Spot Your Spending Leaks

Find out if your money is slipping away because of spending leaks– and how to plug them.


How much are you losing to leaks each month? Look for them in these five areas. Then, start plugging.

Giving

Prevent Money Stress This Holiday Season

Read our Free Holiday Survival Guide.

You might be tempted to start here, but it’s actually the last place you should look. In fact, by plugging leaks you might be able to give more. So, keep moving on!

Pro Tip: If you give regularly to church or another organization, try automating it. That will help you resist dipping into your giving when you need extra cash.

Saving 

Again, there shouldn’t be leaks here. This is another area that could grow after you dig into the other three categories. So, keep going…

Pro Tip: Automation helps here. Set up as much automated savings as you can.

Debt

Believe it or not, debt could be an area where you’re losing money to leaks. Here’s where to start:

Check your debt-to-income ratio. Most people want to pay debt as quickly as possible, and that’s great! But if your debt payments exceed more than 36% of your income, you might be going too far. Or, you need increase your income. (Hello #sidehustle!)

Check your rates: If you’ve borrowed money, you’re paying interest. Those rates can be adjusted. Get on the phone and ask your credit card company if your interest rate can be lowered. Medical debt can also usually be negotiated. You could save hundreds of dollars a year.

If you’re having a hard time tackling your debt, we have resources that can help. Learn more here.

Bills

So. many. bills. They show up every month. Could you show a few to the door? Start here:

Take stock of your subscriptions: Everything can come to you—music, movies, beauty boxes. But what are you actually using and what could you easily live without? Cancel what you don’t need. In one year, that tiny $9/month treat will turn into a much bigger $108 reward. You just need to put it into savings instead.

Pro Tip: Download an app like TRIM to find all your subscriptions and cancel the ones you don’t use.

Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate: There are some bills you can’t change—public utilities, electricity. But there are lots of bills you can. Are you getting the best deal on your cable, phone, car insurance? It’s worth taking ten minutes, getting on the phone (it works better than an email) and trying to get yourself a better deal. That $20/month will add up over a year.

Pro Tip: This even works for cell phone bills. If you’re paying more than $100 per person or $150 per couple a month, look into it.

Save a little money while saving the world: Literally. If you turned off every light after you leave the room and turned down (or up, depending on the season) your thermostat by eight degrees for eight hours a day, you’d save more than 10% a year on your bill. Plus, you’d be doing something good for the environment—it’s a win-win!

Pro Tip: Air leaks are among the greatest sources of energy loss in a home. Caulk, seal, and weatherstrip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside. By sealing uncontrolled air leaks, you can save a further 10%–20% * on your heating and cooling bills.

Pro Tip: Simplify your spending and avoid losing money to late fees by automating your bill payments.

Spending

This is likely your biggest area of opportunity. You’re more likely to be successful here if you think “small changes and occasional quick-wins” rather than full-time deprivation.

Pack a bag lunch instead of eating out: Bringing your lunch each day will help you find immediate, and big, savings. It does take a little effort, but think about this: $10/lunch, 20 days a month? $2400 a year. That’s…not small.

Pro Tip: Ever wonder how much is “normal” to spend on groceries? brightpeak’s financial gurus recommend $125 per person month.

The coffee deserves it: Yes, “cut out the lattes” is an overused (and somewhat annoying) tip. Feel free to skip it, but remember—that small pleasure can add up to a big bill. $4/latte, 365 days a year is a serious chunk of change. Even if you only buy two small, plain drinks from a coffee shop a week, you could save almost $180 a year by brewing at home.

Pro Tip: When you do treat yourself, order down. Instead of a latte, get an Americano and add some milk. And if it’s the caffeine you’re after, a cup of black coffee has almost twice the caffeine as a Starbuck’s Frappucino™.  

Shop with a list: Figure out what you need before heading to the grocery store and make a list. You’ll be less likely to impulse buy if you keep yourself accountable – no more “I must try this new flavor of ice cream,” which probably wouldn’t have tasted as good as your old standby, Cookie Crunch, anyway.

Pro Tip: Take it a step further and try meal-planning. If you know exactly what you’re eating all week, you’ll not only save time each dinnertime, but also money.

Pay less for parking: Are you making the most economical choice, or the most convenient one? Could you walk a few more blocks, give up a covered lot for an open one? What would happen if you decided to bike or take public transportation?

Pro Tip: A good guideline for how much you should be paying for transportation is 15% of income or less (including car payment, fuel, maintenance, parking.)

Choose to use the coupons. Install the savings app from the big box or grocery store you frequent most. Then, use it. For online purchases, try Retail Me Not—they offer easy-to-find discounts.

Pro Tip: Apps from some retailers, like Target, allow you to use the app discounts plus manufacturer coupons and mobile coupons. Pile the savings up! Just make sure it was a product you were going to buy anyway.

*Estimations and calculations were made by your penny-pinching, deal-seeking, debt-reducing friends at brightpeak—and vetted by our in-house financial guru, Clint