Want to Save? Concentrate on the Big Stuff.

Focusing on the big items first will pay-off quickly.


As a frugal blogger, I recommend lots of tips that will save you small amounts of money. I think these tips are worthwhile, especially if they save you money on expenses that are reoccurring. However, before you invest too much time in frugal tips to save a little money, you should make sure that you have cut your big expenses first. Concentrating on the big items first may seem obvious, but many people are oblivious to their big expenses or feel that there is no way to reduce them. You do not want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

[Slideshow: 10 Ways to Save on Big-Ticket Items]

When backpackers want to reduce their pack weight, experienced hikers often suggest that they should first concentrate on reducing the pack weight of their biggest four items first. That means their backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent. These are usually the heaviest items that one carries. It makes sense to concentrate on reducing the weight of these four items first because that is where the greatest reductions can be made. It does not make much sense to be drilling holes in the handle of your toothbrush when you are carrying a tent that is twice as heavy as a similar one that will work just as well.

You can apply the same concept to reducing your expenses. For instance, it does not make much sense to spend your time washing out plastic baggies to reuse when you are driving a luxury SUV that you can barely afford. It makes more sense to see what your biggest four expenses are and then figure out what you can do to reduce them. For the average person in the United States, the big four expenses would be housing, transportation, taxes, and food.

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If you are not sure what they are for you, then keep track of all your expenses for a month and it will be easy to determine where your money is going. The results might surprise you and will probably give you a few ideas of areas where you can save money. Some of your expenses will be easier to reduce than others, but unless you are already living a very frugal lifestyle, then you can probably cut all these expenses at least a little and find a way to realize some major savings in at least one expense category.

If you need ideas on how to cut your expenses, there are plenty of tips and advice right here at the U.S. News My Money Blog as well as at the writers’ individual blogs. And once you have your big expenses reduced, there is plenty of advice on reducing your small expenses as well. You can be penny-wise -- and pound-wise.

Andy Hough writes about frugality and living well on a small income at TightFistedMiser.com