How to Save Money
How to Save Money

How to Save Money by Planning Ahead

How to Save Money
How to Save Money

As we consistently work to learn more about saving and managing money, we’ve learned to think in a new way about how to save money by planning ahead.  Saving money by planning ahead isn’t just about putting aside a little cash each month for Christmas or car insurance.  You really can save a ton of money by thinking differently about how you plan ahead.

How to Save Money by Thinking Differently

Saving money by planning ahead requires you to think outside the box a bit.  It can be easy to think short-term regarding money savings and really bite your budget in the tail from the long-term perspective.  This is what happened to us recently. We were focusing so much on saving money that we weren’t looking at the big picture, and this is what I mean about thinking differently.

For instance, if you need to replace your drill, you can buy a cheap one, but will you be buying another one in 6 months?  If so, it might be better to go with a higher quality choice.  Or, vice versa: we recently bought a rather expensive manual can opener.  It’s cool looking and was a brand I thought I could trust, but after 3 months or so, it’s not working any longer.  As a temporary replacement, we brought out Rick’s $2 super basic camping can opener to use until we can pick up a new one, and you can bet your booty it’ll be another $2 basic can opener.  Spending more didn’t turn out so well in this case.

If you want to save money by thinking differently, you have to learn to acquire and use wisdom in all cases, looking at the long-term potentials of any expenditure as well as the short-term potentials.

Spend Money When Expenses are Lower

Since we spend less on energy costs and the like during the summer months, we’ll use that money savings to buy things we’ll need come winter.

For instance, we’ve talked here about how last winter’s Polar Vortex caused our heating bills to double from what they were in previous years.  This really put a nasty dent in our budget.  So in order to make sure this doesn’t happen again, we’re doing a couple of things that will help winter heating bills be more bearable, even if we do have another abnormally cold winter.

1.  We’re putting in a wood stove.  We did have some wood chopped, stacked and dried, but we’re getting more put away as well this summer, and the wood stove will be installed by fall at the latest.  This should save us a good bit of cash.

2.  We’re stocking up on food and pet supplies.  For instance, even though the horses don’t get much grain in the summer, we’re still buying our regular monthly winter amount of grain, stockpiling now so that when more expenses come in the winter, we won’t have to spend money on grain.  We’re doing the same with other pet supplies, and with food as it goes on sale.

We’ve planned well, and made a list of the things we need, and the things that are more expensive during winter, and we’re stockpiling as much as possible so that any additional heating expenses will be offset by things we won’t need to spend money on, such as pet supplies.

Search High and Low for DIY Options

This is why we’re growing our garden.  We’ve roughly doubled, and in some cases tripled, its size from last year, so that we can provide as much food as possible via our garden to tide us over through the winter.  We took the veggies we normally eat (green beans, peas, carrots) and planted LOTS.  We planted lots of tomatoes in hopes of canning dozens of jars of spaghetti sauce, and tons of cucumbers in hopes of canning lots of pickles.  We’re growing lots of green peppers and onions, and vacuum sealing and freezing them, so that they’re ready to use in casseroles, potato and meat dishes.

We’re also working to fund any house repairs that need to be done, and doing it ourselves in order to save on labor costs.  This can be a bit overwhelming and scary, but once you start fixing things yourselves, you’ll find that you’re a lot more handy than you think you are. 🙂

When it comes to learning how to save money, it’s important to look at your budget – your current budget, and your future budget – from all angles.  Find out by spend-tracking what your spendy months are and what your not-so-spendy months are, and plan accordingly, working to even out your budget and save when the inexpensive months are, so that you have more cashflow when bills are higher.

Photo by Free Digital Photos

68 comments

  1. My wife and I probably wasted a bit of money buying all the really cheap items when we first moved out together. None of them lasted more than about a year, but we just didn’t have the money to spend at that point in time, so there weren’t a lot of options sadly.

  2. I am constantly trying to think “outside the box” when it comes to saving money. I find it’s the most helpful took for me to save money. I can definitely improve on the DIY projects; I don’t do many of those.

    • Laurie says:

      It’s amazing how much DIY stuff you can do if you’re willing to learn. We did DIY speech therapy with our son, who couldn’t say his R’s, this year. It’s worked out fabulously!

  3. Great point on stocking up when your expenses are lower Laurie! We do that quite a bit to save us in the long run. We’ve also run into the buy cheaper trap, I think most of us do, only to have it cost us more in the long run. It always drives me nuts when that happens, though I still fall prey to it every once in awhile.

  4. Kathy says:

    We stockpile things that are non-perishable and on sale. Not to the extent they show on the outlandish (and somewhat fake) Extreme Couponer shows but enough that it does make a difference in what we have to buy when things aren’t on sale. Another thing we do is create a reserve fund for certain bills like utilities. We set a monthly amount in the budget. For instance we might set a figure of $200 a month for electricity. In the spring and fall when electricity use is maybe only $75 a month, the extra $125 goes into a reserve fund where it sits until the summer when we are running the A/C. The bill then jumps to $250. We still have the $200 in the budget but the extra $50 comes out of the reserve fund that we saved from the low usage months. That way, we are not hurt at all by the fluctuating utility bills.

    • Laurie says:

      I like the idea of the reserve budget for utility bills, Kathy. Some utility companies will do that for you, pro-rate your bills, but that bugs me for some reason. I only want to pay for what I use each month, even if it does all wash out in the end. 🙂

  5. Liz says:

    I can’t think of any instance really where planning ahead and preparing wouldn’t benefit you. It can be as simple as studying for an exam a week ahead instead of cramming the night before. That never worked well for me anyways : ) I am hoping to can tomato sauce as well this summer. Healthier and it should be a little less expensive.

    • Laurie says:

      Interesting! You should let me know how it goes, Liz. I’m a bit nervous to try it, but I think if we can get it down, it’ll be super beneficial.

  6. Iforonwy says:

    You say that after 3 months the fancy can opener is no longer working. Well I don’t know about your side of the pond but here in the UK it would be possible to ask the manufacturers for a replacement? It is obviously not “fit for purpose” and so you could ask for it to be replaced free of charge. Worth asking maybe.

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks – I have been thinking about doing that, but we no longer have the receipt, so I’m thinking we’re out of luck. 🙁

  7. It’s great you are taking steps to prevent another huge heating bill next winter. May you’re bills were brutal. Watch it will probably be a warm winter. 🙂 Murphy! I have to admit I’m somewhat bad about planning way ahead and stockpiling. At the most I maybe play a month ahead. LIke next month I’m going up to my friend’s lake house, so July 1st I will have to rearrange my budget so that I put more into the gas category. But beyond a month…

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, you know it will if we work our tails off chopping wood all summer. 🙂 We never did much in the way of planning far ahead, but this farm life is teaching us a thing or two. The friend’s lake house trip sounds fun, Tonya!

  8. I am a big fan of buying quality over quantity. I one time thought I was saving myself money by buying a pair of Payless shoes and all they did was give my feet blisters. So I had to buy another pair of shoes and ended up spending more on the two when I could have purchased one to begin with. You really need to think about the quality factor in almost every purchase. And I think it is a great point in leveling your spending throughout the year to try to reduce the spikes (and stress) of high expenses in certain months. We are working through some cost saving/energy saving this summer to make sure we are not hit the same way you guys were this winter. Fingers crossed!

    • Laurie says:

      Ugh, shoes is one area where going cheap is not usually a good idea. We’ve been there, done that too, and have learned that good shoes are worth the spend. Glad you guys are preparing in advance for winter too – don’t want to be caught with our pants down like that again. 🙂

  9. Even Steven says:

    It’s one of the biggest budget savers to plan ahead, I couldn’t agree more. We seem to get in the most trouble financially when we don’t plan. Today is a prime example. We woke up a little late, didn’t prepare any lunches/meals from the night before. That means we need coffee and lunch, so there goes $20-$30, just from not preparing.

    • Laurie says:

      Oh yes, Steven!! The same thing happens here if I don’t make Rick’s lunch the night before. That doesn’t happen very often, luckily. 🙂

  10. Buying a cheap replacement is a good example….by planning ahead knowing that something needs to be replaced soon you can have the funds ready to go to buy the quality item you want instead of getting a stopgap, temporary solution. If something breaks unexpectedly…well…that’s what emergency funds are for, right?? 🙂

  11. These are some great tips and I do try hard to plan ahead for known but non-regularly occuring expenses. It can be hard though since my budget is so tight right now, which I know you can relate to as well. Yes, lots of times you do get what you pay for, but there are times that mentality backfires too 🙁

    • Laurie says:

      I totally agree about that mentality backfiring – it’s such a catch-22 thing: sometimes the cheaper stuff (like the camping can opener) is the best deal, and sometimes it’s not! I get you about the tight budget too: it’s hard to do much of anything but pay the bills when the budget is so squeaky, but we’ll get there, Kayla – both of us. 🙂

  12. Hey Laurie, awesome post as usual! This is something that I personally struggle with too. I save money, and do everything I can to continue saving. However, it really took a big change in the way I thought about just about everything for savings to actually start working for me. I had more can opener moments than I care to admit!

    • Laurie says:

      Huge money saver there, Brian! Great job on the DIY. We do as much of that as we can here, and it really helps the budget.

  13. Always an inspiration you and your family are, Laurie! Remember that when you have one of your “I can’t take it anymore” days! 😀

    You know what I struggle with is your can opener story. You don’t always know when it’s worthwhile to get the more expensive one until after the fact. With your can opener, you would think it was a good idea.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, thanks, my friend. I totally agree with the can opener type stuff. I would’ve never thought the cheap crappy can opener would work better than the name brand one, you know? I mean, it’s a manual can opener: what can the mfgs possibly screw up on that?? 🙂

  14. We have an interesting scenario in that my wife gets paid more during the months of January – April as that is the big push for tax season. We have to save money from those months to cover our spending in the rest of the year. We also end up putting some of that extra towards our summer vacations.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s smart thinking, Brian. We’d also eventually like to live off of last month’s paychecks like so many do as well. That would give us a nice extra peace of mind too. 🙂

  15. Kim says:

    I wish there was a guide about what to buy cheap and what no to. I bought a fairly expensive blender last year and it dies after about 3 months while my $19 one has been going for well over a year. We are lucky that our propane company does even pay so out bill is the same all year round. You don’t get those cheap ones in the summer, but at least winter isn’t crazy. Good luck with the garden. Growing produce for your family size is a great plan. Hopefully the rabbits and critters will be kind!

    • Laurie says:

      So frustrating, Kim!!! We had the same thing with our coffee pot last year. The cheapy one works like a charm! Our propane company has much, much lower rates in the summer, so we’re going to fill them up at the end of July, and hopefully between that and the wood stove install, we should save some huge bucks.

  16. I like the idea of DIY. Sometimes it takes a while to learn a new skill, but that new skill, (like doing things around the house) will save so much money in the future.

  17. Michelle says:

    I always try to plan ahead when making a purchase. Sometimes it’s hard because you need something at the last second, but I still try to fit in as much planning as I can.

  18. Elisabeth says:

    We’re always trying to think “big picture” and plan far in advance. I am super jealous of your garden! I’m looking forward to the day we can plant a lovely South Florida garden….apparently there are two harvest seasons here!

    • Laurie says:

      Wow – that would be so cool – two harvest seasons!!! Yeah, a bigger garden is definitely work to maintain, but it’s so wonderful knowing we’ve got an abundance of fresh, chemical free veggies at our disposal. 🙂

  19. I love the way you think about these things Laurie! I totally agree with the DIY opportunities – I recently broke a laptop screen, was quoted $300 to repair it, but with the help of a great youtube video and finding a replacement screen for $70 I managed to fix it myself! I’m pretty un-handy in general, so I was rather proud of this, but as you say “once you start fixing things yourselves, you’ll find that you’re a lot more handy than you think you are”. It’s such a great feeling when you learn to do things like this yourself, no matter how small 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      That’s amazing, Jason!!! Tech stuff is the one thing we need to learn more about DIY. Luckily, though, we’ve got our 14-year-old daughter, who knows way more about tech stuff than we do. 🙂

  20. I am trying to get better about planning ahead and taking advantage of low prices. I had originally been a little leery of this when it came to food as I used to throw out a ton of spoiled food. So embarrassing and wasateful! Now I am cautious on food that spoils or gets freezer burn (you know – after it sits in your freezer for 2 years)and generally will only buy a month in advance. But food items (or general items) that have a long shelf life, I’m stocking up. It really does make a huge difference, especially if you have a rough month to know that you have a well-stocked pantry, etc.

  21. Planning ahead is a great strategy. Last winter was such a horrible one. We’re planning on getting a snow blower to avoid doing all the shoveling we had to do last season. Now that we’ve been in our house for a full year we have a better understanding of our expenses and tracking that was key. I cannot stress enough the benefits of tracking your expenses and spending.

    • Laurie says:

      People really do underestimate the power of tracking your expenses. I’ve mentioned this to several people who complain about being broke, and they’re just like, “Nah. Too much work.” But it really does help to reign in spending! Glad you guys are getting s snowblower: you will LOVE it. 🙂

  22. I always try to buy quality. I just assume it is going to last longer and will be less expensive in the long run. The budget doesn’t always allow for that though and sometimes the cheap crap is what I end up getting. It almost never lasts. You get what you pay for I guess.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, most of the time you do get what you pay for, except for in the case of our manual can opener. In that case, cheaper was definitely better. 🙂

  23. Planning is what you need to do in order to succeed and sometimes trial and error is the way to go. Generally, more expensive items prove to be the better choice for the long term, but it’s not always the case, as it happened with your can opener. We weren’t really lucky to find any cheap and high quality products (that are not food), but we’re still trying. However, for clothing things are pretty obvious for us and it’s a lot better to pay the extra price for a good brand than to get something cheap that you can only wear once.

    • Laurie says:

      So true about the clothing, C. We work to find mid-quality brand clothing on clearance: we get the better stuff and save money at the same time. I got our son a Columbia brand winter jacket for $8 one time. 🙂

  24. That’s what frustrates me….when I pay extra for “quality” and then it falls apart. Just the hassle of taking stuff back to the store when I paid extra to ensure that wouldn’t happen….annoying! 😉

    • Laurie says:

      It sure is. I feel a bit duped for buying the name brand manual can opener when the $2 cheap is kicking its butt in quality.

  25. E.M. says:

    This is a great and smart idea! We are actually hoping the opposite will happen, now that we’ve moved to a warmer area. Being that we live on the third floor of our apartment building, hopefully the heat will rise enough in the winter so that we don’t have to turn the heat on much. Most of our kitchen things are on the “cheaper” side, and they’ve lasted a year now. I try really hard to research all the options and look at reviews before I purchase something, as it’s really disappointing to splurge only to have an item break.

    • Laurie says:

      I’ll bet you guys will have super low heating bills this winter, E.M. It’ll be interesting to see if that happens. I need to be better about reviewing before I buy stuff – I just don’t think of that!

  26. Kassandra says:

    I definitely value buying quality items. Even if I do buy it used, I make sure to go after items that are made to last or a least for a few years well. My DH is pretty handy with basic repairs and I make sure to learn from him and it has helped us to save more money.

  27. I hadn’t really thought about how spending some money, when you have the ability, can help smooth out the rough months. Our dog food occasionally goes on a crazy sale and often I’ll not stock up, as we only budgeted a certain amount (1 bag)…maybe that’s not such a great idea.

  28. I like the whole saving wood to conserve on the heating bill. I wish our house had a fireplace because that would be so nice to have in the winter. It would save a ton of money too.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, we’re excited for it, Girl. 🙂 Especially the part about not having to be cold anymore because the heat is down. We’ll just throw in another log. 🙂

  29. Melly says:

    Brilliant. Our plan whenever expenses were lower was always to put the money into savings. It never would’ve occurred to us to invest it for those higher-expense times. Thanks for the tip!

  30. Kevin says:

    Informational post…Planning is key for achieve any goal intelligently but make sure to follow that plan that you have made for better results. Its a excellent start or steps for savings.Thanks for sharing this post.

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