5 Ways to Tighten Your Budget Belt
A few years back, I wrote about my life as a couponer, from reluctant to ridiculous to relaxed. Many of you could relate, sharing your own stories and observations. I loved reading all of your comments. It reminded me of the great amount of wisdom hanging out in this virtual community every day. You are some seriously smart shoppers.
It also reminded me of the many options we have to cut back our spending in ordinary, everyday areas. Spending less can be tough. However, it is possible to make simple cuts that will still allow you to live well. Today I’m going to share a few from my family.
This is not rocket science. Most of these cuts are common sense. This also is not anything new. It’s good to remember that our grandparents were making wise financial decisions long before our generation started taking credit for it.
Here are a few of the simple changes, apart from couponing, that we made in our spending habits:
Cut back services to reflect actual usage.
Again, it’s not rocket science, but when you’re living on a tight budget every penny helps. By composting and recycling, we were able to decrease the garbage we generated. Less garbage, smaller garbage can. This simple change saved us over $60 per year.
We are also one of the few remaining American households who don’t have cable television. *gasp!* That’s right. No Dish Network. No Netflix. No Hulu Plus. We use rabbit ear antennas. Remember those? Yeah, they still work. We’ve also pared down our phone and internet plans to match our needs.
Small changes? Yes. But they all add up to equal a significant savings over the course of a year. Buzz through your monthly bills and see if there are any areas that can be reduced or negotiated for a lower cost.
RELATED: How to ditch cable and still watch your favorite shows
Remember that kids don’t need to look like they just stepped out of a Hanna Andersson catalog.
You know those vows you make before you have children? The ones that involved effortless obedience and no high fructose corn syrup? Well, mine also included toting around cutely clothed miniature people. Guess what? My kids’ clothes now come from consignment shops, killer clothing sales, and clearance racks. If an image of two little mismatched urchins pops into your head, think again. I would say they’re pretty darn cute, clothing included.
Some of you have this down to a science, utilizing eBay, Craigslist, and/or consignment sales to clothe your children for little to nothing out of pocket. Who cares if it’s not this seasons line? They’re kids. It’s going to have a ketchup stain on it in five seconds flat anyway.
RELATED: 6 reasons I ditched garage sales for consignment sales
Start menu planning.
Confession: I think about food more than the average human being. I love reading and talking about food, not to mention cooking, serving, and eating it. So it may seem strange that I really dragged my feet on the whole menu planning idea. I fought it for weeks. I liked being spontaneous. I wanted to cook what sounded good at the moment.
That was all good and fine when I had the ingredients to match the cravings. More often than not, though, it meant a ridiculous number of trips to the grocery store. Before I became a couponer, I didn’t shop sales cycles or loss leaders, making for a high grocery bill. I still like to mix things up, throw caution to the wind, and serve lasagna instead of meatloaf if I so desire. The great majority of the time, though, I stick to my menu plan which helps me stick to my shopping list which helps me stick to my grocery budget.
If you REALLY struggle with meal planning, consider sticking to a list of 10-15 recipes that you can make all the time, with ingredients you usually have in the house. Once you get a few months under your belt, you can branch out and add some new recipes to your rotation. Don’t over-complicate things!
Use the library.
I know what you’re thinking : I have a whopping fine from 1986, and I don’t have a clue where my card is. Plus, the thought of keeping track of more books does not appeal to me.
Wait! Give it another shot. The library is a free, friendly resource just waiting for you to walk through its doors. Also, by accessing your account online, you can renew and reserve from the comfort of your own couch which also helps cut down on those pesky overdue fines.
Not a big reader? Think outside the box:
- Movies & Music. From new DVD releases, complete TV seasons, documentaries, workout systems, and chidren’s selections, the library is a great place to find some free entertainment.
- Events & Classes. Children’s Storytime. Book Discussions. Craft Workshops. Author Lectures. Competitive Chess or Scrabble. Knitting Groups. Computer Classes. Puppet Shows. Homework Help. Reading to Therapy Dogs… Seriously, larger libraries have everything you can think of and more. Explore yours!
- New books! Did you know that most libraries will allow you to make a request for a new book? If there’s a title you’ve had your eye on, but not sure you want to own it, you can submit a request for your library to purchase it. My local library will usually buy it (haven’t had a no yet) and put it immediately on hold for me.
- Back to books. The library is a great place to preview cookbooks, check out resources for your teenager’s research project, discover new authors, or keep your rotation of children’s books interesting. Just in case you need a break from Knuffle Bunny. What? You’ve never read about Knuffle Bunny?! Huh. I have. At least 3 billion times.
Avoid your budget kryptonite.
In other words, figure out what kills your budget and learn how to control and/or avoid it. For me it’s stores like Target and Fred Meyer, those handy one-stop shops. Maybe this just goes to show that I have essentially no self-control. I go in with a list and come out an hour later with two shirts, one set of kitchen towels, a box of fruit snacks, and three bags of clearanced Halloween candy. Wait. What just happened in there? They are budgeting black holes for me. I know that and steel myself against their powerful pull.
Last year, my husband and I did a one-month experiment where we cut out all extra spending. I quickly realized the only way I was going to be successful was to avoid the one-stop shops so I didn’t set foot in them for an entire month. I couldn’t believe how much I saved by completely avoiding clearance racks and end caps. Those orange stickers are so tantalizing, but the whole “spend more, save more” line of thinking gets so many of us in trouble in a hurry.
If you are struggling to cut back on extra spending, take a look at your weak areas and tighten things up. Is it online shopping? Costco? The mall? Starbucks? A little self-control goes a long way on a tight budget.
Be creative here! If you’re an impulse shopper, consider placing an order for grocery pick-up. No chance to grab extra items and spend extra money if you don’t even go into the store. Target now has a pick-up service, so you can either have them bring it out to your car or pick it up right at the customer service desk. You only have to avoid that pesky Dollar Spot that lures you in like a siren.
Well, there you have it. My family’s top five simple ways to cut spending. Now it’s your turn. Share your wisdom!
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Budget kryptonite… O goodness, I didn’t even realize that’s what it was!
I cut my own hair (it’s short so pretty easy to do myself) and I do my own manicures and pedicures. I save $100 a month by doing these things myself. I don’t eat beef (it’s expensive) and buy chicken and fish so I save money there. I have zeroscape in my yard so no excessive watering for me. My water bill is cheap. I don’t ever run my a/c unless it is over 80 degrees in my home. I winter my heat is set at 68. Only run my dishwasher when it’s completely full. Use cold water to do my laundry. Cut my dish network down to basic and argued with Verizon about my cell phone charge and they reduced my monthly bill. I work from home so my vehicle gas is really cheap per month.
You too can cut down on many costs and have more money in the bank at the end of the month.
I have a confession to make, one that makes some of my out-of-town friends green with envy and others an uncomfortable sickly green at the thought of it- in my area of New England, many towns have ‘swap shops’. Think Goodwill or Salvation Army store, but everything is FREE, donated by locals, for use by other locals. The shops are run by volunteers in town donated space. Though my family is comfortable financially, I ‘shop’ there all the time! I also volunteer. There is so much ‘stuff’, from clothing to toys to books to small décor and kitchen needs, that there is plenty for all, including those not in ‘need’. I.don’t.buy.my.kids.clothes. Seriously, excluding underwear and socks, I -maybe- spend $40 or $50 each a year, and they’ve got closets full of gently used brand name clothing. It’s insanely great, though some are horrified I dress my kids almost exclusively in free clothing, like I’m running an orphanage or something. I don’t care- my kids look great, and my wallet thanks me. As for the library- YES. We NEVER rent movies and see big blockbusters within a few months of their release on DVD for free through our fabulous library. Some like to gush about how ‘great’ Redbox is…no, watching what you wish to see for nothing is where it’s at!
Kate from Frugal Living NW says
Fantastic ways to save! Love them all. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
I dry all my clothes outside in the warmer months too! We are lucky to live where energy rates are among the lowest in the nation (thanks PUD) but drying in the dryer creates so much wear and tear on your clothes. All that lint is your clothes breaking down people! If you have seasonal allergies, fluff them in the dryer for a few minutes to get any pollen off. Crispy clothes can be fluffed in the dryer for 5 minutes with a damp washcloth.
Don’t forget if your going to school, Amazon prime has a student account for like 40 a year. Also, we stream amazon Netflix. Xfinity gave me basic cable for free and HBO with it for a year, so we stream thru the Xbox so we don’t need extra boxes and can use it on tablets, Kindle, Xbox or phone. I don’t have Time or energy to cut coupons but buy in bulk and buy what’s on sale for groceries. I know good prices as I go. Do I buy pancake mix for 2.00 or make it for same price. I cook pinto beans in crockpot mash and freeze for quick refried beans. And I know what’s in them! As a single mom who works full time I cut corners we can but allow us to splurge when we want as a treat
One of the things I started to do this year is lump most of my monthly bills together and pay them with my low limit visa then immediately pay the visa. With my rewards, this allows me to get a big ticket item with my reward points every 3-6 months free. I received my $350 Dooney and Bourke purse free and got my husband a Cuisinart KUEREG machine last month free. It’s amazing how much money goes out just in regular bills that I collect points on.
I pack my own lunch. I make my own coffee at home and I don’t buy anything unless I need it!
My husband and I have cut each other’s hair since we were engaged:-)
Sewing is always helpful–from curtains to clothes. I made my wedding dress and the fabric cost $200 dollars (which to me was a lot). A friend’s mom who was a professional seamstress told me, you’ll spend $200 on high quality fabric and have a $2000 dress. I didn’t think much about it until years later when someone saw a wedding photo at our house (also a seamstress) and said in surprise, “That dress must have cost at least $2000!”
Kate from Frugal Living NW says
Wow! I’m impressed by the wedding dress thing but even more by the hair cutting! Great job!
Adding onto all the library comments – downloaded audio books. The multnomah country library is part of a large network and you can reserve and download audiobooks onto a mp3 player or phone or ipod. the audiobookbay is also great.
I love that I can ‘read’ and run errands, cook, clean, do physical work at the same time.
I work at the Newberg Public Library and can add some more info about the libraries. There is a new creation called The Passport Program. Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties have joined with Pol, Yamhill and Marion counties along with MOST (not ALL) of the state to bring even more services to our patrons! You can get a Passport sticker at you local library and have limited usage at most libraries in the state. Our library has a limit of three items to be checked out at any given time on a Passport card. One thing to remember: the items MUST be returned to the owning library. We will NOT ship them tot other libraries for you!
This is especially useful for those who work in a town out of their library system, e.g., live in Wilsonville, but work in Woodburn. Also, folks who live near the county lines can use a library which may be closer to them even if it is outside their tax area.
We are another family who has gone cable free and we love it! My younger son pays for a Netflix account that we all use and we also have an Amazon Prime account because of all of the school books we have shipped to our sons for college. Amazon Prime costs just over $6.00/month and I consider it a BARGAIN.
We also have gotten rid of our land line and, even with raising the number of minutes for our cell plans, STILL save over $100.00/month!
I can’t think of how my husband and I can cut our budget! Haha We live pretty modestly already. Our monthly bills are: rent, phone, electric, food, bus pass and internet. We completly cut anything “extra” so we could survive as he finishes school without a job, me as a homemaker and 3 kids. At times I wish we had the luxury of a car but that’s a luxury we can’t afford at the moment. I’m thankful that we can take care of ouur family’s needs without sinking into debt.
Personally when it comes to birthday presents I have my oldest son make a card (since he’s the only one who can write out of my boys), we all sign it and we normally make some sort of treat as a gift. We can’t always buy toys as presents but making cake pops or rock candy is pretty inexpensive.
For Christmas, we only buy for our kids. For the rest of the kids (cousins, friends, etc) we make little coupon books and homemade cards. We also make homemade treats. If we buy candy we normally go to the dollar store.
Sometimes I think that I restrict the family too much, but I (we- you included) really am not. We are giving our family time! By citting out cable we are giving them the chance to play more, to read more, to laugh more. By taking out restaurants we are teaching our children the value of a homemade meal on the dinning room table. By making cards instead of buying one we are encouraging creactivity and family time! I’m happy budgetting our money because it has bettered our lives in so many ways. Some times it’s a struggle (like when we have to take them to the doctor and its pouring outside) but its all worth it when we get on the MAX and I can play with the kids instead of being stuck behind the wheel driving.
Not one of the only people without Cable! We cut it over 11 years ago. Only Recently have we gotten stream only Netflixs (8 bucks a month vs the nearly 60 on cable in our area.)
I love all the tips. We make a shopping list on what we can buy at the store and if we decided to buy anything off the list, we both have to agree on it. (Is it something we need? can we live without it?)
Also we try to live by the sales. Cheap chicken, we have chicken next week. Cheap pasta, we are eating pasta for a bit. Stock up when its cheap and eat out of the pantry. We even do that with our produce, so we always have something fresh but cheap in the house. That alone plus not going out has slashed our food budget.
Use those appliances you’ve got hidden. Ages ago when I had lots of extra cash I picked up stuff like a bread maker…. and a yogurt maker …… and a pasta maker. THinking it would be ‘fun’ to make those things at home.
Now that I’m pinching pennies I actually USE that bread maker to mix my bread dough then finish it in the oven as hoagie rolls or pretty loaves. I USE that yogurt maker to make my own yogurt for breakfasts. I’ve started USING that pasta maker to make my own lasagna noodles and ravioli.
Winco’s bulk baking ingredients and dollar store canned goods make those foods SUPER cheap when I make them myself.
Homemade 3 cheese ravioli (10 out of the 60 I made and froze)- .65
Served with homemade mushroom tomato sauce – Dollar store shrooms and crushed tomatoes plus some garlic cloves – .75
Homemade Garlic Bread – .35
1.75 for a tasty completely homemade dinner and I fed two people, I had company. 🙂
Your DRYER is the biggest energy-waster in the entire house! There is no such thing as an energy efficient dryer. I hang laundry out to dry every day I can from about April to October. I do one load a day (which helps me stay on top of it!) and on some hot days in July-August I can get 2 loads dry a day. Even cooler days in the shoulder season dries laundry quickly-windy days are perfect for blowing dry the sheets! My record is going 3 months without needing to use the dryer at all. In rainy winter months I use my dryer more, but also have several racks and places where I hang bulky sweatshirts and other items to dry. I know full-time workers and apt. dwellers don’t really have this option, but I have seen my PGE bills go down DRASTICALLY in the summer months. Even if you have a small yard, it’s worth the savings. Our backyard lines hang out of the way of the pick-up games of soccer, badminton and croquet in our yard. The kids even help me take the laundry down. My husband used to complain about his “crisp” underwear, so I told him he’d make a bad European and he never complains now (most Europeans don’t own dryers and hang laundry up outside their flats every day-picture laundry lines over canals in Venice!). Plus I love the rough texture of towels from the shower and the sweet smell of sunshine on the clothes.
The Irreverent Couponer says
Oh gosh. These are fantastic tips, but the real dagger for me was just how much I miss the Multnomah County libraries, especially Belmont. Yes, yes, yes to books, movies, music, magazines, and an overall great environment for supporting neighborliness as much as intellectual curiosity.
We also switched to antenna and it’s great! All the local channels and great reception. We use a booster with an antenna on the roof (it looks like a dish). We live in the gorge and I was afraid it was going to be like when I was a kid and adjusting it when the wind kicked up, but no problems so far. Also, I’ve been cooking every 2-3 weeks and freezing meals. This has cut our budget about $400 a month by eating in and also not going to the store every couple of days and leaving with goodies (my kryptonite). Now, I stop at the local produce store to pick up milk and veggies when we’re out and I’m not tempted to get chocolate, icecream and baked goods! Also, check your deductables on insurance. If you have $1000 in savings why not raise your deductable to $1000 and save money each month? Check your internet, sometimes you are paying for more than you need.
I started hang drying our laundry instead of using the dryer everytime, i still need to use it every once in a while, because we live in an apartment, and we don’t have a lot of space, but I use it a lot less now. With a family of three ( we have a toddler- so lots of laundry 😉 this saves us about $40-$50 a month! And it’s really doesn’t take much longer 😉
Pam Mantle says
My son is getting Free Algebra tutoring @ the Library in Snohomish once a week! The instructor is his actual teacher and he is getting Algebra!!!Yippee, I don’t have to learn more Math!
I have to “second” Heidi S.’ comments about the library system. We are in Hillsboro, and the reciprocal relationship we have with Multnomah County libraries is great! But, in addition to the cultural passes, there is one other benefit the library offers. Almost all libraries have a “Friends of” group that holds book sales, where you can get stuff for dirt cheap! Sometimes they are old, broken down paperbacks, but mostly they are new, read-one-time bestsellers that the library already has a gazillion of in stock. Other times, there are theme sales. For instance at our favorite library, September was kids books, October will be Stephen King/Dean Koontz/Clive Barker (scary SCARY books, eek!), and November will be media (they are getting rid of their VHS collection entirely, and weeding the CD’s and DVD’s.) Over the course of the year, I have purchased several boxed sets, like the ones that Costco sells, for about $10, and set them aside as Christmas presents. My kids are older, but they got every book in the Hardy Boys, Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, and Narnia series, usually for 50 cents or $1. (And, for my grandbaby, I just bought a couple boxed sets of board books that were still in the plastic wrap for $3 each. Best deal EVER. Yay!)
My husband and I save money by purchasing certain spices in the bulk section, at world market, or in the mexican food aisle at grocery stores – they are often MUCH less expensive. [Bay leaves, chili spices, cinnamon sticks, ginger, etc.] This saves a lot of money and keeps the food tasty!
menu planning is awesome! i live by myself and don’t have any kids, but it still makes a huge difference with making sure i’m eating healthy food and always knowing what I’m eating for dinner. i still have days where i come home and say “i don’t feel like having that tonight”, but then i have something else on the list to make…and i always have the ingredients on hand!
Good points all aronud. Truly appreciated.
Here here to the Library! I use it for books and movies, but I didn’t know about the cultural passes…thanks for the insight!
And for all the other great tips!
Your “avoid the budget kryptonite” section hit home! How could I not see that?!! Thank you.
Heidi S says
Ditto on the library! Multnomah County is great, but there are a couple of things that I’ve only found at Washington County (Sherwood specifically, assuming the others have it too). These are (1) a new releases shelf – this is for new movies that cannot be reserved online. You can go in and pick out 2 movies that you get for a week. It feels like a real video store, and you don’t have to wait months for your request. (2) Culture passes! – Like the Multnomah County Children’s Museum passes mentioned above, each Washington County library has a handful of culture passes that can be checked out for one day at a time. I’ve gone to the Children’s Museum, Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, and Pittock Mansion all for free with this program!! And by the way, Multnomah County residents can get a Washington County library card for free. They have a reciprocal relationship (as does Clackamas County and Clark County) with Multnomah County.
I make sure to always bring lunch or snacks and plenty of water whenever we leave the house, even if I think I’m only going to be gone an hour. Inevitably, we are either gone longer than an hour or someone is “starving” as soon as we leave the driveway. Armed with plenty of food & water I don’t have any reason to stop for fast food and there are less requests for snacks when we are at a store as they either just had something to eat or know there is something in the car. It saves bundles, I’m sure!
we have rabbit ears too! (and they are HD!!!) we made the change a year ago and can’t image paying for TV again!
It’s even cheaper if you live in the Portland/Salem/Eugene areas and purchase an antenna. I bought one for $30 at BestBuy and now enjoy all the ‘free’ channels I like – ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, OPB, several movie/classic TV stations, sports (if you like that sort of thing) and local news. I don’t understand why anyone would pay those high cable tv bills? I also have an HDMI cord and hook my laptop up to the big screen TV and watch movies and never pay for any TV/Movie watching. there are just too many free places on the internet to find TV shows.
5- Classic Movies- http://www.openculture.com/
6-YouTube has many free tv shows and movies
7-Amazon also has free tv shows and movies
8-Project Free Tv – http://www.free-tv-video-online.me/
Just to name a few.
We also switched our internet provider to Century Link and receive 40MPB speed for $35 a month for six months and I was told to check back after the six months for additional discounts.
We switched to ATT cell phone service (we have no land line) and received two 3Gs iPhones for $9 each and ATT’s monthly rate is comparable to any other cell provider. We use wireless at home also to reduce data usage on the phones.
Libraries in the area are all online now (Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, etc. Counties are all in the library stystems) – so you can download any movie or ebook in their database – no more waiting for a book to be transported from one library to your library – it’s instant to download and there’s no need to use gas to go to the libraries anymore, unless of course you bike to your library then it’s a nice outing!
We very very rarely go out to dinner – no matter what – we cook dinners and take our lunches/snacks to work. It’s committment you have to make to yourself.
I sew and make most of my own clothing, accessories and home decor. I make my own tote bags, purses, slippers, mittens, hats, etc. from the many many many free patterns you can find online. I am fortunate to have inherited my g-mother’s and mother’s fabric stashes and have yards and yards of great fabric as well as rolls and rolls of trim and spools and spools of thread. Thanks Mom and Grandma!
If you do want a little cable-the basic is only about $11 with Comcast. I feel it has plenty of choices-(Channels 2-13)-for me, and personally I don’t want all the cartoon networks, for my son to watch constantly=this naturally cuts down on the negative opportunities.
We don’t watch TV too much & I find my son will then play much more creatively.
Even so I realize 11×12=$132 every year & the new conversion boxes would be much cheaper in the long run-so I am considering it. Have heard mixed input about how they work. Anyone have any input for me?
We had an antennae for a long time, but I got cable as I got tired of having to adjust it for every channel-initially it was only $9, so has gone up a bit.
Twin Mom says
Select your medical insurance carefully. Make sure physicians/hospitals you want to use are in-network. If you know you’ll have medical bills, set aside pretax dollars in a medical savings account. If you ever have a significant medical issue, one of the most important things you can do is make sure your doctors and hospital are in your insurance network. (We had premature twins and I was in the hospital for a month ahead of time. Insurance covered 85% of the bills because we had done research to make sure our preferred doctors and hospital were in-network)
We have cut back in the last year in SOO many ways! My husband was layed off for 1 year, and then got his job back, but these cuts in our budget really saved us, and we don’t plan on going back to the old way anytime soon!
1. couponing 5/sunday papers / stockpiling etc.
2. make your own laundry detergent
3. no more cable / satellite… we switched to netflix and watch it on our wii or ps3.
4. no cell phone – my husband has one for work which we share in the evenings…
5. take our own garbage to the dump… this was my husbands commitment, but it sure saves us a lot!
6. I have a friend who foils my hair, and I cut my own hair, and do my own nails 🙂
7. craigslist for bigger items! We find some REALLY good deals when we need one.
8. payed off our one vehicle and have learned to live with one car. my husband rides his bike or i drive him to carpool. Extra money is being saved to buy another vehicle with cash – no more loans
9. repourposing clothing / shopping at thrift stores or outlets for clothes.
10. Produce co-op local to us! or Bountifulbaskets so much produce for so much less!
Some of these may seem extreme, but it’s been fun to strategize ways to make every dollar stretch!
How do you make your own laundry soap?
I have been making my own laundry soap for years. We have 9 children so wash about 3 loads a day. I use 5 tablespoons borax and 5 tablespoons of arm & hammer super washing soda(find in the laundry isle at Fred Meyer or Target) and 3 tablespoons of dawn dish soap. Put them in an empty milk jug with a couple inches of warm water. Shake for a couple minutes, then fill to the top with water. That’s it, really easy. I use 1/2 cup in each load and it is really cheap to make.
Jennifer P says
Do you know if your laundry detergent recipe (such a great tip) works for front load washing machines?
I have used that recipe for a long time and have a front load washer which it worked with. After 6 months, I did switch back to reg detergent just because I kept coming across great deals with coupons although I think I paid about .50 a gallon for the homemade stuff. You can also switch different Dawns for different scents.
I work full time and start work really early in the morning so I splurge on Starbucks. I just can’t get that skinny vanilla latte to taste the same coming from home. I set myself a budget per month and load my Starbucks gold card (basically a shoppers reward card that’s pretty, has your name on it, and gets you a free drink after a certain number of drinks purchased). When my card is out of funds, that’s it. I do pretty good rationing my coffees out to last the whole month but I have been known to be out 2 or 3 weeks in, and I count the days to the next month, but I never cave and load more money!
I am the same way! It allows me to get coffee out 3-4 days a week, and it helps practice self control. That way, I get the treat of fancy coffee, but it’s included in the budget.
Just last week we cancelled our dish network. I must say that I love it! No one misses it. Eventually we will get some rabbit ears, but for now we can watch what we want through our internet and the xbox. Also, we scaled back and got rid of all our extras for our home phone service – no caller ID, call waiting, voice message, etc. I was so nervous to cancel those, but I haven’t even missed them! We are trying to cut back where we can. It’s funny how quickly luxuries begin to feel like necessities. We are finding that we can survive without them, and really, we feel like we have more time to spend together without our T.V. service. I’m currently trying to switch how I shop and get basic ingredients. I’m doing more cooking from scratch. I know it’s healthier, and it will save us money.
As far as bday and holiday gifts go, I try to do homemade/ handmade as much as possible. My girlfriend is an amazing knitter, so she makes a lot of great gifts that way (she made matching hats for my brother, sister-in-law, and their new baby already for this year’s holidays). We also go to a lot of craft fairs and buy local handmade stuff there for very low prices. We picked up a whole bunch of hand-printed postcards for friends and family at $.50 each when we went to an artist’s open house last month; they were supposedly her “seconds,” but they looked great to us. Then we went to the dollar store and got packages of paintable frames (2/ $1) that we’ll paint and put the postcards in for presents – super cheap, but one of a kind art!
I think homemade jam/applesauce/etc. is a really nice Christmas present.
Personally I prefer foods that can be consumed!! My house is too cluttered as it is!
Also I think it is more special to get something-others have made.
Another idea I like is gift certificates for something you can do together-movies/family fun center/museums/zoo/restaurants, etc. The Build A Bear featured recently was a great idea for younger kids too I thought-and then go do it with them!
Also I would add on Christmas/Birthdays that I think the average expectations are too high about how much you should spend and what you should get.
My budget buster is Costco! When I had a membership, I would spend over $100 every time I went. Now I find out when a friend is going , and they will pick up the couple of items I really like (grape tomatoes anyone?). Removes all temptation that way!
Here is a suggestion for paying bills … primarily utilities. I put all our bills on equal pay so that it is easier to budget (same amount every month). Once in awhile, I will call and see if they can be adjusted. I just recently reduced one from $84/month to $70/month. Every little bit helps (especially right before Christmas)!
ashley chambers says
yeah for cost saving ideas!
I think we’ve done just about all those things you mentioned! We also use antennaes (aren’t we old school) and also we utilize a lot of online video sites like hulu to watch the latest tv shows. We have a cord that connects from our laptop to our tv.
Also, I share clothes with friends and they share with me–good ole hand me downs. I seriously have had to buy only underwear and socks for my 3 yr old for most of his life. If I find a 25 cent shirt at a thrift store I’ll be more inclined to buy it, but rarely do I have to shop for him. I’m also expecting twins, and have not had to buy ANY clothes because of baby showers and hand me downs. A friend of mine had a boy and recently a girl. My son is 6 mos older than hers and her daughter is now a year older than my twins will be. We just swapped boy clothes for girl clothes, it was great!
I know it sounds so strange, and its so small, but we use old scrubbing dish brushes with the handle for a toilet cleaning brush. We buy one a month, so the dishes always get cleaned, then the brush moves to the toilet. There is never a really really grimy brush hideously hiding in our bathroom.
Thank you for the list! I have practiced many of these, but I found some new ideas as well. And by the way, we are also a household free of cable t.v. … I know we are a rare bread, but aside from saving money, it also gives us more time to read those books we get from the library! 🙂
Lalia H says
Every October-November, I have what I call “use it up months.” When I run out, I reach to the back of the cupboard & finish off that hair spray or not so favorite cleaning supply. If I have it, even if it’s not my favorite brand, I’ll use it up instead of going out and buying my favorite brand. This saves money & cleans out the cupboard!!! This also goes for the pantry and cleaning supplies and all those samples I’ve recently sent off for!
I have to second some of your comments! Antenna’s now pick up HD TV if you have a HD TV. And you don’t need super-fancy antennas to do that. Our Library has all the latest DVD’s. But you have to go online and reserve them because they’re not on the shelf–others have reserved them too. Keep your reservation queue full, just like you would do with a Netflix account.
michelle Saab says
Im sure I am not the only one who does this but stock up on Christmas cards, Birthday cards, gift bags, ribbons etc at the Dollar Store…usually the cards are 2/$1 and they have a good selection. I also have quit buying children b-day cards to go with their gift…because really, do they care?
For holiday-specific items, stock up AFTER the holiday. I just raided Target’s 90% off post-Christmas sale & got gift bags for $.10-$.30 each….Christmas Cards for just $50/box. Even better than the Dollar Store! We also start discussing next years’ Halloween outfits right after Halloween and purchase them at 75% off or more. Decorations, too. Don’t forget holiday-specific baking & food items. They’re deeply discounted too and still have plenty of shelf life. Combine the discounts with coupons for even better deals.
Emily from Frugal Living NW says
This is a great tip! The last thing I want to think about right after a holiday is that holiday. But there is such a significant savings by thinking ahead and shopping clearance instead of retail. Thanks for the reminder.
I love the library! Its a wonderful place to try all sorts of new books, music, and movies, plus they offer so many other programs and services that are cheap or free: lectures, music, craft classes. The Multnomah Co. Library systems is one of the great ones for sure!
One of my treats is to go to the library and read magazines. It is such a waste of money, but it feels as if I am doing something for just me. Also. it brings back great memories of spending time in the library as a child. Good memories and it doesn’t cost anything.