Question of the Day // Cutting Back

Thursday, February 28, 2013

pink | mint 

As mentioned on The Everygirl, I moved to Chicago with a savings account. I've had to rely on it a few times–when things have been slow and when big things have come up. Things have been crazy and I haven't had the time to take on as many graphic design projects, so I've made less than I am used to making, and I spent a little more of my savings than I would have liked. Ok–a lot more. I still have money put away but need to build it back up.

Here's what I'm doing wrong:
Uber is so convenient, but those cab rides add up.
I love spending time with friends, but those weekly brunches and dinners add up, too.
And then there's everything else. Bills, CrossFit, clothes, health insurance ($$$) etc.
I won't even go into the horrible things I've done at Lululemon the past few months. Oy.
I've done too much shopping at Whole Foods.

And this is what I'm going to do about it.
I was supposed to go to brunch Saturday and Sunday a few weeks ago which would have been at least $15-20 each day, so I made coffee plans instead. Spending one weekend night at home. Between cabbing to/from a restaurant or bar, ordering drinks and food, I figure I'm saving at least $50 per week. Savings of at least $25/week or $100/month. And I just need to not ever cab to CrossFit, because that's at least $12-13 each way. It adds up! I received a Nespresso for Christmas and make my iced Americanos at home. I also usually do my nails myself. I've gotten a lot better. And since I work from home, I always, always make my own lunches.

No shopping! I don't need any more winter clothes and spring/summer are just around the corner. I'll get to pull out all of my dresses again and will gain at least 20 new outfits. When it comes to health, this isn't something I am willing to change. I do buy my meat at Whole Foods, but have started buying everything else at Trader Joes. Buying healthy food is expensive. Period.

I feel like I've learned a lot from The Everygirl's contributing financial editor, Brittney Castro. She's been writing for us since the beginning, and I feel so fortunate to have her on our team. One of my favorites–our how to budget handbook. Good stuff, ladies.

I'm doing my best to really think about each purchase. Do I want or need this? Is there a less expensive version? $15 here or $20 there never feels like much, but it all adds up. And before you know it, you've spent $500.
So tell me–what do you give up when it's time to cut back?

54 comments

  1. Great post Danielle. Just like you, I love meeting friends for brunch on the weekends and for dinner during the week. I wanted to save some money because I needed to upgrade a few things around the apartment so I decided to cut on all the during the week dinners. I love going out with friends but I think I honestly enjoy it more on the weekend. I also started to do more group brunches. I try not to make the group too large, but if I can combine 2-4 girls who are common friends or who I think might be a good match, it works: instead of two separate brunches on the weekend, I only do one, I still get to see my friends and they get to meet other people too.

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  2. I gave up my daily Starbucks lattes. I've started drinking tea and getting Starbucks once a week.or every two weeks. I was racking up about 20 bucks a week on lattes. I also make it a point to grocery shop and make meals to allow me to eat out less or go out for lunch at work. this is a great post. I can be a bit frivolous with money and this was a good reminder.. have a good day, lady. Xo!
    _Jewel

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  3. Joe & I did our budget for the year the other day - we have decided to cut back on our whole foods budget as well - it was totally out of hand... like we could have bought a car for the amount of money we spent on whole foods. so now we're not buying the "unnecessary" things - like, yes, I like $5 dark chocolate and kombucha but I don't need it every week. Or we choose to buy chicken thighs instead of boneless skinless chicken breast and save there. I've also given myself a total shopping budget for the whole year (instead of splitting it up by month). That way if I want something really nice, I can buy it, but I know I only have $XX left for the remainder of the year. I also try to keep a tally of the things I want versus what I really need. It helps keep it in perspective.

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  4. We cut out brunches and started having people over for pizza parties, everyone brings toppings and we buy homemade dough. So much fun!

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  5. Eating healthy does add up! My boyfriend and I can spend $100 at Whole Foods and only make it a few days with what we've bought (but then again, he eats much more than I do!). I give myself a weekly budget, so I know when that budget starts to feel pinched, I'm indulging in too much (going out, clothing), and I'll think twice about that J.Crew sale shirt.

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  6. Ahh! This is what I spend my life thinking about! I just finished paying off some massive credit card debt which took about 3 1/2 years. That process taught me a lot about what I 'need' versus what I 'want'. The best advice I have for saving or cutting back is to open up two different checking accounts at completely different banks. I use one account only for bills (including money to transfer into savings) and the other is for spending. When the spending account runs out, then it means no more lattes, clothes, books, products, etc. until I get paid again. It takes a month or two to get everything organized but I really think it worked for me. I knew that every month my bills would get paid and I could see really clearly what I was able to spend. The less money you see in the spending account, the less you'll be inclined to make those impulse purchases (where I think a lot of money is wasted). I don't give up my Starbucks because I love it and it makes me happy. I think the most important thing though is to save money for experiences rather than material things. Instead of brunch I love to get coffee and take my dog for a walk with friends, I try to cook dinner at home most nights and save going out for the weekends. I make a grocery list based on meals that I plan for the week but try to be flexible based on what is on sale at Whole Foods. If there's a really good deal on meat I'll buy more and freeze it. When you buy new clothes/shoes try to get rid of items you have but don't like or wear - I've sold a ton at consignment stores. Good luck lady!

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  7. Amen to cutting Uber from my life! Other little cuts that have started making a difference: bringing lunch to work, making coffee at home instead of getting grande lattes at Starbucks. And cutting out the once a week fancy dinners- $100 meals? who AM I??
    When I'm really in a bind, and trying to save, every Monday I will go to the ATM and take out $100- and thats all I'm allowed to spend for the whole week- no debit/credit card allowed!
    Last tip- when I borrow money from my savings account I make sure to set up an automatic transfer to put it back in the next payday- that way I won't forget and be tempted to spend it!

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    1. Seriously. Spending $50 on dinner is crazy. I think I might try your idea to take out x amount and not spend more than that. Would be a really interesting experience! Thanks for the tips!

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  8. GREAT POST!
    I feel you on this post- back in November I looked at my bank account and shamefully added up the number of times I went to Starbucks... I was addicted to it, and didn't really notice how much I'd been spending. Made me sick to my stomach that $4.50 a day (4-5 days a week) was really adding up (when I actually added it up). It's nearly $90-100 a month I've saved by not going there anymore! I've Happily settled for using my keurig and awesome fat free creamer!! Honestly I never dreamed I would like this combo so much more than I ever liked my Starbucks latte.
    I also cut back on Mani/Pedi's - doing this twice a month (one or the other) was about $50 each visit; so that was another $100 in the 'savings'...It's not until you evaluate the spending habits that you really notice where your money goes. I could see the balance in my account, but never really think that it could be more until I add up the frivolousness!
    And that being said, I've been able to pay off more on my credit card (the goal for this year!)...I got this tip/idea from reading a post on the Everygirl!
    So D keep up the good work and thanks for sharing your stories!!

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  9. Great post. It's easy to get caught up in the spending... and the spending.. and a little more spending. Who am I kidding, I spent one months pay at Shopbop last night. But aside from the occasional spending spree (had to get honeymoon clothes!), I have cut back in many ways too. Making my own lunch, eating in more often, driving less (saving errands until I have multiple stops in one trip), and limited Starbucks trips. I also used to splurge wayyy too much on makeup, then realized I was being a little crazy. Cut backs are good.

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  10. YOU DO NOT NEED TO SPEND $$$$ TO EAT WELL. My boyfriend & I typically spend about $200/month ONLY on organic, free-range meats, organic produce and a variety of dry products that are organic/non-GMO'd (and trust me, we have a fridge FULL at all times). It takes some research, but most large cities have farmer's markets & specialty butchers that have these products for MUCH less than what Whole Foods charges. The stores may be a bit out of the way, but the savings adds up!

    I'm currently bolstering my savings for grad school next fall, which is insane. I gave up crossfit and WOD on my own, but it's not the same; I have not purchased any clothing for myself since before Christmas; I pack my lunch; I started walking to work instead of driving; etc.

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    1. I've found that farmer's markets are pretty expensive but will look into other options. Thank you for the tips!

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    2. I'm not in Chicago (thought I might be in a few months), so there definitely may be differences. The specific place I shop is also utilized by local restaurants, which probably helps keep the prices as low as they are (seriously, $0.39 avocados!)

      I did a quick google-search to try and find something similar to where I go here in Atlanta, and this place ( http://www.myfreshfarms.com/ ) seems to be the closest. I have no idea if it will work for you logistically, but their yelp reviews are fantastic & they have weekly savings ads as well.

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  11. Eating out is so expensive. It seriously adds up. It's so easy to just go to the grocery and get way more for your money.

    I don't need any clothes or make-up until summer, and even then I only need some new shorts, a new swim suit and one or two new tops.

    It's all about remembering that you don't need certain things!

    xoAlyssa
    glitterandgapske.blogspot.com

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  12. Thanks for your honesty! When we were getting really serious about savings and buying a house, we started to track our expenses using mint.com. It was eye-opening how much money I spent on lunches during the week. Especially since we were already buying groceries for lunches. Now I'm much more diligent about bringing my lunch to work.

    I think another big help is to set up automatic deposits into your savings or retirement account. If that money isn't easily accessible, you'll be less likely to spend it in the first place.

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  13. Love this post...its been on my mind to cut back on my spending as well. Especially now that I have a HUGE car note. I will be definitely doing less frivolous clothing shopping, besides I'm on a fit kick. So, why buy things that will probably fit a few weeks. Good luck on building your saving back! I share the same goal!

    ♥, LONDA

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  14. There's a "taxi magic" app and it's cheaper than uber! Also, I've cut down my grocery expenses in half by only shopping at Costco & Trader Joe's. Costco sells organic frozen chicken/fish in bulk so I don't have to worry about going every other week! I also get my frozen fruits and veggies in bulk at Costco.. which last forever. I noticed how often I was grocery shopping (every week) and tried to only go twice a month, since going often makes me pick up on unnecessary food items. February is only 28 days, but so far I've spent $110 just on groceries ... which feed me for my packed lunches AND dinners at home! At the end of the month, I look at my calendar on my iphone and see what I've inputted for spending. I know there are other apps etc, but for some reason my calendar is an easier way for me to see what and how often I spend on things. Hope this helps? xx.

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    1. I'm going to look into that app. Thanks! Either way, relying on the bus/train as much as possible.

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  15. We use mint.com to track every dime we spend. There's a lot more to it, but my favorite feature is getting to see all of your "budgets" in one page with details on each - for instance, if we've been eating out a lot it will show us a yellow bar (which means you're getting close to your budget cap) and show how much you've spent from what you allotted (ie: $236 of $300) so you see exactly how much you have "left". Everything from our commuting costs for work down to my shopping and small charitable contributions are tracked on budget line-items and it's SUPER helpful!

    As far as cutting back - we got rid of cable last year and never looked back. We realized that all of the shows we watch are on network TV channels, and most of the others are on Hulu or OnDemand. We also cut down on our eating out budget so that I could join a gym over the holidays - it IS expensive, but it's totally worth it!

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  16. Ugh, we have such similar financial problems. My two biggest pitfalls are eating out (which I love, love, love to do) and shopping at Whole Foods. Like you, I'm unwilling to compromise what I eat to save money. I'm just not going to eat Oscar Meyer deli meat, even if it does cost me a few bucks extra a week not to. So, like you, I've started trying to get as much as possible, like nuts, almond flour and coconut oil, spices, etc. from Trader Joes. I do still try and buy all my meat and produce from Whole Foods though. I think that TJ's produce can be lacking sometimes.

    I really like your coffee idea though. I want to try that. When you eat Paleo, there isn't anything special about going out for breakfast anyways. I can eat eggs, bacon, and fruit from my own fridge for a lot less. It's really the experience of going to a pretty restaurant and spending that time with friends and loved ones I enjoy anyways, which can easily be done over coffee. Great idea!

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  17. I just went through exactly the same thing! My issue is that every time I make a little extra money (from overtime at my full-time job or picking up a wedding/event coordinator gig on the side), I immediately think of 20 things I'd like to buy, and often end up spending not only the "extra" money, but some from my regular paycheck too! I'm beginning to try to save 75% of it and spend 25%. That way I feel like I'm getting a reward for working hard, but also saving - and boy, do I need to save, save, save. I have no rainy day fund.

    I've also begun unsubscribing to sale emails. I wake up to 20 emails in my inbox dedicated to sales, I tend to buy things just because they're on sale even though I could definitely do without. When I do need to make a purchase, it is so easy to just Google the store to see what discounts are out there.

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  18. Great idea. I always rely on public transit and only take a cab if I feel it's best for my safety. And I definitely only go out one weekend night, if at all. I'm all about hanging out with friends at one of our homes!

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  19. I went through the exact same thought process last night in an Uber cab headed to dinner! I think when it's nicer, I make more of an effort to take the CTA (usually the el) to dinner or drinks. I still like taking cabs home for safety reasons, but the el to dinner does save a lot of money! Being a teacher with a 30 minute lunch, I like making one recipe on the weekends and eating it for lunches and dinners throughout the week when I'm home. I think we will all be walking around the city more when it warms up and stops snowing, which will save us all more money!

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  20. It's definitely refreshing to see that even the ladies who seem to have it all still have the same worries! It makes me feel alot better :) When I get nervous about spending, I challenge myself to have the lowest credit card bill possible for that month (i put everything on my Discover card to earn cash back AND always pay each month in full). The challenege turns it into a bit of a game for me.

    I do this by shopping at Trader Joes, making cheap healthy meals using low price tag items like can tuna (Costco) and eggs. I also make it a point to NOT visit Target during said month... because Target makes me buy cute clothes and shoes that I do not NEED. I also use to allow myself to buy my lunch every Friday at work, but no more! I decided I don't need to waste the $8-$10 a week ($30-40/mo), especially when I usually go out to eat once or twice on the weekends.

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    1. Oh, Jennifer. I do NOT have it all. I think I'll always worry, but the past year has been pretty tough. I forgot to mention that I put everything on my chase card and earn cash back too.

      And I avoid target like the plague. It's a dangerous place! It's impossible to walk out without buying something you didn't plan on.

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  21. You're right spending a few dollars here and there adds up, so to save, I delete those enticing e-mail/coupon deals from my e-mail without even opening them (that way I'm not tempted). I also make my own coffee and meals. I also try to get together with my friends for walks or at each other's homes instead of going out. Good luck on your journey!

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  22. I have stopped highlighting my hair and that saves a lot of $$$. I am lucky that I don't have any grey yet, and my husband likes it better dark blonde anyways. :) I do miss the lighter streaks in the winter, but when spring comes, I will spend enough time outside gardening to gain some natural (and free!) highlights. :D

    I also recommend getting rid of a land line--we have never missed ours and I do not have to deal with telemarketers and poll takers anymore. Win win!

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  23. Being unemployed helps when you need to think about what you have to cut back on:

    1. I never skimp on food shopping. I always think about what my mom told me, "save on everything else, but do not starve yourself".

    2. I used to buy department store makeup before, but watching and learning from YouTube beauty vloggers I discovered that there's a lot of gems in the drugstore.

    3. Target WAS my guilty pleasure. When I lived in Seattle, it was so easy for me to get to one because I can drive to it. But ever since I moved to NY where public transportation is my main mode of travel, I always have to think twice before going.

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  24. i love this post! similar to you, i've started asking friends to meet up for a walk instead of going out to eat. i also love the idea of taking out cash each week for spending to help keep tabs on where it is all going. i really need to break my starbucks & eating out for lunch habit! X www.dippedinyellow.blogspot.com

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  25. The budget handbook on TEG definitely helped me a lot. Now I keep track of every single expense, whether it's $2 or $100, and I get to see exactly where my money goes. I keep a spreadsheet with categories so that I can easily see where I need to cut back when I decide that I've been spending more than I should.

    Bringing lunches to work helps cut back tremendously, as well as mixing different things in my closet, or buying a few classic pieces I know I'll wear a lot rather than buying lots of new pieces all the time.

    Good luck Danielle! :)

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  26. When I have to cut back shopping is the first thing to go! Sometimes I would just take twenty dollars (in case I do need a little money) and leave my card at home so I didn't make any impulse purchases.

    Since I am in college and only have a job during breaks I have started budgeting based on what I have in my account after working. After working during winter break, I took a look at my total and divided that by the number of weeks I am in school. I can spend at most $40 per week. Sometimes I don't even spend that. It makes me think more about what I am going to do on the weekends and stuff. I have started doing a lot more on campus to save money

    http://allthatglitters.co.nr

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  27. When I am looking to cut back on spending, I stop going out to eat as much! It definitely adds up! My boyfriend and I noticed this and in an effort to spend less we have taken up cooking! It's fun for both of us to learn how to make new things and in turn we spend less money going out to eat. Also, when we DO go out to eat on a weekend, we try to go out to a BYOB place.. that saves us on drinks, and the food is still good. Of course every once and a while we splurge on a nice restaurant!

    Also, I try to shop less. I usually find an item I want, but instead of buying it right away I put it in my shopping cart and then come back to it later. If i still love it as much as when I first saw it, I might buy it. It helps, because it really makes you think about whether or not you need something rather than impulse buying!

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  28. Ahhh! I just sat down to create a REAL budget for our family last night, and was comparing it to the charges in our checking account, and couldn't believe how much money we spend on eating out. We go to dinner (and drinks) at least once a week, eat out for lunch every once in a while, and my morning lattes that I tried to limit to once a week were a little out of control. Definitely time to start cutting back on eating out since I'm going back to school in a couple of weeks for Graphic Design, I will have student loans to pay instead :) Scary but SO exciting! Love your blog, and I LOVE the everygirl!

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  29. I started an old school journal. This ugly and haunting purple spiral that follows me around all the time. I write everything I spend in it and then every two or three days I go through and highlight. Pink for necessities (groceries or bills), yellow for unexpected but forced expense(parking ticket, birthday present), orange for frivolous (meals out, shopping), and green for responsible decisions (like paying money towards a credit card or putting money in savings). I also keep all my debt at the bottom so I have to face those numbers every single day. When I pay on something, I cross it out and update the total. This also helps me see how much I'm paying in interest from month to month. I also keep a list of bills and dates they are due at the bottom. I have a goal to save x amount from each check so I write that as if it were a bill and each time I pay one, I cross it off at the bottom. It's so ghetto but it REALLY makes me accountable. I have friends that use Excel spreadsheets but I can ignore a spreadsheet just like I can ignore my online bank account. Writing it down and having it stare at me every time I open my purse forces me to keep my financial goals in line. Brittney really motivated me to get my financial act together!

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  30. I am feeling the same way. Eating healthy food is taking a big chunk out of my budget. Meat and veggies for paleo add up!I save money by taking public transportation, even though it isn't very fun. I am trying to get my husband to take the commuter train to work but he isn't much for "public" anything.Luckily I love looking for a good deal. I try not to pay full price for clothes, shoes, and the like. I also try to make lists of pieces I want for my closet so I don't spend too much money on random clothes.

    http://feistygreenpolkadot.blogspot.com/

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  31. Manicures and full car washes are the first to go! I paint my own nails and then do the $3 drive-through wash and vacuum the car myself!

    Kirby
    www.theshortandthesweetofit.com

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  32. The biggest thing that has helped my husband and I budget is mint.com. We set our budgets to the absolute ideal and quickly realized how much we were actually spending compared to what we wished it was. Seeing where your money ACTUALLY is going, gives a better perspective on what you need to change.

    We started slow with the budgeting and in the past year, we paid off my student loans 2+ years early! Outside of the student loans, we were lucky enough to not have debt.

    We had one of our cars die last year and made the tough call that instead of buying or leasing a new vehicle, we'd be a single-car home. Yes, we are fortunate that my husband works from home, but we still had to learn to share! :D

    Another big thing I have learned when budgeting is that yes, you should cut back as much as you can but don't completely deprive yourself. Set attainable goals. If you have to, cut back on some things slowly; I started with going out to eat less- which not only was great for my wallet, but i realized how much less stressful and time consuming it is to cook at home. When I got comfortable with that, I started going to Starbucks less. Little, slow changes make the difference too!

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  33. This post couldn't have come at a better time! I need to cut back on my spending and really evaluate need versus want in my life and it's good to know other people (especially other bloggers I look up to) are going through the same thing. Thanks for sharing!

    xoxo,
    Chelsea & The City

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  34. When it is time to give the accounts a "break" I rely on my 1-2 regime. That is, the first week I spend as normal, but then I will buy NOTHING new the next two weeks. Obviously you will still need toothpaste and groceries during the two nothing-new weeks, but this is the time when nothing extra "slips" into the cart. I defiantly won't make any trips to the mall. I will also remove all the credit cards from my wallet, so if I am forced to buy something with cash, I won't get any rewards points for the purchase, and that will make me sad and not want whatever it was.

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  35. if this post is about saving... why are you trying to sell your readers these wallets? wow - that's really a "sell out" move...

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    1. I couldn't find a photo I liked enough, so I designed a graphic with two pretty wallets and linked to the sources. Because not crediting sources would be wrong. In no way did I suggest that anyone should buy them.

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  36. I give up eating out & shopping. I work retail and all that's in the mall is fast food, so cutting out those two things saves me a ton of money each month.

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  37. Great post! We've recently given up cable. It took us a while and now I wish we would have done it sooner. I carpool since we don't have a decent mass transit system where I live. That helps tremendously. If I'm getting OCD about something I want to purchase I sleep on it. It almost always is never as imperative that I purchase it the next day. Hope that helps!

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  38. Have you tried going to a Pete's market in Chicago? They have a great selection of produce! Whole Foods is just highway robbery, for my budget at least. I haven't gone out to dinners and always pack my lunch and snacks. I keep all my purchases for the week and then plug them into my excel spreed-sheet to make sure I'm not going beyond what Ive allotted for the month. Also, I allow my self to take out 100 dollars in cash per month and use ONLY the cash for things I buy other than groceries + gas...this my free spending money that I use for the occasional lunch/movie/happy hour drink and once it's up, it's up---but the nice thing is that it can roll over to next month ;-) Keeping cash on hand helps me keep track of my misc expenses.

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  39. Thanks for sharing Danielle! I struggle with this too and it's so hard to stay on a tight budget when eating healthy!

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  40. Great post! I am trying to do the same thing while saving for a move from Montreal to Toronto to go back to school in September. Starting today, I am keeping a journal or every. single. purchase. I make throughout the month. I've already listed my expected expenses (dinners or outings I committed to and don't want to cancel) but my goal is to not add any others at all. Spend less money on lunches and coffee and always bring my own. By April 1st, I should have a better idea of where I go wrong and what needs to change!

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  41. Healthy eating IS expensive. I can't even tell you the amount of money we spend grocery shopping now that we are BOTH eating healthy. What does save us money is that both of us take our lunches. It's just healthier and less expensive. I'll still go out to lunch with friends - just not so much. I would much rather spend the money on clothing or things around the house. I also still spend time with my friends - only now we d a lot more coffee talk chats.
    Great post - as always!

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  42. When it is time to cut back, I record every expenditure. I rely on "honesty is the best policy" and budget.
    Not eating out, not spending and living with less to open my life for more.
    Do you have a "feng shui" money jar?
    pve

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  43. Great post! I know as bloggers it's tough to live on a budget, especially with clothes! I too work from home and have saved considerably with lunches, but eating out is so costly. My downfall is Target! I go in and spend around $20-30 a trip. I feel at the time that its only $20-30, but what I don't realize til the end of the month is that adds up!!

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  44. You posted this at a time I needed it most! I too have been spending way too much money lately - I find that if I have a goal or something to "save" for, (ie, a trip with my girlfriends to Nashville in a month), then I can easily rationalize NOT spending money on other things. I also make lunch almost every day and stopped going out for coffee.

    I totally agree with you that spending a lot on food, while frustrating, is necessary. Healthy food is SUPER expensive in DC!

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  45. Healthy food is so expensive but is totally worth it. I have been eating mostly paleo for about a year and feel amazing! Have you tried ordering meat online? My husband and I order meat from US Wellness. The quality is great and it's cheaper than Whole Foods. http://www.grasslandbeef.com/StoreFront.bok

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  46. Have you ever thought of cash budgeting? I started this when I was a teacher. I paid rent and bills online and then everything else (groceries, eating out, clothes/entertainment -- in THAT order) was cash. It's a scheduled process - on payday, a designated amount goes straight to savings, and then I go to the ATM that day to get the month's cash. Once I'm home, I take the weekly allotment and put it in my wallet. Then if I'm at the grocery store and go nuts -- no going out/movies that week.

    It's tough, but I think it's a really good discipline. It's also funny to see how irritated people get when you use cash -- try pulling out a $20 in a D.C. Starbucks with a line behind you.

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  47. I'm also on a spending freeze. I'm getting married in October and have cut back on my shopping and only going to get things for the wedding/honeymoon. I have enough spring and summer clothes that will last me this year - although it's going to be SO HARD! have you seen jcrew's spring style guide? ugh. but yeah, it's crazy how all those other little things add up each week like coffee and lunches and dinners.

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