View Full Version : How do you save money?

05-22-2014, 04:05 PM
So I am married and have a baby coming in a couple months, we have a few loans we are trying to pay down, and we've gotten back into that paycheck to paycheck rut. I am the only one working and I get paid well for what I do, but I think my budgeting is sloppy. I know families that live on well less than half of what we make with all the same amenities that we have and they have more mouths to feed to boot. And they do it without government assistance, so that is not the disparity. What do you all do to save money, pay loans down faster, conserve on cash, and the likes? Where do you cut corners?

Just curious. Any advice helps :)

05-22-2014, 04:29 PM
Get rid of the credit cards.

No, seriously, even if they have a balance.

It was the best thing that we did, and we're still reaping the benefits. If you have to add up, in the store, what you're buying; AND you have to actually have the cash on-hand to buy it, you will buy less every time. Sure, people might look at you weird when you pay with that old-fashioned green paper, but you will save money.

05-22-2014, 04:49 PM
There are many strategies to live within your means and save for the future while doing it, and no one method works for everyone. Here's what worked for us in a similar situation.

Don't accumulate or add to any credit card debt. The card(s) get paid off every month, in full.
Make a realistic budget and stick to it, remembering anticipated expenses like tax or insurance payments which don't come up monthly. Make sure it includes entertainment and pocket money--and when those are gone, they're gone.
Make eating out a special occasion. Cook your own meals at home--that's both of you cooking, BTW--and pack lunches. Forget fancy coffee out on a daily basis as well.
Entertain yourselves and your friends at home and in public places which are free. Have drinks and snacks at home, host a picnic at a park, go for walks, attend book readings or lectures.
Get over being trendy in your appearance or your decor. Buy the clothing and home items you need, of course, but don't indulge the wants.
Never visit a shopping destination out of boredom. Don't browse at the mall or home improvement store. Buy what you came for and get out, rather than creating wants.I could go on at length, since we've managed out money well for a long time, but try these few basics first and see how it goes.

Maryn, financially comfortable and living below her means for most of her adult life

05-22-2014, 04:50 PM
A couple of suggestions to start:

1) Create a twelve-month expense and income estimate. You can revise it every three months, or every six months. Include your typical monthly expenses, but also include categories for such things as Christmas presents, home repairs, property taxes, emergency savings, etc.

2) Create a budget that works for you. If you use Excel I can help you create a spreadsheet budget customized for you that might help. Do a budget for each month, and keep track of all your income and expenses. I find it helps to do a mid-month review (it also makes it less of a chore to close that month's budget at the end of the month).

And one more suggestion: Before you spend any money on something that is a significant expense, wait at least three days. You will probably find that after three days you don't really need whatever it is, or that it's just not worth the money. This will help to control any impulses buying that you typically do. Sure, that new fishing rod would sure be nice to have, but what much do you really need/want it? Enough to give up a couple of dinners in a nice restaurant? More than a new winter coat?

05-22-2014, 07:31 PM
Thanks for the good advice all. I am pretty good with excel so I will work up a budget with my wife and we will see where our money is going.

Day Agent
05-22-2014, 08:49 PM
I cut my spending in half by paring down to essentials. For example, I no longer buy soda's, juices or milk. At about 3 to 5 dollars a day, that's a savings of roughly 90 to 150 dollars. The somewhat expensive loose teas I buy instead cost anything up to 20 dollars per 100 grams, but a 100 grams lasts months. With a collection of several teas, totaling about 500 grams I do a year. 100 dollars versus 1080 to 1800 dollars. That's money saved, while spoiling myself with delicious teas quite contentedly.

The same pattern holds true for brand products. Most can be substituted with generics if you sample. On single purchases the difference will be small, but on yearly basis they add up. Chucking useless expenses, I spend a little of what I save on premium brands that are worth it.

The same is true for your utilities. Work out what you can trim without cutting into what you actually want. Optimize your phone and ISPs. 5 to 10 dollars a piece is still 60 to 120 dollars a year. Money better spent on something you enjoy than just forfeited.

Finally, have a look at your energy consumption. Are there any hogs you could substitute or supplement with energy efficient second hand alternatives? For example, I have one computer which is on 24/7. After I purchased a used mini-computer, which uses an adapter like a laptop rather than an internal power-block like normal PC's, and switched to energy efficient lights my energy bill dropped by 30 dollars a month.

All of these things you only need to go through once, this way. After that, you'll likely find yourself once upon a boredom checking to see if you're getting flabby and adjusting. I don't fret about it, anyway.

All in all, the biggest savings, however, came from a shift in attitude which showed up all impulse purchases rather glaringly. All those things you buy without thinking or really wanting, or to avoid the 10 minutes it would take to cook for yourself.

Admittedly, I was forced to change because debts were eating up all the rest of my money. Having found the new balance, seen the debts evaporate and being left with money at the end of each month, and freedom of fretting, I can recommend it.

05-22-2014, 11:35 PM
Make eating out a special occasion.
Cook your own meals at home - and pack lunches.
Forget fancy coffee out on a daily basis as well.

Get rid of the credit cards. It was the best thing that we did.

^ All of the above, PLUS...

Pull the plug on all the appliances and devices that you don't use every day or all the time (coffeemaker, toaster oven, TV's, lamps, etc.) Only plug them in when you use them.

Make a list and use coupons for every trip to the grocery/drug store - join websites that offer occasional coupons for food and household items (paper towels, bathroom tissue, etc.)

Sign up for "Loyalty/Customer Programs" at your favorite restaurants and other stores - I get coupons ALL the time from Outback, Ruby Tuesday, Dress Barn, DSW, etc.

I even get 10-20 cents off (per gallon) on gas as a member of my local grocery store Loyalty Club

Shop at your local Dollar Tree - I buy greeting cards, gift wrap, party supplies - even toothpaste (name brand), bubble bath and tissues at ours. ;)

05-23-2014, 12:57 AM
Those are all good, too. Party and holiday supplies are a total rip-off if you pay full price. Besides dollar stores, we also get creative, using newspaper to wrap presents and a marker to draw on bows--and on holiday celebrations which come around regularly, I buy the napkins and whatever the day after this year's. I'm set for next Easter and Christmas and St. Patrick's Day, for instance.

And of course I go through the flyers with the Sunday paper (all of them also available online) to scope out the sales. It's silly to pay full price for an item you know goes on sale every so often. Wait for it, or buy in advance. I tend to pay the most attention to drugstores and grocery stores, less to department stores, which can generate a want for something I don't need.

I thought of another one--buy new technology slowly and share the newest. We started with one smart phone, and whoever was away from the house but not at work carried it. (The people at home or work had phone and internet access already, of course.) I still don't think we both need one, but that's how it went. And of course remember that you do not need the latest technology.

Maryn, drinking tea she bought on sale when the store cleared out the "winter" flavors

05-23-2014, 01:05 AM
Do not loan money to friends or even family. I've found that's the quickest way to lose my savings. Familiar people often go slack on payments, or never pay at all because they believe the friendship cements the trust and bond. I had a niece who cleaned out my bank account of $7,000 when she learned my credit card numbers and code.

Eat Ramen and cheese and macaroni. Avoid take-out meals unless they are cheaper than planned meals.

Curb your holiday spending.


05-23-2014, 01:12 AM
Thanks for the good advice all. I am pretty good with excel so I will work up a budget with my wife and we will see where our money is going.

I have one that works well for me. I'd be glad to send you a blank copy if you'd like something to start with (you might have to tinkle with it to make it work for you). If you do, send me your e-mail address by private message.

Mine is slightly different than most budgets you'll see. I have it set up to do a mid-month review around the 15th of the month. I put all expenses and income up to that point in to the spreadsheet, then I estimate the same for the remainder of the month. I will sometimes see that I need to delay or cut some expenses to meet my budget for the month. At the end of the month I put in all expenses and income from the 15th to the end of the month (the spreadsheet does most of the work, so I don't have to duplicate any entries).