Three years ago this very week we had a major shift in our finances~we became self-employed. Accordingly, we made some major spending adjustments. Lately I've been reflecting on some of the things we've learned and how we've grown in ways to make a dollar stretch. It's been a great (while not always fun) learning experience. We definitely have a better understanding of the value of a dollar.
Some of the ways we have saved:
- Menu Planning: I had already begun to do this when our circumstances changed, but I began to do it even more in earnest. Because here's the deal: if you have a plan you're more likely not to do something else. In this case, that means not eating out as much. No more of the 4pm panic attack, "what are we going to eat for dinner?!" Now that's not to say that once in a while you've had one of those days and you just need to skip the plan and head out for the night, but that's the exception and not the rule. Menu planning has become a habit I can't break! I can't even begin to say how many $$ this has saved us.
- Frugal Grocery Shopping: This goes hand-in-hand with menu planning. I always start my plan with what's already in my pantry, so I'm not just grabbing random recipes and starting from scratch on the shopping. That doesn't really save you money. But looking at your pantry and creating your meal plans by incorporating items you already have can really keep your grocery costs down. I also use some coupons (although I am not an extreme couponer), shop at stores like Aldi and buy store brands. Before 3 years ago my weekly grocery/toiletry budget was $125. By using the methods I've mentioned our weekly average grocery/toiletry reciepts total around $60. If you multiply that by 52 weeks in a year that is a savings of $3380 per year!! Unbelieveable!!
- Homemade Laundry Soap: Until just over a year ago, I would purchase a box of Arm & Hammer powdered laundry soap about every 3-4 weeks for our laundry. I had ditched fabric softener long before due to Mr. B's sensitive skin. Now, Arm & Hammer is one of the most affordable brands coming in at around $5-$6 for a medium-sized box (if I'm remembering correctly). However, if you're buying that every 3 weeks that's $102 per year on laundry soap. A year ago at the beginning of February 2010 I purchased the ingredients for homemade laundry soap, which cost me about $8, including the cost of the bucket. Since then the only purchase I've made has been a 3-pack of Ivory soap, which was about $1. So that's a savings of $93 per year!!
- Gardening: This is our 3rd year to have a garden and we learn something new every year. I'm loving it, but it is a challenge! The first year we started small with tomatoes, bell peppers and jalpenos. We actually had a fairly good little harvest, too. It was amazingly fun to go in the backyard and pick something then eat it for dinner! Last year we didn't do so well, the weather was so hot that the plants wouldn't produce, they were in survival mode. This year is looking GREAT so far! I'm really excited about harvesting corn, zucchini, summer squash, cucumber, tomatoes and onions~plus an herb or two. I really don't know just how much money this saves us, but I know that produce prices are skyrocketing and it is going to be so wonderful to cut that grocery bill even more by eating straight from the backyard!
- Doing My Own Hair: Now I don't claim that this is the easiest thing I've ever done and some may say that it's not even necessary. However, I discovered my first gray hair at age 16 and now I have so many that there's probably more gray than anything else (I blame bad genes!). And seeing that I'm not quite 40~not yet anyway~I'm just not ready for a head full of gray hair. Before the extra tight budget I was getting my hair highlighted about every three months (needed to be every two, really). When I made the decision to take on that job myself, I decided to just go darker rather than try to highlight~which is way more involved than I'm authorized to do. I won't claim that I haven't had some mistakes: such as my first try which resulted in lavender hair. Or the time recently when I *tried* to highlight and turned it a nasty orange. Thank goodness for a sister who is well-acquainted with Sally's Beauty Supply! But going from paying at least $65 every three months to paying about $7 per month to do my own has been so worth it. That's a savings of roughly $528 over the past 3 years!! Amazing, isn't it?
There are lots of other little ways that we save $$, but those are my top 5.
What are your top ways to save? I'd love to hear!