12 Expenses to Cut: What’s Your Take?

Can you cut expenses with these?

It’s nice to find ways to cut out expenses, and operate a bit leaner financially. That is, as long as the changes don’t impact your day-to-day life too much:) Then, it’s a matter of viewing them as trade-offs.

A recent article in on Yahoo! Finance discussed 12 things that people can choose to stop spending on in the new year. Now, I often think that it’s worthwhile to consider how much time one spends on trying to save money, as it’s necessary to make money first before we can save it.  That being said, if we’re going to spend some time focusing on saving on consumer purchases, we might as well do it with some type of framework.

Recall that I recently posted on the topic of trying to spend wisely, where I suggested that we ask ourselves the following questions before purchasing:

  1. Do we truly need the item?
  2. Can we easily find a lower cost alternative?

Keeping that in mind, I’m going to go through the list of what to cut from our budgets (from the aforementioned article), and will answer those two questions for each one. Then, I’ll describe what I’ll actually do in practice.

  1. Coffee Shop Visits
    • I don’t truly need to do this, though I enjoy it
    • A lower cost alternative is available, such as home brewing
    • What will I do?: I will keep visiting. I suppose it might seem like I’m going against the system I devised, but I look at the visits as more than coffee. Which, by the way, is simply black coffee and not one of the more expensive drinks. I view it as renting space where I can get some work or writing done while enjoying a drink. The combination works for me in terms of productivity, so I’m going to keep doing it occasionally.
  2. Incandescent Light Bulbs
    • I don’t really need to buy these exact type
    • Not sure a lower cost alternative is available, unless you operate on sunlight:) Well, longer-term the energy-efficient ones are supposed to be cheaper anyway.
    • What will I do?: Buy the energy-efficient ones, and save money in the long run. Besides, the others are effectively being phased out.
  3. Disposable Water Bottles
    • I don’t need to buy these bottles
    • Lower cost alternatives are available, such as carrying a reusable bottle or using a water fountain. Remember when that was the norm? If not, maybe it’s just people that aren’t super young anymore:)
    • What will I do?: Use reusable bottles. I’ve bought a few, and will use them regularly. The disposable bottles I have bought were purchased in bulk for maybe 10 to 15 cents each – as opposed to the $1 or more rip off for single bottles many places. But still, once you get past the initial investment in a reusable container, it eventually represents the cheaper choice.
  4. Baggage Fees
    • Usually, for shorter trips, I don’t need to check a bag
    • A lower cost alternative is available: packing lightly, and carrying on
    • What will I do? Going forward, on personal travel I will be sure to pack lightly and avoid such fees. Of course, I had previously discovered an alternative way to avoid checked bag fees that I won’t try on purpose, but thought I’d share anyway:)
  5. Subscriptions You Don’t Use
    • We don’t need to spend on things we don’t use!
    • A lower cost alternative might be available if you choose to read – going online is one way
    • What will I do? Continue to go subscription-free. One can go online for much information, or go to the local library and read hard-copy periodicals in many cases
  6. Baby Food
    • I’m a parent, but past the baby days. But if you have a baby, store bought baby food technically isn’t a need
    • A lower cost alternative could be making it at home, so yes – one is likely available
    • What would I do? In that case, being in the position of being a parent of a baby, I would still buy some pre-made baby food. Now, I do think that it seems like a good idea to mix in some homemade food. However, with the demands of daily life for many working parents, time is valuable. Speaking from experience, I think buying at least some baby food is worth it for working parents.
  7. Credit Score Fees
    • I think checking one’s credit score is very important, probably a need
    • Apparently, free options are available
    • What will I do? I like the option of getting something for free.
  8. Cable
    • I don’t truly need cable
    • Yes, there are plenty of lower cost alternatives for watching shows and movies.  Hulu and Netflix were a few mentioned.
    • What will I do? Good question. Cable right now offers some things kids really enjoy, which has tipped the scales in its favor. But wow, it’s not cheap. I’m contemplating ending it, with other options filling in the gaps.  It’s not a need.
  9. Landline Phone
    • I don’t need a landline phone
    • There are lower cost options, and alternatives that are arguably more necessary
    • What will I do? I don’t have a landline phone, and haven’t had one for a while.
  10. Cleaning Supplies
    • I think they’re needed
    • There might be lower cost options, in terms of homemade concoctions
    • What will I do? I think there’s room for swapping out chemicals for more natural options for certain things, but I don’t have the time to devote to making my own cleaning supplies at this time. I’m sticking to primarily store bought items.
  11. ATM Fees
    • ATMs are useful, but their fees are not necessary
    • There are lower cost options, such as finding an institution that doesn’t charge you fees along those lines
    • What will I do? What I currently do, which is limit ATM usage to my own bank, where I don’t pay any such fees
  12. Home Repairs
    • It’s necessary to do home repairs, but only sometimes necessary to pay someone to do them
    • There is a lower cost option: DIY
    • What will I do? My past history has been to do repairs for the basics, but then call a professional for something that’s bigger and time consuming. I’m fine with paying when needed for such things, where it makes sense of course. No reason to stubbornly avoid paying other people or having a false sense of bravado when it comes to fixing things.

My Questions for You

Are there any of these expenses that you are fine taking on, as I am? If so, which ones?

Or, do you actively try to avoid expenses even if it means extra time and effort?

Can you think any other similar items that can be included on a list of expenses to stop paying?



  1. says

    Ah, that old standby, ditch the cable. I can’t say I haven’t thought about it, even posted about it. Thing is, there are some first-run shows which are hard to find on alternate sources. In the end, we just skinnied down to the essential package.
    We do have a number of re-usable bottles, and keep a couple in the truck. The water doesn’t go bad, and it’s a small thing to dig one out if the kids get thirsty on a short trip. It was somewhat funny to see their faces drop after they asked for a soda, and out comes the water canteen.

    • Squirrelers says

      101C – yeah, cable is an oft-discussed budget cut to stay the least. The refillable water bottles are great. I like how you brought out water in spite of the requests for soda. Your choice was so much healthier, way better for them. Understatement of the decade.

  2. says

    At first glance your list is pretty exhaustive – at least for a first run. I couldn’t add anything to it without getting into the really big ticket items like… ‘Do I need a second car?’ and questions of that sort.

    I tend to avoid expenses by default in most cases (like the DIY section). At some point, though, I will pay for quality or difficulty… but your list is good.

    • Squirrelers says

      PKamp3 – paying for quality or difficulty makes sense in many cases. I’m also a believer in the concept of time is money.

  3. says

    I’m curious to learn more why you rate checking one’s credit score “very important.” I tend to think that the emphasis on credit scores these days is solely a product of marketing campaigns by companies that make money selling credit scores. ‘You don’t know your score! Gasp!’

    Having good credit is surely very important, and I’m guessing that’s your excellent point. But my thinking is that, while one needs to be educated about whether and how certain actions affect credit scores (and there are lots of good resources available for getting this education), knowing the actual number itself is not especially useful. No harm I guess in getting a free score, but for me it’s only a curiosity. In fact, I don’t know my score because I’ve never bothered to ask for it! But I take care to manage my credit rating, review my credit reports, and learn what I can about how my behavior affects my credit rating.

    Thanks for the list.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kurt – thanks for the comment. As for the credit score, I see it as a matter of a) having good credit (as you alluded to), and b) having a mindset of wanting to be informed of one’s finances. The less you have to pay for it the better, of course!

  4. says

    What I find amazing is that most people still fail to realize the free credit report is a federal law and entitlement you can request yearly. I go to food stores that allow you to get cash back to avoid the bank fees; the Post Office does this also.

    Do you need a clothes dryer? Line drying eliminates the electric and heat costs. It also prolongs the life of the laundry. It may not work during the winter, but 2/3 of the year isn’t bad.

    • Squirrelers says

      Bill – why pay for things that you can get for free, right? You make a good point. As for the clothes, it depends on where you live….there is snow in the forecast here, so the idea of frozen clothers sounds bad right now! But when the weather is warm, I can see your point.

  5. says

    Not only should you look to see if you really need these expenses, but see if there is a less expensive alternative. I found a subscription on the internet for a magazine for $8.22 for three (3) years (30 issues). The renewal was $15 for one year.

    • Squirrelers says

      krantcents – I agree, checking for alternatives is a good idea. Sometimes that’s a happy medium, between paying full price and giving up the expense entirely.

  6. says

    I worked on almost all of the 12 items in your list. I haven’t thought much about baby food or cleaning supplies. I do have a toddler.

    I do have a few favorites when it comes to cleaning supplies and I stick to them. If I have coupons I use them, but not very determined about coupon clipping.

    • says

      I’ve really cut down on a lot of those expenses, but lots of them I haven’t cut out all together. Cable, for example, we have cut down to the basic of basic, but we still pay for it. I don’t drink coffee but my husband does and we eat out a lot. I know that is where we really need to cut down and we’re making progress slowly. I make some of my own cleaners and I make my own lip balm, soap and eye shadow so that saves some money there. In the end it’s about finding a balance between needs and wants, what’s a life if you don’t allow yourself any fun?

      • Squirrelers says

        SMT – I totally agree that it’s about balance. It’s easy to get caught up in savings, goals, etc – that we can lose sight of the idea that we can have fun and not feel guilty.

    • Squirrelers says

      MC – we can only do our best, right? Coupon clipping can help, but there’s the value of time that needs to be considered there. Might be that you’re doing the right thing by not focusing too much on it:)

  7. says

    We have satellite tv and enjoy it. We don’t spend on the other items so it’s probably not too bad. It was easy to make our own baby food. I mashed bananas for the kids’ first food and just took what we were having for dinner and mashed it for the baby. I had a kind of little mill that make quick work of it.

    • Squirrelers says

      Maggie – sounds like you guys are pros at money management! And you know, mashing bananas sounds healthy – certainly fresher than canned, right?

  8. says

    I’d love to ditch cable for a while, but it’s one of those marriage compromises I make. People in my household love sports too much to ditch it.

    I think every year SHOULD include home repairs of some kind even if it’s just painting a room. It’s amazing how quickly time flies and if you spend nothing on a house, it looks like a dump in no time flat. I think it’s kind of unfrugal to cut on home maintenance because it will inevitably effect your property value in a negative way.

    • Squirrelers says

      First Gen – Home maintenance should be factored into the budget each year. Even if expenses aren’t incurred, they should be allocated (in an ideal situation of course) for that case. Things have an estimated useful life, and then they need to be repaired or replaced.

  9. says

    I don’t use any of those anyway, with the exception of home repairs and a very few cleaning supplies (Barkeeper’s Friend & toilet cleaner). Vinegar does a GREAT job of cleaning most things without all the chemical crap, and it’s very inexpensive too.

    • Squirrelers says

      Jackie – yes, good point about vinegar. If people can get past the smell, it does a good job with cleaning some things naturally from what I’ve heard.

  10. says

    Hi Squirrelers,

    I agree with some of these, especially saving on ATM fees and cutting the home line and cable. I am actually going to be visiting coffee shops more often, and as for incandescent lightbulbs – no way I am going to switch to CFLs. I wrote a whole post why on Financial God. 😉

  11. Sharold Friedrich says

    We went for many years without cable and I would cancel today if needed. My kids ( now older teens and young adults) lived and thrived without tv and gaming systems.

    Light bulbs- remember there is a disposal fee in many places for your cf bulbs. I personally like led bulbs better than cf bulbs.

    I will spend good money to have home repairs done correctly. I plan on living here for many years and I want my home maintained.

    Most of the others I do not use. I have never used an ATM, drink my coffee at home , credit reports can be had for free ( have not checked mine for years I have a id protection program)

    • Squirrelers says

      Sharold – it seems like you’re pretty savvy with saving money and making sound spending decisions. That’s good!

  12. says

    We cut most of these out already. The only one I haven’t been able to cut much is the home repair. We are not very good with DIY and will need to learn how to fix our own things more. I’m sure we’ll get there eventually.

    • Squirrelers says

      RB40 – when it comes to repairs, I think it’s often good to hire out if you simply have very little time or lack the right skills for a particular project. Paying someone to get it done right can save in the long run many times!

  13. says

    I love visiting coffee shops, but I am trying to get into a habit of ordering tea or iced coffee as those drinks are easier on my wallet and my waistline. I also never check my bags unless I am going on a 2 week+ trip – it’s not so much the money as it is the hassle of waiting for my bags and the risk of losing my luggage.

    • Squirrelers says

      Well Heeled — I know what you mean about choices at coffee shops. I like to get straight up coffee, or some kind of tea. Both options run cheaper than any “specialty” drinks. Plus you might get refills. That’s much more palatable than $5 or more for other drinks!

  14. says

    I’m still paying a lot for cable but we get decent use out of it and it’s also in a bundled package with internet and phone so it’s not too outrageously expensive. If we didn’t want to get HD channels the cost would be a lot cheaper but HD is worth the extra price for the times when we do watch TV so I haven’t cut back there. -Sydney

    • Squirrelers says

      Untemplater – that’s the thing, if your’re getting a lot of use out of it – it just might be worth it. It’s different for each of us, right? Actually, I hesitate to cut it because we are getting value of it the more I think of it.

  15. says

    A lot of the things on that list have become so routine I never realized how wasteful they can be. Cable, light bulbs, and water bottles are the last things that come to mind when thinking about cutting back but they really start to come into perspective when you think about how much it costs to have the cable sitting unused at least 16hrs a day (8hrs of sleep + 8hr work day) for a year! Stay young and thrifty :)

  16. says

    Interesting list. My take on it?

    I don’t drink coffee, I don’t travel, I don’t have a cell phone (I do have a landline; I’m home almost 24/7, so a landline is fine–and cheaper at $15.77 a month).

    I have made (and canned) my own baby food for the last 3 children (I currently have 6 and one on the way) and I will continue to do it from here on out. It is EASY. Not only that, but it’s simple to make a bunch at once and can it (or you could freeze it) so it would work fine for working parents, too.

    I haven’t had cable since July of 2007, and I wish I had cut it 6 months sooner. Yes, my children liked it. If you feel like paying for Netflix, they have a ton of the shows on there that my children watched. But Hulu (free Hulu, not the paid version) works fine for me.

    I don’t buy water bottles; I drink water from the tap. We fill up old apple juice bottles with tap water and keep them in the fridge (I don’t have a fridge dispenser). We pour from those into glasses every day.

    Credit score–not that neccessary. Also, each time you check it lowers your score by a few points for a month.

    Incandescent lights–we will continue to use them. There still isn’t a dimable choice out there for overhead ceiling fans (I have 16 in my house). I have dimmer switches on all of my lights. But most of the time, I just use natural light (sunshine).

    ATM fees–this is a non-issue for me. My husband goes into the bank for any needed transactions; we never use ATMs.

    Subscriptions: I have 4 subscriptions. 2 were gift subscriptions that were given to me. The other 2 were free subscriptions; I just extended one for free again, and I’ll continue to renew it for free as the option becomes available.

    Mu husband takes care of home repairs.

    Cleaning supplies–I use basics, including water :), soap, ammonia, vinegar, borax, and bleach. Water and elbow grease go a long way. Store brand bleach (with a coupon) works just fine for me.

    {website down for host transfer; will be back up in 2 days}

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