A quick guide to step-down spending

Changing your spending habits can sound like an enormous drag. We usually spend what we spend because we like buying what we buy. The idea of blowing up the entire expense side of our budget isn’t a pleasant one, because we work hard to buy those things we like. Why work so hard to build a balanced budget if we can’t buy any of the things we like?

That’s where step-down spending comes in. We’ve talked about step-down spending before, but it’s been awhile, so we’re due for a refresher.

What is step-down spending?

Step-down spending is the process of changing your spending habits incrementally. Rather than completely altering every category in the expense column of your budget, you pick individual expenditures and find an alternative that is less expensive.

By reducing your spending gradually and focusing on small, individual changes, it’s much easier to stick with those changes. As a consumer, it’s a lot more comfortable, because it doesn’t really feel like you’re changing all that much.

Some examples:

  • Start swapping out certain name brand products for their generic doppelgangers.
  • Reduce your cable package by one tier.
  • If you went out for dinner seven times last month, only go four times this month.
  • Make a concerted effort to reduce your water consumption (shorter showers, less frequent flushing, don’t leave the water running when shaving or brushing your teeth, etc.).
  • Vow to reduce holiday gift giving by 15 percent this year.

By taking on small challenges, one at a time, you don’t overwhelm yourself, your day-to-day feels largely unchanged, and you get to experience a series of victories, one after the other.

Simply start by taking a look at your complete budget. Consider where your money goes and then pick one expense. Reduce that expense. Make that reduced expense your new normal. And then move on to the next expense.

Over time your budget will be completely overhauled. You’ll be spending less and saving more.

And it won’t hurt one bit.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI. All typos are a stylistic choice, honest.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
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