A prefatory note: I’m by no means recommending that you try all (or any!) of the following at home–I’ll be the first to admit that some of them are hardly worth the work that goes into them (unless you HAVE to cut your budget or are as addicted to the warm, fuzzy, frugal-happy high as I am). Special thanks to my mom for helping me come up with some of these ideas, and to both Tim’s and my parents for teaching us to live inexpensively!
1. I stockpile. When something we like to eat is on sale, I buy a bunch of it…enough to last until the next sale. This is how the three of us can enjoy an all out steak dinner once a week for less than the price of one Big Mac. It’s also how we can ALWAYS have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand. (If there are no sales, I buy bananas). Approximate savings: many hundreds a year.
- If you don’t have the space or desire to stockpile, but you still want to save some major money, try planning your menus around weekly sales. If beef is on sale for $1.99/lb, eat it for two or three of your meals. Eat asparagus as often as it drops to $1.99/lb, but no oftener. If nothing is on sale, chicken or eggs usually provide the cheapest source of protein and cabbage, sweet potatoes, or carrots can usually be found for under $1/lb.
- Here’s another huge money saving tip when it comes to groceries: the less pre-prepared, the better. I realize that sometimes making things from scratch is way too much of a time investment. I understand that. But even things like buying a pizza crust and adding your own toppings or buying a bag of grated cabbage and a jar of coleslaw dressing is WAY cheaper than buying the finished product–and costs you less than 5 valuable minutes!
2. We don’t use trash service. Instead of paying $15/month to have our trash picked up weekly, we pay $3 every other month to take it to the dump ourselves. We plan to continue this practice until we have a member of the household who generates dirty diapers. Approximate savings: $13.50/mo or $162/year.
3. We cut our own hair. I cut Tim’s about every other month, and he cuts mine about once a year. At $10/cut (a cheap barbershop estimate), that saves us a minimum of $70/year.
4. We coast. Tim is a master at fuel-efficient driving. He has all sorts of tricks up his sleeve that I’m only just learning. But I was pretty amazed at the difference even an extra 2-3 miles/gallon of gas makes (especially as prices keep going up and UP!). So watch ahead for those red lights, and be smart about when you accelerate and when you brake! Approximate savings: $2/fill up (which for us is about $100/year).
5. We drink water. At restaurants, that is (although we do at home, too)–it’s way cheaper and way healthier. Approximate savings: maybe $5/week? Not too sure. We don’t eat out much by choice, but we do eat out a lot when Tim travels. Other money savers when eating out:
- don’t do it: home cooked food is WAY cheaper than the restaurant variety
- make each meal do double duty: we usually either a) split an entre (the cheapest option) or b) bring home half our meal and eat it for lunch the next day. Whala! A 50% instant savings.
- get dessert somewhere else: a Chick-fil-A milk shake is usually quite a bit cheaper than whatever’s on the menu wherever you are (assuming you’re somewhere pricier than Chick-fil-A). ((Otherwise, split a dessert. After the meal, you can’t be THAT hungry anyways. Right?!))
6. If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down. I think I first heard that handy little saying during my days cruising and marking timber in Colorado. It’s definitely not an original idea, which makes me feel a little better about admitting it in public! Oh, and this only works if you don’t have a dog who drinks out of your toilets. And it’s not a policy we impose upon our guests. 🙂 Approximate savings: 4-5 flushes/day=3,650 gallons of water/year (not sure what that calculates out to cost wise). (I know, I know…waaaaaaay too much information, right?!)
7. Wear your clothes out. I wore a dress recently that Tim didn’t remember. “Is that new?” he asked me. I quickly calculated and realized that it was, indeed, not new. In fact, I’d been wearing it for over 10 years. I know that may sound appalling, and I’ll be the last to claim that my wardrobe is up to par with most standards. But I’ve definitely never been arrested for indecent exposure, and I do somehow manage to have friends, a husband, and a fairly happy life despite my out-dated apparel! 🙂
- When I do shop, I never pay full price for a clothing item. In fact, I rarely pay half price! When shopping for either Tim or I, I scour 75-90% off racks, use coupons, buy secondhand, and love hand-me-downs. I know this isn’t for everyone, but it sure works for us!
8. Use a timer on your thermostat so that the heater (and/or air conditioner) runs less when you are away from home and/or sleeping.
- If you don’t have a timer, you can do what we do–turn the heat down right before we leave or go to bed.
- Cut utility costs by turning down the temperature on your water heater by a few degrees. You still get to take just as long a hot shower, but you just won’t have to mix in quite as much cold water! Experiment until you find the coolest temperatured hot water you are comfortable with.
- Also consider dropping the thermostat temperature 1-2 degrees in the winter and adding a sweater to your outfit.
- Next time he visits, ask your heating and cooling expert to adjust the anticipator inside your thermostat (this isn’t possible on some models) so that your heater runs fewer times a day for longer periods each time (thanks, Daniel, for doing this for us!!). It’s much more efficient.
9. Eat your leftovers. Leftovers are your friend! I love leftovers, because it cuts my cooking time down SO MUCH each week. I don’t know what I’ll do when our family reaches a point where we eat everything I make in one sitting!
- If you (or your family) really can’t stand leftovers, cook smaller quantities, freeze the remnants for another meal down the road when it will seem ‘new’ again, and/or use recipes that can double as other recipes (I hope to start posting a “Two for Tuesdays” recipe series sometime in the near future, but an example would be turning leftover barbecue into a delicious pork chili, etc.).
- I have had great success keeping all sorts of leftovers for 1 to 1 1/2 weeks in the fridge (our fridge is set fairly cold) without any sign of spoilage.
- If you do throw away food, think about ways to keep it out of the trash can: start a compost pile, save it for your local chicken farmer, or even find someone you know who would LOVE to eat your leftovers for you.
10. Be generous. God doesn’t promise to repay our generosity in this life (although often He does), but He does hold forth the glorious hope of treasure in heaven that is so far beyond compare with the wealthiest of fortunes that we can’t even imagine what it will be like! I’m proud of my frugal shopping; I’m ashamed of my frugal giving. It’s something Tim and I have been helping each other with ever since we got married, this learning how to hold freely the things God blesses us with.
- If you are a cheerful giver of money to charity, make sure to itemize your tax return. Tithes, missionary support, and most community giving are tax deductible. While this by no means should motivate our giving (we give as a result of what we’ve been given in Christ), a big tax refund check sure never hurts our finances!
- Writing a check isn’t the only way to be a cheerful giver, although it is an important one. Often just as hard (or harder) is the giving of precious time, energy, love, or talents to those with needs!
Are you a saver or a spender? Why? What are your money-using tips, rules, and tricks?