Challenge: Find One Spending Category to Cut Entirely

by Will Lipovsky · 11 comments

Self-control is a challenging thing to master, as it’s always easy to cheat just a little bit. You may limit yourself, for instance, to eating candies only on the weekend, but pretty soon you find yourself eating candy on your days off too because those days feel like a weekend and don’t count. It’s human nature. Most people are very skilled at figuring out how to get what they want if they think and try hard enough to find loopholes.

And since loopholes are pretty easy to find, it’s often best to eliminate the ‘reward’ entirely. If you know candy is bad for you, then it’s best to give it up completely. Cold turkey.

That’s why we are going to try this today. The goal is to choose one spending category and cut it out entirely. You aren’t spending a dime on it anymore. This method is pretty powerful way of kicking that temptation in its gut and increasing your net worth, and I promise it’s worth the effort.

For me, something I’m going to completely cut out of my life is soda. Drinking the substance isn’t good for me and it’s wildly expensive for what you’re getting – sugar water. So I will never buy it again. Ever.

What are some other spending categories to cut out completely? Fast food is a good one to cut, as it’s far more expensive than cooking at home. Even when you travel again someday, it’s more cost-efficient to hit up a grocery store and snag an Airbnb with a kitchen.

Buying premium fuel may be something you can cut out completely too. If your current car requires premium, you seriously need to consider trading it in. The price between premium and regular unleaded is quite a bit, so you might be able to recoup the cost of switching cars eventually. Or maybe you want an electric car – in which case you can cut out gasoline entirely. Do the math, though, before you go car shopping.

David’s Note: Don’t use this as an excuse to get a new car though. The difference in gas costs is significant, but you won’t be able to recoup the costs most fo the time by buying another car. Like Will says, do the math and only make the switch if it makes financial sense.

Another suggestion is to look for subscriptions to cut. Netflix, Hulu Plus, filtered water subscription, the Jelly of the Month Club, etc. Instead of downgrading your subscription – just cut it out entirely. You’ll love the savings – no doubt – but you may also love the freedom.

There are also many spending categories you can cut out for certain periods of time. This saves you a lot of money. Just make sure to stick to the ban during its entire duration.

Something else to skip for a certain period of time is the habit of shopping for clothes. You likely already stopped, or at least slowed down, these days. Did you really miss it? I bet not. See if you can avoid it for another six months once everyone is going out again. If you have enough of a certain type of clothes, ban yourself from buying more for a period of time to get you started. Say, no shopping for pants.

Video entertainment is another good example. Limiting video consumption over the summer is something that’s pretty achievable for most people. Instead of sitting inside watching TV during the warm months, you can get out and experience summer outdoors. What’s likely to happen is that you’ll get so used to not watching TV this digital entertainment ban may continue throughout the rest of the year. Some of you may even turn into a no-TV family. This may sound pretty startling but think of how much more productive and probably how much happier you would be? The fresh air and exercise may even improve your health too.

Be careful when cutting a spending category for a certain period of time though. What many people do is stock up right before the date they plan to stop spending. In reality, this saves them nothing, since it just changes when they spend the money. And if you spend it all at once, you may find yourself in credit card debt or lose money due to opportunity cost (in this case losing the opportunity to do something else with that money rather than spending it right away).

David’s Note: One way to avoid stocking up is to just give up the expense right away. You read the article, and already have everything you need to immediately reduce your expense. There’s no need to wait and think things over. What can you give up now? In Will’s case, he wouldn’t be able to stock up on soda if he stops consuming the moment he wrote the article. You can apply the same urgency for what you are committing to give up.

Another benefit of committing now is that you won’t have a chance to second guess yourself on that choice either. Do it now. Don’t wait!

It’s always smart to trim the fat from your budget. And cutting out categories completely is the best way of doing so. What will you cut today?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • JJ says:

    You’re very welcome, Beau! I’m happy to be of help. God bless you richly.

  • JJ says:

    Hi. I’d like to tell you a little tale. It’s the tale of a woman who had to learn the hard way. I was one of this world’s biggest eaters of dark chocolate, ramen noodles & Little Debbie Frosted Fudge (the snack cakes). Then not too long ago I had a minor stroke. Not a serious one, nor paralytic, but it could have been. It scared the living daylights out of me when the doc told me the MRI showed a stroke! I learned a hard lesson. Now I don’t buy any of that stuff. I gave up soda too. To be honest, I don’t miss the ramen or dark chocolate. I miss Little Debbies, but for my health, I won’t touch them now, & I don’t miss soda. Has that made a big difference in my funds (:) not to mention my weight)! Something I’d like to add, not related to my terrible eating habits—why buy bottled water? What comes out of your faucet is no less pure, if it’s from a municipal source, than bottled; no plastic bottle either! Or if you live someplace with nasty water, like a city we used to visit when I was growing up, you can get a filter to install on your faucet. It couldn’t be any cheaper. I hope this helps somebody who reads it. God bless you!

    • Beau W. says:

      What kind of faucet filter would you recommend? That’s a awesome way to save money.

      • JJ says:

        Hi, Billy. You asked what kind of faucet filter I recommend. To tell you the truth about that, I’d use Pur. Not because of how they spell their brand. (-: I think it’s a good-quality filter.

        • JJ says:

          Please excuse my mistake. I’m sorry I called you “Billy”. I must have had his reply in my head when I replied to your question.

  • BillyG says:

    I’m going to follow you and stop having Coke. I’ve had so many in the last few weeks I’ve gained about 5 pounds.

    I must stop!

    • David @ says:

      Please stop BillyG!

      You need to do it for health reasons alone. Have you ever seen those videos of how toxic Coke can be?

  • Katie K. says:

    We cut out television (we had satellite, but cable – same thing) completely just over a year ago and it has been one of the best things ever. We are a family of four, with 2 kids ages 12 and 7. We watched a lot of TV. There was always a show playing in our living room. We wondered how we could possibly live without Nickelodeon, the Disney channel, or Discovery. Guess what – we lived! Not only do we find ourselves not watching as much TV now (we still have Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Prime, and do iTunes movies), but we are saving over $50 per month. Some people may think that is a small savings to be excited about, but we put that extra $600 per year to good use! Plus, it feels like a small victory, which always helps keep you motivated. If anyone is considering giving up their TV connection — I highly recommend it!

    • David @ says:

      It’s incredible how many people are happy about cutting out TV, but most of America is still addicting to the tube. I personally think not having a cable connection is good even if there are absolutely NO savings, but like you said, the $50 monthly obviously doesn’t hurt.

    • Will Lipovsky says:

      Yeah, it’s like $50 isn’t much but it’s important to make sure every dollar is working for you in the hardest way. So if $600/year would be better put to use in a different way – good for you for finding that out! I’m 26 and I’ve never paid for TV and unless something dramatic changes, never will. You’ve encouraged me to keep it up.

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