They say that necessity is the mother of invention. There’s lots of truth in that quote. For us, the necessity to keep trimming our spending as we work our way out of debt has helped us to “invent” more and more ways to spend less and less of our money on things we need to buy. As we work on our financial goals we work on increasing our income, but we also continue to work to cut expenses. For instance, in order to reach our 2014 grocery expenditure goal we spent only $215 on groceries in December 2014. For a family of six, that took a lot of work, but it showed us that we can spend less if we need to.
We haven’t been that extreme in a long time, but we do continue to look for ways to cut down on home expenses and save money. I would say that our savings as we work on cutting expenses are now easily in the four digits compared to our expenses when we started our journey in 2013. So I thought I’d share some of our frugal home hacks today and how much money we’ve saved per month by continuing to look for ways to cut expenses.
Frugal Home Hack #1: Get that Grocery Bill Down!
Before we started tracking our spending and being intentional about money management, we easily spent between $900 and $1000 a month on groceries. Even though that’s still lower than the average American family’s grocery bill ($1500 a month for a moderate plan for a family of six), it was a lot of money for us, considering our income and the debt we were in.
Today we work to keep our grocery bill around $400 a month, saving $500-$600 a month compared to our previous “above our means” budget.
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How do we feed our family for less?
We Menu Plan
Each week we sit down and make a list of seven dinner meals that sound appealing and don’t cost too much (our goal is an average of $5 per dinner). Breakfast and lunch meals are of the same old rotation (any combo of eggs, cheese, nuts, fruits or veggies on M, W, F and Su and oatmeal, a fruit smoothie or a bagel on T, Th and Sa for breakfast, sandwiches, pasta or salad of some sort for lunch). We used to plan monthly but found ourselves getting bored with that, so we switched to a weekly menu plan.
We Shop the Sales
Each weekly menu plan is based on what’s on sale at local stores. We plan dinners on which meats and vegetables are on sale and we pick the week’s fruit supply based on which fruits are on sale. We stick pretty tightly to shopping the sales so the kids don’t really ask for things that aren’t on sale. By planning our weekly menu around the sales we can be sure to be saving the most money we can each month.
We Buy in Bulk
When it makes sense financially. There are certain items up here (in the Midwest) that are SO much cheaper when bought in bulk (, frozen veggies, butter, cheese, coffee, sour cream, to name a few) and since we go through a fair amount of food as a bigger family, we are sure to look for the cheapest prices possible and buy in bulk when it makes sense.
We Stay Away from Junk/Processed Food Purchases
Mostly. Not only are the chemicals in processed and junk food bad for your health, chips, soda and other junk foods are expensive!! We don’t have soda in the house unless it’s a special occasion, and we try to keep junk/processed foods to a maximum of 2-5% of our grocery budget.
By following the above four tips, we’re able to really keep grocery expenses on the down low and save hundreds of dollars each month.
Frugal Home Hack #2: Stop Spending So Much on Your Cellular Phone Bill
We used to spend $80 a month for just Rick and I for cell phone usage before our great money awakening.Now that we’ve added a cell phone for one kid, and will be adding cell phones for the others within the next couple of years, we’ve switched to Republic Wireless. Republic Wireless offers a great program to provide for anyone’s cell phone needs at a fraction of the price of most other cell phone companies. Rick, Madelyn and I pay $10 a month for unlimited talk and text and free data where Wi-fi is available. Republic has a variety of different plans with different prices for all types of users with varying needs for data, from 1GB up to 10GB. The most awesome thing? Republic Wireless will buy back (as in, give you MONEY) for any unused data during the month!
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So in other words, if you have the 6GB plan and only use 4GB during the month, Republic Wireless will reimburse you for the unused data! Talk about a frugal home hack! If we were on our previous plan and had added our oldest daughter, we’d be paying $120 a month instead of the $30 a month we’re paying now.
Frugal Home Hack #3: Shop Around for Insurance
Before we switched to Geico, we were paying $153 for auto insurance for our three vehicles, and that was before we had a major accident. Even with the accident on our record, we only pay $118 a month for car insurance with Geico. Before the accident we were paying $98 a month, which meant we were saving $55 a month on car insurance.
I highly encourage you to shop around and get quotes on both homeowners and auto insurance from several different companies and see if you can save yourself a bundle. I know we did. And, bonus, we’ve been ultra-happy with the service we’ve received from Geico over the past two years now.
Frugal Home Hack #4: Cut Down on Entertainment Expenses
Before our budget makeover, we were spending roughly $275 a month on meals out – in addition to our ridiculously high grocery bill!! And I’m embarrassed to admit that at least half of this money was on stops at the snack bar at the big box store and other piddly little items. Our maximum for eating out/entertainment combined is now $60 a month, saving us $215 a month.
So, what do we do for fun if we’re not eating out and spending loads of money on entertainment?
We Look for Deals
Groupon and individual restaurant sites usually have coupons for discounts on meals, which saves a good bit of money when you want to eat out.
We Find Free Things to Do
We go to the beach, we walk, hike or bike. We have friends and/or family members over for a bonfire. We swim at area beaches. All of these forms of entertainment are free and help us to save big bucks while still having fun.
We Cook Restaurant Meals at Home
Personally, I love to eat out. As a foodie, it’s fun for me to go and taste other fine cuisine, even if it’s just a great burger. If we’re craving a restaurant meal but don’t want to spend the money on eating out, many times we’ll replicate a restaurant meal at home. One of our favorites? This Better Than Olive Garden Alfredo Sauce. We’ve served it at several family gatherings and it’s always gotten rave reviews.
Frugal Home Hack #5: Spend Less on Clothing
We went from spending $2400 a year to $1200 a year on clothing for our family of six by following these simple tips.
Buy Multi-Functional Clothing
Basics are key to keeping clothing costs down. For our three girls, they get a few basic pairs of leggings and jeans and different shirts with which they can mix and match. Our son isn’t as picky about this kind of stuff, so it’s a few pair of nylon sweatpants for him a pair of camouflage jeans, a pair of basic blue jeans and a pair of black dress pants. His shirts consist of a few polo shirts, t-shirts, dress shirts and sweatshirts. We buy basic, we buy items that can be mixed and matched and we buy on sale.
Avoid “Taking Advantage” of Sales
Get rid of the “look how much I’m saving” mentality and start thinking about how much you’re spending. A good deal on clothing is only a good deal if you need it and can afford it.
Stay Out of the Clothing Stores
For me, I’d see a cute outfit for one of the kids and then just “have” to have it. Then, in order to be “fair”, I’d buy something for the other three kids as well. My solution to that problem (and the key to cutting our clothing bill in half) was to just stay out of the clothing stores. I now shop only when we need something, and even then I’m sure not to peruse the store for other offerings.
Frugal Home Hack #6: Keep a Lid on Home Costs
Owning a home is expensive, partly because it needs to be and partly because we make it that way. Here’s how we save big bucks on home maintenance and repair costs.
Learn to Do it Yourself
The more repairs and upgrades you can do yourself, the more money you’ll save. When our laundry room flooded twice in 2014, we had to rip out the flooring, replace some sheet rock and get a new washer and dryer. Total cost for the remodeled laundry room and the new washer and dryer? $1156.82. I know it would have been MUCH more expensive if Rick hadn’t replaced the damaged sheet rock, put in the new trim, painted and put in new flooring on his own.
BTW, I should add that this stuff doesn’t come naturally to Rick, but that he heads over to YouTube and learns how to make repairs and then does them.
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Buy on Sale
Whenever we need a replacement item at our house, we find it on sale or wait for it to go on sale if we can. We never pay full price for anything unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Use What You’ve Got
When we wanted to put in a fire pit in our back yard in 2013, we searched through our property and found a pile of large rocks that we used for the perimeter of the fire pit area and for the pit itself. This saved us a good $200 compared to if we’d had to buy those rocks.
Deal with What You Have
We want new couches. We’ve had our couches for nearly twenty years now. But since the debt payoff is more important to us, we’re waiting on the couch purchase. This is tough sometimes. I’m so sick and tired of our couches I could nearly scream, but keeping in mind that we’re spending less and getting debt paid off really helps.
Save money by keeping what you have, rearranging or re-purposing so that you don’t need to spend money on home items.
Ditch Cable or Satellite
We dumped cable and traded it in for Netflix several years ago. Cost savings? Anywhere from $30 to $100 every month, depending on which cable program you have. And truth be told, we don’t miss cable one bit.
By taking advantage of the above frugal home hacks we save close to a thousand dollars every month.
What could you do with an extra $1000 a month? What are your favorite frugal home hacks?
There are some great tips here! I wish we could get our monthly grocery bill as low as you guys – we’re still in the $700-800/month range. I know we could spend less by eating rice, beans, and pasta – but that’s a lot of carbs. We eat a mostly paleo diet and I think perhaps that just costs a bit more (but is a decent healthy option).
Thanks, Brad!! We eat about 30% rice, beans and pasta. We manage to get good deals on the meats and green veggies by hitting the sales. We usually grow a garden too, but even without the garden this year we’re keeping the grocery budget low. Could be your area of residence too. We’re in the Midwest and I know groceries are more reasonable here than they are in places like New York.
Great tips Laurie. We always grocery shop with a list. Try not to over shop as well and waste food. Throwing away spoiled food can be such a budget buster too.
We almost always eat our leftovers. I hate throwing away food. Usually at least once a week the meal will be “whatever you can find leftover in the fridge. ” 🙂
My wife shops all over the place to find good deals on everything. She puts me to shame. But it is nice to know that she is finding good deals to reduce our budget instead of getting more out of it.
Building a house has helped me learn some DIY tips. We always rented or lived in military housing growing up, so if we had maintenance issues we called somebody else.
Always great to have a super frugal spouse. 🙂 Rick has worked hard to learn DIY stuff too, even though he was taught very little growing up. He’s done most of our home repairs himself for our entire marriage. It’s always great to have a skill where you’re learning yourself and that you can use forever.
Nice tips Laurie. I rarely buy branded clothes and stay as much as possible from activities that would require spending money. I’m glad that there’s Olympics now because my kids love watching each sports, so that helps me spend less on entertainment.
Not shopping the sales has (weirdly) saved me soooo much. Stores are experts at getting you to buy ‘amazing deals’ that they need rid of and you’ll never wear. Awesome tips!
Yes, you definitely have to know what regular prices are and also only buy what you know you need and will use. Thanks, Caroline!
Tons of great tips here! I, too, am a total foodie and LOVE cooking at home. I’ve gotten creative with modifying recipes to use more generic/reusable ingredients. Some of the best recipes have really obscure ingredients that are expensive and I know I might never use again, so I look for substitutes. And with only the 2 of us, even if I prepare a “normal” recipe, it lasts us 2-3 meals, so we’re great with leftovers!
Hey, Chela! Good to “see” you! 🙂 That’s awesome that you use your leftovers!! Yes, it can be really fun to cook at home if you let it. 🙂 We like to take basics too, such as meat loaf, and change things up with it. It makes cooking fun!
Thanks 🙂 Glad to be back!
Writing down your budget is definitely key. In college, after having 5 figures in the bank, I stopped caring about how much I spent so I spent willy nilly and never knew where my money would go. I spent a lot of money eating out and as a result have spent a ton more money than I would have liked to. I also agree on GEICO, their rates is the cheapest you can ever get, in my opinion. I had no prior driving history and I’m only paying $160 a month! (I’m under my parent’s plan but no other insurance place will let me only pay $160 a month).
Ouch!I hear you, though, we were the same way with our money for a LOT of years. Spend-tracking helps keep us on track every month. When we simply assumed what we were spending on restaurants, etc., spend-tracking showed us that we were spending LOTS more than we thought we were. Such a relief to have that under control now!
Great tips! We’ve managed to get our grocery bill down to about $300 per month recently for our family of four.
That’s awesome, Tre!!! Keep up the great work!
Great tips, Laurie! You’ve done a great job of really cutting costs in these areas. We do almost all of the same things you do, but your insurance and cell phones are way less than ours. We really need to work on the cell phone bill – I’m ashamed to even admit that it runs around $150 for the four of us. Our insurance went up last year due to a new teen driver, to the tune of $900/year, even after shopping around and switching companies (we had Geico, they raised it $1000, and we have no accidents + good student discount – go figure). Thanks for sharing your savings!
Is your teen a boy? Our daughter will likely have her license before the end of the year, and I’m nervous about what that will do to our insurance rates. I’ve heard they charge more for boys than girls. Cell phones are a big problem for many people. I have friends who spend hundreds per month on their phones – yikes!!! We’ll likely stay with Republic Wireless just because the services has been great and it’s so affordable.
Great tips Laurie! These tips are pretty easy to implement and they will save a lot of money. We switched our cell phone plans from the traditional carriers and save a good amount each month…and the service is pretty much the same. That’s a win! And I always thought that cooking was rocket science, but if I can do it…I’m pretty sure anyone can do it. I love cooking restaurant meals at home and calculating the savings compared to if we had gone out.
LOL, funny. 🙂 I’ll bet eating out is especially expensive in NYC.
I think if I could just menu plan, I’d be in much better shape on the grocery bill. I did buy the $5 Mom cookbook at your advice, but have since donated it…it just didn’t click with me for some reason. Maybe my gender issues getting in the way.
Any tips on how to get started with that sort of planning?
LOL, funny. You should check out some of the great recipe websites like foodnetwork.com and allrecipes.com and food.com. We routinely find wonderful recipes on those sites! Another thing we do is to replicate our favorite restaurant meals at home. Maybe that would work for you?
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