There are numerous ideas of HOW to reduce expenses but few talk about WHICH expenses to cut.
Reducing expenses can have a very negative affect on your finances. So, before reducing or cutting out expenses ask yourself these three questions.
1) How often and how much do I use it?
If the expense is something you use on a regular basis then it’s probably worth leaving alone. Take electricity for example. Yes, you could turn the heat down and wear a sweater or constantly remind everyone in the family to turn off the lights but, do you really want to live like that?
What about the gym membership? Is that something really use or do you just have good intentions? Be honest with yourself and give up those things that you don’t use regularly.
If you’re considering a purchase ask yourself “how much will I really use it?” Take a BBQ grill as an example. Most people have one but only use it once or twice a year, MAYBE three times. Is that really worth the cost of the biggest and best?
If BBQing is your thing and you’re using it a couple times a week then go for it, buy something nice, it will be worth it.
2) How much joy (not happiness) does it bring you?
In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo recommends holding each item in your house and asking, “does this bring me joy?” If it does it’s kept, if it doesn’t it’s discarded.
Her theory is that after you’ve done this for every item in your home you’ll have thrown out a lot as most things don’t bring joy. What’s left will be the things you really appreciate.
Do the same with each of your expenses. Go through each expense, pause after each and ask yourself, “Does this REALLY bring me joy?”
Take your cell phone for example, does it bring you joy? For most people the answer is probably yes, along with electricity, cable, garbage and other common expenses.
What about your subscription services (Netflix, HULU, Disney+, etc.) Do they all bring you joy, the same amount of joy?
Don’t rush this, really think about each expense. Maybe focus on a couple each day, thinking about each expense throughout the day. You’ll be surprised how much you’re willing to give up, and how easy it is to let go when you realize it isn’t meaningful.
3) Are you buffering?
Buffering? This means to use an expense or purchase to avoid some aspect of your life.
Take a car for example. Someone who feels the need to buy a new car every few years may feel inadequate about themselves. In their mind they may feel that driving the latest and greatest car gives them a certain status amongst his/her peers.
That was just an example, a new car does not mean self esteem issues but, you get the point.
This one is difficult for two reasons:
1) You can’t always tell if you are buffering. Often it takes a third party or a significant event to point it out.
2) For a lot of people it takes time and effort to stop buffering.
The up side is that if you can stop buffering you’ll save a lot of money but more importantly you’ll experience a lot of personal growth.