As a one-income family, we are always looking for ways to save money; we have a tight budget and it’s nice to have some extra money at the end of the month. Life doesn’t always work out the way we want, and although I have a budget, we can’t always stick to it for one reason or another but we make it work month after month (we try to stay as close to the budget as possible). And thanks to God, we now have enough savings to cover us for a few months if I were to lose my job.
There are a few things we do to save money around the house and when we go out to have fun as a family. And I’d like to share them with you. If you are trying to save money, I’m fairly certain that you’ve read some, if not all, of these tips before because they do work.
One thing I would like to point out is to not only read tips (about saving money or anything else you are trying to accomplish) but also to implement them in your life. You don’t have to do them all, or all at once, but if you slowly add them to your daily life, you will see such a great improvement in what you are trying to change.
I would also like to tell you about Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover” book. It’s an excellent book to read and, more importantly, it’s full of tips and directions on how to save money. And if you have debt, this is a great resource because it shows you step-by-step on what you have to do to get out of debt. I’m so glad we don’t have any debt, and that is also possible for you. The only debt my husband and I had when we got married, it was a car that I was paying off. After paying it off, we were (and have been) debt free and it’s such a great feeling knowing that we don’t own money to anybody.
Now for what you were waiting for, here are my 5 tips to save money:
- Have a budget – I’m sure you saw this one coming since I’ve been talking about a budget but if you are trying to save money you first need to know where it is going. A budget answers one simple question: how do you spend your money? There are different types of expenses, those that are necessary such as rent/mortgage (if you have any), electricity, water (if you don’t have a well), insurance, groceries, etc. And there are those that are not really necessary but most of us have them as luxuries, such as internet, satellite/cable TV, cell phone, etc. You get the idea. I talked about our family budget in this post (it’s a work in progress but you can use it as an example).
- Plan your groceries – For most of us, groceries are the second biggest expense (first would be rent/mortgage) and thus it makes sense to have more control over this category. My recommendation is to always make a plan before going grocery shopping. Have a list that contains all the items you need and only buy those items, nothing more. But to make your grocery list, you will need to know what you will be cooking for the week and so you need to make a meal plan that includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the entire family for 7 days. Yes, it includes a little or a lot of planning depending on where you are starting but if you don’t already do meal plans, you will definitely see a lot of savings here. And just to clarify, this means no going out to eat – or maybe go out to eat just once a week, but eat at your house the rest of the week, pack lunch to work, drink water and stop going to the grocery store or gas station every day.
- Change habits – There are certain things we do that are causing us to spend more money than necessary. The obvious expensive habits are smoking and drinking alcohol; you can lose a lot of money here and they can be very harmful for your health too. But there are also non too obvious habits, such as your daily Starbucks coffee (and doughnut), or going to the movies every weekend, or doing your hair/nails once a week. I think you get the idea. I learned how to cut my husband’s hair and my own hair; and my husband cuts our son’s hair. I also wax my legs at home (well my husband learned how to do this for me) and we do our own pedicures and manicures. These don’t seem like huge expenses, but when you add them up for your entire family over a course of multiple years, you can see how they add up. You have to analyze everything you do on a daily or weekly basis that requires you to spend money and see what you can cut out. Or see how you can replace the habit with a less expensive option. Or learn how to do it yourself, which brings me to my next tip.
- DIY – Yes, doing-it-yourself can save you money (most of the time). Do you really need to hire someone to mow your lawn? Or do an oil change? I understand that sometimes we don’t have time to get to everything that needs to be done around the house but if you can do it, find a couple of hours a month to get to it and save that money for something more important. Here again you have to analyze what you can do on your own that you’ve been paying someone else to do. I do want to add a warning here, I know there are a lot of DIY enthusiasts out there that are not afraid of a challenge. But if a project is going to cost you more if you do it yourself rather than if you hire someone to do it, then don’t do it. For example, if you need to fix something in your car that requires a special tool that you would need to buy but you won’t ever use it again, and it’s really expensive, then ask for quotes and see what would be less expensive, a DIY or hiring a professional.
- Low cost or free family activities – And last but not least, find low cost or even free activities you can do with your family. Go outside and play in the yard. My children love to be outside, and they get so creative that we sometimes just need to watch them to make sure they don’t get into trouble. We have also identified at least 5 free parks within 15 minutes of our house; some of them have games such as swings, see-saws, slides, and some of them are more for sight-seeing, walking and biking. I know that not everybody has this option, but we also go to the mall or stores to just walk around and distract ourselves. At a mall nearby, there is a small merry-go-round that costs $2.50 per ride and my children love this treat. We try to limit this because it’s $5.00 and it can add up but it’s fun for them. We also got a membership at our local Museum of Life and Science together with my sister, so it was half the price for us. We get unlimited access to their activities all-year round. Make a list of things you can do with your family, close to your house, so that you don’t have to spend so much money on gas. It is possible.
I have only talked about 5 things you can do to save money, but there are many, many more ways. If you have a Pinterest account, look at the tips there; it’s full of ideas. And remember not to only read about the ideas, but implement those that have the most impact on your life so you can start seeing a change immediately.
Also, there are things that we do that may not apply to your family. You have to look at how you and your family spend your money and find ways to cut back on those expenses. Be creative with what you do and make sure to include your entire family. Tell everyone why you are trying to save money, or come up with a goal together. This will keep you motivated throughout your endeavor. Best of luck to you and I hope to hear ways your family saves money!