Last week, I published a blot post about our finances. I basically just openly laid out the ways that we manage our finances. In some ways, we are horrid at managing our finances. In some ways we do a fairly decent job of saving money. I thought I would share with you the top 10 ways that we save money.
15. Monthly dues.
We all have them. Those websites or networks or subscriptions that are ONLY $10 a month! Woohoo! Well, that’s $120 a year. Still not that bad. But how many of those do we have? We have netflix, a Cooking magazine subscription, the Influence Network subscription, and I’m sure there are several more that I’m forgetting. Woah! That really adds up! Step up and re-evaluate. Pick 2-3 monthly dues and stick with them. Make sure you have a talk with your spouse about which ones to keep and which ones to get rid of!
14. Utilize the system.
I didn’t say “use the system”. I said utilize the system. Honestly, we qualify for Medicaid and for WIC. So we applied and got on both. I’ve gone through different times of embarrassment over this fact, but we truly talked and prayed about and decided that while we don’t actually agree with how the welfare/support systems work in our country, we were going to go ahead and use them since we fully qualified to be on them.
13. Children do not need to be expensive.
We have one child. Well, technically we have two but Little Miss is kind of in her own financial category at the moment. Tera’s birth hospital bills were expensive, but actually taking care of Tera does not have to be overly expensive. We bought almost everything used (stroller, pack-n-play, high chair, etc), and I did not spend more than $30 on any piece of equipment I bought her. For her clothes, we use hand-me-downs and outfits that I pick out at second hand shops and garage sales. We cloth diaper because we found it to be much cheaper for us. And I either made all her baby food, got baby food with WIC, or just fed her whatever we were eating! Sure, we have spent more money since Tera came along…but a child does not have to break the bank!
12. Used Vehicles.
Did you know that if you buy a brand new vehicle, the value of the vehicle drops significantly the moment you drive it off the lot? It’s just not worth it to us to buy a brand new vehicle. Now, it is very important to be careful about where you get a used vehicle. We bought ours from my parents….and then our second vehicle we bought from Craigslist. I don’t always recommend Craigslist, but it worked out great for us that time!
11. Stick to the lists.
Here’s the thing about buying things on sale. If I go to the store to buy a jug of milk, I was intending to spend around $3. If I see something on sale and decide that is such a good deal (but it’s not something I need or would have bought without the sale), and buy it…I just spend more money than I was intending to. Of course, I always spend more money than I was intending to. That is a human problem. But we get so caught up in buying something just because it’s a great deal. Not because we were intending to buy it already and then we found it for a great deal! Stick to the lists. Stick to what you need to buy, and don’t veer off that list. I’m not just talking about grocery lists here, either!
10. Cook from scratch/Relying on the land.
Growing up, my Mom made everything from scratch. I mean….she didn’t even have access to cream of chicken soup. I’m very thankful for everything that my Mom taught me to do in the kitchen, and I have learned over the years that it helps save a TON of money. I bake our bread and try to make anything I can from scratch. Before making something from a box/can, ask yourself if it can be made from scratch, and if it’s worth your time to make it from scratch (chicken brother? sure. homemade spaghetti noodles? nah.).
Another way to do that is to grow a garden and rely on that for some of your food. The last two summers we have started a garden and failed miserably. Last summer we at least got some produce from the garden! This summer our garden turned into a weed plot and I think we harvested one cucumber. Oops. Don’t be like me in that area…instead, rely some on the land for your food needs and it will save you money!
9. Learn to live with it (or rather…live without it!)
I mentioned in my last post on finances that when I have a dream for an item in my home, I always wait until I can find it dirt cheap or free. I gave the example of our dining room table. It was a horrible piece of junk that we bought for $10 at a garage sale. I knew I wanted a farmhouse table to replace it, and I looked at the retail stores with sticker shock when I couldn’t find anything under $100. I waited for THREE YEARS until my friend called and told me her neighbor was throwing one out. We got it for FREE. Score. But three years…I learned to live without my dream table. Now, for the armchair in our bedroom…I’m still waiting, waiting, waiting!
This goes along with things that aren’t just household items, too. I have learned to live without monthly haircuts and pedicures and going out to eat every week.
8. We don’t drink.
I know this seems small, but we have learned that we save a ton of money by simply not drinking. Beer, wine…whatever it is really adds up! We have nothing against drinking (in moderation), but we have realized that by simply not getting into the habit, we save money. Theo’s coworkers at his old job would blow an entire paycheck on alcohol on pay day. No, thank you.
7. Eating Out.
Theo and I eat out about once a month. Sometimes that turns into twice or three times a month, but we have never made at habit of consistently going out to eat. Usually when we eat out, it’s Chipotle or Little Ceaser’s and it’s because its 7:30 pm and Tera is supposed to go to bed in an hour but I haven’t been able to get my act together and make dinner. I’d like to do a better job of having a consistent date night with Theo, but even that does not mean that we have to eat out on a regular basis.
One word: Aldi.
I know, they don’t have all the natural and organic stuff that the health food stores have, but it helps me to save money. A ton of money. I do actually buy all my stuff there, even meat. There are some items that I haven’t been able to find at Aldi, but lately they have added name brand stuff (like Coke) and even organic food. I don’t know how organic it actually is…but it’s there.
As a side note: Trader Joes is the organic equivalent of Aldi.
Buying basic ingredients to make food from scratch is going to be much cheaper than buying already made stuff. For example: if I buy chicken breasts and bread/flavor them myself, that will be much cheaper than buying breaded chicken in the freezer section.
Of course another way to save a TON of money is to buy meat in bulk straight from a farmer. It’s a bug price price up front, but its much cheaper in the end!
Before buying an item, we ask ourselves if it can be made at home. Most of our home decor was made by us. As I look around the room I see my Africa string art (made my Theo), our chalkboard (made by both of us), my small gallery wall (frames brought at goodwill and spray painted by me). You get the picture. It really adds up when spending a ton of money on decor items that could have been made yourself for at least half the price!
Another thing that we have done ourselves is all our home updates. Ripping out carpet, painting, knocking down a wall, hanging curtains….we decided to save money and do all those things ourselves
There is however, always one thing to remember when DIY-ing. Is it worth your time to save the money, or is it worth the money to save your time?
4. Craigslist, trash picking and hand-me-downs.
I know some people who won’t take a perfectly good object out of the trash! Now, if the same object were being sold at a garage sale, they wouldn’t hesitate to buy it! There are obviously certain objects that probably shouldn’t be taken out of the trash. Don’t open trash bags, don’t take mattresses and bedding, and be very, very careful about other stuffed furniture like couches and chairs. But c’mon!
Do you want to know how many things I can see from where I sit in my living room that came out of the trash, were bought second hand or were from Craigslist? Ok….dining room table and chairs (trash on the curb), bookshelf (trash on the curb), couches ($50 on Craigslist), rocking chair (garage sale), entryway table (garage sale), coffee table (garage sale).
Ok, it would be easier to just say what was not second hand: the bookshelf (bought brand new at Target).
Always keep your eyes peeled for things on the curb. You never know what you might find!
3. Electric bills.
This is Theo’s favorite way to save money. Theo will always, always, always turn off a light when there is no one in the room. Even if I leave the room for 5 seconds, he turns the light off. It’s a running joke in our family, but it honestly does help us save on our electric bills.
In the summer, we go without AC and use the clothesline to dry the clothes instead of the dryer. In the winter, we keep the house heated to the mid/upper 60’s, which saves several dollars per degree it’s turned down!
One time, Theo saw a commercial for Time Warner Cable and they were offering a low rate to their customers. Theo called and asked for that new, low rate. They mumbled and grumbled and gave a million excuses as to why Theo shouldn’t go for that low rate. They mentioned that we wouldn’t be able to stream Netflix or use two laptops at the same time. They then put Theo on hold for a very long time. They also transferred him to this person and that person and this person, probably trying to make him mad and give up. But Theo stuck with it and kept insisting that they give him “the lowest rate they offer”. Eventually, he got it. And we can stream Netflix on both our laptops at the same time.
1. Our phones!
I think that the main way we save money is through our phones. We pay $17 a month for each of our phones. $35 for two phones. We went with a non-contract company called PureTalk. We pick a monthly phone plan, but we can cancel at any time. We both agreed to have limited talk/text minutes…but we hardly run out. And when we do, we can easily just add more for a couple bucks that month. I do also have a smartphone, and here is how that works. I bought my *unlocked* iPhone off Ebay for around $100. I bought it when the iPhone 5 had just come in, and everyone was upgrading and selling their old version for fairly cheap. It had to be unlocked so I could put my PureTalk chip in the phone. I then use Wifi whenever there is Wifi for all my Apps and smartphone stuff. It works out great for us.
So what about you? What are some ways that you save money? Did you learn anything from my list?