Your 2022 Spending ‘Diet’: A Month-by-Month Guide to Cutting Expenses

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The new year came fast and, for many, it’s not looking like it will be off to a particularly wonderful start. COVID-19 infection rates are soaring, tests are hard to come by and weekly joblessness claims are up. Oh, and the U.S. national debt now tops $28.9 trillion, many of us have vastly depleted our savings (if we were lucky enough to have any) and there still is no promise of a fourth stimulus check.


So much is out of our immediate control that it can be all too easy to completely cave in and give up. But we’ve got to keep going. Work needs to be done and bills need to be paid. And while we can’t alone end the pandemic or restore the economy, we can take charge of our own financial lives and try for a better 2022, even if that seems impossible right now. 

To make these seemingly untenable times more manageable, we might want to look at all the ways we can cut back our spending. There are at least 12 ways to do so, meaning we can make a positive change every month of the year ahead.


January: Review Your 2021 Online Spending — You May Be Shocked 

“Scan your credit card statements or annual statement from a favorite online seller to see what you actually bought this year and if you have any small (or big) regrets in retrospect,” said Amanda Wallace, head of insurance operations with MassMutual. “In looking back, I would have not purchased at least a quarter of the stuff, including those shower steamers and salad spinners that I’ll never use! Start the new year with this in mind to start a new habit of a moment more thought before you click.”

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February: Up Your 401(k) Contribution 

“Since this is the shortest month of the year, increase your 401(k) or retirement contribution, even if it’s just 2% to 4%,” said R.J. Weiss, a CFP and founder of the personal finance site The Ways to Wealth. “With the short month, find a way to live on the slightly lower after-tax income. More importantly, however, keep this same contribution percentage going forward.”

March: Cut Out One Luxury 

“This is a good time of year to consider cutting back on a luxury of some kind,” said Melanie Hanson, editor-in-chief, EDI Refinance. “Whether it’s your daily latte, your favorite subscription box, or that glass of wine after work, see how long you can go without it. Studies have found that it can take about 90 days to truly create a habit. If you can keep this up from March through May, you may be able to make the change permanent.”

April: Put Your Tax Refund Aside 

“With April comes tax day, and if you’re like most Americans, you’ll be getting a refund,” Weiss said. “While a lot of people think getting a refund is bad, it’s all about what you do with the refund. The benefit of getting a refund is you only have to make one good decision as to how to use that money. Comparatively, if you were to save $2,000 a year from your grocery budget, that takes hundreds of decisions over the course of the year. Aim to make a decision that you’ll be grateful for in five-years. Whether that’s paying down debt, putting in a retirement account, or saving for a down-payment on a house, make your one good decision happen now.”

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May: Plan Ahead for Any Summer Vacations 

“Start with a realistic vacation budget,” said Tanya Peterson, vice president of brand for Freedom Financial Network. “If you find you have to go into debt to take a trip you have in the works, stop and consider different options. Are different dates, days of the week, accommodations or activities possible?”

June: Commit To Reducing Energy Usage at Home 

“With the summer months ahead, it’s a good time to think about reducing energy usage in your home. Check all faucets and pipes to ensure no leaks are occurring,” Weiss said. “Keep an eye out for warning signs of future problems as well, such as water stains. Close vents. Replace any ceiling fans that are no longer functional. Seal older windows in rooms you rarely use.”

July: Do a Dummy Tax Return 

“Pull out last year’s taxes and do a dummy tax return to make sure you’ll withhold enough to not have to pay taxes,” said Bill O’Donnell, certified financial fiduciary and the president and wealth manager at Heartland Financial Solutions, LLC. “This isn’t hard; just make a copy of your 1040, pencil in approximate changes in income and deductions, and see how it looks for the full year. If it looks like you’ll owe more or less, you’ve got time to change your withholding so you come out about even and avoid a tax shock next year.” 

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August: Get Ahead on Back-to-School Expenses

“If you don’t already have your children’s school supply lists from their school(s), get them (online or via email or call to request),” Peterson said. “While you’re at it, ask for the list for next year’s grade, too. There will usually be more than computers on the list, and those items tend to remain about the same year to year. So if you find a good sale for a supply that does not get changed, you’ll be a step (and some money) ahead.”

September: Save on Healthcare Expenses 

“If you have a health savings account (HSA), plan to contribute to, and fully fund, it over the year,” Peterson said. “Most contributions are tax-deductible, and withdrawals to pay qualifying medical expenses – at any time in life – are tax-free. If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), check balances and plan out use as much as you can. Know, too, that you can use the funds for many different types of products and services, ranging from physician appointments to prescription and over-the-counter medications, and day-care and elder-care expenses. Even purchases of hand sanitizer and sunscreen can apply.” 

October: Again, Commit To Reducing Energy 

“With cold weather coming on, it’s important to think about energy efficiency again,” Hanson said. “Pay attention to insulation, especially around windows and doors, and take the time to make sure that your heating system is working properly. All of this can lead to added efficiency and lower heating bills in the months to come.”

November: Shop For the Holidays, ASAP 

“The reason to do this is not necessarily to take advantage of great deals, but more to take the necessary time to plan your purchases and look around for the best price on each item,” Hanson said. “This has the added benefit of cutting down on impulse purchases.”

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December: Conduct a Credit Audit 

“December is my favorite time to do a credit card audit,” Weiss said. “This is where you evaluate your current credit cards, aiming to identify where you can get more value. For example, are there annual fees you’re paying that don’t make sense? Is there a card with a lower-interest rate? Are you maximizing your rewards? Going from earning 1% cash back to say 2% on $50,000 of spending, means $500 in your pocket in one year.”

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