How We Save Money

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?

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  1. #1 by Angela on March 23, 2011 - 5:06 pm

    How did you get a dumping contract? I’m jealous. One underfilled bag of trash per week (and if plastic recycling were an option we’d have almost no trash) and I’m always complaining about our trash service, The only time we really took advantage of it was when we were ripping up flooring.

    Speaking of saving dough and cutting back on trash, do you really plan on using disposable diapers? (when the time comes)

    Living so far from everything, we actually have a gas budget. For Nick, who drives to work everyday, it is what it is, but I get 1 tank per pay period (2 weeks) barring any trips into the city. That gets me 2 trips to the grocery store, 2 trips to church and one or 2 side trips. I’m stuck at home, but it saves us money.

    • #2 by Cristy on March 23, 2011 - 5:27 pm

      I hate driving past gas station billboards. GAH!

      We haven’t really even talked about if we’ll use disposable or cloth diapers when/if we have need. I can see advantages to both, so who knows. But I still think we’ll start getting trash service, just because it is kind of a hassle to load up the trailer and make a dump run.

    • #3 by Cristy on March 23, 2011 - 5:34 pm

      Oh, and as for the dumping contract: we originally thought trash service just ‘came with’ living in our county, but we investigated and realized it was a charge that was tacked on to our utility bill. Since we don’t generate much trash at all, we called to find out if we could cancel it and they said yes!

  2. #4 by Angela on March 23, 2011 - 5:08 pm

    game meat and growing your food also saves lots

  3. #5 by Anna C on March 23, 2011 - 5:16 pm

    Good tips here. Now did you factor in the cost of the occasional red-light camera ticket into your gas savings? J/K, but that might be a concern up here.
    As far as how long you keep leftovers-I have a book that lists storage times in the fridge. I think the general rule for meats is 5 days, seafood is even less. I have never experienced food poisoning but I know I don’t want to! I always try to plan out the week/leftovers. Like we had corned beef and cabbage Monday night (lunches/leftovers should be eaten on/by Saturday), corned beef Reubens tonight, and I can’t bring myself to throw away the “pot liquor” (broth) so I think I’m going to turn it into “minestrone” soup (with the leftover cabbage) on Friday.

    • #6 by Cristy on March 23, 2011 - 5:28 pm

      YUM we had corned beef last night, and I can’t wait to make reubens soon!!

  4. #7 by Brittany on March 23, 2011 - 5:17 pm

    This definitely doesn’t apply to you yet, but cloth diapering and breast feeding (then making your own baby food when they’re older) save a ton of baby money! In fact, we don’t even have a monthly budget category for our little one since we have so few expenses for her!
    I need to be better about watching sale cycles in our area and stockpiling; I’m constantly going over on groceries and it makes me crazy!
    Thanks for the post 🙂

    • #8 by Cristy on March 23, 2011 - 5:30 pm

      It doesn’t help one bit that grocery prices keep going up, too. It’s great that you haven’t had to budget much for Rorie! I’m sure I’ll be picking your brain for money saving ideas when we have kids!

  5. #9 by Donna Westcott on March 23, 2011 - 5:23 pm

    “We plan to continue this practice until we have a member of the household who generates dirty diapers.”

    when this time comes you can save money by using cloth diapers! especially because the new breed of them, if you will, are so user friendly and even if you want to use the old prefolds, the covers for them are so much easier to use and look much cuter than rubber pants! we use cloth diapers on David and we are in the process of switching over to cloth wipes, too!

    • #10 by Cristy on March 23, 2011 - 5:32 pm

      Hi, Donna, thanks for commenting! I think cloth diapers are SO cute, and I’m really glad they’ve worked so well for you guys! I like that they now have the one-size-fits-all cloth diapers…that seems like SUCH a smart idea/improvement. We’ll have to see how we end up doing it when we have kids–probably some of both.

      • #11 by Donna Westcott on March 23, 2011 - 7:09 pm

        we do use disposables from time to time, like if we are making a quick weekend trip or if he gets a diaper rash (which doesn’t happen too often, but since we’ve started introducing solids, occasionally one will pop up) b/c you can’t use just any diaper cream on cloth diapers and i have several tubes of desitin that i don’t want to waste. i think we only had to use them once b/c we forgot to do the diaper laundry (oops)! but they are so cute – but it becomes addicting, too, so you really have to watch on that.

  6. #12 by Diane on March 23, 2011 - 7:15 pm

    We had 2 in diapers so we did’t get a choice and don’t forget using a clotheline as much as possible makes everything smell so fresh especially sheets and towels and most people can get used to the the extra crunchy towels you dry off faster anyway…. Diane

  7. #13 by joannamv on March 24, 2011 - 5:11 am

    1) We do the scrounging-food-from-parents thing hehe :B

    2) Recently we bought the coupon book for the dump. The guy felt sorry for us spending so much money at once so gave us that trip for free. Downside: we are now stuck in Henrico until we’ve been to the dump another 15 times haha.

    3) I cut my own hair (technically, although I keep forgetting since I moved here and my scissors are in a box…) and Josh now has his hair done at home since we bought a clipper set. (Which cost the price of two haircuts.)

    4) We save on gas money by me not driving 😦 Which right now does actually mean that, we’re not wasting gas by going on any trips just for the purpose of me driving.

    5) This is something affected by your final question: spender or saver. Josh is more of the former and I’m the latter. Well, if we go to a restaurant and my companion is drinking some gold-infused beverage there is no way I’m missing out 😛

    6) You know, I think this is another thrifty tip from my childhood that I had forgotten about. However I don’t think I’m going to implement it now you’ve reminded me. Well water and a pre-electric septic tank = gratuitous throwing around of water. A minute bit of electricity is involved, but we need some motivation to acquire a wind turbine :B (We really should make a mini compound! You, me, wind turbine, and a cow.)

    7) All I have to say is, my husband has a job which tends to set fire to his shirts o.O

    8) We don’t really have heat or a/c… (Well we do, but for the purposes of this, let’s just say we don’t.)

    9) See (1) 😉

    10) The whole point of this comment was actually to discuss cloth diapers, but I got distracted. Anyhow, using the dump once a week would still save you lots of money so yes. (Side note: E&J in Dinwiddie get to use the dump for free. But maybe not a reason to move south haha.) One problem with cloth diapers is the initial investment of time, money, and thought. Maybe we can cloth diaper swap lol. I need someone to accompany me to consignment sales and the like some day! Oh, and save the most money by trying this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elimination_communication I don’t think I have the commitment to make it work properly though, because I have no desire to be creative in doing it when outside the home.

    Missed you two tonight; hope Tim manages to get some rest despite work schedules and visitors and all!

  8. #14 by Gretchen B on March 24, 2011 - 11:34 pm

    We do a lot of those things, too! And the ones we don’t do now, I did growing up (even the flushing, but only when the power was put and we had to flush manually by lugging in buckets of water!).

    A couple more: having one errand day and combining as many car trips as possible is a good gas saver! Burning wood is a good one, too. For many winters, my parents got all their wood from a pallet company which let people load up hardwood pallet ends for very little per truckload. Dad also still brings home discarded broken pallets from work and saws them up for firewood.

    I’m convinced that paying for trash by the bag has the effect of one generating less trash, as well…bonus points for stewardship of God’s earth!

    One more…run/walk/bike instead of paying for a gym membership!

    We cloth diaper (when I’m not traveling or recovering from arm fractures) as well and do it for VERY cheap. I was just going to buy prefolds and knit my own wool covers, but then a friend of a friend GAVE us a huge stash! It doesn’t have to be a huge initial investment, and cleaning them is actually very fun and satisfying for me.

  9. #15 by Rachel on March 28, 2011 - 11:17 am

    Thanks so much for this list, Cristy – we try to be savers and actually do a lot of the items – 1,5,6,7,8,9, 10. Of course we arent perfect at all of them or all of the time, but they are all great ideas and save money! A lot of them my parents taught me and I complained about when I was younger, but now I understand – like leaving the heat lower and wearing more layers! And you know whats awesome – I had never heard of anyone else doing #6…I also used to think that was weird and embarrassing growing up, but starting doing it as Matt & I got married and it does save water! So, I’m glad to hear that someone else ‘normal’ also does it! Another one is we bring lunches to work/school – it saves money and is usually healthier!

  10. #16 by Betty on March 28, 2011 - 3:29 pm

    My husband reminded me of the biggest money saver that we have practiced-stay out of debt as much as possible. Our philosophy has been that real estate and education is the only things acceptable for debt. We have been content with used cars and saved up for them before we bought one. It is incredible what the final cost is for an item that you have to pay interest on.

  11. #17 by Sarah on March 29, 2011 - 11:53 pm

    I see others have already said this, but I’ll say it as well. When you do have children, you might want to consider cloth diapers; they’re a lot cheaper than disposables. And if you have more than one child, you can reuse them.

  1. How We Save Money « DoubleKnotted | Daily Money Saving Ideas

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