Over the years, I've come up with hundreds of ways to trim proverbial fat from nearly every aspect of your budget. And I stand by those tips, tricks, and strategies because most of us have areas where we can pull back on the spending a bit.
But some things are nonnegotiable. There are necessities — sometimes rather costly ones — that are required for us to live decent, healthy, and satisfying lives. What are they? Take a look at these eight expenses you should never cut, and let me know some of the areas where you just can't or won't shake out savings in the comments below.
1. Health Care
First and foremost, it's critical to have health insurance. It's required in the United States, whether from a private provider or via Obamacare, and without it, you run the risk of either being denied care or racking up serious medical bills that could put your finances in dire straits for the foreseeable future.
Aside from that, when you're sick or need medical attention, you want the best care you can get. Some prescriptions are expensive, too, and health insurance can greatly reduce those costs. You should never let coverage lapse because you're generally healthy or you don't think you'll fall ill anytime soon. Murphy's Law dictates that it's in that scenario you'll need medical attention, and you'll want to have insurance on your side.
2. Personal Hygiene
Soap, shampoo, and toothpaste are essential — and readily available, like on nearly every corner of your neighborhood, for not much money. Which is weird, because I know plenty of people, perfectly well-off individuals at that, who don't seem to use any of it on a regular basis.
If you're one of those folks who likes to gripe at the cost of personal hygiene products and therefore use that as your excuse to skimp on washing yourself on a regular basis, you'll be happy to know that bargain brands, like Suave, for example, do a bang-up job of keeping you clean. Not to mention that there are always coupons available for hygiene products, especially toothpaste, that can help reduce the cost of these items. Find the items on sale plus pair them with coupons and you'll spend oftentimes less than a dollar on what you need per item.
3. Personal Safety
Most of us practice personal safety consistently. We try to avoid automobile accidents, we look both ways when we cross the road, and we never run with scissors. Those are all subconscious decisions that don't cost a dime, which is why you might be asking yourself how personal safety costs you actual dollars and cents.
For starters, the car that you drive should be rated for safety. When you're strapped for cash and need an inexpensive vehicle, choosing a cheap car that gets you from A to B may seem like an ideal option. Certainly there are times — and financial constraints — that call for this type of decision-making, but you'll almost always regret it in the long run. Instead, I recommend loosening the purse strings just a little more so you can buy a vehicle that will protect you if you're in an accident, opposed to one that's already falling apart.
Another example is safety on the water. Life vests are cumbersome, and nobody likes to wear them. But you know what? They save lives, and there are millions of people in this world who will tell you that they regret not buying or renting life preservers during an outing that resulted in someone's harm or death. It could have been prevented if they had just sprung for the darn things. Thus, spring for the darn things.
4. Healthy Food
It's true, food is expensive, especially the healthy stuff — but you shouldn't be making cuts to your budget that include reducing the amount of healthy food you're eating by replacing it with less expensive, toxic food — like that microwaveable junk that comes from the freezer section or the stuff you grab at the drive-thru window.
It's okay to indulge in it every now and then — who doesn't like to dive headfirst into a bag of Doritos from time to time? But most of your food should be fresh and nutritious. You owe it to yourself — and your longevity — to eat healthily, and there are lots of ways you can cut down on your healthy food bills if you put in the legwork before going grocery shopping. Wise Bread can help you save a substantial amount on your supermarket bills if you do a little digging for advice.
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5. Mental Health Care
Mental health is a hot topic of conversation nowadays, though we should have started talking about it seriously a long time ago. Personally, I've suffered from depression and anxiety — and still do from time to time — and I've known too many people who have committed suicide because they weren't able to figure things out. Which is why it's my duty to tell you that your mental health is worth every extra penny you can afford. If you need medication, get the medication. If you need someone to talk to — which can help immensely when you're troubled — go see a therapist. If you have decent health insurance, prescriptions and therapy should be covered so you can afford to help yourself.
And it goes without saying that if you feel like there's no hope left, please believe me when I tell you that there is. People care about you, and you can talk anonymously about whatever you're feeling by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-8255. You matter; whether you believe it right now or not —you matter.
By law in most U.S. states, you're required to have car insurance. So if you're thinking about cutting it because you don't drive very often or very far, you're in for a rude awakening if you have the unfortunate luck of being in an accident — and you'll probably go to jail on top of whatever expenses the crash racked up.
Homeowners and renters insurance are also areas where it's not wise to be a miser. You don't have to have super-premium, platinum, Superman coverage, but you should have enough coverage to fully cover the things you own — so they can be replaced quickly and efficiently — in the event of an accident.
7. Debt Repayment
If you're already pinching pennies because you're in debt, it can be easy to brush it to the side and try to forget about it. You're in so deep that you'll never pay it off, so why worry about it, right? Wrong.
In this case, you have few options to stay on track, but you may be able to cut something less important from your budget to continue making payments, or — and I know this is an offensive idea to some — pick up an extra job or side gig to start earning more income. The problem with debt is that it will never go away, and it's your responsibility to pay off what you've accumulated. You alone made those purchases, and you alone need to pay them off. There are assistance programs out there that can help, and I recommend researching your options in that regard, but whatever you do, don't act like it doesn't exist. It does, and it will follow you around like a black cloud for the rest of your life until you address it.
8. Things Your Kids Depend On
There's a buzzword that's being tossed around willy-nilly right now with regards to children and teenagers (and even 20-somethings). We hear it a lot: Entitlement.
While I contend that American children tend to be somewhat entitled, there are some things to which they're actually entitled — like a proper education and health services. If your child needs a tutor, hire a tutor. If your child needs a therapist, seek therapy. Hopefully, you had children for the right reasons, because you wanted to have a family to love and care for. If you're trying to be over-thrifty in these areas, you may not be doing the best job of holding up your end of the parenting bargain.
Find areas in your own grown-up budget to eliminate — like one of your many memberships perhaps, or that adults-only vacation — and help your kid stay on the right path, physically, emotionally, and mentally. You owe them that much.
What costs do you refuse to skimp on?
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