Save a Buck

We all would like to save a few bucks. It’s not always black & white, but the gray area can be quite beautiful. It doesn’t have to be hard. Here are a few things that you can do to stick to the budget and cut costs.

1. Don’t spend money you don’t have.

Do not fall into the pit of fiery hell and swim in credit card debt. Don’t borrow the money, because you won’t be able to pay your uncle back. Don’t swipe your bank card, hoping that it will go through, and think “I’ll just pay the overdraft fee next payday.” Don’t get me wrong, there are extreme circumstances that require debt. For example, your house was damaged in a tornado storm. You can’t live in a house with no roof. However, if you have any way possible, wait until income tax to get a car. If you want a new car, try this strategy: slowly get better cars until you have a nice one. For example:

2014 income tax- buy a car worth $2,000.
2015 income tax- sell that car for $1,500, add $2,000 from income tax, buy a car worth $3,500.
2016 income tax- sell that car for $3,000, add $2,000 from income tax, buy a car worth $5,000.
2017 income tax- sell that car for $4,500, add $2,000 from income tax, buy a car worth $6,500.
2018 income tax- sell that car for $6,000, add $2,000 from income tax, buy a car worth $8,000
2019 income tax- sell that car for $7,500, add $2,000 from income tax, buy a car worth $9,500

In 5-6 years, you’ll have a brand new/practically brand new car. I understand that this is not fool-proof. You have to sell the cars, usually, for less than what you paid for them. This is for two reasons. #1- it’s easier to sell them. #2- depreciation. In this example, it’s like you’re buying a car worth $9,500 for $12,000. $2,500 difference seems like a lot, but you should see the interest rates for a new car! And this way, you will have a car that’s yours, a car that’s already paid off. You don’t have to worry about repossession if you come into hard times.

2. Never go to the grocery store hungry.

If you go to the grocery store hungry, you’ll buy unnecessary items. Stick to the list as much as possible.

3. Paper bag lunches

Pack your lunch. I don’t mean you have to always eat sandwiches. Take leftovers or make your lunch the night before. You can easily save $50-200 a month this way. If you drink sodas, don’t buy them while you’re out. $1.50 for a coke? NO WAY! Buy them in bulk and keep them in your work’s refrigerator or on ice in your mini cooler.

4. Make your own espresso

Love Starbucks? Buy a cheap espresso machine. They can be very expensive, but you can also find them fairly cheap. I have a Mr. Coffee which costs $40. That’s around 10 Starbucks coffees. If you drink one every morning on your way to work, the espresso machine has paid for itself in a month. No I didn’t do the math wrong. Let’s me honest. Milk coffee beans, sugar, vanilla, and chocolate are not free. However, a simple vanilla latte will cost you $1.00 or less by making it at home. You can even get a nice coffee mug with the cash you save.

5. Give yourself a moment

Before you buy something extra, give yourself a few days to think about it. If you still think you really want it and it’s worth the extra cash spending, go back and get it. It will give yourself time to think logically.

6. Go to the library

Don’t buy that series. Hit the library. Also, if you have a Kindle or Nook, there are websites that legally give you the options for free books. One that works with your local library is Overdrive. Some others that you can use to read online are: Read Any Book (.com)Read Any Book (.net)Pulseit,Bookrix, and Public Book Shelf. There are also some website that give you free books for reading and reviewing a book for them like Library Thing. I personally don’t buy any books if I can help it, unless I’ve already read it and it’s a favorite that I plan to read over and over in the future.

7. Thift, sales, discounts, off-brands, coupons and clearance

Buy the cheapest that you can find. If there are stores close together, jump those shops to find the cheapest. Don’t go 10 miles down the road to save $0.42 though. :) Use logic. Check the papers, clip coupons, and ask friends if they know of any cheap places to buy what you’re looking for. Go to thrift stores. I’ve found things still with the price tag for a quarter of the price. I’ve found plenty of name brand things that look brand new. Pinch that penny!

8. Use cash

If you use cash, you’ll know exactly how much you have left at all times. It’s way too easy to go over if you’re swiping a card.

9. Eat leftovers

Don’t throw away your leftovers. Some are better the next day, even, like spaghetti. You can have leftover night. Maggie can have meatloaf while Teddy has hotdogs from last night’s BBQ.

10. Don’t give too many choices

I’m not telling you to make your child eat something they don’t like. However just because they don’t want chicken and rice today is not a good reason to fix them hamburgers while everyone else eats chicken and rice. Eat it or go hungry was my mother’s saying. And guess what? I ate! However if she made pinto beans, she didn’t make me eat them. I hated them every day not just that day. So she would let me fix a microwave pizza or fix some potato soup. However, I wasn’t allowed to have a microwave pizza if we were having BBQ chicken just because I didn’t want it that day. Fixing 2-3 meals for dinner runs into a lot of money!

11. Turn off that light!

Do you really need to have the light on while you’re watching TV? Don’t leave the light on after you leave the bathroom. Turn off the lamp when you’re using the overhead light. Open some curtains (unless you’re an owl like me). Remind everyone in the house, even if it gets on their nerves. Electricity isn’t cheap.

12. Turn off the tap

Turn off the tap when you’re shaving your legs. Take a quick shower instead of standing under it for half an hour.

13. Don’t hit the gym

I’m not telling you not to exercise! There are too many other ways to get exercise than to hit the gym. Even buying some gym systems is cheaper in the long run. Take a walk, hike, swim in the river or a friend’s pool, buy the Zumba dvd kit. Gyms are very pricey, and a luxury for the wealthy, in my opinion.

14. Don’t fall for the coupon trap

Just because you have a coupon doesn’t mean you’re saving money. Coupons can be a great way to save, but can sometimes be deceiving. Do the math. If the total after you take the coupon amount off is still more expensive than the cheap-o brand, don’t buy it. Here’s an example. I had a $2 off coupon for Schick Quattro disposable razors and a $4 off coupon for refills on Venus razors. After I took off the coupon on both of those, you would think that I would save more on the Venus razors right? No. I spent $5 for 3 disposable razors ($1.67 each) compared to $8 for 4 ($2.00 each). And that was for full razors compared to the little refills. Crazy huh? Use your noggin.

15. Ebay!

*Warning* This CAN become an addiction if you let it! Don’t buy things just because they’re cheap. Also, don’t bid. Do buy it now only. Bidding is a form of gambling and can be addictive. If you have problems with gambling, skip this step. You’ll start at $0.99 and end up at $15.38 before you know it for something worth $10. Don’t do it.

However, if you do not have gambling problems and there’s something you really need/want, price it at the store and then try to find it cheaper on Ebay. Beware of some Chinese off-brands because a lot of times they are junk (not always). I have saved a ton this way. Remember to do buy it now. Now and then bidding can save money but more times than not you just end up spending more trying to win.

16. Save the savings

I’ll be honest, I have a problem following this rule. It is a great rule to go by, if you can. Say that you want to buy a new pair of jeans. On your budget, you estimate it to be $30. You go to the department store and find some one sale for $12. YAY! You saved $18. Instead of spending that $18, put it in the piggy bank for a rainy day or vacation.

17. Raining days, huh?

Speaking of that rainy day, save every single payday. It doesn’t matter if you only throw $1-5 in the piggy bank. Sometimes a few extra bucks can really save you when you run out of milk for your toddler a week before payday.

18. Keep track of everything

If you swipe your card, always write it down in the checkbook as soon as you purchase it. Don’t wait until you get to the car. You might forget. The people in line can wait for 30 seconds while you write it down. I know it sounds rude, but you’re probably one broke mom like me and it’s important. You don’t have to even write down the date, where you bought it at, or do the math for the balance. Actually, I would suggest you do the balance math when you get to the car so that you don’t feel so rushed. Just make sure to write down the total that you spent right then and there.

19. Mmmmm water!

Water is good for you, but it’s also a lot cheaper than soda, juice, milk, and every other beverage. Don’t like the taste of water? Try Mio. Yes, it costs $4 a bottle, but it’s still cheaper than most beverages when you do the math with how many glasses of Mio water you can make with it.

20. Stay hydrated

Speaking of water, you should stay hydrated. Sometimes the mind tricks the body into thinking that it’s hungry, when really it’s thirsty. Also, if you drink a glass of water before every meal, you will eat less. So you won’t have to make as large of a meal or you will have more leftovers for lunch.

21. Soups and stews

Some of the cheapest meals that stretch the farthest are soups and stews. Potato soup, chili, beef stew, pinto beans, vegetable soup, chicken noodle soup, and chicken & dumplings are a few that you can try to make your groceries stretch.

22. Don’t order in or eat out

You’ve probably heard this one before, but I can’t say it enough. Don’t eat out or order in pizza & Chinese. You are not only paying for the food but the services of cooking and delivery, not to mention the occasional tip. For the price of a large pepperoni pizza, delivery charge, and tip, you can easily make two large pizzas at home.

23. Plan for meals

When you’re grocery shopping, don’t think of it as “this item is cheap.” Think of it as “how much will this meal cost?” Just because one ingredient is cheap doesn’t mean that the meal itself will be. Also, take into account how many people it will feed and how many times (see #21). When I only had $25-35 a week to feed my husband and me, I constantly asked the question “Will this meal cost $5 or less?” Sad huh? But that’s the life of a broke mom… well… pregnant wife.

24. Get crafty

Not everything is cheaper to make, but sometimes it can save you money.

Learn to crochet. Making a baby hat, if you use Caron Simply Soft like me, will cost about $1.50 a hat. You can make about 3 with one skein of yarn. If you’re worried about it being scratchy and itchy, the Caron Simply Soft is nothing but it’s name.

Make your own laundry detergent. I’ll be posting a review on it soon because I’m about to try this. I’ll also post how much you can save by doing this.

Learn to sew. You can make some awesome purses this way. Sewing machines go at me like a demon, so I can’t sew. But many women (and men) find it very rewarding. You can make clothes, baby wraps (if you like babywearing), curtains, sheets, blankets… Learn to make quilts.

Make your own decorations. Go to Pinterest and look up some great ways to make your house cheaply, uniquely chic.

You can actually sell your creations for quite a bit of extra cash sometimes as well. Just make sure you’re selling for more than the cost, or you’re burying yourself further into debt.

25. Find free/practically free entertainment

Don’t think there’s anything free to do? Think again! Here’s a pretty large list of things to do:

Play board games.

Go to the library.

Start a book club (I made my own on Goodreads.com).

Visit friends.

Go to the park.

Watch a movie at home.

Do a puzzle.

Get involved with community sports.

Swap DVDs, games, or any other entertainment with a friend for a day.

Visit a free zoo.

Go for a walk, job, run or hike. You can even take the dog with you for more entertainment.

Go dancing (some dance clubs are free or really cheap). Or just dance in your own home.

Play sports with the family outdoors- catch, touch football, soccer, bad mitten.

Camp under a makeshift sheet tent with your kids in the living room.

Go camping back in the woods if you live near them. (Be safe!)

Play cards.

Swim in a lake, river, friend’s pool, or free public pool if they have one.

Practice yoga, Zumba, karate or some other type of developed exercises.

Play an instrument.

Play video games.

Go stargazing.

Ride a bike.

Go to a playground with the kids.

Work in your garden.

Turn off the TV and joke with your family.

Play fetch with the dog or cuddle with the cat.

Go all chef and cook a new meal for the family. Key Ingredients is an awesome website for simple, yummy recipes.

Have a little adult fun. ;)

Go fishing (this isn’t always free, but you can catch your own bait).

Write a book.

Go take photography.

Visit an art show/fair/museum.

Start a blog.

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