7 Painless Ways To Loosen Your Budget

A usual on the resolutions list?  Something large and broad that has to do with money.  Save money.  Make more money.  Spend less money.  Get out of debt.  Etc.

Or maybe not even a resolution.  Maybe you’re suddenly facing a life change.

  • Can I afford to be a stay at home mom?
  • Can we afford to have another baby?
  • I have to take a 10% pay cut in 2022.

I could tell you to meal plan, get on a budget, track your spending.  Start a vegetable garden!  Shop less!  Join a co-op!  All of those are great things.  But, they can all be daunting and we’re trying out bittylutions here.  Bitty.

These are totally painless and, if you’re feeling ambitious, can probably be done in the course of an afternoon.

If you’ve already done the basics (budgeting, for example), you may find a few things to help loosen up that budget and add more to savings (or pay down debt, or spend on Pixi Stix or whatever).  If you’ve been ignoring the state of your finances, but know you need to do *something,* this post just may be a good jumping off point.  So jump off, and then maybe you’ll muster up the courage to make steps in getting out of debt or starting a budget.

Baby steps, y’all.  Baaaaaby steps.

1) Check with your car insurance company to see if you’re eligible for a discount.

This is particularly applicable if you’ve recently become a stay at home mom, or lost a job, or are now telecommuting, etc.  I did this when I stopped working right before having Rembot.

Call your insurance company and let them know that your daily driving has changed.  I let my insurance company know that I was no longer doing a 45 mile commute every day.  It was a five minute time investment, and it slimmed down our auto insurance bill by £30 per month.

Otherwise, just ask.  “Do you offer a discount for AAA members?  Military families?  People who ride unicycles?”

Ouch?  Five minute phone call.  Minimal ouch.

2) Stop hiding penguins in your trunk.

I saw Happy Feet.  They hate that.  Actually?  More weight in your car reduces your miles per gallon.  And also, I didn’t even like Happy Feet.

But it’s true.  An extra 100 pounds in your car could cost you 3 to 7 cents per gallon.  Take a trash bag (or five), and clean your car.  You’ll save money and you will no longer feel like you’re in an episode of Hoarders.

(I have petrified Cheerios in my car.)

Ouch?  Yeah, kind of ouchy, depending on how full your car is.  I’d probably need 15 minutes to unload my vehicle, considering that there are a couple of instruments and maybe some contraband in my trunk right now.

3) Break out the big guns only when you need them.

I use the “light cycle” or “normal cycle” on my dishwasher without any negative consequences.  I break out the big guns when I have lots of dirty pots and pans to wash.  Otherwise, if my dishes aren’t particularly soiled upon entry, I choose a slightly less potent cycle.  Less time/money spent.

Same for the washing machine.  The express cycle suffices for much of our laundry.  I use heavier cycles for the girls’ laundry and linens.

Ouch?  No ouch at all.  Just press the other button, homeslice.

4) Shut ‘er down.

Friends of mine let me in on part of their evening routine, and I’ve since adopted it.  Right before bed is “shut ‘er down” time, where we turn off anything that’s on or unplug anything that can eat up standby power.

For me, that’s turning off lights, and making sure the lights in the laundry room and the front porch are off (the ones I forget the most).  Then, I unplug my laptop charger, the two lamps in the living room, and any small appliances I might have forgotten to unplug.  The toaster oven, for example.

(Also: I plug in my phone overnight, and then in the morning I unplug my charger.)

Be advised, this step isn’t going to save you millions, but it takes almost no time and saves time + energy.

Ouch?  A couple minutes at night.  The ouchiest part is remembering.  Stick a post-it on your bathroom mirror or tattoo a reminder to the inside of your eyelids.  You won’t fall asleep without remembering to shut ‘er down.

5) Switch out your incandescent light bulbs and replace them with CFLs.

We’re going to get a little math-y up in here.  Don’t freak out.  Lola is a total number nerd for a living (stereotype alert – womp, womp).  I had her check my numbers and they’re totally legit.

Let’s say you’ve got five light bulbs that you use regularly in your house, and they’re on for a total of four hours each per day.  There are obviously a number of variables here – people who stay at home or work from home will use up more electricity.. same for night owls or people who live in the parts of the world where it is notoriously dark.

I heard vampires use more electricity, too, but that claim really can’t be substantiated.

Okay.  Five light bulbs, four hours a day each.  Let’s say your electric company charges you 15 cents per kilowatt hour.  If you’re using incandescent bulbs, your total cost for 60,000 hours of lighty-brighty time will be £2,773.05.

If you switch those incandescent bulbs out with CFLs, your cost would be £681.60.

This supposedly includes the cost of bulbs, but again, your mileage may vary.  Turning CFLs on and off constantly (think little kids who like to play “strobe light at the techno club” with the hallway light switch) will cause them to burn up a little bit more quickly.

Ouch?  One trip to the store and a few minutes replacing bulbs.  Or skip the store and buy them online.

6) Neaten up your cell phone bill.

Take five minutes (okay, maybe ten), to log into your provider’s website and check out your usage over the past few months.  Are you allotted 2100 minutes a month when you’ve consistently been only using 1200?  Or maybe you’re getting penalized because you’re going over the text messaging limit every month?  Call your provider, switch to a lower minute usage package or upgrade your texting to an unlimited plan.

And then log out, because that website with their crazy charts will hurt your brain after awhile.

Ouch?  A five to ten minute phone call, as long as it doesn’t take lightyears to talk to a real human.  I think it’s possible to change your plan online, as well.


7) Think outside dinner plans.

Date night with the husband?  Out to dinner.  Meetup with the girls?  Out to dinner!  Dinner is notoriously the most expensive meal at any dining establishment.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love dinner out.  Someone else is setting the table, cooking for me, pouring my drinks, and cleaning up after me?  Heck yessss.  But it’s nice (and cheaper) to hit up an alternative once in awhile.

Like a breakfast date.  Or brunch.  Or opting to eat dinner at home and then meeting out somewhere for some decadent dessert.  Mid-morning coffee.   A granola bar split four ways among friends.

No, that last one is weird.

Ouch?  Make the suggestion during planning time.  More often than not, your dinner partner(s) may be eager to try something new or loosen up their budgets, as well.