10 Ways to Reduce Expenses That Made Us Debt Free in 3 Years

Reduce Expenses and Have Fun

We found 10 simple ways to reduce expenses that helped us pay off $51,000 in credit card debt in less than three years. If they worked for us, they’d work for you.

Note: This article contains affiliate links. This means we’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you if you buy items through these links. We only recommend products that we use or have thoroughly vetted and would recommend to our moms.

We had no choice but to reduce expenses

When we had our “Come to Jesus” moment and realized we were on a collision course to bankruptcy, we knew we needed to reduce expenses. As John always said, “We gotta stop the bleeding.”

We wanted our lives to still be fun, though. Duh! Instead of cutting out all our fun, we tried to reduce expenses in few categories, some big some small. We thought we were stiff curmudgeons. If we can make these changes, you can make these changes. If you can make these changes, too, you can also become debt free like us.

Reduce expenses, like wine

We love wine! We hosted a game night recently, and our friends brought a few bottles of excellent wine. After we had finished them, we were tempted to tap into our wine collection for more expensive better wine.

Cooler heads prevailed, though. We opened our not-so-expensive (NSE) Bota Box of Zinfandel (a.k.a. Cardboardeaux). We had a great time and didn’t give into our vice. This story is a simple example of how better decisions to reduce expenses lead to better savings.

Note: Want help paying off your debt faster? Learn more here!

Our top 10 tips to reduce expenses

How can you reduce expenses? Here ya go:

  1. Brand Name Products – We were the kings of brand name, but it turns out that’s bullshit. Mom was right; store brands are as good as name brands in many cases. Shop at The Dollar Store, Big Lots or other similar stores for basic like dish detergent, soaps, shampoos, household cleaners, kitchen supplies and more.
  2. Cable – One of our first steps to reduce expenses was to cut the cord. With Hulu and Netflix, you can easily reduce month-to-month expenses. Even going from a premier to a basic cable package with Comcast saves $50 a month or $600 a year. If you can’t stomach losing sports, because football and soccer players are hot, try Sling where you can stream ESPN and other sports channels for as low as $20 a month.
  3. Entertainment – The internet is full of free or cheap entertainment to reduce expenses. If you’re lucky, your city or state is like Denver Colorado and lists online free and cheap things to do. Not all of it is free or cheap, but you can find what fits your budget. We build a calendar and plan activities around free or cheap events to reduce expenses.
  4. Movies – Will Smith for free? Yes, please! A 3D IMAX movie costs $16 a ticket. For an $8 per month subscription to Netflix, you can watch an unlimited number of movies. It’s cheaper spending $65 on a third-generation Apple TV and renting a newish movie for $5 then taking the family to the movies.
  5. Phones – If you’re cutting back, reduce expenses by getting a free phone with a cheap plan and save $100+ net. We delayed upgrading our phones for two years when we were getting out of debt and saved ourselves $30 a month. We could all probably benefit from a Tumblr break.
  6. Credit Cards – If you’re not of the rare breed that religiously pays off credit card balances monthly, not using your credit cards will save thousands of dollars a year. Considering that most credit card interest rates are 10% – 18%, you’re paying 10% – 18% more for all your shit. If you’re buried in debt, lower your interest rate costs and get on a month-to-month payment plan to pay off your debt faster
  7. Groceries – Create a weekly grocery list and menu and buy what’s on sale or for what you have a coupon. We spend an additional $30 – $50 a week if we go to the store without a grocery list. That’s $1,560-$2,600 annually! Investing $1,560 annually into a retirement account for 10 years at 6% yields $24,590. That’s better than overeating.
  8. Coffee – Brew coffee at home or at work with a French Press. Starbucks sucks and is expensive. Most places have at least one coffee shop that sells locally roasted coffee. A pound of coffee yields 45, eight-ounce cups of coffee. If that pound costs $12, that’s $0.27 a cup. That reduces expenses by $4.73 a cup. If you’re hitting Starbucks three times a week, you’d save $737.88 a year with a French Press.
  9. Prepared Food – Americans spend a ton on prepared food. Take popcorn, for example. A 10-serving box of Pop Secret Homestyle Microwave Popcorn costs $4.98 at Walmart. That’s $0.498 a serving. Also for $4.98, Walmart sells a 3.2-pound container of Orville Redenbacher un-popped popcorn that yields 32 servings. That’s $0.156 a serving. Popping popcorn reduces expenses by $0.342 a serving. That’s $10.94 of savings with each container of Orville.
  10. Books – If you’re still buying books, you’re paying too much for books. Your local library has free books and you can’t beat free to reduce expenses. If that’s not you, buy eBooks. Used Kindles sell for less than $50. Amazon offers close to 3 million free eBooks. That’s $0.00! After reading eight to ten books, you’re Kindle paid for itself.

These are just ten ways to reduce expenses that saved us enough money to pay off $51,000 in credit card debt in two and a half years and become debt free.

Bonus #11. Reduce your expenses by lowering your interest rates and pay off your debt faster.

Note: This article contains affiliate links. This means we’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you if you buy items through these links. We only recommend products that we use or have thoroughly vetted and would recommend to our moms.

Other ways to help reduce expenses and become debt free:

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Comment List

  • Kimberly Ely 25 / 02 / 2016 Reply

    Love this list, guys! Love your story too – $51k in debt paid off – WOW! Amazing what we can do when we set our minds to it, huh? I also love that you aren’t out to abandon everything fun in life! That’s so important for us all to embrace! Thanks for this great article!

    • David Auten 09 / 03 / 2016 Reply

      Thank you Kimberly. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. It was a battle, but as a team we were able to win. As you remind us, we still need to have fun. Thus our mantra #LiveDebtFree #HaveFun and #BeMoneyConscious. It is possible. We’ve been around the world and many fun days/nights near home all because we live by that. 😉

  • The Personal Economist 26 / 02 / 2016 Reply

    Nice list, I have cut all of these too (kept Netflix)’and I’m wealthier, healthier and happier. Not sure exactly how much I’ve saved but has definitely increased my savings rate.

  • James Pollard 27 / 02 / 2016 Reply

    Who still buys physical books anyway? 🙂 I can’t even imagine spending more than $12-13 on a book anymore. I went into a bookstore a few weeks ago and saw a hardcover book for $30 and almost fainted. Kindle? $9.99.

    • David Auten 09 / 03 / 2016 Reply

      You are right, James. Many books are not worth the physical copy price. Others, some still like to have the hard copy. We have a few favs we keep around, but most we do Kindle, Smashwords or iBooks.

  • Whattalife 03 / 03 / 2016 Reply

    Don’t forget that many libraries also have both movie streaming services for free, and DVD collections you can rent. We watch every series a few months after, but at no cost at all (also no temptation to the couch potatohood that comes with an ongoing stream of stuff on the tv.)

    Also, libraries are online so you can access these from other areas often.

    I’ve never had more than basic cable, but we have saved over $2.4K on even what we did have.

  • Anne 11 / 03 / 2016 Reply

    Papyrus cards are awesome! One of the only times I will splurge on one of those is for a wedding card, when I don’t like any of the more affordable options available.
    I read this right after being reprimanded by my spouse for opening a bottle of wine that someone brought over last weekend, without checking the price. Turns out it’s worth about $10 more than what we normally drink. Oops.

  • Felicity 19 / 09 / 2016 Reply

    This is insane. Try being our family of 7 kids and my husband and I. Our grocery bill is 800 a month, we buy name brand clothes and shoes for our kids, we drive nice cars and we have left over at the end of the month. The difference in our life is I make every bit of our food from scratch with the exception of Friday night pizza, we buy all the clothes and shoes either second hand or end of season so they are highly discounted. we have no car payments because we scrimped and saved and paid cash. We buy things at thrift stores and sell them on eBay or Facebook for extra cash. I make all our soap (laundry & body from scratch) because goat milk soap is crazy expensive at the store but cheap and easy at home. Try my life. Its not hard, trying at times but fulfilling.

    • David Auten 19 / 09 / 2016 Reply

      Wow! Awesome comment. Thanks for sharing your suggestions on ways to stretch a budget. Being a large family certainly is expensive, but sound like you 7 have a great plan to manage that and still have fun. 😉

    • David Auten 19 / 09 / 2016 Reply

      Wow! That is awesome. You have found a great way as a big family to still have a fun and sane life without having to hock yourself into debt. Thanks for sharing your great ideas on ways to save and make a bit extra. We haven’t gone the route of selling stuff, but sometimes it sure looks appealing. Thanks again for commenting. 😉

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