People often throw out terms like “save more” or “spend less”. Those sound great, but in the unlimited scenarios that life throws at us, without a game plan, it’s hard to focus on the steps that will move the dial.
Focus On Your Top 10 Expenses
I’ve never been one to budget, instead choosing to focus on the major things in life… and relying on my frugal nature to keep me from blowing cash on things that don’t matter to me.
That’s where this simple step comes in. All you do is line up your top 10 expenses, then evaluate ways to make those numbers smaller.
My top 10 were:
- Home Mortgage
- Vehicle #1 loan
- Rental #1 mortgage
- Rental #2 mortgage
- Vehicle #2 loan
- Student loan
- Cell Phone
- Gym membership
- Commuter Train Pass
- Utilities — honorary #11
What Have I Done To Lower These Bills?
In the past 2 years, I’ve refinanced all 3 mortgages, which saved over $100 a month on each and lowered all 3 interest rates into the 3%-range on fixed rate loans. Our home is a 30-year, while the rentals are 15-year loans.
Daycare was lowered as our son advanced into another class and the student-to-teacher ratio was increased.
Not much we can do about the car payments, except be happy that one is at 0% and the other is at 1.9%. In less than 2 years, the larger payment will be done, then we can move that monthly money into savings or investments.
I’m ok with the spending levels on the other 4 items, and I don’t see many options to reduce those that I can accept.
The honorary item – utilities – is on the list because it used to be a top ten item. Until we installed solar panels, that is. Now, we’re saving $200 a month on our electricity, so our utility bill now is primarily trash and water, with a minor amount for electricity. The $200 I’m no longer spending is being set aside in my “Solar Savings” account and, in six months, is now up to $1,200, one-tenth of what my solar panels cost me.
In total, taking these steps, we’ve been able to reduce our bills by approximately $900 a month. The savings we’ve created is now helping to reduce our student loans faster, allow for an increase in 401(k) contributions, and increase our emergency savings accounts.
Some people in personal finance encourage you to reduce spending on all the small things in life because you can easily fritter away gobs of money if you’re not paying attention. This is true. However, you’ll get a huge bang for your buck if you can better understand your top 10 expenses and focus on how to reduce them!
You can eventually chop down a tree by whacking at it with a Swiss Army Knife… but you’ll do it faster and better if you use the right tool.