These days, it feels like budgets are tight and cutting back is the name of the game. However, not all downsizing is the same. While it can be tempting to cut back on certain expenses when your finances aren’t where you want them to be, doing so can sometimes lead to bigger problems down the road.
GOBankingRates talked to financial experts about the expenses that people often regret cutting from their budgets in an effort to save money – and what to do instead.
Reducing or stopping retirement contributions is one of the top budget-cutting items that financial advisors caution against. Alex Lerch, marketing director at Oak & Stone Capital Advisors, said, “Reducing or stopping retirement savings to free up cash flow can be tempting but leaves you unprepared for the future. Try to keep contributing at least enough to get any employer match. Also look at ways to grow income instead of cutting this vital savings.”
Retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs are crucial for building up a nest egg for the future. Skipping contributions today can significantly impact the amount you have saved down the road due to missed compound growth. Even if money is tight now, try to keep contributing at least enough to get any match offered by your employer so you don’t miss out on that free money.
If you need to cut back, first look for ways to trim discretionary spending or find extra income before reducing those all-important retirement contributions. Your future self will thank you.
Insurance is another area many look to cut when budgets get squeezed. However, financial experts warn this can be a costly mistake. “Lowering insurance coverage to save on premiums can risk major expenses if an emergency happens,” Lerch shared. “Look for ways to reduce premiums like bundling policies or raising deductibles instead of cutting coverage.”
Cutting corners on insurance may save a few bucks monthly but can lead to massive bills if you actually need to use the coverage you skimped on. One accident, fire or theft can leave you with thousands in out-of-pocket expenses if you’re underinsured.
Rather than canceling or reducing policies, look for discounts you may qualify for or shop around for better rates. Bundling home and auto insurance with one company often leads to discounts. Raising deductibles can also lower premiums without sacrificing critical coverage. Don’t put your finances at risk just to save a little on insurance in the short term.
Your health is your most valuable asset, so cutting costs on health-related expenses is another area that can backfire. “Canceling gym memberships, skimping on medical copays or stopping medication to save money often backfires with higher healthcare bills down the road. Don’t jeopardize your health. Get creative with bargain fitness options and use prescription discounts,” Lerch recommended.
Regular exercise, preventative care and needed medication keep you healthy and avoid larger medical issues down the road. People who cut back on preventative medical visits and recommended health screenings to save money often end up paying more in the long run if health problems go undetected and worsen.
If money is tight, look for free or lower-cost ways to stay active like walking, running or YouTube workout videos. Use prescription discount sites like GoodRx or Cost Plus Drugs to save on medications. See if your doctor offers any flexible payment options for visits to avoid skipping essential care. Your health is too important to cut corners.
Travel and vacations are often the first expenses slashed from cash-strapped budgets. However, financial experts agree this can be detrimental. All work and no play isn’t just dull, it can be destructive to your relationships and your own mental health.
Cutting out travel completely robs you of the memorable experiences and refreshing escapes from daily stresses that vacations provide. People regret cutting travel from their budgets because they miss out on opportunities to bond with family, relax and recharge and broaden their perspectives through new experiences.
Rather than canceling all travel, look for ways to cut costs like choosing cheaper destinations, traveling during off-peak seasons, using points or planning local staycations. Be selective when looking to reduce travel expenses. Cut out the lavish trips but keep a budget for meaningful, affordable getaways.
Travel enriches life in many ways so don’t abandon it completely. Get creative with cheaper trips so you can enjoy those invaluable experiences while staying on budget.
Similarly, people often regret slashing all leisure and entertainment spending. Cutting cable, canceling club memberships and skipping dinners out may seem like easy ways to trim fat from your budget. But regularly depriving yourself of all fun and recreation can lead to burnout.
Leisure activities relieve stress, bring enjoyment and strengthen social bonds. Rather than canceling everything, look for free or low-cost local options for entertainment like parks, hiking trails, free days at museums and community events. Split the cost of subscriptions with a friend. Get creative and you can still work play into your budget.
Moderating leisure spending to keep it affordable is wise, but depriving yourself completely risks mental health consequences and relationship strain from constant work and no play. Find ways to allow some wiggle room in your budget for the activities that recharge you.
One last area some try to slash but later second-guess is household help, whether professional services like lawn care and house cleaning or assistance from a babysitter or nanny. People regret cutting house cleaning and lawn care services to save money because they end up spending their own valuable weekend and after-work time on chores and yardwork.
If your budget is tight, look for neighborhood teens or college students who will babysit, mow lawns or clean for extra cash at cheaper hourly rates. Rather than slashing these services completely, see if you can scale back frequency to balance time savings with affordability. Your mental health and relationships will benefit.
Cutting back spending is sometimes necessary to get finances on track. But be selective about where you trim. The key areas where people often regret cutting costs are retirement savings, insurance coverage, health expenses, travel, leisure activities and household help.
Rather than depriving yourself in these critical areas, first look to reduce discretionary spending on wants. Finding extra income through a side gig or promotion can also avoid the need to cut essential costs. Get creative so you can build savings without sacrificing your health, relationships or future security. Your wisest budgets balance frugality with protecting what matters most.
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