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25 Ways to Save $1,000 on Monthly Expenses

A number of years ago, I met Kathryn and Galen. They’d won a contest sponsored by Woman’s Day magazine. The prize? A money makeover and financial coaching with … me! From our first meeting, we became fast friends. Not only were they drowning in debt, but Galen was also dealing with a protracted season of unemployment. Their financial situation was grim.

Debt and Family

Kathryn and Galen were totally committed to working with me as I created a plan that, if followed diligently, would get them out of debt and on their way to financial freedom.

The problem was that even with their new scaled-back lifestyle, my students were $1,000 short every month—an amount they would have to find somewhere, somehow, if this plan were to work.

Never have I seen a couple so committed to getting out of debt. They didn’t complain or seek pity. They didn’t whine or make excuses. Instead, they adopted a “scorched earth” attitude as they committed to doing anything possible to reach their goal.

Here’s Kathryn’s list of the 25 things they did to cut expenses and find the $1,000 they needed every month to stay on track with getting out of debt:


A cellphone

1. Coupons

Joined The Grocery Game  (an online program that is no longer in business; an excellent alternative is Grocery Budget Makeover) to slash our grocery bill.

2. Sought help

Accepted help from community food distribution ministries and ended up working as volunteers once we were back on our feet.

3. Bought used

When our oven failed, and sofa wore out, we replaced them with cheap yet gently used items we found on Craigslist.

4. DIY

Made our own laundry detergent (instructions HERE) plus anything else we could

5. Community college

Daughter withdrew from private college and moved home to attend local community college for a fraction of the cost.

6. Cut premiums

Re-evaluated our insurance needs and reduced premiums by more than $200 a month by increasing deductibles.

MORE: Preventive Maintenance is Cheap Insurance

7. Cheap cuts

Quit the salons in favor of beauty schools for cheap haircuts.

8. Eat in

Stopped eating out except for very special occasions to cut expenses.

9. Online bill pay

Started paying bills online saving postage, envelopes, and time.

10. Cut cable

Cut the cable and borrowed movies for free from the library instead of renting or buying.

11. Freebies

1. Enjoyed entertainment opportunities that were free and local (open houses, festivals, fairs) by looking in the paper.

12. No hand-outs

Required kids to pay for things we used to cover (cell phone, gasoline, clothes). Have family meetings to update ourselves on where we are and what we can do as a family to do better and save more.

13. Stop, think

Were committed to thinking long and hard together before we bought anything—a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g!

14. No plastic

We did not use credit cards or any kind of “free financing.” Period. Even now we continue to pay cash now or we don’t buy it.

15. Scratch cooking

I did a lot more cooking from scratch using all of the pantry items and stuff we have on hand; and learning all I could to keep doing better.

16. Frugal lifestyle

We made things last as long as we could and then determined to go for as long as possible before having to replace it.

17. Cancel the gym

I gave up my lunchtime Pilates class.

18. Cut driving

We drove less and walked more. I continue to walk 1/2 mile to work.

19. Moonlight

I got a second job where I worked nights and weekends, which was also within walking distance of my house and daytime job.

20. Bare bones

Cut back all phone services (cell and landline) to bare bones—no bells or whistles.

21. Cancel contracts

Cancelled “maintenance contracts” on everything but our computer.

22. Drink water

We all gave up soda and replaced it with water.

23. Homemade

We made our Christmas gifts—baskets with homemade bean soup mix and cornbread mix with other goodies tucked in.

24. Brown bag

We took our lunches from home, all the time.

25. Sell assets

We sold stuff we didn’t need at yard sales, resale shops, and Craigslist. Gave lots to charity, taking full advantage of the receipts to reduce our taxes.

They did it!

It took four years—only four years!—for Kathryn and Galen to make it all the way to debt-free. In that time, Galen became gainfully employed, which turbocharged their race to the goal.

The key to cutting expenses effectively is cutting a little bit in every area instead of eliminating a single spending category completely.

It was a thrill for me to watch Kathryn and Galen cross that finish line. We remain friends to this day. Their commitment to living debt-free continues to be so inspiring!



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6 replies
  1. matthew says:

    50 years ago when I was 14, I said there are only two things you have to go in debt for and I wrestled with one. Now over the past 30 years I have said three. But I wrestle with two. #1. House. #2. Car. Need it to make that money most of the time. #3. Education. But community college is much cheaper than private or state schools. Also, for the past 40 years I have wanted educational choice. IF you can read, write, math, YOU CAN teach another how to do these things. Sadly, we been brainwashed for…ever… that it is government’s job to teach us! Oh yea, I have lived MOST of my adult life debt free other than two houses. A few small loans on cars that I paid off in three months or less. Have only owned six cars in 50 years of driving. But I am angry what our government has done with spending. $30 TRILLION+ of debt which is causing costs to skyrocket!

  2. Arthur Mantzouris says:

    I use a food saver and if nobody knows what a food Saver is…it’s a machine that takes out the air of a plastic bag u make from a roll of bags u buy from Amazon or some other place…it allows for your food u place in the freezer to not get freezer burned and so it saves me alot of money in the long run…Costco normally has it for a $100 bucks or so n it comes with some bags to start off with…

  3. Stephanie says:

    This is so inspiring..
    I also need help.. But I am from Malaysia and I am not sure how it works. Some advice would be great

  4. Chrissy Goff says:

    Two good sites are Hip2Save and KrogerKrazy. I get free products after coupons all the time. Not just junk food either. I usually half the meat in a recipe and if I buy a frozen dinner (sometimes with coupons it is free) I will add more rice or pasta to it etc to stretch it. I will add oatmeal or bread crumbs to my meatloaf to stretch it too. I am supporting 6 people on one income so it helps the food budget go a long way thanks to the sites above too. Join freecycle and get a lot of items free. I got a nice couch and loveseat from a business that listed it along with a coffee table when they decided to update their waiting room. I only eat out when I get a free gift certificate from doing surveys. I turn in the points for doing surveys and get Lowes or Home Depot gift cards (used some to replace the termite infested wall of the garage in the backyard), amazon cards (bought groceries and car parts), target or walmart cards (clothes for the kids or paper supplies) among other gift cards. I send off for all freebies (Hip2Save lists them) and use them as stocking stuffers. There are even survey sites where you can get free magazines. I read them then donate them to waiting rooms….. It isn’t easy but I usually can make our dollars stretch……..


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