I am not a financial advisor or a money guru. I am, however, a business owner with a stay-at-home partner, so we have to be fiscally responsible since we live on one income.
I rely on the following practices to cut spending and save money. I am not a paid promoter of any of the brands I mention. These are real life tips I use to ensure I can pay for anything my kiddo wants to do (within reason).
- Just don’t buy it.
You don’t need it. Those shoes. That fancy coffee. That sports jersey. Additional holiday décor. You don’t need it. Learn to “make due without.”
This took me years to conquer. But now, for example, I am down to five pairs of shoes. I wear them as long as possible and then I replace that one single pair as they wear out.
I do this with everything in my life – EXCEPT earrings. I have an addiction, but when I want to buy more I…
- Sit on it.
No impulse buying. Not even for Coraline. Kevin and I have the “you don’t buy toys every time you go to the store” down to a science.
If I want something, like UFO earrings that are sucking up a cow in their light beam, I sit on it. I leave the store without them or I put them in an online shopping cart. I give it DAYS. Plural. Sometimes weeks.
Nine times out of 10, I forget, or I realize that I would rather save that money. When you do this constantly, those dollars add up.
- Find the cheapest, best quality version.
I have probably turned scouring the internet for the least expensive, best quality items into a sport. If I am looking for something as simple as doorknobs (because Coraline enjoys the lock mechanism too much on our 1950s glass door knobs with no key), I only shop for things with four or more stars, and I sort my list lowest price first.
Many times, I have found the exact same item for half off at another retailer. If you’re searching on Amazon or another website, search the company that made the item and see if their pricing is less. It is sometimes, and with free shipping, too!
- Thrift it and hand-me-downs.
Where do we buy a ton of stuff for Coraline? Once Upon a Child. We also visit Community Aid, Goodwill, and Salvation Army.
We are huge proponents of hand-me-downs. Not only is it helpful for the environment (less trash, less production), but it’s free. Huge shout to Alicia and Vincent for always passing things along to us! Once we are done with them, we pass them along, too, and keep the free circle going.
- Join a wholesale club.
We will never stop having to go to the bathroom, so save money on wiping by getting a membership to Costco and/or BJs. It’s less than $100/year, and you save more than that on “needs” alone.
While you’re there for your TP and other NECESSARY items, remember my top two tips: Do not impulse purchase. If you want it, sit on it until your next shopping trip and evaluate whether you need it or not.
- Make your food.
Full disclaimer: I do not make the food in our home. Kevin loves to cook, and he is excellent at it. However, everything you eat out of the house, you can make at home for less money.
Love McDonald’s McChickens? Buy cheap white buns, the cheapest frozen chicken patties, a head of lettuce and the cheapest possible mayonnaise. Instead of your McChicken being $1-$2 depending on the time of year/sales season, it’s now (and I priced this out while at Giant) $.87 per McChicken.
Plus, you save gas, the time of waiting in line, the potential bad customer service, and $0.13-$1.13 per sandwich. I get that it doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you’re doing this with every single meal, it adds up.
Our food budget is drastically lower than the average American’s, and we eat premium food. It’s not because we don’t “treat ourselves” – we just treat ourselves at home vs. eating out.
- Ask yourself why you want to buy something.
If you are buying things because you are sad and it gives you a temporary moment of happiness, those purchases are not a permanent fix. Take a really hard look at your life and find out what is making you sad.
Whether it’s with a therapist (highly recommend) or a DIY Google search and implementation, take the time to DO THE WORK. Dedicate time in your calendar every day to better mental health.
Not only will it lower your spending, you will be sending an excellent message to your kids to lower materialistic wants and help them improve their mental health as well.
- Find free or low-cost hobbies.
First, exercise. With the advent of YouTube and their thousands (millions?) of free, fun exercise videos, you can stay busy. I also highly recommend walking – which is just as effective as running for mood-boosting and heart-helping. (Proof here!) You don’t need to break a sweat for this free hobby (unless it’s outdoors during a humid part of summer).
Other low-cost hobbies I engage in: playing my guitar (purchased eight years ago), writing music, hanging out with friends, playing at home with my kid (I argue this IS a hobby), painting, crafts for kids and adults, and playing video games I rent from the library. Find what works for you, and do it!
- Spend well below your means.
What I make and what we spend every month has a giant gap. We don’t spend below our means, we spend way below our means.
Kevin and I moved to Central PA in 2011, and we were working with about $32,000 a year for two people. Our date nights were rare and usually consisted of the $8 large cheese pizza special and $1 pints at Midtown Pizza in Middletown, which was within walking distance from our first apartment.
We adhered to Rule #1 most of all (just don’t buy it), and we found that we were able to live a happy existence without the need for more and more stuff. We were conditioned to be budget-conscious because we had to be, but now we are responsible because we want to be.
- Ask for help.
If you can’t handle it on your own, and your budget is out of control, ask for help. You can DIY it through Googling and then implementing the strategies (i.e. all the tips in my article here), but you can also find free resources in your area. Libraries, workforce development centers, and many nonprofits have free budgeting classes.
If you need one-on-one help, hire a money coach – someone who is trained to help you personally based on your needs. You can also ask a skilled friend to work with you on your budget and savings.
But here is the big takeaway: Just like everything you want in life, you have to do the work. If you want your budget to look better, you have to spend the time working on it. The other big takeaway: Be patient. It takes a long time to make a change, so this journey might take awhile. Patience and persistence will benefit you wildly in your financial pursuits.
I have financial advisors and money coaches in my circle of friends. If you need a trusted recommendation for a professional who will look out for your best interests, let me know, and I will send you people I know, like, and trust.
Good luck and Godspeed!