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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tips for Saving Money

Let's face it. We all need to save money. Whether we're saving for a particular item or just need to scale back, it's really never a bad idea to make the most of our money. I've got some tips and tricks that I use to help our little family survive on one lonely little income. I'll be talking more about saving at the grocery store (without coupons) and saving with coupons later this week, so be sure to come back and check it out. Also, please feel free to offer any tips and tricks that you use! I'd love to hear them and I'm sure all of our other readers would too!
  1. Track your spending for at least 30 days. This is probably the best tip of all. Get a notebook and write down all your income and expenditures. You'll be very surprised at where your "money leaks" (as I've heard them called) are. The trick to this though is to not modify your spending habits and to habitually write down EVERYTHING. If you modify your habits (meaning if you change how you spend because you're tracking it), it won't be as impactful at the end of the month when you're looking at how much you spend on coffee or diet cokes. The same goes if you're not writing everything down. You can't say, "Oh, it was only $1. It doesn't matter." Really, those dollars and cents add up quickly and they do matter. Once you see how you regularly spend your money, you can create a budget and be more conscious about your day-to-day spending. You'll save money by knowing how you spend your money.
  2. Plan and eat your meals at home. This is one of the first things to go when our budget starts to get a little tighter. For me, I CAN cook at home. I know how, I don't mind doing it, I'm just usually too lazy to do it! Especially in the summer. I hate heating the house up and slaving away in the kitchen when it's so hot outside. What can you do to make eating at home more appealing?
      1. Plan your meals. You don't have to schedule something specifically for each day (though you can if you want) but at least come up with about 7 meals (depending on how your family utilizes leftovers, you may just need 5 or 6). Write them down so you and the rest of your family can see them. In the morning, pick a meal, pull out anything that needs to defrost, and then you're not dreading the dinner rush.
      2. Plan meals that your family will eat. It might be exciting to try new meals, and it's good to do that occasionally, but make most of your weekly/monthly menus with your family favorites.
      3. Ask your kiddos/hubby what their favorites are and incorporate them too. Along with that, let them help in the kitchen. They'll be more inclined to eat if they get to help you make it!
      4. Don't deprive yourself at home. If you're not eating out, you can still splurge on some goodies to have at home. Instead of going out for ice cream, pick up some at the store. No matter what you get, it will be cheaper than going to Coldstone!
  3. Reexamine your phone bill.  Whether you have cell phones or a land line, you can still do this. If you have both, are they both necessary? If you just have cell phones, but you have the bells and whistles (text messaging, smart phones, internet, etc), can you cut back at all? Look at past bills and examine your actual usage. Can you move to a lower plan or eliminate some of the frills? It might be a hard adjustment for a while, but there was life before all of this newfangled technology. Also, remember to look around when your contract is up with your current provider. Do your research to see what other providers are offering. Just because you looked around 2 years ago doesn't mean things haven't changed in the market since then, If you just have a land line, is there anything you can cut? Or, can you combine services (TV, phone, internet) to save money? Don't be afraid to call your provider to ask about bundles, discounts, or about cutting services.
  4. Reexamine your cable/satellite bill. This works about the same as your phone bill. Is there a lower package that you can purchase instead? Call and ask for any discounts or take a look at the other providers and see if they have a better option. If you find that you're not watching it or that you always think, "There's nothing to watch on TV," then think about doing away with it altogether. Hubs and I have never had cable or satellite and we don't regret it one bit. What have we done instead? For a while we took advantage of Hollywood Video's $15 a month plan, but when they did away with that, we switched to Netflix. There are so many affordable options available for streaming TV and movies to your TV - Hulu, Netflix, and Blockbuster are the main players. Sure we're usually behind in watching the "it" shows, but we can still rent them. I prefer to watch them on DVD or streaming - no (or very few) commercials and no breaks between episodes. If we want to stay up all night and watch 6 episodes of Lost, we can totally do that!
  5. Consider your entertainment. What are the things you do for entertainment? Everyone needs to have some fun and get out, go on dates, etc. But Can you cut back a bit? If you enjoy going to the theater to see a movie, you might consider renting more often. Redbox, Blockbuster Express, and Netflix are all great, affordable options. If you absolutely must see a movie in theater, try to make it to a matinee (usually before 6pm) or don't spring for the 3-D showings. You'll save money on tickets both ways. You also might try cutting back on the snacks at the theater - have you see the prices of popcorn and soda? Insane! Also, check out your local library! We're a small town and have a fairly small library, but they have a pretty decent selection of movies (both adult and kids and not just educational stuff) - for FREE!  The library is also a good source for books. Check the library first instead of going out and buying new books! Look into any free activities that your city or nearby cities offer. Plan those as dates or family outings. Take advantage of discounts that you find!
  6. Make sure to pay your bills on time. I know that sometimes it's tempting to just take the late fee (I'm guilty of this one) and wait for the next payday, but you're costing yourself money in the long run. Even if the late fee is just $5 (most are more, nowadays), that will still add up quickly. If you have a hard time remembering which bills are due when, consider using automatic bill pay through your bank.
  7. Do some homework before making any big purchases. Everyone thinks about doing this for something like a car, which is very important also, but do this when you're purchasing any appliances, electronics, or furniture. Does one store provide a warranty but another store has a better price? See if the store that offers the warranty will match the price of the other store. Even if you're willing to pay more for quality, do some research and know what it is you're buying. If you're looking at purchasing a laptop, get to know the terminology, the processors, speeds, and all those other things that you're only thinking about when the sales person starts asking you questions.
  8. Keep up on the regular maintenance of your car. This will help eliminate the need for some unnecessary and expensive repairs down the road. Change your oil according to your owners manual (in some models it's no longer necessary to go with the 3000/3 month rule). Look into the maintenance packages that are offered for certain mileage (50K, 75K, etc). I don't know much about cars, but I do know that these checkups will help keep your car running for longer!
  9. Consider starting a babysitting co-op with your other mommy friends. Instead of paying upwards of $5 an hour for a teenager to come and sit with your kids, see if there are some other moms that would want to swap babysitting. You watch their kids on Friday night while they go out and then they watch your kiddos on Saturday while you enjoy a night with your hubby. You could rotate during the week, every other week, or however often you need to get out of the house. This also doesn't just go for date night. Need to do some grocery shopping without the kiddos? Swap babysitting and let another mommy get out of the house too!
  10. Pay Cash/Start Saving for it now. You know that eventually you're going to want/need another or newer car. Start saving now. Want to upgrade your TV or gaming system? Save for it first. Planning a big vacation for next summer? Start planning, saving, and watching for deals now. If you can pay cash, do it. Especially when it comes to big ticket items that you might be tempted to pay for with credit. You'll save so much in interest by paying in cash.
  11. Buy Clothing (especially kid stuff) on Clearance. This is one of my favorites. Seriously. If you're really into the really hip and fashionable clothing (the fact that I call it "hip and fashionable" shows that I'm not, lol) then this might not be the tip for you. But right now, I don't really care too much about what brand my son is wearing - as long as he has clothing! Buying Andyroo's clothes when they're on clearance is something I've been doing since he was born - and I've saved soooo much money. This means that you'll have to estimate how big your kiddo will be in a year and watch for the clothing clearance sales. Right now everyone is trying to make room for fall clothing, so they all have all of their summer stuff on clearance. In fact, last week I went over to K-Mart when they had all their clearance an extra 40% off (Old Navy also runs that kind of sale too) and scored everything for Andyroo for next summer for $40. FORTY BUCKS! That's about 9 or 10 outfits, some extra shorts, and a swimming outfit. Pretty much everything Andyroo owns was purchased on clearance. I've found that for where we live (Utah), the best clearance sales are during the spring and fall. So during the late summer and early fall, you'll want to watch for summer/spring stuff to be on clearance, in late winter and early spring, you'll see all the fall/winter stuff on clearance. Like I said, in Utah, even though we have 4 seasons, it's not really necessary to shop for all 4. In spring and summer, Andyroo basically wears the same things. His fall and winter clothes are about the same too. Depending on where you live and what your needs are, you might be shopping on a different schedule.  
Hopefully you've found something in here that will help you save some money. Do you have any other tips to offer? I'm sure we'd all love to hear them!



  1. One tip we learned that is saving us A LOT of money is transferring balances on our credit cards. Of course it is better to NOT have this at all but if you do, this is a great way to NOT pay interest. We had three credit cards with high interest and more than half of our monthly payment was going towards the interest alone. It would take us YEARS to pay them off. Well we got two credit card offers with 0% interest for a year when you transfer balances with NO FEES!!! AWESOME

    So we transfered all our interest bearing credit cards onto the two that we wouldn't have to pay interest on with no fee and now we are making the same payments but the balance is going down because we are not adding interest and we will pay them off a lot sooner. We actually have paid off one and now the money that we were paying towards that one is now being added to the other credit card so we can pay that off even faster! We probably won't get it paid off in the year limit so we will just watch our old credit cards for when they offer 0% interest with no fee and transfer again till it is paid off. This is how my dad at this point in his life is completely DEBT FREE!!!!


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