10 things you can do right now to save money

Raise your hand if you want to start saving some money right now and start padding that savings account!

Saving money is hard hard work am I right? Bills pile up, debt needs to be repaid, emergencies happen and things just need to be bought. Life isn’t simple and sometimes putting anything away at all is downright impossible.

We’re a frugal family by choice. What started off as a lifestyle change to help us pay down a whopping 21k in consumer credit card debt turned into a lifelong commitment when we realized how much happier and more fulfilled we were by spending less and saving more. Once we paid down that heap of debt we started putting the same amount of money into our savings and were able to purchase our home with over a 50% down payment. Our frugal lifestyle choices not only allowed us to make debt a thing of the past but helped pave the way for the purchase of our first home.

If you want to find out how we paid of our credit card debt and became debt free once and for all have a read of this post: How we paid of 21k in credit card debt . In that post I include actionable tips for making a realistic debt repayment plan and tips on how to follow through with it to achieve debt freedom. Coming up with a plan is the easy part right? Following through and being consistent is where things get tough.

So, let’s get very real and very personal for a moment. Below are a set of questions to help you analyze your own relationship with money and spending. Obviously, you don’t need to tell me your answers but if you’re reflecting on these questions and thinking through your own spending habits then you’re absolutely on the right track.

Part of our issue was mindless spending. We’d be out at let’s say the mall and I’d get hungry – 10$ for lunch. Then, an hour later I’d get thirsty and spend another 4$ on a fancy coffee. A store would then be having a sale on shoes and I’d buy 3 pairs simply because they were on sale and couldn’t pass up the great deal – 100$ gone. By the end of the day I’d spend at least 120$ on things that I didn’t truly need but simply wanted in the moment.

Can anyone relate?

With that in mind think over these questions…

  • How much money did you put in your savings or emergency fund last month?
  • How much of your spending was on things that you truly needed?
  • How often are you eating out or spending money on food and drink beyond your grocery expense?
  • Can you account for every penny of your income? Where did your money go?

Now that you’ve thought that through I’m imagining a few of you might answer those questions the same way Mer and I would have nearly 10 years ago. We often had no idea where our money was going, couldn’t account for our spending and would buy things that we wanted instead of needed. Without getting too preachy, we’ve really adopted a lifestyle where we stick to the basics. We don’t buy to buy and often mull over our potential purchases for weeks and even months before handing over our hard earned cash. Approaching spending this way – beyond basic living expenses like food, medication and housing costs allowed us to really get in touch with our true needs and break the habit of want spending.

Want spending is very very dangerous folks.

Saving money isn’t always easy and based on your own financial and debt situation saving anything might be impossible. Whether your currently trying to save or trying to catch up and pay off some consumer debt there are money saving strategies that can help you stretch your dollar and get you to your goal faster. Every penny saved is one penny closer to your financial goals right?

Below are 10 tips to help you start saving money right now! These are things that we do on the regular here in this TTBH and have helped us get a grip on our spending, stretch our dollars and save money without having to sacrifice our quality of life. Frugal living is a lifestyle that allows you to reap the benefits of happiness and fulfillment without depriving you of life’s essentials. It’s not about deprivation folks, it’s about making conscious and wise decisions about where your money goes and how you choose to use it.

Hit up your local dollar store

When it comes to things like toothpaste, shampoo, cleaning products, garbage bags and other household essentials the dollar store is probably our biggest money saver. Mer and I buy most of our household cleaning and personal hygiene products at a local dollar world to save a couple of bucks. Having said that, not everything at the dollar store is actually worth a dollar so you need to be wary of what you buy because although there are tons of money saving opportunities there are also many opportunities to spend your hard earned money on cheap junk.

Lifehacker has an awesome blog post about this very thing called The Best Things to Buy at the Dollar store. It’s absolutely worth a read because it breaks down what’s worth it and what’s not in the world of dollar store shopping.

Shop sales and stockpile essentials

Things like laundry detergent, toilet paper and paper towels are super expensive and can really inflate your monthly spending if you buy it on a per-need basis. Both Margsy and I have super sensitive skin and to avoid skin rashes and other uncomfortable irritations we need to use expensive detergent. I refuse to pay full price for it so I stockpile it when it goes on sale for just about half the price. Although I’m technically spending more money right now – I’m saving a ton in the long run because I’m never in the situation that I have to buy these products. I’ve always got a stockpile waiting so I don’t have to ever pay full price.

Barter first buy second

Barter is a wonderful thing. In a nutshell we always try to barter first before spending any money. We’ve had luck with trades for baby gear, labor and just about anything else you can imagine. Barter is such a great way to get what you need without spending a dime. Imagine putting aside the money you would have spent on an item but using your own marketable skills to get that item from someone else! The saving potential is tremendous if you actively save the money you would have spent on consumer goods isn’t it?

Our most noteworthy transaction thus far include an agreement to have our basement finished in exchange for a hot tub that sat in the backyard of TTBH when we first purchased the home. The tub was in perfect working order but Mer and I knew we didn’t want to invest the money in heating and maintaining it so we used it to barter for the labor involved in finishing our basement. Since then we’ve bartered for building materials, lawn care products, plants and most recently an irrigation system we plan to install to help water our lawn.

If you want to read more about bartering have a look at this recent post: How to incorporate bartering into your life to save you money. I go into details about how we barter, what to barter and how to get started in the wonderful world of trades.

Always buy used

When we need to buy something we always look to barter first. Unfortunately, bartering can be time consuming especially if you’re after something very specific. So, if you’re in a bit of a rush and absolutely need to find a specific item, bartering although absolutely fabulous is probably not the best solution. In situations where we know we need to purchase something we’ve always turned to buying used first. Whether that be kitchen gear, baby toys, clothing or household accessories there’s always a way to get your hands on goods you need that have been pre-loved and consequently provide heavy savings. Our favorite way to buy used is to hit up garage sales, flea markets and then peruse local second-hand shops. You can essentially find anything you truly need this way if you’re patient and flexible.

Get creative & DIY

Frugal living and saving money is often about creativity. Before running out to purchase something mull over what you’re looking to buy and why you need it. Often times you can use your creative prowess to get the job done withoutย  spending a ton of money. Most recently, Mer and I decided we needed to organize our garage. That space had become a dumping ground for odds and ends that were never unpacked from the move, the location where boxes and boxes of outgrown baby clothes went to die and the home of my stockpile of household cleaners, detergents and paper products. Unfortunately, it got so bad that we were trying to climb over things to get to our paper towel stash so we knew we had to make some changes. I got to work on bartering Margsy’s clothes for more age appropriate baby gear while Mer got creative and built wall to wall shelving. He took to YouTube and devised a way to create a ton of storage without spending a fortune on pre-made shelving. In all we spent under 50$ and got quality, robust shelving to organize all our stuff. Convenience in the form of pre-made is what costs money. With a bit of time, effort and research, your own creativity can not only help you create exactly what you need but save you a ton of money in the process.

Other DIY creativity that has happened recently in TTBH includes: fixing our own dishwasher, landscaping our front lawn, installing our own clothes line and building a raised planter to grow our own food.

Make the distinction between needs and wants

Next time you’re at the store and have an overflowing basket of consumer goods ask yourself if you truly need each item in your cart. Go through every single object that has made it’s way in there and scrutinize why you picked it, what you need it for and if you are truly going to reap the benefits of the associated costs. In other words, is it needed, is it useful and are you truly going to use it? Often times the fine line between want and need is blurred. That was absolutely the case for us and as we made our way on this frugal living journey we became very proficient at determining what we needed versus what we simply wanted. When you’re given no choice but stop spending (which was the case for us) you are really put in a position where you have to scrutinize and mull over every purchase you make which forces you to become in-tuned with your real wants and not give in to consumerism and buy to buy.

Hold off on buying if you can. Try and re-purpose things you may already have and get creative when it comes to acquiring things you feel you need. Curbing spending and making the distinction between wants and needs is tough work but employing frugal tactics can allow you to get what you do need without spending a fortune. With that said, if you do tend to buy things you think you need and later realize it was more of a want – sell it to try and recuperate some of your money. There’s literally a buyer for anything and everything!

Get outside more

Entertainment doesn’t have to cost you money. Get outside and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. If it’s summer head out on walks, hikes, swims at a public pool or bike rides. In the winter you can skate, snowshoe, play in the snow and enjoy the beauty of winter on walks. Frugal living is all about enjoyment and finding fun outside the consumer world is absolutely possible. Not only does getting outside save you money but it’s healthy too!

If you’re interested in some cheap date night ideas have a read of this post: Cheap date night ideas.

Stop outsourcing stuff you can do yourself

Never pay people to do things you can do for yourself. Always clean your own home, cook your own meals, cut your own lawn, wash your own car and clean your own pool. Why? These are all things that cost a small fortune when outsourced. Sure, I’d love to have a sparkly clean home and not have to do the sparkling myself but the reality is that it costs money to pay someone else to do something that I can absolutely do myself.ย  To add to this list always try to fix something yourself before calling a professional, mend your own clothes and try to fix what’s broken before outsourcing and replacing.

Scale back

Cable. Cell phones. Internet. Heating. These are all things that cost a small fortune over a lifetime. In our house, we have an unlimited internet package which allows us to stream enough shows off Netflix and the internet to keep us occupied and more than satisfied. Way back when, we had a fancy cable package that was costing us nearly 200$ a month. We had some 100+ channels and after we made the decision to scale back on our expenses we ended our relationship with our cable provider and never turned back. We rarely watch television but when we do our internet streaming is more than enough to satisfy our needs.ย  Call your providers and see where you can save a couple of bucks! Most companies are more than willing to work with you to find a solution that will fit in your budget.

Stop eating out

After many a conversation with friends and family that want to save more money the highest spend category for most people was not surprisingly eating out and buying prepared foods. The reality is that eating out is expensive. So expensive in fact that a mid-range meals for 2 can often cost the same as a weeks worth of grocery. With that in mind, committing to saving money is all about cutting out this expense and ending the relationship you might have with take out and restaurant food. Mer and I were notorious for dining out! We spent a small fortunate on restaurant food which in hindsight was the biggest and most epic waste of money ever! We’d order because we were too tired, too busy and too lazy or it was too cold or too hot (seriously one of my excuses in the summer months!) to cook. We wasted so much money on dining out that by the time we really sat down and calculated what we were spending we were alarmed to see that our food costs had reached epic proportions – think the equivalent of a small mortgage payment.

In any case, we cut this out cold turkey. We started grocery shopping, got creative in the kitchen and ended that sultry relationship with restaurant food once and for all. Now, we feed our family on 100$ per week and rarely if ever dine out. The savings you can accrue by not eating out are enormous! Bank that money and watch that savings account grow!

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How do you save money in your house? What are your go to’s?

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60 Comments

  1. June 20, 2017 / 9:11 am

    Great post full of great ideas! I have to say this is one of my favorite blogs that I follow.

    • June 20, 2017 / 9:15 am

      Thanks for reading William! And thank you so so much for your kind words <3

  2. June 20, 2017 / 10:16 am

    Some great tips here, Jenny. Eating out is *so* expensive! You’re right!

    • June 20, 2017 / 2:12 pm

      it really is! You can often buy grocery for an entire week with the cost of one restaurant meal!

    • June 21, 2017 / 7:54 am

      Hmmmm. See, I don’t find eating out all that expensive. I used to eat out a lot prior to developing the illnesses I’m dealing with now. Yes… when we ate at high end restaurants, it was expensive. But if we stopped at local restaurants or diners, we often got two or three meals out of what we ordered. I would eat dinner in the restaurant, bring some for lunch the next day and sometimes even have some leftover for another lunch. The whole meal cost about $15.00. Three meals for that money isn’t a lot here in NY. And I only drove once, I didn’t have to take the time to shop, lug in all the food, unpack all the food, cook it all, clean up the mess. IMO I saved money and a lot of time for a mere 15 bucks!

  3. June 20, 2017 / 10:47 am

    Thanks for all the great tips! In answer to your question of the day: When our daughter was little, my husband and are were constantly invited to bridal showers, baby showers, new nieces and nephews’ birthday parties, etc. We had very little money. I started a “ready gift” box. When I won nice prizes at bridal showers, or we had clothes that our girl grew out of so fast she never wore, or teddy bears she would never use, or even some wedding gifts we had never opened — I put them in the “ready gift” box. I also kept gift bags and tissue paper from gifts we received in the box. When we were invited to a party we always had a nice gift to give and didn’t have to spend any money. Of course you have to be careful not to hurt people’s feelings that gave you the things in the first place. — My other gift giving money saver idea goes along with Christmas. My husband and I have a lot of nieces and nephews. I used to make hair bows for my nieces but they have gotten too old. This last Christmas, I invested in some Christmas candy molds. I bought the melting chocolate and made all the nieces and nephews their own personalized candy. That is going to be my new tradition. And next year I will already have the molds. — Thanks for your blog – I always enjoy it!

    • June 20, 2017 / 2:12 pm

      These are wonderful tips! Thank you so much for sharing! I think I’ll start doing this myself!

  4. June 20, 2017 / 12:20 pm

    SUch great tips, and I love the point about being mindful of your spending. It’s so easy just to swipe the debit card and not even think about it, but that’s such a bad spending habit!

    • June 20, 2017 / 2:11 pm

      Thanks for reading Lisa! I hope you find them helpful!

  5. June 20, 2017 / 3:20 pm

    great tips! I especially like the one about learning to barter, a useful skill indeed!

    • June 20, 2017 / 6:55 pm

      We love barter too! It’s such a great way to get what you need without spending a dime!

    • June 21, 2017 / 7:58 am

      Bartering does work well sometimes. I know someone who does hair and nails for the person who grooms her dog, no money exchanged. Works great.

      • June 22, 2017 / 6:38 am

        That’s a really great example of how bartering works! Thanks for sharing!

  6. June 20, 2017 / 3:29 pm

    Love how you organized your blog! Writing is excellent! Just sent you a Follow on Twitter! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • June 20, 2017 / 6:55 pm

      Thank you Jan! I really appreciate your kind words! Thank you for stopping by!

  7. June 21, 2017 / 7:42 am

    Nice post! Made me think how I spend and if I am saving enough ๐Ÿ™‚

    • June 22, 2017 / 6:39 am

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read!

  8. June 21, 2017 / 7:49 am

    Some of these are good tips to save money. However, it wouldn’t fit my lifestyle. I grew up in a home where we ate out a lot, we had cleaning ladies, we had a lawn service, we always purchased new cars (my mom will NEVER buy used on anything – she always says she doesn’t want other people’s junk and that a used car is pointless because you will just throw money into fixing it and that it’s unreliable). So, I think it’s just a matter of how one is raised. IMO, if you are working all week, you want your weekends free. Our motto has always been, if you can pay for someone else to do it, wonderful. Two very different mindsets. Then again, it depends on income. My parents had a big bank account, were able to save even with doing those things. I think this works more for people who aren’t able to do both. I would never be able to buy used toys for my kids, it kinda grosses me out, but that’s just me. I always bought new clothing, toys, etc.

    • June 21, 2017 / 7:55 am

      Hey Doreen! Thanks for stopping by! Frugal living isn’t for everyone that’s for sure and that’s okay!

  9. June 21, 2017 / 8:54 am

    Great tips, looking forward to implementing a few of these! We cut out cable a few years ago as well and tend not to go out to eat very often because of calculating the expense in our past. Thanks so much!

    • June 22, 2017 / 6:38 am

      Thanks for reading Susie! Do you miss your cable?

  10. June 21, 2017 / 9:20 am

    Enjoyed reading your post. Full of great tips!

    • June 22, 2017 / 6:37 am

      Thanks for reading Gretchen!

  11. June 21, 2017 / 10:43 am

    Love the ideas! For me, it’s helped to understand that if I want something (i.e. dance classes and attending latin dance nights throughout the week), I’ll have to cut back on the equivalent.

    • June 22, 2017 / 6:37 am

      This is such a great way to approach it! It’s all about finding a balance and moderation!

  12. June 21, 2017 / 3:53 pm

    All fabulous tips! I think the biggest thing is eating out for so many people! I never do and haven’t for years and years now. But when I hear what my mom tells me she and her boyfriend’s restaurant bills were every weekend…I almost faint…insane!

    • June 22, 2017 / 6:36 am

      It is very expensive isn’t it!

  13. June 21, 2017 / 6:29 pm

    One way we save money is by having just one car

    • June 22, 2017 / 6:35 am

      We are a one car family as well and you’re right it saves a ton of money!

  14. Denise
    June 21, 2017 / 7:30 pm

    we just enjoyed ice cream bought a carton for 3.99. If we took all 6 of us to DQ it would be around 20.00 for the smallest blizzard.

    • June 22, 2017 / 6:35 am

      This is a great way to save money! The markup on ice cream is well over 100% and can get extremely costly! Well done Denise!

    • June 22, 2017 / 6:34 am

      Thank you for reading!

  15. June 21, 2017 / 11:22 pm

    Love this list! I’m all about stock piling items when I find them on sell as well. I’ve found that it is one of the best ways to save on the household items that really add up in my budget. Thanks for sharing.

    • June 22, 2017 / 6:34 am

      It really is! When items like paper towels, toilet paper and detergent go on sale the amount of savings is impressive! Keep on keeping on Amy!

  16. June 23, 2017 / 7:55 am

    Great tips! We live in the country where internet service is sooooo slow that we can’t upload a movie or a show from netflix for anything. We keep hearing that they are going to be bringing fiber optics our way, once they do we may be doing away with our satellite provider…100’s of channels and we only watch about 6. Last year we finally gave up our landline phone(man that was a hard one) and only use our cell phones now. My hubby is really good at bringing these services down to the bare minimum to save us some money. Now if I could just figure out how to save more money at the grocery store I would be golden! The price of groceries is ridiculous!

  17. June 23, 2017 / 10:37 pm

    Love your insights. You have such a readable writing style. I plan on implementing some of the tips very soon! Thanks!

    • June 24, 2017 / 7:45 am

      Thank you for reading Amanda!!

  18. June 25, 2017 / 7:46 am

    Fantastic post. My husband and I have paid off our credit card debt and now we’re working on student loans. It’s encouraging to see other folks who are either working towards the same thing or have accomplished it!

    • June 25, 2017 / 7:49 am

      Hi Amber! Welcome to TTBH! It absolutely can be done! It clearly takes time and patience but you’ll get there! Well done on paying off that credit card debt! That’s an awesome accomplishment.

  19. Stephanie
    June 25, 2017 / 8:56 am

    Thanks for the great tips! I think the hardest challenge is determining the needs verses wants. At times our desires for things get the best of us.

    • June 25, 2017 / 8:58 am

      Absolutely! It really isn’t easy!

  20. June 25, 2017 / 9:00 am

    Thanks for this useful post
    I really need to DIY more to cut costs

    • June 25, 2017 / 9:01 am

      Thanks for reading! DIY is such a great way to stretch your budget!

  21. howimetmydinner
    June 25, 2017 / 9:11 am

    These were excellent tips! My favorite is the buy used as that is one of our biggest savers.

    • June 25, 2017 / 9:12 am

      Yup! Buying used is an incredible way to save money! You can save literally 90% or more of the new price!

  22. June 25, 2017 / 11:13 am

    The only one of these I don’t think I could do is stop eating out ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s such an important part of my life because it brings me together with friends, it’s convenient when I’m on my way to work, etc. But all the other tips are spot on! I especially need to remember the one about dollar stores, because my parents never shopped at them so I never got in the habit. But I’m way more money conscious (that millennial trait) so it’s something I definitely want to do more to save money. Thanks for the tips!

  23. June 25, 2017 / 11:52 am

    These are great tips, thanks for sharing! I always try and avoid spending unless it’s for something necessary, I save so much money by avoid WANT spending.

  24. June 25, 2017 / 5:32 pm

    Love the dollar store and I’m big on buying used whenever I can. I struggle with DIY because I am not handy or crafty (or patient) at all!

    • June 25, 2017 / 6:50 pm

      I’m not the greatest with DIY either. Sometimes I’ve actually bartered to have someone DIY for me:)

  25. June 26, 2017 / 5:18 am

    Really amazing ways to save money. DIY are always fun to execute especially you make things with your fellows. Barter seems really a fun idea…Though I never did it but heard about it a lot! Also, making a difference between wants and needs is a must to save money! Thanks for giving amazing ideas.

  26. June 26, 2017 / 11:20 am

    All of those things are me. I simply must to better since I want to retire in 2 years! I shared the article on my WordPress site. Thanks for all the tips.

  27. July 2, 2017 / 2:20 pm

    Very informative tips. I believe this will be helpful to many people.

    • July 3, 2017 / 9:39 am

      Thanks for reading John!

  28. July 2, 2017 / 7:11 pm

    I think one of the biggest things that adds up is eating out.

    • July 3, 2017 / 9:38 am

      Yes! Eating out can be very very expensive and a huge drain on a budget for sure! Thanks for reading Kim!

    • July 11, 2017 / 8:17 pm

      YUP! Exactly! ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. July 16, 2017 / 12:17 am

    We are so submerged into consumerism, we thoughtlessly fork out money without thinking twice. Your post will help me think twice before spending my money. Thanks for the good work.

  30. July 29, 2017 / 5:41 pm

    Huge saving strategies if even only portion of the whole is performed

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