It’s hard to believe but I wasn’t always this cheap (ahem, frugal). I used to frivolously spend money on things that I didn’t need and/or couldn’t really afford. I had just given birth to our first child when my husband and I decided to really buckle down and start being adults about money. That’s when we also decided that I would quit my full time job of five years and become a stay at home mom. We knew we would have to kiss our old lifestyle goodbye in order to pay off debt, buy a house and start a savings plan. We knew HOW to do it, we just had to take the first step on this new journey.
I love making lists and I thought it would be helpful to compile one regarding simple things one can do to start saving more money. I told you my story and this was how we started turning our lives around.
1. Eat as many meals at home as you can. Stop eating out at restaurants unless you have gift cards or really great coupons. Even then, try to limit taking the family out to eat to about once a week. The more you cook at home, the more money you will save. Consider having soup and a sandwich at a restaurant. That will cost you about $7 or more, not including a drink or tip. At home, a soup and sandwich will cost about $1.50 or less for an entire can of soup and less than $2 for a sandwich. So essentially, you’ll pay about $3 or less for the same meal, banking you a cool $4 to spend elsewhere. Again, this is hypothetical, but you get my drift.
2. If you plan your meals, this will make eating at home a cinch! I make a meal plan every two weeks. This can include new meals that you want to try, stuff you want to get rid of, etc. Just make a shopping list and stick to it. This saves so much of your time and money. You can even plan your meals around the sales at your local store! A dry erase board works well for this and it lets each member of the family know what to expect each day. In our house, I also write what else is going on that day so it helps me see how much time I have to devote to meals. For example, if we are really busy, I’ll plan a crock pot meal so I won’t have to do much extra work besides throwing in the ingredients and turning the dial to ‘low.’
3. Start making as much as you can from scratch. Make as much as your schedule allows. Things like bread in your bread-maker, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, cleaners and so forth can be made pretty easily and it will save more money than you realize. Pinterest is a great resource for making things from scratch. I have boards dedicated to it and I use them! It isn’t hard to do this kind of stuff either. It just takes some time and effort on your part.
4. Shop around for auto insurance, trash, cell phones, and the like. If you just make a few calls, you can literally save hundreds. Companies want your business and most of the time people get lazy and just stick with the same carrier for years. If you find a better rate, try calling your current company and asking if they can match it. If not, switch!
5. Pack your lunch each day for work. Like I said, I’m a stay at home mom. I have a part time job and I do bring my lunch on the one day that I work long enough to get a meal break. Taking my leftovers to work saves me at least $5 each week. That’s only for one day. Packing your significant other’s lunch has the same effect. Do the same with snacks. Take them with you so you don’t get caught hungry. Take your coffee from home too. The only time I ‘buy’ coffee out is if I have a gift card or if it’s free. Coffee prices are crazy!
6. Do you like reading? Dust off your library card and rent your books instead of buying them. Libraries loan magazines too. They even check out e-books now. For FREE! This is a no-brainer! Plus, if you don’t like the book, there is no buyer’s remorse!
7. Utilize thrift stores. If you buy your home decor, toys, and clothes at consignment stores or thrift stores, you will save an average of 80% or more. Think of how many times you’ve bought something that you’ve never worn and then think of how much you paid for it. If you shopped at a thrift store, you can find fantastic deals on gently used goods! You also find one of a kind items. Yard sales are great for this stuff too. Kid’s clothes especially.
8. Do some research on low cost events in your area. Entertainment took a ton of our money. Now we go to free and low cost events and we still have just as much fun! I have to look around and get creative sometimes, but I think it’s worth my time. There are tons of resources at your disposal when you start looking. Check museums, libraries, local stores, and organizations. You never know what you’ll find! I wrote a post on finding fun stuff to do in the winter. Look here.
9. Start using coupons as much as possible. Find them online and print them out. Sign up for e-newsletters for places around your town. You can set up a free email account and use it for all of your ‘coupon’ emails. That way, it won’t clog up your real email. Check local magazines, newspapers and flyers. One of our grocery stores puts $10 off a $50 purchase coupons in a local free newspaper every now and again. If you already shop there, this coupon is free money! I like to keep a tally of how much I save with coupons. It really motivates me to use them when I can see actual results!
10. Use the internet to your advantage. This is my favorite tip. I could write tons of posts on this subject alone. There are so many resources that I don’t even know where to begin. Companies give away prizes, samples, and tons of stuff because they want you to buy their products. Start on social media. Look up your favorite brands. Friend them on facebook. Follow them on twitter. This is a great start!
Follow these techniques to start saving more money. The best part is that they will work for anyone. Like I said, if you are willing to put a little effort into saving, the return is tremendous.
What’s your favorite money-saving tip? Did I miss a really good one?