Save It, Part 2: How We’re Lowering Our Bills & Saving Money

After more than a few requests, we’re back to share a few more cheapo tips for keeping money in your wallet. We dished out a bunch of moolah saving tips here a while back, and also posted about paring down and keeping things simple (which also helps beef up the ol’ bank balance). And since we still can’t help but cling to our pennies (and cross our fingers before we open our Target bill), we thought sharing a few more of the things that save us the most loot might help you guys too. Here we go…

Cheapola Tip #1- Dollar Dinners. We eat at home almost every night of the week, but there’s always room for improvement when it comes to the grocery store checkout counter. Inspiration struck when I was reminiscing about how cheaply I lived back in my NYC dorm days (surviving mainly on microwave soft pretzels and the ever popular fifty cent bag of Ramen Noodles). I certainly didn’t wanna go back to that, but I could take inspiration from my one dollar dinners or yore and devote one night to eating a super simple dish that literally costs around a buck. Now at least once a week we enjoy spaghetti night. What’s on the menu? Angel hair & pasta sauce. That’s it. No side salad, no shrimp, no vodka sauce, no meatballs. Since it’s just one day a week it hardly seems like a punishment (and we’re sure to get our veggies at lunch). In fact it’s kinda fun. And now our bag of shrimp stretches a little further and we purchase less chopped meat than we used to. For extra credit we just might add vegetables with brown rice to the weekly agenda (a frozen bag of veggies + some rice= a whole lotta savings over time).

Cheapola Tip #2- Post Your Goals. I actually read about this super inspirational idea in this month’s Women’s Health: keep your credit cards in an envelope and write your financial goals on the outside. My adaptation of it was to stick a post-it note in my wallet on top of the slots that hold my credit cards so I’m forced to read it before I whip out my cards. Penning things like “pay off the house in ten years” and “save up for an organic mattress” really keeps purchases in perspective- and nips any unnecessary spending in the bud.

Cheapola Tip #3- Go For Four. Four days a week (usually Monday-Thursday) John and I make a conscious effort not to spend a cent. We actually heard Suze Orman encouraging people to go one day a week without spending a penny (no morning paper, no Starbucks coffee, no nothing) but for two seasoned cheapskates like us, we thought we could try for four. The majority of our errand running is done on the weekend, so it’s really not that hard. John takes the two-minute-longer-toll-free route to work, we read the news online instead of buying a paper, and we both eat homemade breakfasts, lunches (John brown bags his) and dinners. We also limit our trips on those days so we’re not tempted to break the rules and we also occasionally pick up something on the weekend to keep us motivated (like a $2 box of chai tea that we can make at home all week to keep the Starbucks withdrawl at bay).

Cheapola Tip #4- DIY One Thing. Anything from the aforementioned homemade chai to doing your own nails counts. As long as you’re taking on one thing you used to pay someone to do for ya, you’re officially DIYing your way to some serious savings. Other ideas: wash your own car, make your own face mask with kitchen ingredients, get books and movies for free at the library, or even whip up your own cleaning products.

Cheapola Tip #5- Save The Date. They say the best things in life are free, and I think that’s especially true when it comes to date night. Commit to one free date with your man once a week. Not only will it keep you busy (and keep cash in your wallet) it will genuinely make you both feel great. We love to go for long walks, hikes, and bike rides or tour a free landmark, museum or gallery. Other ideas: hit up garage sales or open houses just to browse, spend an afternoon reading at Barnes & Noble, listen to music and play your favorite board game or spend the night in your guest room- it’s like a vacation at home.

Cheapola Tip #6- Break Out The Magnifying Glass. Take a good look at everything that you spend money on and think twice about it. There are certainly lots of bills that will pass inspection, but you just might realize that you’re hardly getting your money out of Netflix these days (movies go unwatched for weeks) or that you no longer need your landline (now that you have your cell). And while you’re at it, you just might find that consolidating your cell phones to a family plan or sweet talking the cable company will really end up saving you a bundle.

Cheapola Tip #7– Grow Your Own. Save some dough this planting season by starting herbs, veggies and flowers from seeds. You’ll get a garden full of basil for the price of one serving at the supermarket. And a gorgeous floral cutting garden for less than the cost of one bouquet. Click here for a simple seed starting tutorial.

Now it’s your turn! We’d love to hear your penny pinching tips and tricks. Share and share alike.

For another great money saving strategy check out the envelope system here and here on Imperfect

Comments

  1. says

    Great post! there are definitely easy ways to save money in this post. I’m a firm believer in packing a lunch every day. It’s cheaper and healthier!

  2. says

    Thanks for the new ideas! I’m looking forward to the seed lesson! I have always wanted to have my own herb garden, but I think the word “garden” scares me!! :-)

    I just ate a left-overs lunch that looked a lot like that picture of spaghetti! Budget, budget, budget… we just started doing this in the fall when we took a Dave Ramsey class. So, before the paychecks come in, every dollar is told where to go before we get the money… X amount to mortgage, X to home decor, X to savings, X to food, etc. So, we decide ahead of time how to spend money and have stopped using credit cards. It helps avoid buying things we do not need, and encourages us to plan and save for items to want.

  3. says

    seriously- I wrapped my credit cards in post-its for the longest time. literally having to unwrap my card before I swiped every time made me think twice about my purchases…

  4. Emily says

    To avoid owning two cars, I bike to work or take public transportation. My husband can’t take public transport to work (plus, he does daycare dropoff and pick up). This saves us tons of money. It’s a pain, many mornings, to bear the freezing cold walk to the subway (it’s about a 20 min walk each way) but I try to remind myself of the good I’m doing for wallet and earth. When the time changes and the weather warms up a bit I hop on my bike, accomplishing both my work out (it’s a bit over 7 miles each way) and my commute in one swoop. I’m the mom of a toddler so it’s even better since my time in the mornings and evenings really doesn’t hold space for a work out. Luckily, there are showers at my work so I bathe and get dressed when I arrive.

    In 2009, I resolved not to purchase a stitch of clothing outside of socks and undergarments. While it’s looking as if I may have to purchase one new pair of sneakers, so far, I’ve kept to it. I do have some saved up gift certificates that I am allowing myself to use. This weekend I went to Anthropologie with the idea of buying one small thing. Nothing seemed worthy of spending my gc’s on so I abstained.

  5. says

    Wow! What a great list! I love that you listed some fresh new ideas in addition to the old stand-bys. Personally, we also brown-bag it to work and eat dinner at home. Menu-planning each week and shopping sales with coupons at the grocery store saves big money on the food budget. My husband drives an older, paid-for car to eliminate a car payment and lower insurance costs.

    I think the biggest thing is adopting the attitude that saving money and being frugal is not a bad thing or going “without”, its working towards your goals (i.e. what you really want!).

  6. christel says

    How about taking the plunge and saying to myself “do I really need to mortgage a new lamp?” And remember “If you can’t pay cash, you have no business buying it.” ********Credit Card Free, 14 months and counting!!

  7. christel says

    I am a mega penny pincher. I will list some of daily dutes and hopefully save someone a dollar or two!

    – No paper towels or any paper goods for that matter. I use dishtowels and throw them straight into the washer when needed. And this means I get to have cute cloth napkins!

    -Go to a discount store 1st. They might have the perfect storage bin for 1/2 the cost.

    -Don’t buy anything without a coupon! This can be hard but once you start doing it you will feel guilty when you purchase something for the whole price. Go to a stores website to check out discounts before you head out shopping!

    Lowes has a %10 off coupon online always.

    HobbyLobby has a %40 off coupon online at all times as well.

  8. JR says

    I have a shopping bug, where sometimes I just crave something new. I decided to “shop” in my closet, and for the past 2 weeks I have been wearing things that I haven’t worn in months or years! It is so fun!

    Also, when the bug is irresistible, I find that going to the nearby thrift store with $10-$20 is just as satisfying (if not more), and I can come home with a bundle of goodies!

  9. Emily says

    I’m convinced that a well stocked spice cabinet (and a fairly adventurous palate) is the key to cheap yummy cooking. We no longer buy any spice packets or jars of tomato sauce. It’s easy enough to find a recipe for homemade taco sauce and you can use up a bunch of celery in a homemade marinara sauce or stock. I am usually too lazy for homemade stock, but it’s basically made from scraps (bones, shrimp shells, leftover veggies, ends of asparagus, etc) and water, and freezes well. I’ve heard you can even make it in a crock pot.

    When we want to socialize, we have friends over for dinner. We make something relatively easy and ask friends to bring a bottle of wine. Much less expensive than going out and often more fun.

    Thanks for these goal guidelines. Really helpful!

  10. says

    Great tips. I wanted to mention http://www.redbox.com This is a movie rental vending machine. Not sure you have this in your area, but we have it in the St Petersburg/Tampa FL area and it’s great. 99 cents a night for a current movie. It’s great. Somehow paying only 99 cents to watch a movie turns into a movie date night on the seriously cheap. I pop a batch of homemade popcorn and make some homemade iced coffee’s and we are living it up for very cheap. We usually pile a ton of pillows on the living room floor, move the coffee table out of the way and get super comfy. The movies rent for 99 cents a night so if you don’t take it back..it can add up…but because I’m all about getting a bargain I always return the movie within 24 hours to avoid another 99 cent charge.

    I’ve also started to trade books, movies, dvd’s, musical CD’s with all of my friends. We meet up on Sunday afternoon to do a massive swap. This way if someone does buy an item we all get to benefit from it. IE: My CD purchase benefits 5 other familys. A DVD..the same. Paying for one book and reading 5…that’s a win/win situation. Also…we often meet up on Sunday afternoon and share drinks at someone’s house. It’s a great excuse to have a cocktail at home.

  11. says

    My husband and I are extremely frugal as well, so we do nearly, if not all, all the tips you listed.

    I am in charge of grocery shopping and I cut costs by buying fresh ingredients (fresh veggies, fruits). They are so much cheaper than packaged TV dinners and other instant meals. Not to mention that they are a lot healthier. I buy meat and fish in bulk.

    I always use coupons. I can get boxes of cereal for as low as $.50 each by using coupons. Sometimes I get stuff for free with coupons.

    Good post Sherry! I really like learning about how people save money!

  12. says

    Ohhh one last thing. My co-workers and I swap out magazines. So I buy one magazine and get to read 8. We simply place all the magazines in a bin on someone’s desk and we all rummage through and read all the great magazines for the month. It feels good to share.

  13. Jennifer says

    Thanks for the great ideas! They’ll definitely be put into action at our little casa as well.

    I’m a vegetarian, and my hubby rarely eats meat either. Not only is a vegetarian diet cheaper, but it’s healthy and better for the planet considering all of the resources and fossil fuels that go into making your cheeseburger or steak. Even if you can’t go all-out-veg, cutting down on meat and dairy products saves money.

    I also keep a one-cup coffee maker on my desk at work (about $20 at Target.com). So when my coworkers go for an obligatory afternoon Starbucks run, I can opt-out without sacrificing a fresh cup of coffee.

  14. JB says

    Thanks so much for this post! It is nice to see another couple in their 20’s promoting being cheapskates. :) You can live richly without spending alot of money. I started clipping coupons recently and combine them w/ store sales. Out of this world savings! I also make my own household cleaners. Cheap to do and great for the environment and your family’s health.

  15. Molly says

    My hubby started making his coffee at home the night before instead of driving to Starbucks in the morning. It also encouraged him to start his half caf half decaf drink to cut back on his caffeine intake. Anyways, it’s saved us lots per week. And, it’s more fun for him when he does happen to swing in and grab a coffee drink at Starbucks (birthdays, end of long week, etc) since he’s not having them daily.

    AND, I’ve started making muffins by the dozens (especially when ingredients or boxes are on sale) and freezing them. 30 seconds in the microwave and they are ready to go in hand when he heads out the door. That’s more of a time saver than a penny saver, but it kind of goes along with the coffee thing.