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.
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!
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.
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?