Steps for Lowering Your Discretionary Expenses

Steps for Lowering Your Discretionary Expenses

Quick ways to cut discretionary spending from your monthly budget

Do one thing: If your income increases, move the extra money into a separate account each month through an automatic deduction to keep yourself from spending it immediately.

One glance at the credit card debt millions of Americans continue piling up gives us a good idea of how discretionary spending is likely spiraling into the stratosphere for many people.

When we look to tighten our budgets or reign in spending, we often hone in on discretionary expenses first. Those are the things we buy after paying our bills.

Believe it or not, there are ways to do this and still have a life. (We promise.) Check out these tips on trimming your discretionary expenses:

Find Deals Before Dining Out. A crucial factor in saving is planning. Many times, we go out to eat out on a whim or an impulse. Check your budget at the beginning of the week and plan for those trips out. By planning ahead, you may be able to find coupons or online deals after deciding exactly where you want to go. If you keep your budget at the top of your mind, it may stop the last-minute fast food or impulse buys.

Travel on the Cheap. Planning really can be a game changer when it comes to how much you spend on travel. It’s smart to look for online deals (for air travel, rental cars, and even bus tours) wherever you are heading. While it may seem old school, many destinations still have coupon books or websites with discount codes for events and attractions happening in the area you are traveling to.

  • Travel Tip. Seek out travel brochure stands. Often, you can find discount tickets or coupons on event and business brochures placed inside hotels and at roadside rest centers. Depending on where you stay, you can also ask the concierge for advice on what to see and which events and attractions offer discounts.
  • Road Trip Tip. If you are driving pack food and meals to save on the high cost of food during travel. A fast-food restaurant meal for one person can be costly, not to mention feeding the whole family. You can cut that cost in half or more by packing sandwiches, snacks, and fruit for the trip.

Rethink Entertainment. A big entertainment expense is going out to the movies. When you walk through the doors of a theater, it can be hard to resist the aroma of popcorn and other tempting treats. If you can get past the hype and be patient, you can save a fair amount by waiting for the movie to be available on your favorite streaming service. Streaming the movie at home means you also save a fortune on theatre concessions. It’s a win-win.

Beware of Lifestyle Creep. For the uninitiated, “lifestyle creep” or “lifestyle inflation” is overspending on discretionary expenses as income increases. The best way to prevent this is by sticking to a budget.

If your income increases because of a raise or promotion at work, try to maintain your current budget for a little while. Set a goal to make no changes to your budget for 6 months or 1 year. This should lead to excess savings and keep you away from an immediate increase in spending. After all, if you were doing fine on the previous budget, why change it immediately due to extra funds?

Hit the Pause Button. Impulse purchases can be budget killers. Before you spend again on items you don’t need, give yourself a 24-hour cooling-off period to see if you need the thing you had to have yesterday.



With reporting by Casandra Andrews

Jean Chatzky

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