The very simple truth is this: if you want to achieve financial freedom, at some point you will be tasked with eliminating line items to pay off debt, increase your savings, or invest for your retirement. It’s just the reality of the situation.
So, knowing that, how should you go about evaluating and eliminating unnecessary line items from your budget? Here’s what worked for us.
The Challenge of Breaking Free
Early in our financial journey, Justin and I faced the challenge of eliminating line items to pay off debt. Despite effectively managing our budget, we soon realized that our debt payoff goals weren’t making progress – it felt a bit like treading water, exerting energy but not getting anywhere.
Maintaining a budget was all well and good, but it wasn’t the magic wand that would lead us to debt freedom. That meant that something had to change.
I’ll be honest; it wasn’t a fun realization to come to. I mean, sure we wanted to be debt free, but that felt like an eternity away and the sacrifices we’d have to make were things that we enjoyed and had grown accustomed to.
So, all this to say that if you are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of eliminating line items within your budget, you aren’t alone. But, the key is knowing that achieving goals doesn’t come easy. It takes sacrifice to have something that matters and debt-payoff is no different. So, pat yourself on the back for getting this far and let’s jump into the actual process of cutting these expenses.
Assess and Reassess
The first thing to do is to pull out your monthly budget and take a critical look at each line item. As you consider each expense ask yourself whether it’s a need or want. Obviously things like your rent or mortgage payment, utilities, and food will be needs, but are there others that you and your family can’t part ways with, even temporarily?
Once you know what stays, take a look at the remaining items on your list. Ask yourself whether you could eliminate the item permanently, temporarily (until you see some progress with your debt-payoff goal), or if it’s something you could cut back on. Remember even small amounts can make a big difference when it comes to your long-term debt-payoff goals.
Now, this process might sound simple in theory, but in reality it took a lot of work for us to decide which items to keep, let go of entirely, or scale back on. And I’d like to say this process is something you can do once and be done with, but we discovered that regularly reassessing our financial priorities was critical to aligning our income with our goals. In fact, this is something that we consider each and every time we put our monthly budget together.
So, take the time to go through this process once, and then make it a priority to reassess as time goes by.
Tip: If you and your spouse have combined finances, you’ll want to walk through this process together. Date night, anyone?
Line Items We Eliminated to Pay Off Debt
When it comes to our own budget, we’ve eliminated a lot of line items over the years, including:
- Subscriptions services (Netflix, Disney+, Audible, Amazon Prime, etc.)
- Gym memberships
- Spending (Personal and family)
- Eating out
- Second vehicle
…among others. Some of these were eliminated permanently, and others were temporary eliminations until we achieved a specific goal.
We’ve also had times in which we’ve scaled back when it comes to:
- Household products
- Eating out
- Pet care items
- Gas and transportation costs
…and more. By doing so we saw the ability to pay of debt quicker and through the process we recognized the ways we were either wasting the income we had and the items we just didn’t need anymore.
So, even if you don’t need the extra income to pay off debt, this can be a great strategy to increasing wiggle room within your budget as a whole.
Are You Eliminating Line Items to Pay Off Debt?
What’s your goal? Whether it’s saving for your emergency fund, paying off debt, increasing your retirement portfolio or something else, take a critical look at the line items within your budget. Remember, it might not be easy to make sacrifices for the future, but it will pay off in the long term. So, stick with it and you’ll be happy you did.
Whatever you choose, I’m here to support you. You can:
- Grab my FREE Weekly Meal Planning Template HERE for additional grocery budget savings.
- Submit your budgeting and home organization questions HERE.
…or jump into the Lemon Blessings’ Membership for an insider’s look at all of my personal meal plans, recipes, grocery lists, budget worksheets, and more.
Remember, if you don’t ask for the help you need, you’ll never get it!
Cheering you on!