The Ultimate Guide to Cutting Your Household Expenses

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Use a shower timer –

Off of the top of your head, how much water does your shower use in one minute? Half a gallon? A full gallon? What if I told you that the average American shower uses 2.1 gallons of water per minute? This means that if you’re taking a 20 minute shower, you’re going to use (on average) 42 gallons of water. Why is this important? Because if you’re paying $0.25 per gallon (as an example), your shower just cost you $10.50 for each one your take. That’s a crazy amount of money, isn’t it? So how do you work on cutting this household expense? A shower timer. By putting a shower time on your water heater or even an egg timer in the bathroom and limiting your showers to five minutes or so, you’ll significantly cut the amount of water that you are sending down the drain. Another option is to use some of the water that is going down your drain as grey water. To collect in the shower, stick a bucket in there with you. It will catch water that doesn’t hit your body and you can use it for other uses. Grey water has quite a few different uses and can actually save you quite a bit of money along the way.

Turn your thermostat down –

You might not believe me, but your thermostat being kept even one or two degrees higher (or lower) than it needs to be can jump your heating or cooling bill by hundreds each year. This can be especially true if you have kids (or a husband like I do) who likes to play with the thermostat and turn it up or down when you don’t want it to be. To help cut your household expenses in the heating and cooling area, either install a programmable thermostat or install a box and lock over the one that you do have. It might seem silly to change thermostats, but once you see how much you will save, you’ll be glad that you did.

Turn your water heater down – 

Mot water heaters are set at a temperature that is much too high. Not only does this cost you more since it takes more power to heat the water that high, but it can also be extremely dangerous for you and your family. Burns can happen incredibly quick with hot water. To protect your family and save money on your electric bill, turn your water heater down to 120 degrees F. You’ll minimize the risk of burning yourself and you’ll save money on the cost of heating it past that. Just be sure not to turn it any lower than that. Below that temperature and you run the risk of bacteria growing in your water heater since the water isn’t hot enough to kill it.

Put Your lights on a timer –

One major cause of a high electric bill is lights that are left on when no one is in the room. If your family has trouble turning the lights off behind them, putting your lights on timer can help. It’s still best to have the lights turned off when someone leaves a room, but at least with a timer, they won’t be on for hours and hours with no one around.

Go meatless one night a week –

Meat is expensive and one of the biggest part of a family grocery budget. If you need to cut your expenses there a  bit, having a meatless meal once a week can help. It may not seem like it but it really can help save you hundreds per year depending on how large your family is. If you spend $3.00 per meal on meat and you cut one meat meal per week, that comes out to a savings of $144.00 per year. Now I don’t know about you? But $144 isn’t chump change to me. Instead, fix your family a vegetarian meal, use rice and just enjoy the taste of nature every so often.

Stop eating out –

It might not seem like a lot of money at the time, but that $5 or $10 each time you head to the take out place is adding up. Aside from that? When was the last time you actually fed your entire family at a restaurant for $10.00? I know for my family of three it is usually a minimum of $15.00. At that rate, if our family ate out once a week, we’d be spending $60.00 per month and $720 per year and that’s assuming we didn’t eat anywhere more expensive. Why? Just for the convenience of not cooking at home? It isn’t worth the expense in your family budget. Instead, cook your meals at home. If you absolutely must eat out, do what you can to save money when eating out instead of just stopping at the first place that looks good.

Learn to sew –

There are a few skills that our grandparents used to save money or to survive when they had no money and sewing is one of them. Whether it is sewing a ripped pair of jeans or making your own sewing projects, taking sewing lessons can really help save you money over time. It might be a small savings, but recognizing that those small savings opportunities turn into larger ones is a great way to grow your money over time.

Grow more –

Groceries are one of the single most expensive expenses that a family will have so anyone wanting to cut household expenses is going to need to take a look at saving money on groceries. One of the easiest ways to do that is by growing more and buying less. If you have the room, plant a garden full of money saving (and delicious!) foods. If you don’t have the room? You can still save money by growing. There are plenty of foods that you can grow in your kitchen and there are plenty of foods that regrow from scraps. Even doing those two “small” things will cut your grocery bill by quite a bit each month.

Drop the Monthly Cell Plan – 

If you’re still paying hundreds each month for cell service, you’re behind the curve on saving money on your cell phone. Modern prepaid cell phone plans aren’t the high per minute and high data plans that we all remember from when prepaid plans first came out. These days you can score really great deals each month. Straight Talk offers unlimited everything from $45.00 per month. For those wanting to drop their cost even lower, Republic Wireless might be a good option. They use wifi calling to keep the costs low. How low? The average Republic Wireless bill is just $15.00 per month.

Refinance your home or car –

If you currently have a car or house payment, you may be able to lower it by refinancing. Knowing when to refinance your loans is key though. If you do it too soon, you could easily end up costing yourself more money. Do it too late and it won’t help much. The whole reason to refinance is to try and get a lower interest rate and a lower payment so be sure that you do your research up front before you jump into filling out paperwork.

Buy discount eyeglasses – 

I have worn glasses since I was nine years old and if  you or a family member does too? I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you how expensive they can be. How do I save on them? Zenni Optical. For real. They are my single go-to when I need new glasses. Why? Because I can pick up a pair of quality eyeglasses for as little as $5.00 depending on what type of frame. My prescription sunglasses? I paid like $20.00 for them since I shopped Zenni Optical for them! There’s no reason to spend hundreds per pair when you can do a bit of research and find a pair for much less.

Get Healthy – 

If you are unhealthy, chances are extremely good that you’re costing yourself unneeded expenses. Between doctors visits, prescription medications, higher insurance fees and more, you will cost yourself a significant amount of your savings. Getting healthier can help ease that cost and cut those medical expenses. I will admit that I am not the healthiest person and in fact, a few months ago I was spending literally hundreds on supplements each month. These days, I am raving and touting how utterly amazing Thrive products are. With Le-Vel, I still spend money, but I’m spending so much less each month. I feel much better, my general discomforts are gone, I’m down quite a few pounds and I am healthier than I’ve ever been.

If a product like Thrive isn’t for you, that’s perfectly fine! Get out and take a walk! Drink your water each day! Do what you can to be healthier and your budget will be as well!

Treat health conditions naturally – 

I know that not everyone believes in the magic of natural treatments for what ails you, but I am a full believer. I found a natural treatment for diabetes and a natural treatment for chronic pain that both worked incredibly well. Treating yourself naturally can save you quite a bit of money. Prescriptions are expensive but if you can find a natural supplement that will treat your issues, you can save significantly…sometimes as much as hundreds of dollars per month.

Drink Water –

Sodas, teas and even juices can all get incredibly expensive incredibly fast. This is true whether you’re eating out at a restaurant or at home. To help save yourself that money, drink more water. Water is cheap, easy and you’ll get the added benefit of better health. Also be sure that you skip the bottled water. Not only is it expensive but it’s bad for the Earth as well. If you absolutely refuse to drink your tap water, pick up a filtered water bottle. It will filter out any sediments or other nasties that make your water taste bad and you’ll still save a huge amount of money over soda and bottled water.

Lower your costs when you have to eat out – 

If you do have to eat out, you’ll want to budget ahead of time for the cost, but that doesn’t mean you need to budget a ton of money. To help keep your costs down, you should do one of two things. Either order off of the kids menu since kids meals are typically much cheaper than adult meals. Your other option is to share an entree with someone else. Doing this keeps the per person cost down and trust me, with how large most restaurant sizes are? You’ll still fill up. Finally, to save just a few more dollars, order water with lemon instead of a soda or other drink. If each person in your party does that,  you’ll save a nice, tidy sum.

Plan a menu – 

Planning a menu is something that every frugal blogger in the world will tell you to do. What they fail to do is explain exactly why you should and how exactly it helps you save. Menu planning basically helps you save because 1. it allows you to shop on a more regular basis instead of being in the store all of the time where impulse buys can really put your budget in danger and 2. it keeps you from being tempted to eat out more than you should. Most of us have an issue with one (or both) of these “problems.” To keep them under control, you’ll want to plan a menu at least once a month. I personally plan my menu a year at a time.  Learning how to menu plan isn’t hard at all so there’s really no reason not to do it. If you stick to it, it will save you a pretty nice chunk over time.

Start freezer cooking – 

Aside from menu planning, freezer cooking is a fantastic way to cut your grocery costs. The basic idea is to buy on sale, cook and freeze for later. For some people, once a month cooking consists of days of prep, cooking and freezing sessions. For others, like me, who don’t have time to do that, filling your freezer without once a month cooking gets to be a bit easier. Instead of taking on huge day, cook double when you’re making your regular meals. Eventually you’ll fill up your freezer the same exact way.

Use blackout curtains- 

If you live in an area that gets a lot of sun during the day and where temperatures climb sky high during the day, you may be paying more to keep your home cool than you need to be. If your windows are uncovered or are only covered with blinds, you are letting in light that will only help to heat your home up. This means that your a/c needs to work harder to keep your home cool which in turn means that you pay more. A quick and easy fix for this issue is blackout curtains. These light blocking curtains help to keep that heat out by blocking the light that creates it. These curtains are also great to have in the winter as well since they will not only keep heat out, but they’ll help keep cool or warm air in.

Use Bubble Wrap or Visqueen to insulate your windows – 

Aside from putting up blackout curtains, covering your windows with either bubble wrap or 6 mil visqueen also helps to control the temperature in your home by preventing air leaks. This one is especially important if you live in an area that gets colder winter temperatures. Use a staple gun to attach whichever product you’re using. Tape can be used but truthfully, it won’t work nearly as well. Once you’ve got the plastic or bubble wrap in place, you’ll likely notice that you can actually feel the cold from outside radiating off of the plastic. When you combine covering your windows with the blackout curtains I mentioned above, it takes care of that little issue too.

Turn ceiling fans off – 

When you walk into a room, do you turn on the ceiling fans? Most of us do. When you leave the room, do you shut them off? If not, you’re paying for the electric to run them for nothing. A ceiling fan is great when you’re in the room with it, but they have no long lasting effect toward keeping your home cool. In fact, if you’re not in the room, all that you’re doing is paying for the fan to run while receiving no benefit at all from it. Instead of paying for that useless air, shut the fan off until you are actually planning on staying in the room for a while. This is one that I used to have an issue with myself. It wasn’t until I read one of my favorite frugal living and finance books that I realized it and made the change.

Use Coupons – 

While I don’t extreme coupon any longer, I do still believe in using coupons to save. There are a ton of places to find printable coupons on the internet and online coupon codes are usually pretty easy to find as well.  When you use coupons though, you’ll need to be extremely careful that you don’t overspend on items you don’t need. Buying something simply because you have a coupon is a sure fire way to lose money.

Downsize your home –

How much are you paying for your home? Too much? Ask yourself if you have more room than what you need. Chances are that you do. Americans at large seem to have a mentality that we have to have more to show how hard we have worked for our things. The catch is this though; they’re just things. If you’re living above your means just to have those “things,” you’re really doing yourself a disservice financially. If this is you and your family, consider downsizing your home to something that is more affordable. Your finances will thank you and chances are? You’ll be much happier with less to clean and less to worry about.


Wow! That was a loooonnnngggg post! That may break the record for the longest I’ve ever done! Did you find something to help you cut your household expenses? I sure hope so! Did you miss page 1 of this post? Use the button below to go back and check it out!


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Stacy Barr
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Stacy Barr

Stacy Barr is the face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family.By the age of 30, Stacy had overcome an alcohol addiction, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Stacy is passionate about homeless advocacy and addiction education.  Her first book, also called Six Dollar Family is available on Amazon.

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