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


  1. says

    Oh how funny. I did a budget post as well this morning. Strangely, with a lot of the same things.

    A couple other things we implemented just this month were not to buy unnecessary groceries until we cleaned out the pantry/fridge/freezer. We’ve had some interesting and delicious new dinners.

    This past weekend we cleaned out our closet, trying on every single item. We found stuff we had forgotten about, found new ways to wear things and in fact, got rid of a lot – we also started a clothes swap with some friends.

    • YoungHouseLove says

      That’s so funny Cindy! We really enjoyed your post- thanks for the link! We must all have budget on the brain these days. Great minds think alike- and love to save their pennies!


  2. says

    Loving this post and all the helpful comments! We do the veggies and brown rice thing once a week, too. I also use coupons, we grow some veggies and herbs, and we just started composting which in the future will save money on soil, since we garden a lot.

  3. says

    Great post! My husband and I are also proud penny-pinchers, and we love to hear new ideas. One of the areas we have trouble with is eating out. We like to cook, but we also work hard at our jobs and a couple times a week we like to let others do the work for us. Some of the ways we’ve made it easier on our wallets are:

    – Join the email list for restaurants in the area. They alert us to new deals and coupons.
    – Learn the local happy hours. Many restaurants have 1/2 priced appetizers during certain hours.
    – Split meals. Although this cuts back on one of my favorite things about restaurant food (leftovers!), cutting $10-$15 off the bill makes it worth it!

    Happy thrifting!

  4. says

    A great money saving meal is rice and beans. Make your rice, heat up a can of black beans, add some salsa and a little sour cream, and viola, yumminess!

  5. says

    I have a large garden so I prep freeze frozen veggie mixes, sauces and herbs throughout the year. We eat 100% organic so it really helps cut down on a large grocery budget. The rest of our food is bought in bulk. We eat almost no processed food so that helps as well.

    Our cheap go-to meals are veggies over brown rice, black bean burgers (so easy to make at home), lentil stews and veggie pastas. Meal planning also goes a long way. I menu plan and shop on Sundays and Wednesdays. All the meal possibilities go on the fridge and we choose what we’ll be having that evening. We call it the fridge menu. Having choices makes it much more fun! I think our overall biggest dollar saver is being vegetarian. It allows us to eat organic and local while still being able to pay the bills, lol. I’m also cooking a lot more vegan food this year.

    Oh, and if you drink a lot of wine, find something you like and buy it by the case! The local organic table wine we like is so much cheaper when we buy it in bulk.

  6. Brittany says

    For those who enjoy new media try and I traded books I’ve already read for ones I’d like to read and have some new cds to put on my iPod.

  7. says

    I really enjoyed this post. We certainly strive to save as much as we can! We do one date day a month and try to keep it around $40. We get to do so many things on $40 because we go to museums, or botanical gardens, lake, or window shopping.

    We also recently started organizing for others and have managed to save money with that side job. My goal is to grow this little business–I really enjoy to organize and love to see the look in people’s faces when they see their new and impoved closet!

  8. RIC to DC says

    These are all wonderful! Two suggestions:

    When the mood to eat out DOES strike, we use Pop in your zip code, and they list all the restaurants in your area for which you can purchase discounted gift certificates. Last week, I went to and spent $5 for a $25 GC. Sometimes, $10 GC’s are as cheap as $0.60! Be sure to read the fine print (whether the GC includes alcohol, prohibited days of use, etc.). Regardless, they are always well worth the purchase and save us lots of dough when we’re out and about

    Secondly, I always always always Google for online coupons before I make an Internet purchase. I snagged a Coupon Cabin discount code for that gift cert I bought — the original price for the $25 GC (to Cous Cous in Richmond…yum!) was $10. With a 50% off code, it dropped the price to $5. Not bad!

    • YoungHouseLove says

      You guys are seriously blowing us away with your money saving tips! Thanks so much for chiming in and keep it coming!


  9. says

    The garden really does save a ton of money if you are a big produce-eater. Last summer I had a vegetable garden for the first time and did not buy a single bell pepper, cucumber (two things I eat raw more or less every day) or tomato (staple in my summer meal plans) between June and August. I also grew enough basil to make several batches of pesto, which can be expensive to make when you have to buy everything. Plus it all tastes DELICIOUS.

  10. Jen says

    We try to be pretty frugal, and we’re lucky because I’m a nanny and the family loves when we stay for dinner (I cook, so it saves me from going home and making another meal). So 5 nights out of the week, we get to eat for free! It really saves on our grocery bill. I also shower and run on the treadmill at their house while the boy I take care of is at school, saving us money on our water bill and saving me from joining a gym!

    I also use (which someone already mentioned) and if you look for codes, you can usually get a $25 for much less than the $10 listed (I recently got some for $3 apiece!!).

    I hardly ever buy anything without a coupon, I use to find coupon codes for every site. Plus, I use ebates to get cash back on the purchases I’m making anyways!

    I also use – since I love to read it saves me from buying a lot of books, and I can get rid of ones I no longer want so they aren’t cluttering up my home!

    Great post. :)

  11. says

    I am so glad you mentioned the Netflix thing. We are downgrading our Netflix because DH is the only one who has been religiously watching his movies lately. I also requested an energy “audit” from our gas company after our gas bill went up despite our efforts to bundle up more and use the heater less.

    I also use coupons religiously at the grocery store and don’t ever buy things when they are on sale. I keep a running tally in my head at the store as well, more mental exercise that I’d prefer but it helps me to be conscious of what I am buying. If this roast is going to push my total from $55 to $65, do I really need it or can it wait until next week? I also then make “whole dollar” purchases, rounding up my total and never spending the change. The change goes into a jar at home and that gets to be the “fun” money for a pedicure (necessary now that I am too pregnant to reach my toes and do it myself!), a movie out, or inexpensive take-out.

  12. Tarah says

    We frequently make our own pasta, which turns a $1 kind of boring spaghetti night into something special and fun to do together. It takes less than 5 minutes to mix it up in a food processor, then roll it out with a pasta roller.

  13. Tina says

    My kids love breakfast for dinner! We now have it every Thursday. I would be very happy with just scrambled eggs and toast, but hubby wants bacon. So if he wants it he has to go get it and make it. Ha. We also have spaghetti about once a week. Being italian, it’s not really a sacrifice, it’s a necessity.

  14. Rachel says

    I limit my dinner item purchases to ten items per week. Not only is grocery shopping much quicker, less food gets wasted.

    Last year we canceled our cable, stopped renting a DVR from the cable company, and bought a Tivo instead.

    Each week we both get a cash allowance to spend as we choose. This has really cut on all those misc. credit card purchases that can really start to add up.

    These changes, along with several others, enabled us to start depositing my paychecks in a separate savings account, and living off my husband’s paycheck. All the little savings have added up to some awesome and indulgent vacations and bigger purchases.

  15. Amy A. says

    One tip from an ex-911 dispatcher…make sure if you get rid of your land line…keep a phone plugged in even if you don’t pay for service (and do a 911 test call to verify with the police dept. that your correct address pops up on their screen). This is important for reverse 911 too.

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