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My Top 5 Ways to Save $$

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:
  1. 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.

  2. 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!!

  3. 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!!

  4. 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!

  5. 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!


Connie Carr said…
My family and I, along with some friends and their kids, went to Arkansas to see the Duggars. (Michelle is an aunt to the friends that we went with) Now the Duggars know how to strech a dollar :) Their daughter, Ginger, made tacos one night and I noticed there was not a lot of meat for all the people there. But after the meat was cooked she added it to chili beans, some of which she had mashed. That made the meat go further plus it gave it a great flavor! I have done this myself and was impressed that I did not need that much meat. We also go to thrift stores. This saves a lot of $$$. The stores are great for boy's clothes because boys are so hard on clothes, we live on a farm, and it does not bother me as much to let them play in the dirt when the clothes don't cost that much.
Those are great ideas! I love to use my leftovers in creative ways, too. I usually have a *soup shelf* in my freezer where I've got bits of leftover veggies, etc. and I add them to soups or casseroles as needed. And we have been shopping used clothing for the kiddos since my oldest was born! We usually hit the big children's consignment sales 2x a year and stock up for each season.
Mavis D. said…
I'd like to add two things:

We minimize on clothing. The boys have two "nice" pair of pants with about 5 "nice" shirts. The rest is for play and around the house. It really keeps the clutter down and the costs down. We do the same for the girls in the family but it's a little more challenging.

Another thing we do...since there are so many "boys" in our family, I learned to cut hair a long time ago. I have a hubby who was willing to endure a few bad haircuts until I got it right. The boys started out with "burr" haircuts until I learned to cut their hair. Figure 5 heads multiplied by $10 per cut SEVERAL times a year...that's a lot of money saved!
Lori said…
Ok, so I am frugal at the store and already plan my menus, but I have never made my own laundry soap. I read your blog on it and I am afraid I will mess it up, but it's so cheap that I am sure a messed up batch or two will be all it will take for me to get it. I can't wait to try it! Now...where do you get the washing powder, borax and naptha soap? Off to find out! Thanks so much!

Hi, Lori,

I found the washing powder, Borax and Fels Naptha all on the laundry aisle of our local grocery store. I think it's also available at hardware stores. I hope yours turns out well~it's really easy, so I'm sure you'll do fine!

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