A dollar saved is a dollar earned, right? Knowing where to find savings–plugging up all of the little leaks in your budget–can really help you stretch your hard-earned money further than you ever though possible.
I remember back to when we had just graduated college. Kendel’s first job offer as a mechanical engineer was really pitiful, though it seemed like a bountiful to us since we lived on less than $10k a year in college. (How did we do that?)
We had two kids by the time we graduated and had decided together that I would stay home with them. Our new budget, based on Kendel’s new salary, seemed like largesse, though we were still eating lots of rice, beans and potatoes.
Over the next few years, even though Kendel did receive raises, our budget seemed to shrink right before our eyes. A boss of Kendel’s let slip his salary and incredulously, Kendel repeated it to me. It was nearly double what Kendel was making. We both remember our envious conversation about what we would do with all that money.
We laughingly look back on it because Kendel now makes more than what his boss did, and we still don’t feel like we have all that much money! It’s a puzzling phenomenon!
I think the best way to be able to set aside money each month for paying off debt, travel, new cars, or expensive things that you long for but often seem unreachable is to cut back your spending and plug up all the little leaks that have developed over time. And instead of looking at it as depriving yourself, be grateful for the opportunity to save money for something you really want.
I always tell my kids, “Don’t trade what you want most for what you want at the moment.”
What are your wasteful spending habits? You might think you don’t have any, but look closely at the ideas outlined below.
10 frugal tips you can easily implement right now
- Don’t buy disposable stuff. With the exception of toilet paper and diapers, don’t buy anything you will just throw away. It’s like throwing your money away.The less you throw away, the less you spend. It’s also better for the environment.
- Groceries. I rarely purchase brand names at all, whether food or clothing. Did you know that often a factory will produce one item, say mustard, and then package the exact same mustard differently for several different brands? Most grocery stores advertise their loss leaders on the front page of their circulars. A loss leader is a pricing strategy where a product is sold at a price below its market cost to stimulate other sales of more profitable goods or services. Be sure you are on the mailing list of all the grocery stores local to you, and when the circulars are delivered each week, use them to plan your meals so that you are taking advantage of the sales. Write a list before you go shopping and stick to it. Instead of purchasing prepackaged food, try making meals from scratch. Your crockpot is a fabulous tool for creating cheaper and more nutritious meals that you will forward to. Planning ahead will not only save you money, but it will also benefit your waistline. Here are my very best grocery budgeting tips in greater detail.
- Restaurants. We all know how restaurant meals cost substantially more than making the same food at home, but also take into consideration that restaurant meals are taxed at a much higher rate than the food tax and that you also have to tip your server. It’s not just the cost of the food. We, a family of ten, can eat nice meals at home for less than $20 per meal (and cheap ones for less than $10!) but it would cost us more than $100 for the same meal in a restaurant. We figured it out once and we save over $1800 a year because Kendel packs his lunch (usually leftovers from dinner the previous night) to take to work.
- Subscription services. My son in college was having some financial problems, so we sat down together with his bank statement. He had four subscriptions he didn’t even know about, and he didn’t even know what one of them was! He didn’t realize he had signed up for any of them. Be wary of anything that requires a credit card to sign up for and be hesitant to sign up for anything that claims a free trial. Companies know that is a good way to get you started and that it’s human nature to forget. It’s a good habit to read through your bank and credit card statements every month.
- Don’t spend money entertaining your children. Instead of taking them to a movie or buying them video games, go outside and play basketball or soccer with them. What your children want most is your time. Not only will it save you money, but it will build eternal relationships and it’s great exercise.
- Bottled water and other beverages. Unless the water at home is unfit for drinking, which I can’t imagine laws allowing, you should not purchase bottled water. Drink the water from your tap. Fill a container and take it with you when you need to. You already pay for this water every month, don’t pay twice for the same thing. In fact, reconsider what you’re spending on beverages altogether.
- Consolidate your driving. You can save gas money and wear and tear on your car by combining trips and driving fewer times each week. In addition, it will free up time.
- Keeping stuff in storage. I can hardly believe how many storage facilities there are in my city. People must be using them, or they would all go out of business. If you are paying for storage, please visit the storage unit, remove everything and really look hard at whether it is benefitting you or not. I know that I am happier with less ‘stuff’ in my life to have to worry over and take care of. I can’t imagine paying money each month to have to store stuff. You can sell it or donate it for the tax deduction and turn all of that old stuff into money in your pocket. All of these options can turn old stuff you don’t want anymore into money in your pocket and peace of mind for you.
- Buy quality. It will save you money in the long run, especially in regards to large ticket items, like appliances, if you purchase better quality. Read online reviews and check consumer reports so you know what you want, and then look for a sale. If you know you’re going to spend a significant amount and you already have the cash on hand, you might want to consider applying for a credit card with a signing bonus. Buying an expensive appliance can help hit that spending minimum quickly. It’s a simple way to earn some money on a purchase you were going to make anyway. Just be sure to pay it off in full right away, or you will quickly negate any possible benefit.
- DIY what you can. From cooking to car repairs to home repairs and remodels, anything you choose to ‘outsource’ will cost you money. Youtube has tutorials for everything, learn some new skills and save yourself a huge amount of money! Start simple and make your own bread, which will save you hundreds every year, and keep learning until you have worked up to being able to create your own custom couch or remodel your house and save thousands. You will build skills and confidence while you are saving money!
My cute Grandma, who grew up during the depression, always used to say, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Her fridge was always full of leftover food in old cottage cheese, yogurt and margarine containers. While I don’t necessarily advocate that, because it made the fridge difficult to organize and especially because I imagine it increasing waste, due to difficulty finding specific leftovers, I do advocate adopting that mindset.
You are the master of your finances. When I am being especially frugal in order to purchase a vacation or a vehicle or something expensive, I like to make a game out of it. Feel gratitude as you watch your savings grow, instead of feeling deprived. Concentrate on the future, instead of the present. Don’t trade what you want most for what you want at the moment.
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