SURVEY SAYS: Cutting Back Expenses

August 27, 2012 -- Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, if you had to cut back on expenses, what would you definitely not give up?

The most selected response was “other,” and I have to say, I did not include pets or pet care because I considered that a “given.”  Aside from pets and pet care, the “other” responses included alcoholic beverages and coffee, books, all of the above, heating and air conditioning, hair appointments, church tithes, and golf.  

Among the listed choices, “driving” was the number one selection, made by one-quarter of responding readers. “Personal cell phone” and “personal Internet connection” ranked second and third, with 21% and 17% of votes, respectively. Five percent of folks said they would not give up their cable or satellite TV, 3% would not give up vacations or trips, and 2% would not give up going out to eat. No one selected “magazine subscriptions” as something they definitely not give up.  

In the verbatim comments, some respondents expressed how difficult the decision would be to give up any of the listed things, while others indicated they had already cut expenses and were fine without them. A few offered tips for cutting back without completely eliminating.  

I often think like the reader who said, “I am waiting for the day my children grow up and leave home. My grocery bills and utility bills will be greatly reduced. Then I can save big bucks toward retirement,” although my children are grown already; they’re just not going anywhere.  

But, Editor’s Choice is a tie between “My household will do our version of an RFP: shop our current expenses in the marketplace,” and “The price of black oil sunflower seeds have skyrocketed in the last few years, but the pleasure of watching birds at the feeders is worth the price.”


I was trying to add my Starbucks fix as well... 


I have two large dogs and would give up vacations, trips, satellite tv, and going out to eat before I would skimp on their food or care. They are loving, loyal, protective, and always so happy to see me when I get home from work. Where else can you get all that unconditional love? 


My current monthly costs for land line, internet, cable for home and the cabin, and cell phone family plan is over $400. Ouch! Hard to let go of any of them. 


I will/have cut down on driving but my husband and I are too old and infirmed to walk/ride bicycles and public transportation doesn't exist where we are so driving is a necessity to get food and medical attention. 


I know how to live a basic life and I know that I can survive. I hope, work, and plan to never go back there! 


I consider myself lucky. So far we have not experienced any need to cut back on expenses. We go out a couple times a week and plan for a couple vacations each year. If I had to cut back, the one thing I wouldn't/couldn't give up would be driving. You have to be able to get around in the suburbs. 


You can always get on the internet from public library 


It's time more people learned to live within their means and stop buying material things that will never really bring them the happiness they seek.

Verbatim (cont.)  

There have been times when I had to drastically cut back on expenses. Since I live in a big city and had to either get to work and back or find a job, it was best I did not cut out driving. But, that was about the only thing I did not cut out. When you are a single parent, you choose what is most important. Getting me and my children to work/school, doctor's appointments, etc., was most important. 


We gave up our satellite TV about 2 years ago, in favor of Netflix, and have given up the home phone. We don't regret these decisions at all. 


I've already started cutting expenses, by getting rid of the landline, reducing the channel line-up, getting rid of the DVR. 


I work to hard and too long not to have family time and take family vacations so I will not give up our time together. 


In reality, I would give up anything to keep my family safe and happy! 


Glad I don't have to contemplate this for real. I have already dropped most magazine subscriptions and achieved a reduction in clutter. 


There are many "excesses" that individuals could easily relinquish which would allow them to save money and enjoy a less stressful life 


If our household had to cut back on expenses we could eat out less, reduce our TV to just basic cable, and go on fewer week-end trips - but most of all we could quit watering the yard. 


I live in Southern California so driving is a top priority. I have already eliminated magazine subscriptions and I rarely watch TV or go out to eat so neither of those is terribly important. I like my cell phone (great for emergencies when you drive a lot) and having a personal internet connection, but could live without both if necessary. Driving is definitely #1, although my iPad is a close 2nd. My husband always says if we ever get divorced he will list the iPad as the correspondent 


Economic circumstances may dictate switching brands, but I don't want to live in a world without coffee. 


I gave up my land-line phone years ago, so my cell phone is it. 


I've been poor and I've been comfortable, and the only advantage of being comfortable is the ability to meet emergency situations. Otherwise, my family and I could live on very little and still enjoy life. 


And I mean the cell "phone", not all the other luxury items, such as internet connection, camera, audio player, etc. that are not critical...if I could find one without all the useless junk on it.

Verbatim (cont.)  

Some of these are very difficult due to safety issues (cell phone) and a great source of entertainment (cable TV), but the internet is now so integral to our life in terms of information, financial management, communication that I think it would be very difficult to give it up. 


It's scary how tied I am to all of these so the hardest part is picking just one! However when times are tough, and I've been through a period of unemployment, you buckle down and basically cut back on everything. 


The nice thing about cell phones is nowadays they have your internet covered. I'm addicted to my phone. 


driving would be the next thing 


My household will do our version of an RFP: shop our current expenses in the marketplace. We are currently looking for a family-friendly restaurant since Red Robin changed their menu. 


I could not live with out my DVR...I'm not sure what I ever did with out it! 


This amuses me for reasons. Cable TV? Vacations? I've never had cable or satellite. I had a vaction once in 1997. I drive to work and church. I do have a cell phone/internet. Thinking about getting rid of those. 


Gave up cable TV over two years ago and subscribed to HuluPlus for $7.99 a month. Between Hulu and the good 'ole rabbit ears we've been saving a lot of money. 


If I had to cut back on expenses I would probably turn my air conditioner up higher in the summer and my heat lower in the winter. 


As a member of the middle class, with interest earning savings, I've cut back on a lot of expenses in the last five years in order to support the Too-Big-To-Fail Wall Street Banks, but so far I haven't had to give anything up entirely. 


As empty nesters, my husband and I eat out three to four times a week so I think this activity would be the first to go - I try not to think about where that money could be better used to plan for retirement! 


To be specific, I would not give up my HGTV cable channel. I'm addicted. 


We shortened our vacation this year considerably to conserve expenses. I am an insurance agent and you would believe the # of people who have allowed auto insurance to lapse because they can't afford it. 


I don't have a home phone because that cost more than the cell phone service. I have the cheapest plan you can get. That's the only way I can hear my children's voices until I see them and wouldn't give that up. I have the cheapest cable plan you can get (25 stations) and I only have that so my TV isn't all snow. I'd rather be outside doing something. You really don't need the most expensive phone plans, cable service or the most extravagant things to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. 


I chose driving because I have to commute to work. My family would be hard pressed to give up the convenience of the personal communication or connectivity especially since schools are incorporating this technology into its learning platform. 


I find it absolutely amazing what people think they must have. I live in an area where there is not good public transportation and nothing is within walking distance, so driving is essential. Everything else is just nice to have.

Verbatim (cont.)  

I can always find a free Wi-Fi spot, ask anyone who has had an extended blackout. However, I depend so much on my cell phone, that I do not have a landline and can go without my PC, as long as there is free Wi-Fi. 


I have only had to cut back marginally in the past few years of weak economy and rapidly growing college tuitions, and I have already curtailed vacations and going out to eat and stopped all magazine subscriptions. 


The price of black oil sunflower seeds have skyrocketed in the last few years, but the pleasure of watching birds at the feeders is worth the price. 


I am waiting for the day my children grow up and leave home. My grocery bills and utility bills will be greatly reduced. Then I can save big bucks toward retirement. 


It was very hard to pick just one; cell phone and internet are close (cell won out); and if I gave up driving, I wouldn't have a job, so I couldn't afford any of the others anyway. Guess I should have picked driving... : ) 


Cutting back can also mean finding other ways to afford things, like clipping coupons, buying at discount or "big-box" stores, getting a car with better gas mileage, etc., that doesn't require you to give up things, just make your money go further! 


I have a job, but have been trying to spend less on "frivolous" things (clothes, eating out, etc.). I have more than one friend who's been laid off and are in dire straights, so I feel guilty if I go out and spend. Because it could have just as easily been me. 


I'd love to cut back on my tax expenses. Unfortunately I don't make enough money for that. 


This was a very hard question to answer. I certainly can do without going out to eat, vacations (wait I don't take or spend money on them anyway), magazines (wait I don't have these either), and cable/TV. However, I could not do without driving (we don't have public transportation in my area) or my personal cell phone or internet connection. Why? It's not because I need to keep in touch with friends, it's because I have a childe with special needs. I received my first smart phone (I had an 8 year old antiquated phone based on today's standards) from my husband as a birthday gift a year ago. Shortly after that, my youngest child was diagnosed with special needs and I added at least 30 contacts to my contact list (and it's grown since then), have used the internet at appts/school IEP mtgs, and have a shared electronic calendar with my husband so we can keep track of appts., days off from school, etc. I don't know what I would have done without it! 


Though a "boomer" I probably should have been born a generation sooner, as there's nothing in the [convenience list] above, and more, I couldn't live without. 


I might be eating a lot of beans or pasta, but not giving up my coffee. 🙂 


Mostly I think the best way to effectively reduce expenses is to reduce, completely eliminating. For instance, I wouldn't do without cable TV, but I might cut back on the premium channels. I wouldn't give up driving, but I might consolidate trips, and while you pretty much have to have a phone these days, I'd forego the landline for the portability of my cellphone (perhaps with a reduced dataplan), and my vacation's more likely to be a car trip away, rather than a plane flight. Would that the federal government would learn how to actually reduce spending, rather than simply slow the rate of growth and call THAT a reduction. That's the advantage of spending other people's money, I guess... me, I have to live within my own means... and support a bunch of others, apparently. 


NOTE: Verbatim responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.