even fast food restaurants…$10 here, $20 there, it all adds up in a 4 week period.

  • Buying takeout is the biggest expense that I need to cut back on. It is so much cheaper to make food at home. As a single person, I struggle with keeping my pantry stocked without letting anything spoil or go to waste.

  • Kathy says:

    I’d love to cut back on our cell phone plan since our phones usually sit in our car console, turned off. We don’t use the internet feature very often and I certainly could wait until I’m home to access it on our laptop. Cable, I’d miss. We watch some cable shows, sports and business channel that is not on regular network stations. We eat dinner out once a week, often times using a great coupon, and breakfast once or maybe twice a week. Could we cut back? Sure, but we have these costs factored into our budget and unless we hit a rough financial patch, it counts toward our entertainment. My big downfall is books, which I buy a lot. Gonna try the library for those books I don’t want to keep in my own library, and certainly would utilize it for movies etc. One thing I have done to cut back is to buy from Amazon’s used book sellers. Sometimes, if I’m patient, I can find one for just a couple of dollars in very good condition, rather that shelling out $25-30 for a new hardback. Other things we do cut back on is the frequency of vacations. Most clothes we have we have given each other as gifts. But you are right, I think you can always find something to cut back on.

    • Have you asked if your library will take suggestions for new book purchases? When I discovered that mine would, I was over the moon! All I have to do is fill out a little form, and they even make sure I get it first.

      And it sounds like you should keep the cable if you like it that much, but definitely switch to a no-contract cell phone company if you’re paying out the wazoo now.

  • All great ways to trim expenses!

    I live in a small town as well and found that our library not only has a good selection of DVDs and books, but they have an online lending provider, allowing patrons to “borrow” books to download on the Kindle app (or other ereader).

  • Nicole says:

    We are in the process of cancelling cable as well and between our streaming services and our wonderful library, we can still watch all our favorite shows, we just have to be patient and wait a little longer. I’m ok with that, particularly now that the weather is warming up and there’s plenty to do outside which is better for our health than sitting on the couch all evening anyway.

    I too feel silly for sticking with AT&T Wireless for as long as we did. I was afraid to let go of my unlimited data plan (I was grandfathered in) when in reality I don’t use all that much data. We switched to Ting Wireless three weeks ago and between the two of us have used less than half a GB of data so far. As a result our bill is only going to be around $30. I am absolutely thrilled to have cut $100 from my monthly cell phone bill (we were paying AT&T $135 for two lines). Even with paying an early term fee we will be coming out ahead quite soon since Ting gave me a credit for some of the ETF. Even if you purchase an expensive phone outright it’s cheaper than paying per month with the major carriers because you can turn around and sell that phone later for close to what you paid for it. I did that with my last iPhone via Craigslist. I wish we had switched to Ting sooner!

    • Yep, these new cell phone companies are changing the game. It’ll only take a few more years of people catching on to it, and I think all the companies will have to follow suit. People are sick of paying so much for cell phones!

      And as for the cable– do it NOW! It’s so much easier to cut it out when the weather is getting warmer and you have so many other things to occupy your time.

  • These are great places for people to start. I only buy books that are REALLY important to me, such as books written by others I know or books by entrepreneurs and others I respect. But as an author now I’m a bit biased towards spending money on books : ) Cable is a big win for people who need to quickly cut expenses. Great tips!

  • We’ve used an HDMI cable to connect our laptop to the TV for free streaming, and also have an antenna to get basic channels instead of paying for cable.

    In the last year or two, we’ve stopped eating beef except on rare occasions, since it’s less healthy and much more expensive than other protein sources. That’s definitely helped our grocery bill stay low.

  • These are great things to cut. I haven’t had a cable for over 4 years and I am not missing anything. In this age, there are a ton of substitutes to cables. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are there.

    If we want shows that can’t be located in Hulu and Netflix, I just plug my laptop to the TV using an HDMI and just go to the TV network for free tv shows.

  • Definitely, books. I’d rather have it pdf. There are really downloadable links out there, we just have to keep looking. And not only it saves us money, but also it saves us space.

  • Lisa says:

    We have been using an antenna for TV for several years. Any ideas for cheaper internet service?

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