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Frugal Living Tips that Save Money

When we were looking at our budget and ways to cut costs to get our debt paid off, we realized that we had to go back to “Grandma’s way of doing things” and live more frugally. I quickly adopted these 10 frugal living tips and continue to use them to this day as we save for our future.

saving money

Use Coupons Wisely

Instead of clipping coupons for everything, I now only clip coupons for items that I use and redeem them when the item is on sale to maximize my savings. I’ve also started using many rebate apps that are available online or on your smartphone. My favorite include Checkout 51 and Ibotta.

Plan Your Meals Before you Shop

Every week I’ll sit with the store ads and look at what’s on sale. I’ll then plan a week’s worth of dinners based on what’s on sale and what I already have on hand in my pantry, fridge, and freezer.

If you can, be sure to plan meals where you can use one main ingredient two or three different ways. One of my favorite frugal meals is picking up a whole chicken and making roasted chicken one night, using the leftover meat to make Chicken Fried Rice the next night, and then using the carcass to create my own chicken broth which I then turn into homemade Chicken Noodle Soup.

Try a “Meatless Monday”

Speaking of planning your weekly meals, try going meatless at least once a week. One of the most expensive ingredients we buy on a weekly basis is meat. By trying different meatless meals, we have been able to slash at least $25 a month from our grocery budget.

Prepare Lunch the Night Before

pack your lunchIf you’re like me, you probably will hit snooze one or two times in the morning, making getting up and getting ready to go to work a little more stressful and busy. Many mornings I didn’t have time to put together a lunch, so I’d often find myself heading out to pick up a sandwich or some soup.

I quickly changed my ways after looking at our spending, and I’ll now pack my lunch the night before. Packing your own lunch could save you up to $1800 a year if you are used to grabbing something on the go every day.

Buy Clothes on Consignment or at the Thrift Store

When buying clothing gently used or second hand, you want to be on the lookout for quality pieces that are in great shape and will last. Look for quality name brand clothing that is well made or clothes that look as if they haven’t been worn or still have the original tag attached. Thrift stores will also have monthly or weekly specials, so be sure to get familiar with the sales schedule and visit during their discount days so you’re getting the best deals that you can.

Plan Nights In with Friends

No need to go out and spend a ton of money in order to enjoy an evening with friends. Plan a games night and invite everyone over. One of our favorite things to do is to host a dinner club with a group of close friends. Every month we select a theme and each family will bring over a dish making for a cheap and easy night in with friends.

Cook From Scratch

Some of our favorite things to make from scratch include bread, pancakes, pasta sauce, hot chocolate mix, and chocolate chip cookies that replaced the prepackaged lunch snacks that we used to buy. Not only has my food bill gone down, but so has the household waste that our family produces since we’re not throwing out all of that extra food packaging that comes with the prepackaged foods.

Group Errands Together

Saturday is errand day, and I’ll map out my route making sure that I can get all of my stops made in one trip. This has helped to save us a lot of money on gas each week.

DIY Car Maintenance

There are a lot of quick fixes and maintenance items that you can do yourself, even if you don’t consider yourself to be that handy. Checking the oil, changing the air filters and windshield wipers, and checking the air pressure in your tires are simple things that can be done with minimal effort, but can save you money in the long run.

Dump the Gym Membership

This was one of the first things that we did when it was time to tighten up the budget. Instead of paying for our monthly gym membership, we’ll go for a walk or a jog. There is also a huge variety of exercise videos that you can stream on YouTube for free.

Your Turn

  • What’s your favorite money savings tip?
  • How do you save money?

Prepare to Invest

Whether you want to save for retirement, pay for your children’s college, or buy a new house, making the right investment choices will allow your money to make you even more money in order to fund your goals.

Now that my husband and I are on a solid financial footing, we are ready to start investing. There are times when this process has seemed intimidating, but thanks to a great, and patient, advisor we feel more prepared and sure that we are going to be making the right decisions.

Set Your Financial Goals:

You’ll want to sit  with your investment adviser and review a list of your financial goals. Based on your prioritized list and the time frame that you have to meet that goal, your adviser will then begin the work of coming up with some investment options and be able to give you a monthly amount that will need to be invested.

Learn About Your Investment Options:

There are many options available when it comes to investing. The long list of possibilities includes stocks, mutual funds, savings bonds, annuities, exchange-traded funds, money market funds, and U.S. Treasury securities. You may also be interested in investing in real estate, precious metals, or commodities.

With so many options available, it is important to educate yourself on the risks of each type of investment and make sure the risks are appropriate for you. We all love the idea of our money working for us, but it’s also important that you can sleep easy at night knowing that you are comfortable with the investment strategy that you have selected.

Gauge Your Risk Tolerance:

How much risk you are willing to take on depends, for the most part, on how much time you have before you’ll need the money. If you are not retiring for another 30 years, it would make sense to take a riskier approach and perhaps consider investing in more aggressive funds or forms of investment. Time is on your side, and you are in a better position to weather the ups and downs that the market presents.

If you need the money in 5 years or less, you would be looking at a less risky investment such as a bond or a money market account. Although these don’t have the high rates of return that a more risky investment would have, you are much less likely to cash out at a loss if the market takes a tumble.

Diversify Your Investments:

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” By diversifying your investments you are safeguarding your money. The idea of course being that if one investment loses money, the other investments make up for those losses. In the case of a down market, although your investments may suffer, they won’t suffer as much as they would if you weren’t diversified.

don't put all your eggs in one basketI had a former co-worker learn this lesson the hard way. When the tech bubble was going strong, he invested all of his money earmarked for retirement into tech stocks. When the tech bubble burst, so did his dreams of retirement, and as a result had to continue in the workforce past his original retirement age.

Be on a Solid Financial Foundation:

Before you start investing, you want to make sure that your financial foundation is set. You want to be on a monthly budget with a positive cash flow so that you know how much you have to invest each month.

You also want to make sure that your consumer debts and student loan debts are paid off, freeing up even more cash flow to save and invest with. Last but not least, you want to also ensure that you have an emergency fund with three to six months worth of expenses in place so that if the unexpected happens, you are not pulling money out of your investments.

Don’t Forget to Ask Questions and Educate Yourself:

With the internet and Google, it has never been so easy to find information, but sometimes that information can be as overwhelming as the thought of investing if you are just getting started. The Securities and Exchange Commission has a lot of great information if you are in the beginning stages of investing.

Also consider asking for referrals to a trusted financial adviser. Ask family, friends, and colleagues if they work with someone that they trust and recommend. My Dad’s advice when it came to looking for a good financial adviser: Don’t invest with anyone who has a smaller net worth than you.

Your Turn!

  • What is your biggest financial goal?

How to Build Your Emergency Fund

Everyone needs an emergency fund. Life is going to happen, and those unexpected expenses can sometimes come with some serious sticker shock.The emergency fund provides that buffer between you and life, and prevents you from incurring debt when a true emergency arises.

emergency fund

When life throws you a financial curve ball, the emergency fund will turn what would otherwise be a crisis that has you running for your credit card, into an inconvenience that has you writing a check. Let’s look at the four steps you can take to help you start to build your fully funded emergency fund.

1. Open an account that’s accessible, but not too accessible:

When an emergency occurs you want to make sure that you can easily access the funds, but not have them so accessible that you accidentally spend the money on items that are not emergencies. Consider opening up a separate savings account that is not attached to your debit card. We have ours in a higher interest rate savings account where the money can be transferred into our checking account within 24 hours.

emergency fund

Remember though, your emergency fund is insurance rather than an investment. We’re not looking to make big returns on the money that is sitting in this account. If you make some interest (I think we earn $5 a month), that’s fine, but earning money is not the intention. The intention of this money is to protect the rest of your finances – including any investments.

2. Determine what 3 to 6 months of living expenses are:

Most financial experts agree that a fully funded emergency fund should contain 3 to 6 months of living expenses. In order to determine this amount, go back to your budget and look at the essential expenses that you would need to calculating living expensescover in order to get through each month. Add up your housing costs, transportation costs, monthly grocery budget, and any other monthly fixed expenses that you would still be obligated to make (insurance premiums, etc).

In order to determine whether you should be closer to the three or six month savings mark, you also have to factor your risks. If your job is stable and you are in good health or if you have disability coverage through work if you were to become ill, you could consider keeping your savings closer to the three month mark. If you are self-employed or have a variable income, you would want to set your savings goal closer to the 6 month mark.

3. Set aside a savings goal in your monthly budget:

When you add up the amount to save, it might seem overwhelming at first, but don’t let that stop you from working towards this goal. Start small with a starter emergency fund and once you get all of your debts paid off (minus your mortgage), then you can focus on building that emergency fund by taking what you were putting towards debt and now putting it into savings.

spare change

Each month when you make your budget, look at the money you have left over and commit a certain amount of it to your emergency fund until it is fully funded. The more you are able to set aside for your emergency fund, the faster you will hit your goal amount.

4. Only use the money for emergencies:

The best way to make sure that you are building your emergency fund is to only use the money in that account for actual emergencies. So what constitutes an emergency? Any major expense that you couldn’t have anticipated, such as:

  • An unexpected job loss
  • A medical emergency
  • A sudden, major car repair
  • A leaking roof during a storm

What doesn’t count as an emergency are those expenses that we should have anticipated and been planning for already. Christmas, annual insurance premiums, and regular car maintenance are not emergencies so be sure to plan for these somewhere else in your budget.

Our emergency fund has saved us in a couple of occasions over the last three years and turned those “emergencies” into much less stressful inconveniences. When it was not only raining outside during a particularly heavy storm, but also raining inside, we had the money to be able to put on a new roof. More recently when our minivan, and main form of transportation, decided to pack it in, we were able to use some of the funds from our emergency fund to purchase a new to us car with cash.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to leave your emergency fund sitting untouched, but if the time arises, you’ll be glad that it is there.

Your Turn!

  • What has life thrown your way that either made you glad you had, or wished you had, the extra funds available?

How to Save Money

Confession time – I’m a natural spender. I always knew that I should save money, but I never knew how to save money. My idea of saving money was getting something on sale. Sure I spent $25 that I probably didn’t need to, but I “saved” $75!!

 

In order to get our finances in order and get our debt paid off, I had to go from being a spender to learning how to save money. This transition is not always easy, but here are 5 simple things that you can do to start saving money.

1. Save Your Raise:

Any extra money that you receive that you’re not used to living on, save it before you spend it. This can include any bonus or overtime pay, raises, and tax refunds. Before it disappears and you have no idea what happened to it, put those extra dollars into a high-interest savings account.

 

2. Save Your Spare Change:

Every day or at the end of the week, empty your pockets or coin pouch into a jar and watch the savings grow. Since we use cash for most of our daily purchases, our change adds up quickly. In 2016 we accumulated $160 in loose change which was used to purchase the gifts for our two daughter’s Christmas stockings. Not a bad way to use those coins that would normally weigh down your wallet.

 

3. 52-Week Challenge:

If you’ve spent even a minute on Pinterest, than you’ve probably seen this savings trick. The idea is that every week you save a predetermined amount of money. You start by setting aside $1 on week one, $2 on week two, so that by the time you get to the last week, you’re saving $52. Follow this and when the year is up, you will have saved $1,378.00. There are many savings challenges out there depending on what your goal amount is, and the reason why they work is because the savings goal for each week is a manageable amount therefore making it easier to stick with.

 

4. Pay Yourself First:

Another way to save money automatically is to pay yourself first. If you have your paycheck directly deposited, talk to your Human Resources department and see if they are able to split the deposit so that you have money deposited into your savings account with each pay. You can determine how much you would like sent into your savings. It could be $25, $50, or even 10% of your earnings. Since it’s being put into your savings account right away, you’ll be sure to save it before you can spend it.

 

5. Have a Spending Plan (aka The Budget):

This is the biggest money saver of them all. Set up a monthly budget where you list your monthly income that is expected and deduct the various expenses that will need to come out. From the remaining amount you can determine how much you would like to set aside into savings.

No matter what method or methods you use to save money, the trick is to make sure that you are consistent and stick with it. Happy Saving!!

 

Your Turn!

  • What do you do to make sure that you are saving money each month?
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