It was right around our daughter’s first birthday that we realized we needed to start creating a budget. Diapers, formula, tons of cute teeny tiny baby clothes, and (of course) several weekly trips to Starbucks were starting to ravage our pocketbooks. We knew we had to do something quick. We enrolled in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, which truly taught us how to budget with purpose each month and helped us to see exactly where our money was going. We still use this method to create our budget every month, however, as I’ve gone on this frugal living journey, I have learned that it goes so much further beyond the budget. It really is about transforming your lifestyle in the littlest ways until big results happen. Here are some of my tips and tricks to saving more and spending less this year:
1. Meal planning: Map your meals out ahead of time so that you are not constantly grabbing takeout or heading to your favorite local restaurant. I usually open my planner and take a look at the monthly calendar. From there, I make a list of all the days of that month and I mark off nights we will not be home for dinner, nights my husband is working, etc. I select 2-3 nights and deliberately write in “OUT TO EAT” on a couple evenings. That helps us have something to look forward to while also knowing to budget a little extra cash for those special nights.
2. The clearance rack is your friend: Get in the habit of making a beeline to the clearance racks. Listen, I’m a fashion lover. I know it’s hard to walk by the mannequin wearing the cutest spring jacket you’ve ever seen. However, said jacket will most likely be 50% off in a matter of weeks. Practice a little delayed gratification and take satisfaction for a steal down the road. Plus, getting into this habit will help you to “sleep on” your decisions and really give you time to reflect on if this item is something you really need.
3. Purge, sell, repeat: It’s as simple as that. We do a monthly purge of stuff we aren’t using, post items on a local online garage sale site or Craigslist, and repeat. We have been able to rake in hundreds of dollars this way while also decluttering our home in the process. We even paid for our entire trip to Chicago last year with these funds!
4. Cut cable: This has been our biggest savings. We pulled the plug on cable last year and switched to having a Roku device on our TV. You can pay for as many streaming channels as you wish, but we prefer Netflix and Hulu. There are also many free channels for kids including PBS, Disney, Nick Jr, and more. Plus, if you are already an Amazon Prime member, you can access your Amazon TV account and get your money’s worth out of that membership. Our TV bill went from $150 to $20 with this simple step!
5. Tour your neighborhood grocers: Yes, it’s a hassle with kids. But checking out all the stores in your neighborhood and comparing prices is so, so important. We live in an area that is bursting at the seams with variety and it seems to me that each store has its own pluses and minuses. I seem to find myself stocking up on essentials at certain stores while buying cheap produce at another while buying household items at another, and this practice has really helped us decrease our expenses.
6. Cut those coupons: Coupons are so easy to find these days with online retailers and deal finding apps. Before I purchase anything, I usually always do a Google search to see if I can find a promo code for that particular store. I also like to use websites such as Pocket Your Dollars and Hip2Save to see what coupons are floating around out there for items that I need to buy.
7. Skip the gym: Gyms are one of the most expensive things in people’s budgets. Now listen, I love gym time and I am a gym goer myself. But I have found some great home workouts for little to no cost, utilized my neighborhood parks to run, and found cheap ways to exercise at my local community center. These options can help you stay active while also saving your cash.
8. Strategically shop your home first: I apply this idea to several areas of our life. Before I purchase any additional sides for our meals, I scour the freezer. That big bag of tater tots? Let’s use those up! Packets of frozen veggies? Whip up a stir fry! By shopping your fridge, freezer, or pantry first, you not only save money, but you also eliminate waste in your home. I apply this concept to home décor too. Before I buy something, I see what room has a few too many things and I rearrange. I take things that were downstairs and move them upstairs. You’d be surprised just how different a room can look with a few small changes!
I hope you and your family can see big differences in your finances with a few tiny changes to your lifestyle!