Challenge

Day 21: Spend Less (30 Day Financial Wellness Challenge)

Eliminate, reduce, negotiate and consolidate your monthly expenses.

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Day 21: Spend Less (30 Day Financial Wellness Challenge)Welcome to Day 21 of the 30-Day Financial Wellness Challenge.

Each day will comprise of financial exercises, some short and others a bit longer, to help you become financially fit. The goal is to tackle different aspects of personal finances one day at a time.

After the 30 days, you’ll have a stronger understanding of your financial health and an action plan to improve your financial wellbeing. Review Day 20: Save More.

On day 21, you’ll learn how to spend less to achieve financial goals.

Let’s accept an axiom about money. We earn money to spend, not hoard it. But we don’t want to spend all the money we make. Doing so locks us into working more, makes it difficult to save, and can lead to a reliance on credit.

On a previous challenge, we used the cash flow equation to determine if you were living within your means. Let’s revisit the equation:

Total Monthly Income – Total Monthly Expenses = Cash Flow

This cash flow number indicates whether or not you have sufficient income to cover your expenses. If your cash flow is zero (0) or a negative number, then you’re tasked with either increasing your income or reducing your expenses.

Today, we’re going to focus on reducing your expenses. You’ll learn how to spend less and still have the things you value.

Types of Expenses

The following are the expense types that were discussed during the Expense Statement challenge.

Bills – are expenses that are necessary, needed, or essential to living. Bills include your monthly mortgage or rent, insurance premiums, utilities, transportation, food, subscriptions, and credit card payments. Bills may be fixed but can also be reduced through negotiation, cancellation, or substitution.

Discretionary – are expenses that aren’t necessary or an obligation. They are entirely at your discretion and include clothing, dining, entertainment, trips, and subscriptions.

Debt – are expenses that are fixed obligations such as student loans, car loans, unsecured loans, etc. We’ll discuss paying off debt and reducing the cost of credit cards on the next day’s challenge.

How to Spend Less Money

The fastest way to spend less is to eliminate as much of your non-value added expenses. Review your expense statement and identify items that you can quickly decide to eliminate. Finding it challenging to eliminate? You also have other options such as reducing, negotiating, and consolidating your expenses.

Eliminate

Eliminate expenses and cancel unnecessary plans altogether. For example, you have a gym membership you don’t use. Eliminate the expenses. Or you might be paying for multiple streaming services and often only use one service. Eliminate the less used service.

Tips: If you can’t eliminate a plan, then remove as many add-ons and extras to reduce the total monthly cost.

Negotiate

Call your service providers and negotiate your service contracts. Ask about cheaper options for the service you already have with them. Think about your utilities, home and auto insurance, cell phone packages, subscriptions, etc. Ask about a group or affiliate discounts.

Tip: Shop around. When negotiating it’s best to know what offers are available from other providers. Use that knowledge tactfully when speaking with a rep. If you cannot get a matching price or an even lower amount, then consider switching.

Reduce

Reduce your discretionary spending on things like groceries, dining, entertainment, clothing, and trips. You probably don’t need to eliminate items that support a healthy lifestyle but reducing the amount you spend.

Tip: Coupons and rebates might seem like a lot of effort but the small amounts can add up nicely. Learn more about cashback apps.

Consolidate

Think outside the box on what expenses you can consolidate. Can you join someone’s cell phone plan? Could you share streaming service plans with a roommate? Does an umbrella insurance policy reduce your premiums? Is it possible to consolidate your stuff into one room and rent space in your home?

Tip: Get creative.

Other ways to spend less

Ask your employer about additional perks and benefits. Some offer gym memberships, group cellphone discounts, transportation credit, and more.

Now, let’s get started with today’s assignment.

Day 21 Assignment

A strategy used by many to achieve financial security is to have fewer monthly expenses. In this challenge, you’re tasked with finding ways to spend less on your bills and discretionary expenses.

  1. List all your expenses. Or use your expense statement from Day 3.
  2. Identify the contact numbers to discuss your bills for easy reference.
  3. Calculate your savings.
  4. Indicate the action and comments.

Note: It may take you a day to complete the list but will take extra days to contact each provider. Use the list to help you get organized. If you have a hard time eliminating, then try reducing the monthly cost first.

Spend Less

ExpensesContact InfoCurrent Bill AmountFrequency (monthly, quarterly, bi/annual)New Bill AmountSavings = Current Bill – New BillAction (Canceled, reduced, alternative)Comments
Rent$$$
Electricity$$$
Water$$$
Gas/Other$$$
Internet$$$
Cable$$$
Home phone$$$
Cellphone$$$
Auto Insurance$$$
Subscriptions (e.g.Netflix)$$$
Renter’s Insurance$$$
Gym memberships$$$
Other wellness$$$
Child care$$$
Totals$$$

Tips to Spend Less

  • This is a sample list. Add all your expenses including discretionary spending.
  • Don’t forget to include all your subscriptions separately. This includes all streaming services, digital media, meal preps, etc.
  • Write down comments. Include notes, representative name, date, time, and direct telephone number, if given.
  • Switch banking relationships. Identify if you’re spending on banking service you can get free elsewhere. Review the Banking Relationship challenge.

And that’s it for today!

Additional Reading

Next Daily Challenge: Day 22: Pay off Debt

Bonus Challenge

Calculate your cash flow number after reducing your expenses.

Monthly Cash FlowCash Flow (Day 4)Cash Flow (After Spend Less)
   Total Net Monthly Income$$
   – Total Monthy Expenses$$
   = Cash Flow $$

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I be successful in getting a service plan reduced?

When speaking with a representative, start by saying how you enjoy the service but looking to lower your payments. Don’t take the first offer. Brainstorm with the rep about deals specifically for new customers, loyalty discounts, bundling, refunds, etc. Make it a team effort to find the best solution for you.

Should I shop around for cheaper options and just switch?

It’s recommendable to shop around to see current offers. This will help you in negotiating with your current providers. You certainly can switch to a better plan that’s cheaper. But before doing so, it doesn’t hurt to see what offer your current provider has for a customer who’s ready to leave.

Do I need to threaten to leave to get a discount?

This can work but it’s risky. If you really want the service, be upfront and honest. Sometimes the initial reps you speak with are limited in what they can offer. Many companies have Retention departments that have more options for those who are truly ready to leave. It’s much cheaper for a company to retain a customer than to find a new one. So, if you hit a wall, then ask if there’s another department that handles customers who are ready to cancel.

What happens if I can’t get a better plan or another option?

Truly decide if you want to keep that service or expense. Again, spending on one item can mean the inability to afford another item. Consider if eliminating an expense you want can help you achieve a long-term financial goal sooner.

Jason Vitug

Jason is the founder of phroogal, creator of the award winning project Road to Financial Wellness, and author of the bestseller and New York Times reviewed book, You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life.

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