Today I’m linking up for Thrifty Thursday over at Living Well Spending Less.
I consider myself pretty thrifty. Not as extreme as some, for sure. You will never see me on extreme couponing, but I do like to save money. You’ve probably heard some of these tips before, but after talking to various friends I discovered that not everyone has, so I thought I’d share my tried and true ways to save money in the hopes that this information could be helpful to someone.
I know, BORING. But you know what? It’s really freeing. First, track your expenses for a month and figure out what you are spending. Then use one of the free budget calculators online like this one from Crown Financial Ministries. Tweak the budget so that it’s something that works for you, then try to stick to it. Life happens, but by setting a budget and keeping track of where your money is going, you will be able to meet your financial goals.
2. Meal Plan
At the beginning of each week I sit down and plan out all of our meals and snacks for the week. I look over sales ads, think about what is in season, take stock of what is in my pantry, and I come up with a grocery list for the week. I then go through and add up the cost of these items (I’ve written down the costs of items I typically buy) to be sure I will be on budget. If I think I’m going to be over, I figure out ways to swap out something expensive for something less expensive. I’ve actually figured out the cost of each of the meals I frequently make and if I’m over budget I can swap out a more pricey meal for a cheaper one. You don’t have to go quite so far as this, but if you have a plan and you have food ready to be prepared at home, you will be less likely to eat out. If you need some help getting organized print out my free meal planner printable.
3. Make Home Made Foods
Like I said above, eating at home is much cheaper than eating out. In order to ensure that we eat at home, I make meals both exciting and easy. I like to try new recipes periodically to keep things fresh for my family. As for keeping it easy, I do a lot of prep work ahead of time so that dinner can come together easily. I make sure to thaw frozen meats the night before I need them, I chop veggies up for snacks, etc. I also bake all my own breads and desserts from scratch. This takes some effort, but it saves us a lot of money and you just can’t beat fresh baked bread.
4. Make Baby’s Food Too
Our baby just started eating solids recently and I enjoy making him veggie and fruit purees. With my first born we did the math on making baby food versus buying jarred baby food and we figured out that we could make it ourselves at about 1/3 of the cost of jarred food, even with using organic produce. If you’re not sure where to begin with this, check out a blog like weelicious or get a book like The Baby and Toddler Cookbook.
Do you have an Aldi nearby? You must try it. It’s a low cost, no frills grocery store. In my opinion, not everything there is great (we don’t love the meat) but a lot of it is very good and comparable to the name brand stuff. And sometimes they have special buys of the name brand stuff. Recently they have been having more organic items and we could not be more thrilled.
6. Alternatives to Cable
So many people are attached to cable, but it’s so pricey! We have had it and gone without it at times too. My husband loves to watch his sports and we have the money in the budget so right now we have it. But we’ve also gone without it for long periods of time and have found some great alternatives. Amazon Prime is phenomenal and costs way less than cable. They have a ton of movies and tv shows that you can stream instantly on your computer or through a device like Roku, which costs $50-$100, depending on which one you get. We also have friends who have used Netflix and enjoy that too. I know, it’s not quite the same as having cable and getting to see current show’s episodes as soon as they come out or live sports, but if you want to save some money these are some great alternatives. You might also want to check out the media selection at your library, as I know ours has very current releases.
7. Take Advantage of Free Resources
Speaking of the library… it’s free! I couldn’t believe it recently when someone told me that they’ve never been to their local library. Our library has some fantastic stuff. Books, magazines, movies, music, kids kits, all for free. Whenever I feel like shopping but have no money to do so I go to the library. I leave with a bag full of books and DVDs and I feel like I just spent a ton of money but it did not cost me a dime. Look into their programs for kids too. Beyond the library think about all the other great free resources around you, like the local park system. If you’re local to Northeast Ohio the Akron zoo even has community days where residents of certain communities get in for free. The Akron Art Museum is free every Thursday. Keep your ears open so you know about these offers. I subscribe to a local newsletter that keeps me informed on kids programs in the area.
8. Cloth Napkins & Dish Towels
We recently switched over to cloth napkins and I could not be happier. I used to think people just used them to be fancy, but it’s totally thrifty too. And I was worried initially about not being able to get food stains out of them, but I haven’t had a single stain on one yet. They always come out of the wash clean.
9. Cloth Diaper
Here’s where I know I will lose a lot of you. But if you are really in need of saving money, you just might try it. We have cloth diapered 2 kids and it has saved us a boatload of money. There is a little more work involved, but I don’t mind it at all. We do use disposable diapers from time to time, especially when they boys are being babysat. Overall I have been thrilled with our cloth diaper experience. I’ll do a more thorough post soon to detail the specifics of how we do it. Update: Here’s my cloth diaper post
We moved into our fixer upper 2 years ago and we have put a lot of sweat equity into our home ourselves. This has saved us a ton of money on painting, tiling, laminate floor installation, landscaping, etc. Yes, this takes time and effort, but again if you want to save money, it just might be worth it to you. Even if you don’t feel like you’re super handy, use free resources on the internet such as youtube and DIY blogs to help you learn some basic skills. It will save you a bundle.
11. Second Hand
My boys wear a lot of hand-me-down clothes and play with toys from yard sales. I’ve saved so much by being willing to buy second hand. Be sure to check out your local Goodwill and other thrift stores too. But be picky. Only buy good stuff and only for what you think is a good price. Even when you’re getting a good deal, make sure you’re buying quality so that it will last. And check to make sure it hasn’t been recalled. I scored the exersaucer below for my niece at a Salvation Army store for just $4.99. New it sells for $99.99 on Amazon.
12. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
We try to use natural cleaning supplies around here and thankfully there are a lot of great sources for cleaning supply recipes online. You have to figure our what works for you, but it’s a great way to save some money and avoid having harsh chemicals in your home.
13. Cut Out the Little Things
That impulse buy at the check out. The clearance shirt you don’t really love, but is such a good deal. A Starbucks coffee on the way to work every morning. Those things add up. If you track your expenses, you’ll see that. Cut them out for a while and see if you miss them. If you really love them, then find a way to indulge every once in a while, but you may find that you don’t really need them.
Again, I’m no extreme couponer, but I do use coupons. Any time before I buy something online I search to see if there is a coupon code out there for the store I’m buying from. Whenever I go into Joann’s or Hobby Lobby I pull up a coupon from their websites on my phone. Do some research and find sources for coupons for the stores and the things you like the most.
There you have it. Nothing too revolutionary, but maybe you’ll find it helpful. Do you have any tips to share?