Some tips for cutting personal expenses are relevant if you have a cat! You might switch to a smaller size litter box that requires less litter to fill it--making sure the size is "spill" safe! You might switch litter types from "specialty" cat litters (which often have toxic chemicals in them) and clay litters (which produce respiratory problems) to cheaper litters designed for the rodent variety of pet, like cedar or pine shavings (they may require extra flooring clean-up, but studies show housework staves off certain forms disease!) . You might switch from top-of-the-line (organic) cat foods sold at pet shops to all natural cat foods that are carried in specialty grocery stores, like Whole Foods and New Frontier; these are healthful at half the cost. If your kitty likes movies, you might switch to a Netflix account (watch free online and in-you-mail movies) to replace purchasing DVDs.
I have some very specific suggestions that I hope will help:
1) Eat out once a week at most. Carefully consider which time during the week you will buy a meal at a restaurant instead of cooking/packing your own. I saved over $100 a month with this simple change (and lost 15 lbs)
2) If you have a gym membership, cancel it. Unless you spend a lot of time there (more than 10X per month) it is cheaper to buy the day pass each time you go than it is to have a full membership.
3) Check your account for auto-deductions you have signed up for. Sometimes we sign up for trial memberships that then become paid memberships after 30 days. It's easy to forget about them if you're not checking your bank statement often, in fact, those companies are counting on it.
4) Raise the deductibles on your auto and home insurance, and comparison shop for rates. Sometimes insurance companies will give you great introductory rates, then raise it on you incrementally over time. If you pay auto-deduct, you're less likely to notice, when cheaper options for the same or similar coverage might be available.
5) Pay off credit cards. I know, easier said than done, but do this even before putting cash in savings or your retirement. Many credit card interest rates are over 18%, and when you pay them off, it's the same as saving 18% of your average balance each year. This is way better than any return you might expect on savings accounts or retirement investments, especially this year. This also improves your credit rating, which gets you lower interest rates on other loans, saving you thousands of dollars indirectly.
I rarely use credit cards and have virtually eliminated, sadly, most of my collecting hobbies. I have also cut back on my weekend travels, and my wife and I have postponed our summer vacation until later in the year. I cut corners financially as much as possible, spending mostly on necessities such as food, bills, and gasoline. Eating out is another luxury that we have reduced, and clothes shopping has been put on hold.
I am in the middle of a little financial reconstruction of my own. All of the previous posts offer very good suggestions. I would add that staying away from credit cards, and only paying cash, would cut down personal expenditures. People are more likely not to let go of cash on hand.
People need to be more creative. Rather than buying new clothes, you can "go shopping" in your own closet and try to find new combinations. You could invite a couple of friends to have a clothing swap - everyone brings an armload of clothing that they are tired of or don't fit into well, and you try things on and take something new home - this could also be a fun social evening at no expense.
Getting a water bottle and refilling it saves you money and is environmentally friendly. If you get a stainless steel bottle it's healthier, too. Ditto a refillable coffee mug; you can carry a coffee with you instead of picking one up in the morning, and if you do refill it somewhere, lots of places will give you a discount for bringing a mug.
Entertainment can be inexpensive if you realize that what really matters is the people you are spending time with. You can enjoy their company just as well at home as out someplace that costs money. Have a girl's spa night at home, rent a video instead of going to the theatre, try out some old-fashioned board games, or get a group together and learn to knit or crochet (then you can make accessories and gifts cheaply, too!).
I agree with 4's post about cooking your own food, and I would add that Americans are estimated to waste as much as 40% of the food we buy. Paying attention to the waste factor would cut most people's food bills. Freeze it, figure out how to incorporate it into another dish, or pack it for lunch the next day.
This depends a lot on where you are and what your lifestyle is. For most Americans, a big source of unnecessary spending is the money spent on food. People buy all sorts of ready-made foods rather than cooking for themselves. They eat out instead of making their food at home. They buy high priced coffee drinks at Starbucks. All of these sorts of expenditures add up very quickly and are a great place to cut back.
The best way to cut expenditures is to look carefully at how products are manufactured. Is there waste? The waste could be raw material that is unused, or worker hours that are not productive. Also look into supply lines. Are there cheaper materials of the same quality available? Can we get a better price on raw material? In this economy, we may be able to renegotiate old deals for better prices.
I guess that all of us in the current economic climate are looking at ways that we can cut down our expenditure and save more money. Obviously everybody's situation is very different, and we all have our own things that we feel we can't do without, however a great place to start is to look at your list of monthly expenditures and try to prune it somewhat by erasing those things that are not essential. You might find, for example, that you could buy cheaper brands of food products rather than the more expensive brands that you currently buy.
Also, you might want to cut down the amount of other things you do, such as going out and other leisure activities to reduce your outgoings. What can be really useful to help you in all of these issues is to draw up a budget that you then stick to. Drawing up a budget allows you to divide your income into various amounts for food, leisure and savings and so on. Following this budget and not spending more will enable you to gain control of your finances and not spend too much.