So, you’re getting tired of the rat race and the paycheck-to-paycheck living cycle, aren’t you. I can tell by that look on your face. You’re tired, worn down, and you don’t want to live life that way anymore.
I’ve been there. Some days I’m still there. But one thing that’s changed is that we’ve now got a plan in place that will help us end up in a financial place where we have enough FU money that we can blow off hubby’s 9-to-5 job and do what we want to do instead of what we have to do.
And that plan started with the realization that we weren’t truly happy achieving the status quo life of the Joneses. If you’re “there”, as in not really happy living the status quo anymore, I want you to know that things can be different for you. It’s going to take some work but you can do it.
A big part of how to get “there” begins with redirecting your cash away from expenditures that have little or no value to you and toward expenditures that hold real value to you. And that process can’t be effective until you know what really holds value to you.
Before You Start Saving Money, You’ve Got to Have a Plan for What You’ll Do With That Money
If you start following the suggestions on this list and start saving money, it’ll bring you very little joy unless you have a plan for the money you’re saving. In fact, it’ll likely feel like torture. So let’s start with making your plan. Let me ask you a few questions.
- What would you be doing with your life if money was no object? Where would you work, live? How would you contribute to making the world a better place?
- What would happen to your family/your life if your main source of income was suddenly stripped away via a job layoff or some other incident? Would you have enough to pay the bills? Would you be able to stay in your house?
Dreams and fear are the two biggest motivators most of us have, and we’re going to use those motivators to help you direct the money you’ll save with the tips in this post. Based on your answers to the above questions, I want you to list three to five financial goals that would help you calm the fears and achieve your dreams. I’ll give you an example of what we wrote when we first started on our financial freedom journey.
Our Financial Goals
- Pay off all consumer debt
- Pay off the mortgage
- Have “X” amount of dollars in retirement accounts
- Have “X” amount of dollars in an emergency fund
- Have “X” amount of dollars in non-retirement investments
Now it’s time to make your own list of goals.
Done? Good. But you’re not finished net. Most goals fail. You should know that right off the bat. Goals that have the highest chance of being achieved are S.M.A.R.T. goals. Specific. Measurable. Action-Oriented. Realistic. Time-Based.
After you’ve written down your goals I want you to assign time-based, action-oriented plans to get them achieved. Now goal number one looks like this:
1. Pay off all $10,000 of consumer debt in less than 24 months by using the money saving tips below.
You might be wondering why I keep talking about financial goals and don’t just get to the good stuff about how to save money. The reason is because when people don’t have a plan for the money they save, that extra cash often ends up just being flushed away on other things. New electronics. Cars. Vacations. Restaurants. That cool new Coach purse you’ve been wanting but couldn’t afford.
But if you are willing to do the work of taking some time to figure out what you really and truly want from your money and your life, you’ll use the money you save by following the tips below to put toward your biggest dreams. And that will take all the drudgery out of the work and “sacrifice” of saving money. I put that in quotes because when you’re using your money to reach your dreams, it’s really not a sacrifice at all; it’s pure joy. 🙂
It’s pure joy to watch your debt take a nosedive and your savings account grow to levels you never thought were possible. When you use your money to achieve your dreams, the things you once thought mattered no longer mean much.
Check out our motivational list of “Whys” that helped us stay on track to earn more money to put toward debt.
For instance, in our family we used to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE going out to eat. We went out to eat a good 4-8 times a month. For a family of six, you’re talking a minimum of $250 a month on eating out.
But when we sat down and dared to dream, we found out that eating out was far, far down on our list of what really mattered to us. As such, we haven’t spent money on a restaurant since…..Wait. Let me check the spreadsheet….since May! It’s been nearly five months since we ate at a sit down restaurant on our own dime.
And you know what? We don’t miss it a bit.
The kids don’t even complain! Why? Because we’ve found joy in identifying and achieving our dreams, and even our kids find more pleasure in us using our money for things that really, truly matter to us. This is a mindset shift I believe has to occur in order to win with money.
Recommended Reading: A story about a girl who paid off over $500k in debt by changing the way she thinks: Money Love
So, now that you’ve identified your goals and made a measurable plan for achieving them, let’s talk about how you can save money to put toward those goals.
Save Money on Food
I’m starting with groceries because this was our biggest money suck before we started budgeting and spend-tracking. You might be saying, “Wait. You didn’t say anything about budgeting and spend-tracking. That’s too hard! Do I have to do that?”
Yes, yes you do have to budget and spend-track. At least until you’ve got a full and disciplined handle on what you spend each month. Why? Because budgeting and spend-tracking will help you to identify hidden leaks in your spending and plug up the holes.
Most people have very little idea about what they spend on food each month. In our case, I thought we were spending $600 on food each month. When I went back and checked the numbers, it turned out that we were actually spending $900 a month on food. No wonder we were in debt!
With the tips listed below, our family was able to cut our grocery budget in half. We know feed our family of six for roughly $400-$450 a month, or $75 per month per person. Here’s how we do it.
1. We Menu Plan Every Month
Each month (you can do it weekly if that works better for you) we sit down and figure out our dinner meals for the month. We then search the pantry to see what we have on hand, and anything we need to make the meals gets put on the grocery list if it’s not already in the pantry. Our goal with dinner meals is to make sure we stick to an average of $5 per dinner. For lunches and breakfasts we have a rotating menu that takes very little work on my part and costs $1-$3 per meal. Some ideas? Oatmeal, eggs, bagels and fruit/nuts.
Menu planning helps you avoid random trips to the grocery store and to the local take-out place because there’s “nothing in the house.”
2. We Know What Things Cost and Take Advantage of Sales
Knowing your prices is also key to saving money on food. Knowing regular prices on the things you buy every month helps you to identify a good sale and stock up on that sale. I work to memorize the regular prices of the main things we buy, but many people use a spreadsheet and bring it to the grocery store.
3. We Stick to the List and Keep Processed Foods to a Minimum
The only time we really buy pop, chips and other processed snacks is for special occasions such as parties, social events or special in-house events such as an occasional movie night. Otherwise our snacks consist of nuts, fruits, veggies and the like. Milk, water and 100% fruit juice are our main drinks.
4. We Buy in Bulk When it Makes Sense
Buying in bulk doesn’t always make sense. Bulk prices aren’t always the cheapest and you can waste a LOT of money at warehouse stores if you’re not careful. It’s important when utilizing warehouse stores that you buy what you know you’ll use and check the prices to make sure they’re really money savers. Some of the things we buy in bulk regularly are:
- Block Cheese
- Frozen organic veggies
- Organic sugar and flour
Again, if you know your prices and keep focused on buying foods that you really need it’ll be easy to spot when a bulk purchase is a good deal and when it’s not.
5. Eat Your Leftovers
The average family wastes up to forty percent of the food they buy. Forty percent!!! In our case that would be like throwing $160 in the garbage each and every month! But we don’t waste our food – we almost always eat our leftovers. We eat leftovers for breakfast and lunch, and when we have a fridge full of leftovers we have leftover night for dinner. We also double-dip on our meals as a way to save money.
6. Brown Bag it to Work
Rick brown bags it for work almost every day. We spend $2 or so on his meals, which is LOTS cheaper than the $5-$10 he’d spend at the corporate cafeteria. We save even more when he takes leftovers to work. 🙂
7. Be Okay With Some Cheap Dinner Nights
Sometimes we plan air-popped popcorn nights for dinner. Or potatoes and veggies. Or fried potatoes and eggs. Or Chipotle Rice. It’s perfectly okay to have some seriously cheap dinners once in a while.
Save Money at Home
There are SO many ways to save money at home. People often write off household expenditures as a necessity, but many household expenditures can be reduced or eliminated. Here are some ideas.
8. Cut the Freakin’ Cord
Yes. Get rid of satellite/cable. It’s been four years since we’ve been without cable TV and we don’t miss it a bit. We pay $10.73 for Netflix, saving us $40 a month from our previous cable package bill. I’ll bet if you sat down and took a hard look at what you watched with the cord anyway that most of it really doesn’t interest you as much as you think it does.
For you die-hard sports fans, look at Sling TV as an option to expensive cable or satellite packages.
9. Get Rid of Expensive Cellular Phone Service
Cell phones do NOT have to cost hundreds of dollars per month. I pay Just $15 a month for each of our family members’ cell phones through Republic Wireless.
There are many, many options out there that can save you money but still provide GREAT cell phone service. In the case of Republic Wireless, they offer customized data plans that will fit your needs AND they refund your money for any unused data. Don’t pay more than you should for cell phone service – your dreams are at stake here!
10. DIY Home Repair
Our family has saved thousands upon thousands of dollars by learning how to DIY when it comes to home repair. YouTube and various DIY websites can show you how to do just about any home repair job you can think of with your own two hands. Rick has replaced floors, made minor electric and plumbing repairs and done entire room remodels all by watching You Tube and reading DIY home repair sites.
The Complete Do-it-Yourself Manual Newly Updated
11. Be Careful About Energy Consumption
This is an area where it’s super easy to waste money if you’re not careful. Here are some ways you can cut down on home energy consumption.
- Watch the lights. Don’t have them on if you don’t need to.
- Turn your thermostat down two degrees in the winter or up two degrees in the summer. Or more if you can handle it. We’ve got friends that keep their thermostat set at 58 degrees during the winter. We think they’re crazy. They’re also rich.
- Be mindful about water consumption. Turn the water down when you’re cleaning dishes. Turn it off when you’re brushing your teeth. Fill the bathtub just a little bit lower. Make showers just a little bit shorter.
- Use LED light bulbs.
Save Money on Transportation
12. Get Rid of the Car Payment
The average new car payment these days is $482. Do you have any idea how fast you could reach your dreams with an extra $482 a month? If you’ve got spendy car payments, sell the fancy car and get a quality used car that you can pay for in cash. It might take some looking but you can do it. When shopping, be sure to put aside $1,000 or so for any repairs that might need to be done. So, if you’ve got $5k in cash saved for your quality used car, look to spend about $4k and save the other grand for any needed repairs.
13. Use Public Transportation When it Makes Sense
Public transportation might not work for every situation but if it works for you to bike, walk or take the bus to work, stores etc., consider doing that in order to save money on car maintenance and insurance costs. If you drive under a certain amount of miles each year your auto insurance policy can cost less.
14. Shop Around for Insurance
We saved over 30 percent on our insurance bill when we switched to Geico. I highly recommend shopping around for auto, life and homeowners insurance.
Save Money on Health, Wellness and Beauty
Health, wellness and beauty can cost BIG bucks if you’re not careful. Here are some ideas on how to keep costs to a minimum.
15. Eat Well
Choose a diet that consists of primarily whole foods (foods the way God made them) and forego the processed junk food in order to help your body heal and stay healthy.
16. Exercise – Without a Gym
We dumped our gym membership when we moved to the country four years ago and haven’t looked back. We now exercise regularly by hiking, biking, walking, lifting free weights, doing calisthenics and by just plain old playing. You can get in a great workout right on the living room floor while you’re watching TV – for free!
17. Practice DIY Beauty Regimens
You don’t have to spend oodles of money to look great. We like use natural beauty where we can, but we still use DIY solutions for the following beauty routines.
- DIY haircuts. We cut our own hair when possible.
- The girls and I do our own manicures, pedicures, facials and eyebrow maintenance
- We do at-home hair coloring
- We practice “inside-out” beauty by eating well, exercising and drinking plenty of water. This helps keep outside beauty costs to a minimum.
18. Chill Out
I can’t count the money we’ve saved by learning to relax, chill out, not overschedule ourselves and not stress out about stuff. Avoid putting negative stuff into your mind, focus on the positive and what you can control, and learn to take gentle care of your body and your mind.
Save Money All Around
There are lots of “all around” ways you can save big bucks. Check out these ideas.
19. Use a “Challenge Everything” Budget.
Fashioned by J. Money over at Budgets are Sexy, a Challenge Everything budget works by going through each and every line item in your budget and reducing or eliminating the expense as much as possible.
20. Cut the Entertainment Budget
It’s okay to do fun stuff on occasion but that fun stuff doesn’t have to cost money. Reduce your entertainment budget down to a reasonable amount (ours is $60 a month for our family of six – an average) and find ways to have fun for free or cheap to make up for more expensive outings. Consider foregoing vacations for a year in order to kick it at reaching your goals.
21. Automate Retirement Savings and Emergency Fund Savings
It’s easy. Really it is. Have a certain dollar amount taken out of your checking account on the first of the month for retirement savings and for emergency fund savings. You’ll never miss the cash. Put the money in “no touch” savings accounts that are largely out of your reach so that you don’t see them every day and aren’t tempted to spend the cash.
22. Make a Commitment to Never Pay Full Price
If you have to make a purchase, whether it be a home improvement/repair item, clothing item, gift item or other item, make a commitment to never pay full price. Buy it on sale, buy it used at a garage sale or on Craigslist or make a swap with a friend/family member. Plan in advance so you don’t have to make last-minute purchases which almost always cost more money.
23. Consolidate Consumer Debt to Get a Lower Rate
Consolidation loans can save you BIG bucks if you are willing to commit to not using your credit cards once you’ve transferred the balances to a lower rate vehicle. Read this post first, before you consolidate any consumer debt you have, but if you find that consolidation is a good idea for you, check out the low interest rate loans they offer at Sofi or other reputable lending companies.
Make Money to Save Money
A great way to save more money is to make more money. Consider these side hustle options for making more money to save.
24. Start a Blog
Yep, you really can make money blogging. I’ve made over $1,000 a month on this blog in September through various avenues. If you’ve got a heart for writing and valuable information to share that will help others in whatever your area of expertise, consider starting a blog. You can start a WordPress blog for free, but a self-hosted blog is the only way to go if you want to make money, and starting a blog is cheap if you use the right online partners. Our site is hosted through Site Ground. We’ve been with Site Ground for nearly a year now and have had ZERO hosting issues or hacking issues. Check out this special SiteGround link for special offers for The Frugal Farmer readers who are interested in starting their own blogs.
25. Pick Up a Side Hustle
Side hustles are money-making endeavors that are over and above your regular full-time job. I made nearly $14,000 doing side hustles last year. Yep, $14k from the comfort of my own home. A side hustle can consist of many things, such as:
- Overtime at your current job
- Online work through a site such as Upwork (I made all of my side hustle money last year via online work)
- A business endeavor right in your own neighborhood such as pet or child care, handyman work, house cleaning or other skills you use to service others
- A second job such as being a driver with Uplift, being a brand ambassador at a store or working at a restaurant or a retail store
The goal with the side hustle income is to save all of the money you make side hustling toward your financial goals and to not let the extra income be an excuse to spend more.
26. Sell Your Stuff
Most people have closets and buckets of stuff laying around their house that they no longer use. Go through your stuff and see what you have that no longer serves a purpose in your life. Then list it with a Facebook garage sale group or on Craigslist. Again, commit to putting all earned monies toward your financial goals.
27. Rent Out Your Space
If you’ve got an extra bedroom in the house, consider renting the room to a college student or other responsible person. Be sure to screen all renters and do a background check before signing any rental agreements.
Another option is to rent out space in your garage for those looking to store specialty vehicles, boats or plain old stuff. Check out rates at local storage facilities and figure out a rate that will give potential customers a better deal.
If you are committed to finally working life in a way that you can achieve your long-held dreams, use these and other techniques to save money and put that money toward reaching your dreams. You deserve the best!!
What are you favorite ways to save money? What dreams are you using your newly found extra cash for?
A great overview Laurie! We use #4, 5, and 6 to save on food costs. I need to get more organized and keep a price-book. I have seen prices fluctuate week to week, but have only been keeping mental notes.
You’re doing great, Brian! Keeping track of regular food prices has been huge. It helps me ensure I don’t pay over regular price when I find a sale at a store I don’t usually go to.
I love all of these tips for saving, Laurie! And I practice the majority of them, and they help us save a ton of money each month.
You mention getting rid of the car payment – this is huge! I don’t think most people give this option enough thought. But really, getting rid of a payment of $300, $400, $500 each month could completely change a person’s finances!
Yes, absolutely! It’s so much money each month to take away from dreams, isn’t it?
The last one is my favorite, Laurie. Renting out underutilized assets is a fantastic way to make money quickly. We rented out a room in our house and used the funds to help pay off the mortgage in just about 3 years.
I tend to view things like AirBNB & Uber the same way: just renting out that asset you own for a while.
Great stuff, as always.
That was so smart of you,DB40. No sense in leaving those unused assets sitting around doing nothing.
I practice a lot of these tips, but I love seeing everyone’s perspective on how to save money. Everyone has a different situation and a single guy’s budget priorities will be much different than a family of six. With my own family we also came to the realization that certain things like eating out weren’t as high on our priority list as we thought either!
I’m still working on my willpower to give up our expensive cell phones and service, but it will happen one day!
Thanks for sharing!
LOL, you’ll get there, Josh. Or maybe not, and that’s okay too. 🙂
Lots of great tips here, Laurie! I rent so my landlord takes care of any repairs, since I am also dangerously unhandy, that is a good thing. I’m not sure if I could DIY repairs on my own, although agree if you have the skill set, it can save a ton of money. I would have to convince my Dad to help me. 🙂 I definitely do all the food related items and my favorite cheap meal is beans and rice. I agree that it’s a very smart idea to have several go-to super cheap meals in rotation. Just because they are cheap, doesn’t mean they have to taste bad!
“dangerously unhandy”. Funny. 🙂 I hear you on the cheap meals. Easy on the budget and usually very little prep. Popcorn night is one of our favorites. We air-pop popcorn and sprinkle it in butter. Yummy and cheap!
Great list, Laurie. I think accepting some super-cheap dinner nights now and then is a great idea. Sometimes I feel bad if I don’t serve a balanced meal every single night. But since we generally eat healthy and limit fast food, a night without veggies now and then won’t kill us.
We also rented a room last month for the first time. It went really well and I’d do it again for sure.
Super awesome list Laurie 🙂 As you know from your Fruclassity posts, I am having issues with our grocery bill, especially this month! But on the flip side, we do well with our utility bills and water usage (you have to here in California!) and my husband is really good at repairing anything that is broken 🙂
We had a bad grocery month too. Planning to do MUCH better in October.
Well – 27 tips! Do you think that’s enough ? : )
My favourite is #18. Just doing nothing is a great thing. Of course, it never really is nothing. It usually translates into spending high quality hang-out time with someone important – like a family member.
So true. We love our quiet time at home. 🙂
I LOVE popcorn! I probably eat that as a meal once a week. If we let the kids watch a movie, they will eat enough to count as lunch. =) We also mix in some other low cost meals. I will boil up some whole grain pasta (which I buy in bulk on sale for .77 a pound) and pour some red sauce over it. It’s great if we have been out hiking or at the lake all day. Easy, quick and affordable.
It rocks and it’s cheap. 🙂 There are so many cheap meals. It can be done!!
Excellent tips Laurie! The initial questions about what you would do with your life if money wasn’t an object and how you would make this world a better place are great. You really need to have dreams and goals if you are to be motivated to achieve them. And as for groceries, we are pretty good planners too. My wife recently went grocery shopping with a few people and she was surprised when they didn’t check out the circulars for sales or use the loyalty card…they just bought whatever it is they felt like buying, no matter the price.
I so agree!! Funny too when people don’t pay any attention whatsoever to the prices. We were guilty of that for many years, but now that we’ve seen the light we’ll never go back. 🙂
I’d like the concept of budgeting. Budgeting helps me control my expenses and finances and I just gotta follow my realistic and personalized budget and I am secured. 🙂
Glad it’s working for you, Liz! I’m a firm believer in budgeting.
I love the comprehensive list. I think it makes it easier to save money when you are working towards S.M.A.R.T. goals. Before I started my financial journey I found myself aimlessly saying I wanted to achieve X but never set goals to get there. Once I started to write goals I found myself actually achieving the goals. Funny how that works 🙂
Yes! That’s the difference, MSM! Glad you’ve found your target. 🙂
I’ve been reading more about Republic Wireless, do they still have good service? I’ve been reading that they should have service anywhere that Sprint currently has (which is who I’m currently with) so if that’s the case, I would opt to choose to switch but what has been your experience with it? Just curious!
We’ve been with them for nearly a year and a half and are very happy. I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true. The only time we had coverage issues is when we were driving through the Western mountains of MT and WA, but nobody has coverage there, from what I hear.
I think DIY home repair is something more people should consider. Yes, there are some people who are so busy that it makes sense to outsource it, but I see DIY home projects and repairs as side hustles in and of themselves since you otherwise would have to contract it out.
Exactly! Rick has learned SO many things that he initially thought he couldn’t do on his own. It’s a bit scary to step out and try to do some of this stuff but once you learn it the skill lasts forever and the money saved is huge!
What I enjoy is meal planning, Laurie. I can save more when there’s a meal plan for a week as we can know how much we are spending on each meal. And, it helps us adjust to meet the budget for meals.
Exactly. We’ve made a solid meal plan for October to make up for blowing our grocery budget for September and it’s been so much fun!
I’m saving this post Laurie! You have a lot of things in here that I want to give a try!
I love bringing my lunch to work to save money and eat healthier. I constantly look for ways to save and these are great tips on saving money! A penny saved sure is a penny earned 🙂
Brown bagging it to lunch is so huge. People often don’t realize how much money they spend on restaurant lunches because it’s a “necessity”. Thanks, FS!
Great list. I have been on the fence on #9 – hopefully, I get past my iphone attachment and switch over to Republic Wireless this month.
May I add #28 – save money with Digit? It picks up the crumbs from your checking account and it quickly adds up. I love the app and can’t quite stop talking about it.
You should do it, Michael! Oh, the money you’ll save. 🙂 Thanks so much for adding #28 – I’ve heard lots of people say they love Digit!
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