The One Money Tip You’re Not Looking For

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Want to make more money? Save on your next big purchase? Well, here's one money tip you're not looking for, but actually need. Read on to find out what it is.

Part of my job as a content producer is researching what people are looking for on the internet. That way, I can make content that will actually get some eyeballs on it. On this site, I sometimes implement that methodology, but sometimes I write whatever the heck I’m thinking about or respond directly to my reader’s concerns.

During a recent research fest, I found something alarming. When people are searching for money tips, there’s one major strategy they’re glossing over.

People want to know how to make more money. A singular term in that strand has upwards of 300,000 people searching per month.

People want to know how to save money on the purchases they’re already making. The internet wants to know that a little over 100,000 times per month. (Again, for one singular term.)

But what aren’t people looking for?

The Money Tip You’re Not Looking For: Reduce Your Spending

When you look up “cut spending” or “reduce spending” or variants thereof, you’ll find that only hundreds of people are looking for advice. That number is in the low hundreds.

Coincidentally, a lot more people are looking for ways for the government to cut spending. A single term in this category turns up tens of thousands of hits per month. People are concerned about how the government is spending their money, but less concerned about how they themselves are spending their own income.

Why is this alarming?

As a personal finance blogger, and one who got her start in the realm of frugality, I find this disturbing. Making more money is awesome as long as you’re managing it properly. Saving money on the things you already purchase is pretty rad, too. I do it all the time.

But a massive aspect of managing your money is reducing your spending. If there are things you can learn to live without, you’ll never incur that cost again for the rest of your life. Then, when you implement those fab money-making tips you found online, you’ll be able to pocket more of it for your emergency fund, retirement account or whatever else you may be saving for.

It’s not surprising that in a country where 60%-70% of the GDP comes from consumption that the populace isn’t overly concerned with consuming less, but rather is focused on saving on the things that they consume or making more money, presumably so they can consume more.

But with all that consumption comes a cost. That cost is your future. That cost is your kids’ college education. That cost is your retirement. That cost is the difference between paying for your next vacation in cash and putting it on an interest-bearing credit card. That cost is being wiped out when an emergency arises because you’re living paycheck to paycheck.

How to Cut that Spending

I’m not an echelon of righteousness when it comes to cutting expenses. While we did effectively cut our yearly costs by over $4,300 with just a few life adjustments like cutting cable and switching to a low-cost phone carrier, I’ve also documented our struggles to stop spending for convenience when we found ourselves short on time.

It’s not all about being perfect, though. It’s about adjusting your sails when real life happens. There are two basic strategies I’ve implemented to help us correct course when we’re not happy with our habits or money situation.

The Band-Aid Method

When we cut our cable, it was really painful. Being from a sports town, we have three sports to watch, and games on just about year round. Football is the only one that’s always available on broadcast TV.

So when we decided to cut the cable, there was no getting around it. It was going to hurt. We were going to have to give up something we loved suddenly, but it had to be done. The savings was just too huge.

We ripped that band-aid off. Yes, there was initially pain. There may have even been screaming, if we’re honest. But eventually, we started listening to hockey games on the radio. We downloaded a baseball app that shows us what’s happening, including where the pitch hits in the batter’s zone, which is pretty cool. We also found a way to go to games in person for super cheap.

It sucked to pull that band-aid off. But now that we’re over that initial pain, we’re thrilled to have over $1,400 back in our pocket every year.

The Track-Your-Spending-in-the-Moment Method

I’ve always tracked my spending. It’s a good way to gauge your financial habits and health, and can help you write realistic budgets moving forward.

We did reach a point for a while there, though, where retroactive tracking just wasn’t doing it for us. It wasn’t helping us make better decisions in the moment. At that point, we tried Moven, an app that beeps at you right after you make a purchase to let you know if your spending is normal, below normal, or holy-crap-you-need-to-stop-right-now-because-you’re-going-to-be-broke high.

You know what? It worked. It alters your behavior because you know there will be immediate accountability. Before you buy all the things at Target or stop to grab some food on the way home, you know you’re going to have to deal with that beep and the ensuing notification about how good or wretched your spending habits are. It’s enough to make a girl put that adorable toddler outfit we don’t actually need back on the rack.

What You Gain When You Reduce Your Spending

I’m not saying you have to go all extreme with your frugality. (Though I certainly know and respect people that have.) What I am saying is that for every dollar you unnecessarily spend, you’re giving up some of your financial stability.

You’re giving up the opportunity to have the money ready to go in your emergency fund when your tire blows. You’re giving up the ability to save some cash in your child’s college fund. You’re giving up savings and the compound interest that comes with investing for retirement. You’re also giving up time as you have to spend some of it taking care of all the crap you bought. Or working off those calories from dining out.

It may not be a money tip you were looking for, or even one you like hearing, but if you can learn to cut your spending, everything else in your financial life will become so much easier.

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28 thoughts on “The One Money Tip You’re Not Looking For

  1. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    It’s a lot easier (especially to start) to save money on what you are already spending than to make bigger changes, because change is hard and scary. And it can be hard to imagine.
    I think a lot of people start small, and then start coming up with the big stuff later…going from buying new cars on credit to used cars in cash, etc. It is a mindset change that has to start somewhere. Maybe by the time people are ready for those big changes, they have already read enough/researched enough that they seek out specifics rather than general advice.

    Reply
  2. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

    Making more money is great but often times those who are struggle with money also inflate their lifestyles and spend even more money when they make more money. They’re left with the same predicament but think it will be solved if they make even more money when cutting their expenses and avoiding lifestyle inflation would be much easier.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      EXACTLY. That’s why I think it’s so important to examine cutting spending first.

      Reply
  3. Amanda @ centsiblyrich

    Great post!

    I agree with Andrew that making more money is often the sought after solution to financial problems, but, typically, lifestyle inflation follows more money, which doesn’t solve the problem at all.

    People tend to think that cutting expenses means a huge change in lifestyle, and they just aren’t willing to make any sacrifices. Simply tracking expenses will point to areas that could be painless to cut, such as unused subscriptions or even one meal a week eaten at home rather than a restaurant.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I agree with him, too! And it’s so true….if you don’t track, it can be shocking how much you actually spend on things you don’t value!

      Reply
  4. Mary Leigh

    This one can be tough. But for most people, totally do-able if you really start to keep track of what you are actually spending and think about how much of that is out of necessity, like you mentioned.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Agreed, Mary Leigh. If you don’t have someone tell you that, I guess it’s hard to think of looking for it on your own.

      Reply
  5. Kathryn @ Making Your Money Matter

    One thing that most people don’t think about when focusing on making more money rather than cutting their spending is the cost of taxes cutting into the income they’re making. If you have a side-gig and make $500, you’ll only receive somewhere around $350 after self-employment taxes, federal taxes and state taxes (depending on your tax brackets and location). If you cut your expenses by $500, you have the full $500! Plus you possibly have additional expenses offsetting the $500 you earn. I’m all about lowering my expenses, because I want to be able to live on less all the time and be able to increase my savings without putting in more work.

    Reply
  6. Gary @ Super Saving Tips

    It’s really unfortunate that most of us are unwilling to make the hard or painful choices to really cut or reduce our spending. I applaud you for cutting the cord despite the pain. I have that same baseball app, but I’m just not ready to give up the cable…yet. But here’s the great thing about this tip: the more you read about personal finance, the more “normal” it seems to cut your spending, or at least challenge it. So even if people are searching for how to make more money, or how to save money on what they’re spending, they may just arrive where they need to go anyway.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Truth! Emily said something to that same affect, so it must be a common experience. It is hard giving up that baseball….but so worth the money!

      Reply
  7. Becky@Frametofreedom

    Knowing where our money was going was a wake up call for us. We were then able to start a budget and we then realized what didn’t really matter to us. TV didn’t really matter so we cut that bill. Our cell phone bill was ridiculous so we reduced that bill. We quickly realized where our priorities were and we became intentional about where our money was going. We felt ok with allocating a little more in other places that were important to us. We didn’t want to give up entertaining every once in a while because we love people and we didn’t want to give up charity. We made it a point to cut out the non-essential and reallocate our finances to the things that mattered. The money coming in wasn’t really any different, we just learned how to spend our money. Great post. Making more money generally will not solve the problem. Learning how to be happy for what is already available is the key to happiness. Thanks for posting!

    Reply
  8. Latoya @ Life and a Budget

    This is a money tip that needs to be talked about more whether we want to hear it or not. Even as a pf blogger I could stand to hear it a little more often. I’m off to see about this goodness of an app you’re talking about. I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds like something that will make my trips to the grocery store a lot less painful!

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      It’s truly awesome. You put your spend money on a card that’s linked to the app, so that’s how it works. Went pretty dang well for us.

      Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I agree, but I may be a bit biased. Though I have reeled back on my frugality a teensy bit since time has become more of a commodity in the past year or two.

      Reply
  9. Vickie @Vickie's Kitchen and Garden

    Great post. Reducing your expenses is the best way to me to control your budget. It’s amazing how much money you are actually making by not buying something, making it yourself, buying used, or fixing something. Of course it takes a little effort but it takes a lot more effort to hustle to make that money.

    Reply
  10. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor

    So true, and so not what we want to hear–but need to hear. That is a lot of power in needing less money to live, and it doesn’t have to be extreme frugality like you said. In fact, I take issue with 21st century people in developed nations thinking their frugality is extreme. Some people’s is, but a lot of what gets labeled extreme frugality could’ve been considered privileged or even lavish a couple generations ago (or in other parts of the world). It helps to keep it in perspective and stay grateful!

    Reply
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  12. Hayley @ Disease Called Debt

    Definitely an important money tip, even if people don’t want to have to take action. I love how you found a way to listen to your favorite sports even though you cut cable. You made a big sacrifice for the sake of your overall budget yet you didn’t lose the thing you enjoyed completely. Like you, we made some big sacrifices in terms of cutting costs and we haven’t regretted it at all. Being able to live on less has given us more choices overall such as how much money we need to earn and how much we need to work!

    Reply
  13. Tyler @ I Am The Future Me

    I think it’s that so many people would rather work harder and make more than they would sacrifice to cut costs. Many of us could cut costs down and probably should but the thought of that terrifies us, and besides why should I cut out my morning coffee if I make enough to cover it? We lose site of whats important, is it the $5 coffee, the cable, or gym membership your not even using? If people cut costs the way businesses cut costs we would all be living a much better financial life.

    Reply
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  16. Julie@ChooseBetterLife

    Great reminders! It’s so funny how things that are ‘essential’ for some are completely unnecessary for others. I never had cable and my husband thought he couldn’t live without it–now he doesn’t miss it and is glad for his newfound extra time!

    Reply
  17. Ken

    great post, Consumption is OK if we’re spending on needs. Too often it’s overspending on wants that gets us in trouble. When we say yes to something that’s a want, we also are saying no to something (retirement). The trade offs happen every day.

    Reply

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