Family Finances, Personal Finance, Uncategorized

Top Ten Money Saving Ideas

top ten money saving ideas(This post may contain affiliate links.) So you’re on the way to managing your money but maybe you just need some extra cash. Or you’re still kind of struggling a bit and need to pay your rent with money you don’t seem to have.

No judgment here…for those times when you need to wring out some extra money from your budget, here are a few ways to find some extra money. In fact, it’s our top ten money saving ideas!

1. Buy store brand instead of name brand

Some people seem to think store brand stuff is nasty or maybe they’re just loyal to the brands they grew up on. Not this gal…show me a low price and I will show you the way to my grocery cart. And with store brand, there’s often a 10 for $10 deal, buy 1 get 2 free or something similar. (Side note…10 for $10 doesn’t mean you have to buy 10 to get the deal. You can buy 3 for $3.) So yes, as a matter of fact I will buy you, store brand items and all your little friends who qualify to jump in the cart for free!

2. Buy meat from the grocery store in bulk, then portion and package it for the freezer

top ten savingWhile we’re hanging out at the grocery store, let’s head on over to the meat section. Sometimes there’s big piles of meat or fish that’s discounted because it’s almost at it’s freshness date or sell-by date. I’m looking at you, big long piece of sockeye salmon!! Sell by tomorrow? Ha! By this time tomorrow, you’ll be cut up into serving sizes encased in a freezer burn-safe, vacuum sealed bag thanks to my FoodSaver (which you can buy by clicking here…if you do, I’ll get a little payment but don’t worry, your price doesn’t go up!) This works great for hamburger meat, fish, chicken…whatever. Get a deal, cut it up, vacuum seal it and freeze it!

3. Consignment shops for kids clothes (also try selling kids clothes and gear you don’t use anymore!)

save money clothingI can’t say enough about consignment shops…whether they be year-round stores or pop-up spots like at a church, consignment shopping is the way to go. Imagine paying about $2.99 for a shirt instead of $7 for a child who, let’s face it, is going to smear spaghetti down the front of it. Plus, it’s only going to fit for maybe a single season? Yes, consignment shops…YES!!! Plus, your kid won’t look exactly like everyone else because everyone else shops at all the same places. How many times do I see a little girl wearing a pink shirt with a print of a dog wearing smart glasses and that says “Smarty Pants” across the top?

Consignment shops are also a good place to offload the crap your kids don’t fit or use anymore. Strollers? High Chairs? Bouncy things? Clothing (if it doesn’t look like it’s been through a disaster area)? Those adorable shoes you bought but your kid refuses to wear because they don’t have enough blue on them? Sell it!! You’ll get on average 1/4 of the value of similar items but that’s 1/4 more than you had before you sold it. Bonus: you get extra space in your house!!

4. Can I get that at the Dollar Store??

That’s right…the Dollar Store. A mecca of random crap that, if you plan right, can help you shave money off your grocery bill, your birthday party budget, or your organization attempt spending in general. They always have gift wrap, little kids party paper supplies, goodie bag items, decorations, gift boxes, fake flowers, craft supplies…if you can dream a party, Dollar Store can probably (mostly) make it happen for you. Most of my decorations for my daughter’s recent Tea Party birthday party  came from Dollar Store.

You can also get things like Halloween candy and supplies, dish towels, seasonal items, Christmas decorations, kids puzzles, coloring books, school supplies…the list is endless. Don’t forget about Dollar Store when you’re about to buy stuff. Always ask yourself, “Can I get that at the Dollar Store?” Make it your mantra. Save some cash!

5. Eat at home…use a meal plan and stick to it.

save money eat at homeI cannot stress this enough. Write out what you’re gonna eat for every meal for the week. This helps in several ways, actually. First, you’ve got a game plan that keeps you from saying, “I have no idea what to make for dinner. Eh…let’s just go out to eat.” This is a money suck. You know this. If you have a menu planned and you find yourself saying, “I have no idea what to make for dinner. Eh…let’s just go out to eat.”, you’ll be able to say, “Oh wait, let me look at my handy-dandy menu plan and see what’s for dinner.”

Using a meal plan also gives you a list of what to buy at the grocery store. And this keeps you from buying crap you don’t actually need. Like pumpkin spice snack cakes. So you’re saving money by not going out to eat and you’re saving money by having a game plan when you head to the grocery store. Stick to your meal plan, stick to your budget!

6. Pack your lunch for work.

save money sandwichThat’s right…pack your lunch. You spend anywhere from $8- $15 a day for lunches plus you’re driving your gas-guzzling sport utility to the restaurant and back. A loaf of bread, a package of sliced cheese and a package of deli meat…$9. $9 for the week. Not $75 plus gas money for the week. Heck, you can even dress that sandwich up with mayo, lettuce and tomato. If you’re tight on time, see if you can get one of your kids to make your sandwich. That’s what I do and the kids are happy to “get to make” Momma’s sandwich. That’s right, I’ve somehow stumbled upon making them actually WANT to make my sandwich for me. I know…it’s only a matter of time but I’ll take the help while I can.

Bonus Tip: Make your “morning ride into work” coffee at home. You can even be all organized and crap by setting your coffee pot the night before to start brewing that liquid energy so it’s just waiting for you to pour it into your adorable, REUSABLE (saving money here, too!) coffee travel mug! Look Ma, no hands! I’m being efficient and frugal!!

7. Coupons! Paper and digital. Strategize on sales and BOGO opportunities to stock your pantry (don’t go nuts, though!)

groceriesOk, let me just say I’m not looking for you to be the next extreme guru. But coupons are important in the grocery money-saving strategy. Firstly, it’s just leaving money on the table to not take advantage of coupons for things you normally buy. Secondly, most grocery stores double coupons up to $.50 so there’s even more incentive to try using coupons. Coordinate your coupon usage with store sales to rake in even more discounts and deals on the products you buy. Consider buying more than you need in an effort to stock your pantry. Now, I don’t mean stock your pantry in such as way that you park your car in the driveway because your garage is now your “pantry”. Moderation is key…but having some extra stock on hand is good.

Also, now that we are in the digital era, don’t forget digital coupons! There are some grocery stores that have apps that include their own store-wide coupons that you can load onto your frequent shopper card. Do that! You don’t even need to mess with a newspaper or scissors. Clip coupons while you’re on the potty if you can’t find other time to do it. It’s saved money! Plus, using digital coupons and a frequent shopper card enables the store to see what you like and what you don’t like. Once you move past the invasiveness of this data transfer, you’ll come to realize that the store is now sending you “best customer” coupons and literally every coupon they send is one you can use!

8. If you go out to eat, only do it with a coupon and order water for your drink.

This one’s an interesting one. We started doing this and it really does make a difference! Only go with a coupon. It may be a free cheese dip at your favorite Mexican restaurant. It may be a free combo when you buy a combo. Whatever, it’s saved money. Sometimes you “have to” go out to eat…like with the in-laws, with church friends who want to “after-glow”…sometimes it’s just necessary. At least save while you spend. Use a coupon!

Also…get water. I’m telling you, the biggest restaurant racket is the drink situation. Soda actually only costs like $.10 but that restaurant is charging you $2.99…at least! What the crap?! Get water. It’s free. Our family of five saves almost $15 by drinking the liquid intended for hydrating our bodies. If you want to be a rebel…bring along a water flavor and use that in your FREE water.

9. Turn off the lights, bump up the thermostat, unplug unused appliances

save money houseI can still hear my dad upon coming home from a long day of work. Coming home to literally every light on in the house. “You got the place lit up like a Christmas tree, for crying out loud! Turn some of the lights off!” I can now hear myself saying The.Same.Thing. to my family.

Turn off the lights!!!!! I understand his irritation.

Especially when I am taking trash to the garbage can, which is conveniently located next to the electric meter for the house. I see that little wand spinning and spinning and pinning…Make it stop!! well, you can’t make it stop but you sure can slow it down. Turn off lights when you’re leaving the room. Bump up the thermostat a few degrees. It’s just a few degrees…you can handle it. Unplug appliances you aren’t using…believe it or not, there’s a little bit of juice flowing and just being wasted on those items. Your coffee pot tells time…that’s great. So does the stove top, so does the microwave, so does the phone in your pocket and the watch on your wrist. Unless you’re using the coffee pot for it’s timed brew feature, unplug it.

10. Look at all your existing subscriptions and ditch the ones you don’t use. Hello Barnes and Noble??

Are you using your gym membership? lol probably not. Ditch it! Barnes and Noble? When was the last time you bought an actual book? Does that membership save you enough money to justify having it? Because otherwise it’s just like flushing $25 a year down the toilet. How’s that Netflix membership? You actually using it? If not, let it go. Do you have a monthly subscription to a premium job finding service to help you find that awesome job that you never find? Time to cancel it. $5  here, $7 there…it starts to add up. Really inventory all the money leaks in your budget and patch them up where you can. Keep what you need, ditch the rest. You won’t miss it, I promise.

So, there you go. Some ideas to get your cheapskate juices flowing. Look for money that’s not being spent wisely and take it back. You’ll start to notice it in your budget, the more you find. And the more you find, the more you can keep. Save it! Put it in a safe place and watch it start to grow. You’ll love the feeling of success, no matter how small.

Happy saving!

 

Do you have any smart saving ideas to share? Let us know in the comments!

Personal Finance

The Ant and the Grasshopper

Remember Aesop’s fables? The one about the ant and the grasshopper is so important as we navigate through adult life. It’s such a valuable lesson that many people miss even after experiencing the repercussions of being “the grasshopper”. Long ago when we first were married, we lived like grasshoppers- we ate out every night, we took and took and took from the ATM (hey, there’s money in the account, why not spend it?!) and we never thought about the next week let alone the next month or year. So often we found ourselves with very few dollars left over for bills or even worse, the dreaded red ink and parentheses for an ending balance. Finally, we realized we have to get this under control quick!

It did take hitting the proverbial “rock bottom” before realizing this and groveling is not an attractive quality for newlyweds in the eyes of their parents! OK, we are big boys and girls- we can do this. Here’s how we did it:

First, we listed out every mandatory expense we had- that’s student loans (even if you aren’t required to make payments yet), credit card debt, utilities, insurance premiums, rent/ mortgage, car payments, taxes (home and car), etc. Next, the hard part…we listed out every discretionary expense we had. Essentially, we looked at a few months of bank statements to notice the horrible truth staring us in the face from that ugly list. We spent way too much money on stupid things, much of which we ended up pooping out a mere twelve or so hours after enjoying that dinner out.

Next, we took our debit cards out of our wallets and moved to cash only. This was necessary to teach us to stop impulse buying. We felt naked without them but it sure did make an immediate difference! We budgeted for groceries, gas for the cars and any money needed for mandatory expenses due that pay period. Funny thing happened…we had food to eat, gas in our cars and enough money to cover our bills. And an added benefit, there was a little money left over to carry into the next pay period!! We were excited to finally see something other than failure in our bank account and that tiny victory sparked the will to continue.

Once we were used to eating at home, limiting our discretionary expenses and anticipating our true cash requirements, we gave ourselves our debit cards back. I set up a budget in Excel that showed us how our current cash situation would impact our budget down the road. This was extremely helpful during the time we began paying off debt. Paying large amounts on debt seemed like a good idea in the moment because it seemed like the cash was there, but we were able to look down the road to see that if we paid a large sum this pay period, we wouldn’t have enough two or three pay periods down the road to make our standard bills. So we adjusted that payment a little and the debt began to diminish, then disappear. More success!!

The other thing we did was open a few savings accounts- two little accounts that were tied to our checking and our main savings account in a completely different bank (online). The two little accounts were for a vacation fund and an auto repair/ emergency fund. They were tied to the checking so we would have instant access when needed. The main savings account takes 3 business days to access so that instant access or temptation to spend it is gone and the money is safe! We have automatic transfers into each account the morning of each pay day and gradually those accounts are growing. Don’t think that $25 a pay check isn’t worth transferring to savings. Even a small amount is something that adds up quickly and it’s reinforcing the discipline to save.

Now, our transition from silly grasshopper to responsible ant has taken some time to achieve. It didn’t happen overnight and it’s still a work in progress- there’s always room to get better. Good things don’t just happen, you have to make them happen and you have to work at it all the time. Budgeting isn’t easy and it sometimes makes you look and feel like a party pooper. But at the end of the day, you have electricity in your home, food on your table and money in your savings for when your car breaks down or your water heater leaks all over your basement. I can’t tell you how good it feels to not invade your operating funds (checking account) for an unplanned emergency because you have money set aside for just such an occasion!

So all you grasshoppers out there, get started with a budget!!