So this journey of finding ways to save money did not happen by choice. We, like many others, were forced to be creative with our budgets to be able to stay out of the red due to a loss of an income a few years ago. I am not going to lie and tell you that facing the music of HAVING to find ways to save money was anything but brutal at first. What a blessing that time has been though and how valuable all the lessons that God has taught me about what is really important. I feel like you can see more clearly about what needs to be in the forefront of your life when He knocks you down a few pegs. That being said, I feel like God has show me so many ways to make our dollars stretch and the funny thing is now I truly enjoy it. I get such joy of how we are choosing to use our money as stewards and not just spenders.
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30 Easy and Intentional Ways to Save Money
1. Hand Wash Dishes
We cook at home for almost every meal besides packed lunches which create LOTS of dirty dishes. I was using a detergent pod almost every day. Those little suckers get expensive when you wash as many dishes as we do. My husband used to live in a house without a dishwasher in college and would always try to convert me to hand washing. With much resistance, I tried it one night after dinner and LOVE it! I feel like my sink is empty more often and we are using the soap pods almost half as much!!
2. Make Your Own Cleaning Products
As a result of running out of surface cleaner, I hit up Pinterest to see if I could make something at home quickly to get the job done. This has created a slew of products that I now make at home and actually prefer to use. The cost is a fraction of what I would be spending buying new products from the store. My favorite that I make is this surface cleaner, but I use lemon and lavender essential oil.
3. Cut Out Paper Towels
We as as a family were going through a ton of paper towels. I could buy them in bulk to save some money, but they were still costing us because we used so many of them. I started seeing on Facebook and Instagram these "reusable" paper towels. I loved the idea that we could contribute less waste to the environment AND that we would be saving a ton of money each grocery cycle. But, I did not have the extra funds at the moment to purchase them. Then one day I needed to clean off my counter top and ,GASP, we had run out of paper towels! I keep a stack of retired washcloths under my sink for dusting and VOILA, I had a whole stack of "reusable" paper towels LOL. I would eventually like to purchase some more and am loving the 100% cotton of these at the moment!
4. Make Your Own Food Products
Many products we were buying were convenience items. They are great for the busy lifestyles that all of us have, but in an effort to find little ways to cut back I found that making some of these items yourself is super easy and way less expensive. In addition, most of the time when you do this, the ingredient list is filled with less crud. Some of the things I love to make myself are spaghetti sauce, taco seasoning, coffee creamer, salad dressing, pico de gallo, & salsa. It feels good to save money and to know exactly what is going into the food we eat.
5. Reevaluate Television Options
I am not going to lie. This one was hard for me to do. I LOVE to watch TV. Granted it was something I was looking to cut back on due to all the wasted time I spent in front of it. The cable company was up to its old tricks of giving us a great deal then when that term was over, back up went the cost and we were just sick of all the back and forth. We were gifted a great antenna and my husband hooked it up without falling off the roof so we are good to go with 30ish local channels for FREE!!! The feeling was freeing!
6. Pack Lunches
I am a teacher so leaving for lunch has never really been an option and I feel blessed most days that I can not be tempted to eat out. But, for those who travel for work or work in the business world, this can be hard. The culture in those realms is to eat out. The hardest part is the peer pressure to just go grab a bite to eat, but that can add up quickly. Getting into the habit of packing a lunch and stocking your office/car with hearty snacks can curb daytime hungers and unnecessary spending. This lunch tote is a great option and can double for a snack cooler on the weekends for the kiddos. Packing lunches during the school year and anytime we know we will be out of the house on the weekends or during the summer saves us a ton of money as well. Most of the time when eating out, I feel like the food quality was not worth the money spent, so packing family/kids lunches is a great way to save and feel like you are spending money on stuff you know you like.
7. Buy Food In Bulk
Many things we buy at the store are marked up due to packaging. Check out the bulk foods section of your local grocery store or try to find a store that has one near you. Grains, spices, flours, dried fruits, etc. can be much less expensive in this section. Added bonus is that you are helping keep our environment cleaner by producing less packaging waste. Check out this video from @worldofvegan that explains how money can be saved by shopping from the bulk bins.
8. Sell and Shop at Children Consignment Stores
Our kiddos go through a lot of clothes!!! They have their favorites and those get well loved. The rest, especially "holiday" or dressier pieces, hardly get any use and practically look brand new. I have a favorite consignment store in town that I bring all the kiddos stuff to. Each season I bring a tub full of out grown clothes from the previous year that I collect as they move through sizes and different weather. I choose to get an in-store credit rather than a check and use it to buy them clothes they are in need of at the moment. I regularly get comments asking where I got a particular piece of the kiddos clothes because they haven't seen it in stores. It is my go to when I need something for them!!
9. Utilize Social Media for Entertainment
Facebook is my go to for FREE local entertainment. I occasionally just take a few minutes to search through the events that it suggests for our area. Many of them are FREE! If is something we would be interested in, I put it on my calendar in my phone so we don't forget. That way we are always plugged into our community and at very little or no cost to us!
10. Use a Cash Envelope System
I recently discovered the cash envelope system to help budget our income in the hopes of becoming debt free. It has helped me save money because having cold hard cash is easier to see disappear when constantly spending. It forces me to take a look at what I am spending money on and where I need to allocate more or less of our budget.
11. Create a Wish List
So this method actually started as a way to fulfill our kiddos habit of asking for anything and everything they saw at the store while out shopping. It totally helps minimize the meltdowns because I don't have to say "No." all the time. I get to say, "Looks awesome! Let's add it to our Wish List!" It totally helps us not to impulse buy and saves us a ton. This method also allows us at birthdays/Christmas time to buy what they really want instead of blindly guessing and getting random stuff. I also keep one for myself to keep track of things I would like and it allows some time to go by so I can think about if it is something I really want/need.
12. Make Coffee at Home
I know this seems like a no brainer, but it is just too easy to swing through your favorite coffee spot and pick up a coffee for around $4 a pop. Even if you buy expensive, hand picked coffee there is no way you could spend more money than getting it at a coffee shop each morning. Purchasing the ingredients and making it yourself saves you way more in the long run. There is a multitude of videos online that show how to make just what you like at home.
13. Use the Library
I love how our local library shows me how much I would have saved each time I check out books/movies/CDs compared to buying them. It really makes me feel the savings! Not to mention the many other FREE resources and events they have like story times, exercise classes, reading programs, art, club activities, music events, early literacy ideas, volunteer opportunities, family events, and much more!!! I can not say enough about how much I love the library and what a great place it is to build memories with the kiddos that don't cost a dime.
14. Find Kids Eat Free/Reduced Price Nights
One of the best ways to save money is to be prepared. I really do not like spending money on kid's meals because we do not eat out often and they get so distracted with all that is going on at a restaurant that they hardly even eat and wasting money. To eliminate that, I love to keep a memo list on my phone with all of our town's restaurants "Kids Eat Free/Reduced Price" nights for when we are busy and don't have time to make it home for dinner. I organize them by day so I can just search which day it is and the area of town we are in and BOOM, instant savings! For those nights where you are shuttling kids to sports, then homework, reading, and in charge of making sure everything gets done...this list will bring some peace to the crazy.
15. Buy Own Brand Products
We are blessed to live in an area where our local grocery store has amazing own brand products that are competitive, if not, beat out national brands with cost and quality in my opinion. Most items on our shopping list are our grocery store brand and it saves us big every trip. Our store also shows at the checkout how much money you save by buying their products!
16. Organize a Clothing Swap
Stuff a bag full of clothes that no longer "spark joy" and host a girls night at your house with friends all bringing a bottle and a bag. You get to get rid of some stuff, get some new to you clothes, and all for the price of a bottle of wine. Win, win!
17. Skip the Car Wash
Washing your car at home, if possible, is an easy way to save some cash! Only you know how you like your car to look and feel. So like the old saying goes, "If you want it done right, do it yourself." We have spent money in the past on detail jobs at the car wash and left pretty unimpressed. Give yourself about an hour and it will be looking so fresh and so clean, clean. The initial purchase of some cleaning tools will be made back when you get to use them again and again. Making your own vinyl cleaner can also save you a few dollars as well.
18. Buy Less Stuff
Adopting a more minimalist lifestyle can save you big! This is probably the easiest tip of all, or maybe the hardest. Sit down and evaluate what your spending habits are like. Bad spending habits can be broken with a little intentional focus to that area resulting in some big savings if done well. Try using the app Habit Share to track "no spend" days. The less you spend the more you save!
19. Entertaining at Home
Hosting friends at your house solves several money draining problems. You do not need to pay for a sitter, the company is always awesome, the food is good, and your husband is everyone's "favorite bartender" LOL! We have littles so for this season of our lives, this is the only way we get to see our friends and this Momma needs to talk to adults every now and then!
20. Learn Basic Sewing Skills
I think I learned how to sew in home-economics back in the day and it has seriously been one of the most useful skills that I have. There is nothing worse than getting a hole in one of your favorite pieces or having a seam come undone on something and you don't notice until you want to wear it. All it takes is some thread and a needle. Sewing machines are another story. Just the needle and thread can fix almost anything minor. Well maybe something major, like my daughter's Lamby's head coming off. That one, was technically a major fix.
21. Get a Programmable Thermometer
When we moved into our house there was a Nest Thermostat already installed. I am really not the most tech savvy person so my husband programed it to our liking, but I LOVE how there is a green Nest Leaf that shows up indicating when you have chosen an energy-saving temperature. Saving energy means saving money! Our electric company even gives out rebates if Nest users participate in a rush hour program to help the energy grid during peak use times in winter and summer. I love that I again, can visually see when I am saving money!!
22. Quality vs. Quantity
Sometimes it is fun to have all the things, but isn't it more fulfilling to have a few things that truly bring you joy and be able to really showcase them?! Like instead of having 10 random pairs of black sandals, have just 1 quality pair you absolutely love. You may end up spending more money upfront but less in the long run because you take better care of them and they last longer.
23. Save All Party Supplies/Decor
You never know when you are going to need to host a fun get together or get invited to one. Having two kiddos, it seems like we are at a birthday party every weekend! Those little gift bags are an added expense when you are trying to budget for gifts. Whenever you can, SAVE those bad boys! Honestly I used to tease people for doing this and now here I am at every function like, "Save that bag!". They always come in handy. Same goes for weighted balloon holders, banners, streamers, plastic utensils, paper plates, plastic cups, ribbon, etc. I have a tub in the garage that is specifically for that purpose...last minute PAR-TAY supplies.
Some of the best times I've had have been volunteering. You always meet amazing people and get to have fun. Your time/labor/skills are all that are required so this is a great way to spend time as a family on a budget. There are many ways to get involved in your community either through church, local food banks, or parks departments just to name a few. There is nothing better than serving your neighbors!
25. Swap Babysitting Hours with Friends
We are a part of a small group within our church and have become very close with many families in it. We see each other each week after service, have ladies/men events, and family get togethers often. We have all become very close and have created a network, or village, of people we can trust with our kiddos. When you need to run to a quick doctor's appointment or just want to eat in peace, this is so valuable not having to spend extra money on a sitter and your kids can just play with friends.
26. Create a Capsule Wardrobe
Last summer I decided I was going to try the idea of a capsule wardrobe. The concept is that your closet will consist of a few essential items of clothing that never go out of style like a black shirt, jeans, white tank top, and denim shorts. These items can then be mixed and matched in so many different ways to create a variety of looks. In doing this, I hardly ever spend money on clothes unless something needs to be refreshed like a white shirt or if I find a particular piece I have been looking for. The extra space in my closet is now being used as an office space that I lovingly call my "cloffice". It is quiet and oh so peaceful.
27. Fix Things Yourself
When we moved into our current home our master tub has a slight drip. Well over the course of time, that slow drip turned into a full on stream of leaking water. I finally got sick of it one day and got on the trusty YouTube. YouTube is an amazing free resource when you are trying to repair things around the house yourself! Within a few hours and a trip to the hardware store, it was dry as a bone. An under $20 job could have easily run me over $100 to get a plumber to come out. I ended up with a bruise on my hand, but beaming with pride that I fixed it myself.
28. Read More Books
Reading is one of the best things you can model for your children. You reading by yourself about topics you are interested in, reading books to them they like, or reading together something liked by all. Reading is also one of the least expensive and most valuable hobbies you can have. Just head to the library and find a cozy place to read. Check out these bits of advise to make the best out of your time when reading to your kiddos.
29. Keep a Running Grocery List
I have a magnetic pad of paper that I keep on my fridge. Whenever I run out of a particular item, I immediately write it down on my running list. That way when I go to the store, I know what I need and I am not guessing or buying double of something thinking we are out. To stay within my budget at the store, I can pick and choose different items on the list and decide which items are a need and which can wait until the next trip.
30. Meal Plan with Weekly Ads
Before heading to the store, check out the grocery ads to see what is on sale. You can save tons of money by having a plan of action going into the store. Plan your meals around what is on sale that week and fill in the rest with low cost items that can go far like ground beef or pork tenderloin. Be careful to steer clear of buying items just because they are on sale if it is not something you have on your list. Stick to the list and avoid impulse buying.
Growing my gifts according to His grace.
~With love, Danielle Mae