Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ways we [Try to] Save

It's hard to believe it's been more than three months since we moved out of the city and into our suburban home. While we're still spending extra money these days attempting to turn this house into our home, and having accumulated a few additional bills (hello oil heat, ugh), I've been doing my best to curb our excess spending.

Since I started reading blogs a few years ago, I've always appreciated reading how others find ways to save on the day to day stuff, so I thought I'd share mine. I realize that many of these seem obvious, maybe you'll learn something new, maybe you won't. But if you have a better way to save, I hope you share it in the comments (please).

1. Make your own coffee. This is a no brainer really. It's something we struggle with in the summer when iced coffee is a must but now that the cooler weather has hit, we've made the switch to hot coffee in the mornings. I found our favorite Starbucks coffee on sale for $6.99 recently so I stocked up. One bag typically lasts us 2 weeks. So $7.00 for 2 weeks or $5/morning for 2 coffees..... savings of $43 every two weeks...

2. Bring your lunch. Another easy one. But it is so true. The cheapest lunch spot around my office will still cost me about $8/day. I'm partial to turkey and even if I get 3/4 lb of Boars Head turkey, it's about $6.50 and lasts me the whole week. I typically buy a 1/2 lb of cheese to have in the house too, for about $4. Since we always keep bread and condiments in the fridge, I'm not adding those prices in here. Buying lunch each day will run me $40/week and bringing my own, $10.50/week....weekly savings of $29.50.

3. Shop the sales. This is something I picked up from reading another blog and makes total sense. J and I aren't picky eaters. We don't have any diet restrictions. And frankly, we like to mix things up. So instead of buying the same things each week or planning out every meal, I tend to just write meat, green veggies, fruit, etc on my list and check out what the weekly sales are. I don't know the last time I bought grapes but for $.88/lb this week, they were the fruit of choice. Pork chops were on sale this week too. Two pork chops for less than $5, sounds good to me. Greek yogurt is another one - there is almost always at least one brand on sale 10/$10 (no, you do not need to buy 10).

4. Buy in bulk - and store smartly. Piggy-backing #3, sometimes the sales are for bulk items, especially for meat. So if you can, stock up. When we bought our first place a few years ago, my mom gifted us the Foodsaver (similar). And this kitchen gadget is totally worth the price tag! By buying a family pack of chicken breasts this past week, I saved $11, and now have plenty of individually, vacuum sealed chicken breasts in our freezer to let thaw any day and cook for dinner. I keep these bags on hand, and frozen food will last a whole lot longer than had I used plastic bags. This little trick works well for us lately. We've gone two weeks without a grocery store run often this summer with everything going on. And have still hardly ordered takeout thanks to the extra food in our freezer and pantry, and recipes such as burrito bowls.

5. Coupons. When we changed our address with the USPS, we received a TON of coupons in the mail from various retailers - Lowes, Bed Bath, etc. Almost all expired within 30 days...I kept them anyways. And guess what, people take them! Having worked at a grocery store through high school, trust me on this one, there is always an override button. I picked up a $1 mini-binder at Target that now houses all my coupons. You bet I used a 20% of Benjamin Moore coupon last weekend when painting our dining room. I'm not so good about grocery store coupons but that's next on my list of ways we can save.

6. Double Up. For a while, I'd buy almond milk or coconut milk for protein smoothies and regular milk for general use and coffee. And hardly ever finished both cartons before one went bad. So now I just buy one, typically regular milk because I don't love the taste of almond milk in my coffee. It doesn't go so well with the occassional mac n cheese I consume either...Another great one - plain greek yogurt. First of all, it takes a long time to go bad. Second it's great in smoothies, as a sour cream substitute (trust me, you won't be able to tell a difference), or mix in some cinnamon, honey, granola, and fruit for a breakfast option.

7. Live on Less. I think this one sounds harder than it really is, for most people. We've been doing this since I first started working so it's much easier for us now, but you have to start somewhere. Every one of my paychecks has a percentage that goes straight to savings. Over the years I've moved that percentage up when we can, or even down when we planned our wedding. Even if you start with $10 a week, it adds up. $10 might mean skipping a few coffees a week (#1), or one less dinner out (that's usually more than $10). So think about it, and save what you can. I think you'll be happier with a bigger savings account than with eating out on the regular. Maybe? Like I mentioned above, we've been spending a whole lot on this new home. But it's reassuring to know that we've still managed to save a few dollars each month because we don't even factor them into our budget.

These are the ways we've tried saving a few dollars lately.

What about you? Any great tips you can share?
We have a long list of updates to make to this new house so squirreling away money is a must!

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  1. these are all great tips. i need to be better about saving (and using) coupons. an old coworker used to give himself cash every week for spending money. once the cash was gone, no more spending.

    1. I've been trying to do that mentally! Limit myself to $5/day at most during the case I need an afternoon coffee or something. I've thought about taking cash out many, many times but am always afraid I'll spend it too soon. (No idea where that fear comes from) We've discussed doing that with groceries...I've heard it's a great way to cut back on the random items you end up throwing in the cart.

  2. I need to be better about bringing lunch, using coupons and living on less. I REALLY need to learn to live on less so I can build a savings and get rid of debt.


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