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 without 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. 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.
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. 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?