I mentioned yesterday that we are pinching our pennies right now. Andrew is a full-time student, and although I work, I do not now what will happen with my job after I have Bonnie. Even before we got pregnant, we were spending LOTS of money on fertility treatments, so we’ve been practicing our penny pinching for quite a while.
There are loads of lists out there about ways to save money. And they are all really helpful and inspiring. But today, I thought I’d share with you all what we do to save money. Some of these are things we’ve done for years, and some are things we’ve only implemented recently. I’ll try to be as specific and honest as possible!
1.) Cut the cable. This was a big deal for us… especially for Andrew. But it turns out, it’s not such a big deal after all. You can cancel cable and still watch your favorite shows. You can do this either by purchasing an antenna, or by subscribing to Netflix or Hulu Plus for about $8 per month. My parents use an antenna, and get lots of channels, but the antenna does not work well at our house, so we subscribe to Netflix. We’ve been without cable for about a year now, and it’s been no great loss.
2.) Stop buying wants, and focus on needs. This is hard, but is getting easier for us all the time! If you pass up stuff that you want often enough, you will find that eventually you have enough extra cash to buy something you really, truly want and have wanted for a long time, as opposed to something you see, and want, and decide to buy on a whim.
3.) Use credit cards ONLY for items that you can pay off immediately. We do have a credit card, because we occasionally order through Amazon. But I ALWAYS make my credit card payment online immediately after using the card, as in, within minutes. I do not put things on our credit card that we cannot afford.
4.) Buy used clothing, furniture, appliances, and toys when possible. This is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. My mother taught me well! Most of my clothing comes from secondhand stores. Lots of the furniture we have came from a thrift store, flea market, or Craigslist. And almost all the clothing and toys we’ve bought for Bonnie came from thrift stores as well. My mom found the cloth diapers we have so far at a discount store for half the price they were listed for online.
5.) Use bar soap. Instead of using expensive shower gel, I use plain old bar soap to bathe with! Andrew’s grandmother gives him a nice stash of body wash each year for Christmas, so he gets to use that.
6.) Eat meals at home. I pack lunches for Andrew and myself every single day. We do not eat out during the week unless it’s something pre-planned that we have prepared for financially. This leaves us room to eat out some on the weekends, but we are working on cutting back on that too.
7.) Give homemade gifts. All the crafty people on Pinterest make this pretty easy. And it’s almost (or completely) free if you have any sort of crafting stash built up already. And who does not LOVE to receive a homemade, personalized gift?!
8.) Wash clothing with cold water. I wash all our clothing in cold water, and I usually wash the rest of our laundry in cold water too. Even though I wash our towels and linens weekly, I will only wash them in warm water about once per month.
9.) Keep lights off when you are not at home. This is kind of a given.
10.) Adjust the air/heat when you are not at home. I used to worry about the dogs when we did this, but there’s no need… they will be fine!
11.) Unplug appliances when they are not in use. I unplug EVERYTHING except for a few lamps and our TV. I unplug the toaster, the microwave, the Keurig, the blender, the treadmill, the printer, the computer chargers, curling iron.
12.) Cut your own hair. Andrew shaves his own head, and I don’t cut my own hair, but my sister does it for me when I visit. And she does it for free. (:
13.) Maintain your vehicle regularly. We want both our vehicles to run well for a LONG time, so when we learn that some maintenance work needs to be done on them, we get it done as soon as possible, rather than putting it off and daring it to get worse.
14.) Exercise at home or outside. Andrew has free access to his school gym. We have a treadmill at home, so that’s what I use for exercise… that or the great outdoors.
15.) Cancel the trash pick-up. This might not be practical for everyone, but for us it was a no-brainer. There is a big dumpster where we can dispose of our trash less than a mile from our house. And we got lucky, because the people who lived in our rental before we moved in left their trash container/dumpster. So we can easily toss our trash there throughout the week, and then haul it to the dumpster each weekend.
16.) Pack snacks and drinks for road trips. We have not been good about this at all recently, and on our last trip home we decided we really needed to get a handle on this. It take very little effort to pack a cooler full of some drinks and a few snacks, whereas you can spend SO MUCH money on gas station junk without even realizing it if you aren’t careful. Packing your own provisions is cheaper and healthier!
17.) Come up with some creative date nights. Andrew and I love our date nights since we don’t see each other during the week. But they can get expensive. Going to a movie is SO expensive these days, and eating out can be pricey too, depending on where you choose to go. Make a list of more affordable date ideas, and start working your way through the list. This gets a little tricky during the colder months, but it’s doable!
Here are My Warm Weather Date Night Ideas:
- Day/evening at the dog park (if you have dogs.)
- Spend a couple hours on a walking or hiking trail. We have a great one not far from us.
- Pack a picnic and take it to the park.
- Grill burgers at home together, and picnic on your own back deck!
Cold Weather Date Night Ideas:
- Watch a movie together at HOME (use Netflix, a movie you
already own, Redbox for $1 and some change, or check out a movie from your local library.)
- Cook dinner at home together.
- Pick a board game to play together.
- Instead of going out for dinner, go out for coffee or dessert.
18.) Set a weekly (or biweekly) allowance for your spouse and yourself. This is something we started doing when my husband started chiropractic school. Our schedules and routines became so different that it was really difficult for me to keep track of his spending, and factor it into our budget. Now, we each get a weekly allowance. Since he is gone more than I am, and needs more than I do, his allowance is a lot bigger than mine. His goes toward his twice-per-week group study
sessions (the tutor charges per session, but knocks a little of the price off for each friend you refer who actually shows up. Andrew has referred a handful of friends who are “regulars,” so we are slowly chipping away at the price.) His allowance also goes toward meals on the days when he does not come home after class, before study sessions. If there is any leftover, he can use that for snacks or drinks, or whatever else he might want to splurge on during the week. Our allowances do NOT cover the cost of our gas; that money comes out of a separate account.
19.) Maximize tax returns by PLANNING AHEAD. This was really important to us last year, when we spent so much money on fertility treatments. Save receipts, tax documents, work expenses, bank statements… everything. Keep them organized in a file folder so that you aren’t completely overwhelmed when tax season rolls around.
20.) Save your change. Not your dollar bills, but your actual change: pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters. We save ours for months, and by the time our change jar is full we have anywhere from $50-$100. We recently decided to save ALL our change from now until the time Andrew graduates from school, and put it toward a privacy fence at our home in Nashville. It helps to have a goal.
21.) Don’t go shopping for fun. When we first moved to Atlanta and I was working from home, I had a lot of free time on my hands. I did not know anyone, so I would go shopping for fun: Goodwilling, antiquing, Target-ing. I’ve finally learned ONLY to go shopping when there is something I actually need and plan on buying.
22.) Make lists when you go shopping, and DO NOT buy a single thing that is not on your list. When I don’t make a list, I overspend… by a lot.
23.) Drink water. Water is literally the ONLY thing we drink now (apart from tea and coffee.) We do buy juice and milk for smoothies, but we never buy sodas or juices to drink. This has been a big savings for us, and drinking water is so good for us!
24.) Use or freeze leftover food before it goes bad. Freezing leftovers is AWESOME!
25.) Buy non-perishable food items in bulk. It’s usually cheaper to buy in bulk, so we buy things like nuts, peanut butter,rice, dog food, etc. in bulk. You can also buy certain perishable items in bulk and freeze them.
Foods that Freeze Well:
- Liquids – We freeze orange juice and almond milk. Be aware that if you buy your liquids in cartons, you will want to empty the liquid out into a freezer bag, seal it well, and lay it flat to freeze. If you leave it in the cartons, they will bust. I learned this the hard way. If you freeze your liquids in plastic containers, they should be fine, but you may want to empty a little out of the top so that the liquid has room to expand.
- Veggies – Purchase, chop, bag, and freeze!
- Shredded cheese
- Cooked rice
- Cooked beans
- Bananas – before they go bad, peel and freeze them. They can be used in smoothies, or in bread/cookie/muffin recipes.
- Citrus zest – Can be frozen and used for baking.
- Fresh herbs – I was thrilled to learn this, since herbs have such a short shelf-life.
- Fruit – Before your fresh fruit goes bad, make sure to freeze it so that you can use it in baking or in smoothies.
If there is something you do to save money that is not on this list, I’d love to hear about it! I would practically lop my right arm off in order to be able to stay home with Bonnie when she is born, so if you have a suggestion I am all ears!