Ever feel stuck? Perhaps you feel like you will never pay off that debt looming over your head. I put together a quick list of ways we were able to save money while chasing our three biggest savings goals: debt payoff, emergency fund and a down payment on a house. Here are 15 that worked (and even a few that didn’t).
1. Launch a grocery strike – We recently ran low on groceries after our food budget was gone. Rather than mess up our budget, we committed to eating what was on hand until the next payday. It got tight, I’ll admit, but we made it.
2. Use cash instead of plastic – How do you even know when you are “over budget”? I never did until I started using cash envelopes for things like food, gifts and entertainment. Every coaching client I help gets this advice from me. Simplify with cash.
3. Buy in bulk – We got our first Costco membership a year ago. Having quality food in bulk in our pantry and freezer makes the grocery strikes much easier. We do them regularly now.
4. Purge your house for items to sell – I did a clean sweep right before I sold items at a consignment sale. Not only did I make more space, but I made some money. Perhaps for you it’s a moving sale, garage sale or eBay. Don’t underestimate the power of cleaning up (or the Force, for that matter).
5. Sell items at a consignment sale – This spring, I dove head first into the world of consigning and came away with a profit and a lot of experiential learning.
7. Ditch smart phones – This one may or may not be possible depending on your work, but I included it to get you thinking outside the box. While getting out of debt, Dontae and I got rid of our smart phones, saving ourselves hundreds of dollars. It wasn’t fun, but when it’s for a season,, you can live without a lot of things.
8. Live on one income – By far, the most effective change in our finances happened when Dontae and I started living intentionally on his incom. We put away everything I made toward debt. It took some getting used to, but now I am able to stay home with the kids largely because we are debt-free and used to living on one income.
9. Try the 52-week challenge – We started this in January to save toward our house, but you can do it anytime. Pick a day and put away money toward a goal. This week, it will be $1. Next week, put away $2. Then $3. In 12 months, you will save $1,378! It has been a great “forced” discipline for us.
10. Make your own baby wipes – We have two children in diapers. Your sympathy is appreciated. 🙂 By using this DIY method, we saved $480 in one year.
11. Make your own baby food – Here was another home fun for us. Mainly because making baby food has so many positives: it saves money, it’s healthy and it’s really not that difficult. I’m a big fan of “not that difficult”!
12. Start clipping some coupons – I guarantee you don’t have to become an extreme couponer to save money. I got my start following a few simple steps from a good friend and saved $402.94 my first year.
13. Use cloth to wrap gifts – Growing up, we didn’t have a lot. Christmas was always fun, but my brothers and I burned through wrapping paper like little tornadoes. One year, my mother, who has always been an avid seamstress, wrapped our gifts in Christmas fabric. Each present looked so grand. At first, we kept getting stabbed by pins. That was resolved by investing in some ornamental cords – also reusable. I soon preferred fabric wrapping instead of paper.
14. No-gift Christmas – One year, my extended family decided not to do the standard gift exchange. We agreed to have each family present something special to the whole group as a gift. One of my brothers grabbed a guitar and sang worship songs to us with his wife. Another brother gave us summer sausage from his last deer and his wife baked cinnamon rolls. My father, who has always loved to write, assembled a collection of his short stories and poems into book form and gave each of us a copy. It was such a neat (and scrumptious) Christmas.
15. Become a 1-car family – I listed this one last because we’re living this experiment right now! It wasn’t entirely by choice (engine failure). We could have bought a replacement vehicle, but we decided to test this and see if we really need it right now. It has been six months. Turns out, I shop less, therefore I spend less. Aside from the pain of borrowing a car to run errands, it has been a money-saving success.
And now here are two experiments I tried and tried. And tried. Each one has crashed and burned (or has even cost me money).
1. Selling books – I have tried to sell my books at garage sales, Half Price Books, BookScouter.com, eBay, Amazon and several others. Each time, they offered pennies, if anything at all. So now I either trade them on PaperBackSwap.com or donate them or give them away to someone who really wants them. And that’s alright with me.
2. Credit card points – In the past, I have gone down the credit card route several times. I kept telling myself each time I swiped my card that I was earning points. Swipety, swipe, swipe, swipe. That was the sound of my early 20s.
Some people have had that come true, but 75% of people (myself included) never redeem their airline miles, according to DaveRamsey.com. Instead, I missed payments, spent more and felt the shame of late fees. I get that people use them as a tool, but credit cards have never once saved me money.
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Join the discussion: What are you saving for right now? What money-saving experiments are working for you?