How to Save Money with Little Experiments
Ever feel stuck? Perhaps you feel like you will never pay off that debt looming over your head. Here is a quick list of ways we were able to save money while chasing our three biggest savings goals: paying off debt, building an emergency fund, and saving 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.
When you truly step back and focus on making do with what you have, you get a whole lot more creative. It also means those random ingredients get used up instead of wasted.
Plus, if you get creative there is food you can forage, barter and find on clearances. You don’t have to spend hundreds every week to feed the family.
2. Use Cash Instead of Card
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.
When we spend cash instead of using our cards, we physically see how much is going out and how much we have left. Do it for a while and get receipts for everything. Then add up the receipts to see where you are spending the most too.
This one change helped us significantly.
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.
Always compare prices though. A few times, bulk has not been cheaper so be sure to keep an eye on specials as well.
Also, only buy in bulk what you use and will use before it goes off. I’ve seen people make the mistake of buying in bulk only to waste their money when they didn’t use what they bought.
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 headfirst into the world of consigning and came away with a profit along with a lot of experiential learning.
It is not as easy as I thought it would be and these days I would probably just do it on Facebook, eBay or similar instead.
6. Go on a Netflix Strike
There are a lot of ways to enjoy a movie night for free. Don’t assume the easiest route involves dollar signs.
We all spend too much time switched on, watching our screens and it drains our lives. Cancel it all and if you really must watch something, look for free options.
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. As an added bonus, it removes a lot of the marketing thrown at you from social media etc.
They are less able to track you, your calls, conversations and what you want so they can’t target marketing at you. When you are not bombarded daily with social media through your phone, your desire for consuming will reduce too.
8. Live On One Income
By far, the most effective change in our finances happened when Dontae and I started living intentionally on his income. 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.
It is harder for most families to live on one income these days but try it and see how much you can cut back. Often, because we have two wages we spend more since there is a buffer with the extra income. How would you really cope if you only had one wage?
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.
I first read about it on Aspiring Millionaire.
10. Make Your own Baby Wipes
We have two children in diapers. By using this DIY method, we saved $480 in one year.
It’s not for everyone but with the cost of everything increasing, these small changes can make a difference. You can also try the elimination method to train kids earlier.
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”!
Besides, making your own also means often you can mash whatever you are eating which is even easier.
Once kids are used to solids, you can switch to having them eat what you eat. Start by pureeing or mashing your regular foods with a little less spice then progress until they are eating it the same as you.
There is no real need to make special baby food once they can manage well with eating.
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 as it can be reused.
Another option is to get a Santa Sack to reuse every year. Or reusable gift bags that get handed around the family. We really don’t need to be buying wrap all the time.
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).
Not everything you do will be a win. Reading tips, trying different things and finding what works for you and your family is the best way to find out. Two that didn’t work for me are:
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. 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.
Join the discussion: What are you saving for right now? What money-saving experiments are working for you?