Take Charge of Your Change: Five Easy Ways to Cut Expenses and Jump-Start Savings After Divorce

Creating a budget is one of the first empowering steps when parting ways from your spouse. But once you ascertain your financial footing, then what? For many people, getting a handle of expenses and/or setting aside money in savings becomes the goal.

“You’ll only start saving money when you develop healthy money habits and your future needs become more important than your current wants,” says Dave Ramsey, money-management guru, radio talk-show host, and best-selling author. “It’s not as overwhelming as it sounds. With a few tweaks to your spending priorities, you’ll be on the fast track to saving money in no time.”

The best way to change your spending habits is to find small ways to defray costs and channel that money into savings so you don’t even feel the pinch. Consider these tips to begin saving money and cutting unnecessary expenses right away.

Tip 1 – BYOL (Bring Your Own Lunch): If you work in an office, it’s easy to get into the habit of picking up lunch (and even breakfast and dinner) on the go. But a simple shift can save you $100 a month – or more! Planning ahead at the grocery store, bringing leftovers or making lunch-able items at home is not only less expensive that eating out, it can also be more healthful. Likewise, if you tend to eat dinner out frequently or pick up fast-food for the kids on a regular basis, there’s a great opportunity to save money by making more meals at home. Potential annual savings: $1200+

Tip 2 – Homemade Java for the Win: The average cup of coffee costs less than 20-cents to make at home. Order up a plain ol’ cup of Joe at a coffee shop and you’ll fork over $2.00 or more. It may take some self-restraint if you’re accustomed to grabbing your favorite mocha latte-chino at Starbucks every day, but if you do the math, you can save at least $54 a month with home brew. That adds up! Potential annual savings: $648+

Tip 3 – Order H2O: The average American spends more than $16 a week on soft drinks. At $1.50 or more a pop (pun intended), a Diet Coke here or there can really add up. For a family of three, ordering soft drinks with a meal can easily add $5 to an order. Asking for complimentary water will not only save your money, it’s also the healthier option. Potential annual savings: $850+ (per person)

Tip 4 – Cut the Cable: One of your first considerations in cutting back expenses should be non-essential monthly costs. Cable service often tops that list as more and more consumers are finding alternatives to paying for a full-service cable TV package. With many low-cost options, such as Hula, Amazon, and Netflix, you can cut costs but keep the shows you like best. Potential annual savings: $1200 (based on $100/month for cable services)

Tip 5 – Resist Impulse Buying: One of the biggest ways to cut spending is to keep to your budget plan and don’t stray from your shopping list. On average, Americans spend a whopping $450 a month on unplanned, impulse items online and in-stores. When you make a budget and stick to it, you might be surprised at how much money you have left at the end of the month. Annual average savings: $5,400

If you were able to enact all five of these simple savings ideas, you could cut more than $9000 from your annual expenses! (And remember, you’d have to earn approximately $12,000 to have $9000 to spend). Of course, not everyone buys coffee, sodas and lunches out on a regular basis, but if you review your spending habits, you may find other areas to painlessly decrease expenses.

All these little efforts add up –and give you the freedom to use your income for things that matter most in your life. “Imagine how your life would change if you suddenly had money left in your monthly budget,” Ramsey says. “When you make a few tweaks to your expenses, you could be surprised at how much money you have left in your budget.”