I Saved $200 By Cutting Out *These* Unnecessary Expenses For A Week
Between all of those bills, streaming subscriptions, and unexpected expenses, it can be a challenge to set aside money to put toward your savings (add debt, and it’s even more challenging!) While a raise or a side hustle are great ways to up your consistent income, sometimes these things are just not possible right away. The good news? There is another way to save money: by cutting unnecessary expenses!
Don’t fret yet. You won’t need to resort to a hermit life that involves cutting up your credit card and eating only ramen noodles. Personally, after setting some new financial goals for myself, I decided to experiment with the “no spend week” trend and see how much money could be saved.
I decided not to make the goal to spend $0 but instead cut all expenses I deem ‘unnecessary’ for seven days. Compared to an average week of spending (built-in bills excluded), I saved $208 and will be taking a few new practices with me into weeks beyond!
While my spending varies week by week, I dug through my receipts to find a pretty typical example of where my money goes throughout the course of seven days. Below is a breakdown of my spending during an average week. Please note this does not include monthly bills such as rent, utilities, student loans, gas, etc.
- Weekly Groceries – $75
This is probably my biggest overspending category. Somehow, I continually manage to shop like it’s the apocalypse on a weekly basis. Yes, $75 isn’t going to break the bank, but multiply that by four and I’m dishing out at least $300 on groceries alone each month. My usual haul includes a variety of produce, protein, snackage, breakfast ingredients, household items that I’m running low on, and more. Where I go wrong is never prepping my meals and simply buying what I think I’ll need in the coming week.
- Meals – $50
I pride myself on only ordering takeout once a week – after buying my apocalyptic groceries. When indulging in my favorite takeout meal from a local sushi place, delivery and fees price my bill at around $34. Though I’m pretty consistent about only doing this once a week, I don’t always account for the fact that I’ll probably spend money on food with friends during a weeknight or on the weekends.
- Coffee – $15
I consider myself a seasonal Starbucks junkie. During wintertime, I have no problem making a steaming cup of coffee at home. During warmer months, I have a one-track mind for starting my day with a grande Starbucks iced coffee. On average, I grab a black, unsweetened iced coffee three times per week ($3.25 each) and a turkey bacon breakfast sandwich ($4.15) on one of those days (total includes tax).
- Shopping – $80
This category is a catch-all. When it comes to miscellaneous purchases, Amazon and Target are my Achilles heel. One browse through Amazon has me ordering two new books and a french press, and one stroll through Target means two new sweaters added to my closet. This category varies the most, but I’ve encountered weeks where I spent at least $80 on these unneeded impulse purchases.
- Weekends – $60
Patio brunch in the city? Yes. Mimosa flight? Double yes. Weekends have become much less of a money suck for me since covid, but there are still times when I let myself spend a little more than anticipated. For money-saving purposes, I am adding this “weekend” category to compare what I will spend with friends during a Saturday on the town (inclusive of brunch, wine night and/or another spendy activity) versus what I spent during my challenge.
AVERAGE TOTAL SPENT: $280
Below is a breakdown of my spending during a week of cutting out unnecessary expenses:
- Weekly Groceries – $60
I went about my normal grocery routine but with a few vital changes: 1) I took inventory of the food already in my pantry and freezer, and 2) I spent about 10 minutes planning out meals for the week to avoid multiple grocery store runs. My haul included some of the same items, but omitted anything already in my kitchen or not fitting into the meal plan. This little bit of extra prep time helped eliminate food waste and will make my groceries last longer!
- Meals – $0
Though I nixed my weekly takeout, I was still able to be social. Instead of ordering out with friends, I met up with a good friend to cook a meal using ingredients from our kitchen. For the rest of my weeknights, I stayed strong and cooked my planned dishes, which I found made leftover lunches way easier. On Friday night, when I felt that itch to treat myself and order something delicious, I threw a frozen pizza in the oven, indulged in a glass of wine, and called it a day.
- Coffee – $0
One of the best purchases I made during my grocery haul was the Starbucks medium roast iced coffee jug from the fridge section. This container, which has four servings of black medium roast iced coffee, is priced at $4.99 – just over what I’d pay for one drink in-store! The “fridge” coffee hit the spot, and I opted for a big old glass on the mornings of my “no spend” week.
- Shopping – $0
I’ll be honest: the very first day of this challenge, I found myself thinking, “What if I need a car wash?” I don’t even get my car washed weekly, so this was strictly the impulse shopper in me speaking. I managed to avoid the car wash as well as purchasing anything else unnecessary for the full course of seven days, totaling this category to a whopping $0!
- Weekends – $12
I used my weeknights to cook, catch up on writing, start reading While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory, and binge-watch Nine Perfect Strangers on Hulu. My weekend was also very low-key, with only one purchase that I let slide as “necessary spending.” As an introvert, it can be easy to get sucked into my routine, so I try and schedule time with friends at least once every weekend. This particular weekend, we decided to go to the movie theatre, and I allowed myself to spend $12 on the movie ticket to see Free Guy, which was worth the price of catching up with friends.
Total Spent during this week: $72
TOTAL SAVED: $208
Kailey Hansen is a communications specialist in the greater Chicago area. She enjoys yoga, reading, and Swiffering her apartment.