When looking to cut some things in your budget, the first place I suggest people look is the variable categories – the things that change month-to-month.  These are the categories that you can save money on simply by changing your behavior.  You don’t have to call anyone, get any quotes, or sign any papers – you just act differently.

Look for another post soon about how to save money on your other, fixed categories.  For now, here are eight budget categories you can start saving money on right now:

1) Groceries – This and #2 are by far the most inflated categories I see on most people’s budgets.   I get it, food is expensive!  But you can start saving money this month by using coupons, shopping sales, buying off-brands, sticking to a list, and simply limiting the amount of cash you have available for food.  I’m not talking about starving yourself, I’m talking about being intentional in your efforts to save money.

2) Eating Out – I’m shocked by how much we (as a culture) spend on eating out.  Even through the “Great Recession” of recent years, every restaurant I visited was FULL every weekend.  This adds up so quickly that it’s might represent the greatest opportunity to save money in your budget right now.

3) Entertainment – Movies, going out, bars, social appointments, etc. add up quickly, and you may not even realize it happens!  A few weekends out with friends can add up quickly!  If you’re going to go out with friends, familiarize yourself with some bar tricks so you can get friends to pick up your drinks, haha!

4) Clothing – When you cut your spending on clothing down to only replacing what needs to be replaced, you can free up a good amount of cash to work towards your goals.  It’s not forever, but if you choose for a few months to not spend on clothing, you can make some progress towards other things.

5) Blow Money – That coffee, snacks, parking, extra conveniences and all the little stuff here and there?  That adds up!  Give yourself a limited amount of cash for your miscellaneous expenses, and stick to it!

6) Gifts – We have a great, generous culture.  That’s awesome.  But if you’re trying to get your finances cleaned up,  limit your spending on gifts.  I know it won’t be popular to say this with Christmas on the horizon, but maybe you don’t get everyone the sweetest of gifts this year.  Set a budget for gifts ($10/person, $20/person) and save money there.

7) Household Expenditures – New decor, new tools, and repairs can add up quickly.  Instead of doing things all at once or as soon as they present themselves, set a specific amount to improve your home each month, and do what you can with that.

8) Date Night – All the ladies are screaming “NO!” on this one, but it’s true.  Most couples could save a TON of money if they chose different places to eat, and considered Redbox or another low-cost activity instead of a movie.  You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a nice time together.  The point is quality time, and chances are this can be done for less than you’re spending now.

So how do you control these expenses?  I’d suggest the use of a healthy envelope system.

What are some other variable budget categories you can save on immediately?