Our family has had to dramatically change the way that we spend, for several different reasons. I have been working on simplifying my life in many areas, and fortunately, that does end up saving a bit of money. I believe one of the best ways to save money is to be mindful of where your money goes. Write down your expenses, keep a budget, plan ahead.
Nothing earth-shattering, but here are a few practical ways to start saving money:
1. Plan out meals for the week and stick to your grocery list. This takes about 15 minutes a week of planning per week for me. I also have a menu list of about 20 items, so when I don’t feel creative, I just check the list and ask my family what they would like me to cook that week.
2. Plan Target trips for once a month, buy everything else at Dollar Tree. Target is a wonderful store, but they are robbing people blind every day. Those of us who go in for laundry detergent without our defenses up wind up spending $165 by the time we leave. Keep a running shopping list on your phone when you think of something that you need, and stick to that list when you enter. I know this isn’t much fun, but it will allow to you have the margin to splurge on Starbucks and a pedicure when you leave.
3. Have a date night in once a week and go out somewhere nice once a month. You deserve to eat a nice meal that someone else made every now and then, and you need quality time with your spouse. Your date night in can consist of Uber Eats and Netflix, and you might save $50 just by not using a babysitter! (Not to mention what you save on a trip to the movie theater.)
4. Buy as much of your Costco list online as you can (shipping is free). Not everything you want can be shipped, but we all know that the amount of money that we spend at Costco would be cut in half if we went there half as much, and grocery shopping with little people can be an event for sure. In fact, laugh about that here.
5. Ask for movie tickets and restaurant cards as gifts instead of more stuff. If we’re honest, most of us have more than enough stuff, trinkets, and gadgets. I did get a few fun things this Christmas, but had enough movie passes to pay for movies all the way through Oscar Season. Woot! We often use our restaurant cards for take-out during a busy week.
6. Try a shopping fast and/or write down every purchase other than groceries for two weeks. Revealing, sobering, embarrassing are a few words that come to mind regarding this little experiment. (I speak from experience.) But you’d be surprised how many meals you can make with what’s already in the pantry and freezer!
7. Cut back on kids’ activities. They are sneakily expensive and your kids really don’t need to be so busy. With more free time, they can be creative and will learn to entertain themselves.
8. Buy store brand as much as possible. I have been doing this for years and I really can’t tell the difference in hardly anything.
9. Grocery shop at a discount store. My favorites are Walmart, Aldi, and Trader Joe’s. They may not be glamorous, but once you get used to their prices, you will find yourself offended when you go back to the fancy ones.
10. Stop shopping (online or in person) for a pick-me-up. Shopping convinces you to spend money on things you don’t need. We peruse through aisles and websites looking for things to want. Not a good idea if we are on a budget. Going for a walk helps calm your nerves, ease your mind, and get your blood flowing. It is much healthier, mentally and physically, and much cheaper. If you really need to go to IKEA or TJ Maxx to get something specific, go through your house quickly before you head out the door. Assess the amount of stuff (or clutter) you already have and take a mental picture. Visualize that picture while you’re waiting in line on your way to check out.
Saving money takes discipline but it creates margin for you to be able to do the things for and with your family that really matter. Note: I did not include cutting cable because I think most people know that is an easy way to save a lot of money. You can do this!
You’ll also like 5 Ways to Cut Your Monthly Bills, 3 Easy Apps and Tricks to Save Money, 10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Staycation, Confessions of an Endcap Queen: How to Stop Mindless Purchasing and Let Me Entertain You—the Mom Myth