With all the hype out there about “cutting costs” and “being frugal” I thought I’d take some time to share with everyone just how my family of 2 (unless you count our many 4 legged children) saves money. I can’t say that we get it right all the time, or that we have everything figured out, but we manage to save a little here and there, and every little bit counts!
How My Family Saves Money
1. Eat at Home
This is a BIG one. Before we moved to Austin, my husband and I would eat out every week, and most weeks, more than once. I never thought twice about it until I did some comparisons of how much we spent at restaurants last year to this year on Bank Of America’s website. They have some great tools that can help you get a better picture of where and how you spend your money, and after taking a good look at it today, all I can say is WOW.
One way we find works for us to keep us eating at home and not wondering what we will have for dinner, is meal planning. I plan out meals for two weeks at a time, and plan for easier, or crock pot meals, on the days I work since I am usually not home until 7:30 or later. This way my husband doesn’t have to cook much–which is good for me because some of the things he makes are way too spicy for me to handle–and good for him because he isn’t one of those super husbands who likes to cook (but he’s GREAT at doing the dishes and laundry). Instead of being in a panic in the mornings and trying to think about what I can throw together in the crock pot or make sure I have all of the ingredients for something, I just consult my menu board the night before. Then I get out whatever meat I may need to thaw overnight. This also is really helpful because after working 10 hours and spending another hour in the car the last thing I want to do is plan and cook dinner.
2. Grow your own produce
This is a way you can have your own fresh, organic produce at your disposal. Many families don’t think about this as a way to save money, but if you have the right supplies, growing conditions, and the will, it can save you tons! I grow most of my vegetable garden from seeds. This year I plan to grow most of the things I buy every time I go to the store–Lettuce, Spinach, Onions, Garlic, Peppers, Tomatoes, Potatoes and some fresh herbs. I know some people think if they aren’t gifted with a green thumb naturally that there’s no way they can grow a garden. YOU CAN! Believe me, I have killed my fair share of things, and probably my husbands fair share of things as well, but I still have success. If you don’t want the hassle of growing from seed, you can buy plants from nurseries or places like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Watch for sales in the late spring and buy then!
If your garden does really well you will have way more produce than you can eat. Share with your neighbors, or look for veggie swaps where you can trade produce with others for things you didn’t grow. The rest you can freeze and preserve, helping you save money during the off season.
3. Shop the sales
This may sound like a no brainer, but this is where I save the majority of money on things we need. This not only goes for groceries, but for everything else. We recently bought a new couch, but we waited for a sale to purchase it, instead of paying regular price. This easily saved us $200! We did the same thing on the new washer we purchased a few months back and will do the same when we purchase a new dryer (soon since ours is on its way out). When I know I will be needing something along the lines of toiletries, pet food, etc I start looking for sales a few weeks ahead.
4. Stock up
This goes hand in hand with Shopping the Sales. If you find a great sale on something such as shampoo, canned goods, toothpaste or anything else that has a long shelf life and that you will actually USE, stock up on it if you can. Usual grocery and household product sales cycles are 6 weeks. This means it will be 6 more weeks until it goes on sale again. Instead of waiting until you NEED it and paying full price, stock up and get enough to last you until the next sale. A good example of this would be a sale on a certain brand of shampoo, or at the grocery stores, a certain type of meat. Since there is just the 2 of us I try not to go crazy on stock piling, but sometimes I can’t help myself if a good sale comes along 😉
5. Pay in cash for groceries
This may sound like a no brainer, but really think about it. How often do you carry cash on you? Usually you swipe your debit or credit card for purchases, and while that’s not a bad thing, I find that I am less likely to spend on impulse items at the store if I only have cash. Each month my husband and I have a set grocery budget to stick to, so I keep that much cash in an envelope. Since I shop each week for groceries, I carry 1/4 of the budget in cash with me on my trip. This way I have to pay attention to what I am putting in the cart! I am much more likely to stick to our list if I carry cash.
Other money saving tips: