21 ways to cut expenses quickly

Cutting expenses can be a great first step to regaining control of your budget.

If you’re keeping track of your budget, you might notice that even the smallest expenses can add up fast. And that can make it tough to stay on top of bills, pay off debt and grow your savings.

These days, the COVID-19 pandemic is making it even harder for many people to stay on top of their finances. So if you’re struggling right now, know that you’re not alone. And if you’re looking for ways to regain control of your budget, learning how to cut expenses can be a great first step.

Here are 21 ways you can cut expenses and start saving.

A man replaces an energy-efficient light bulb.

Cut costs at home

Whether you rent or own, common household expenses could be taking up a major portion of your budget. But improving your home’s energy efficiency can cut costs and save you money on household expenses. The federal government has a number of tips that can help.

1. Program your thermostat. You can save some money by programming your thermostat to use less heat and air conditioning while you’re away from home.

2. Replace your light bulbs. You might consider installing energy-efficient light bulbs. Not only do they use less energy than traditional bulbs do, but they last longer too.

3. Insulate and seal your home. According to Energy Star, the average home has so many leaks that it’s like leaving a window open every single day all year long. Insulating your home and sealing windows and doors can help you cut back significantly on your home utility bills.

4. Become water efficient. Fixing leaks and installing water-efficient appliances could save you around $350 in a single year.

5. Lower the temperature on your water heater. Turning your water heater’s temperature back from 140 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit can help you save as much as 22% annually on your utility bill.

6. Consider relief options. If you’re struggling to pay for utilities, you might be able to get help with some of your home energy bills.

A dad looks at his cellphone while his daughter watches TV.

Reconsider other recurring monthly costs

Subscriptions, membership fees and other recurring monthly costs could be draining your budget. You might not even be using them regularly. And if you’re not getting your money’s worth, you could consider canceling a few.

7. Stop paying for mobile apps you rarely use. Have any mobile app subscriptions you rarely use? You might want to cancel your subscriptions and delete the apps.

8. Cut the cable. If you don’t watch most of your channels, you could consider swapping out your cable package for a cheaper streaming service or a digital antenna.

9. Update your cellphone plan. The average American household’s monthly cellphone bill is almost $100.1 To cut back on this expense, you could ask your current carrier about switching to a different plan. Or you could consider switching to a cheaper wireless carrier. You also might be able to get help paying your cellphone bill.  

A mom and her daughter cook a recipe at home.

Reduce food costs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spends over $660 on food every month.1 But your food budget might be another place where you can cut expenses.

10. Meal plan. Try planning your meals for the week ahead. Then make a grocery list of what you need before your trip to the store. And if you stick to your list, you can avoid impulse buys.

11. Make pantry staples at home. With a few simple ingredients, you can make your own basic pantry staples, such as granola, peanut butter and salad dressing. It can be quick and easy, and they’re often cheaper than store-bought versions.  

12. Cook in large batches. You can freeze leftovers and use them for future meals.

13. Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk can help you save on the price per unit and get you more for your money.

14. Use coupons. Whether they’re printable or digital, arrive in the mail or appear on the back of your receipts, coupons can help you save on groceries.

15. Consider food assistance options. If you’re struggling to put food on the table, your local food pantry could provide a helping hand. There are also a number of federal nutrition assistance options, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

A woman shops online and compares prices before making a purchase.

Shop around

It never hurts to shop around before making a purchase—big or small. And comparing prices can help you get the most for your money.

16. Use digital tools to compare prices. These can help you quickly find great deals from anywhere on the web. For example, Capital One Shopping is a free, online shopping tool that instantly searches for available coupon codes and automatically applies the best one it can find; checks for better prices while you shop online at Amazon, Target and other retailers; and alerts you when items you’ve looked at drop in price.2 

17. Do your own quote comparison. Whether you’re shopping for a loan or considering a home improvement project, you always can ask multiple companies for quotes. Then you can compare details like the annual percentage rate, monthly payment and any fees involved before you make your final purchase.  

18. Use your negotiation skills. From home repairs to car purchases, prices are often negotiable. If you do your research, you could use competitors’ prices to ask for a discount.

A man reviews his bills and looks for errors so he can stay on top of his expenses.

Pay attention to your bills

Keeping a close eye on your bills can help you catch billing errors and avoid fees. And it can give you a better understanding of where your money’s going.

19. Watch for billing errors. Don’t pay for services you didn’t receive. If you find billing errors on your statement, contact the service provider and ask them to fix it. And if you’re a Capital One customer and believe there’s been an error with a charge on your credit card account, you can contact Capital One to dispute the charge.

20. Pay your bills on time. Keeping up with your bills and making payments on or before the due date can help you avoid late fees and other penalties. And if you’re a Capital One customer, you can make payments online and even set up automatic monthly payments so you never miss a payment again.

21. Consider relief options. If you’re struggling to pay your bills, you may need to find other ways to cut down on your expenses. For example, you can check to see whether you’re eligible for COVID-19-related relief programs for student loans and mortgage and rent payments. And if you’re a Capital One customer having trouble making payments because of COVID-19, you should reach out directly to discuss potential options.

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