Here’s To The Little Things That Really Add Up

Over the past few months I’ve learned how much the little things really add up. I used to flippantly spend a lot of money without even knowing it. I continually justified my purchases with “oh..it’s just a few dollars.”  I didn’t realize how much I was spending on piddly items until I started going over the bills with my husband. Here’s a list:

1) Subway-this sneaky restaurant used to eat my paycheck alive. Bag your lunch. Those $5 footlongs will take a serious chunk out of your savings if you eat at this restaurant often.

2) Soda-I’ve harped on this subject a lot. I wish I could get some of the money I spent on this product back…

3) Groceries. I cut my expenses by cooking with more beans and rice. I also reduced the amount of meat I purchase.

4) Cleaning Products. Vinegar is a lot cheaper than commercial products. I use it to clean everything except counters that have come in contact with raw meat.

5) Flippantly turning the thermostat up or down.  A few months ago I became a Thermostat Nazi.  I was shocked at the amount of cash I saved when I set the thermostat a few degrees warmer in the summer/cooler in the winter. Seriously. Our bill dropped by $60-100 per month.

Some people may think I’m cheap because I use vinegar as hair conditioner or because I get excited about good thrift store finds ( I would have thought this a year ago). I don’t really care. My husband and I are paying the bills with one income AND saving money. That’s pretty exciting.

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A List of Money-Saving Tips I Have TRIED.

Here is a list of frugal changes I have made in my life. I have gleaned many of these tips from other blogs and personal experience. Read away.

1) Change the way you cook!

Add more beans to your diet and eat less meat. Beans are cheaper. Plus, if you purchase them canned they are very easy to prepare. I cut $100 from my grocery bill each month. This is partly because of the aforementioned reason. (100 x 12= $1200/year!) I have posted a couple of my favorite bean recipes here.

2) Don a Pair of Sweat Pants When It’s Cold or Running Shorts When It’s Hot

I have watched our utility bill drop from approximately $145/month to $39/month. My hubby and I decided we are comfortable with our thermostat set to 79 degrees during summer days. We’ve also agreed that we are warm enough when it’s programmed to 66 degrees throughout the colder seasons. This small change has help trim $106 off of our monthly utility bill! That’s a big chunk of money over a span of a year. ($106 x 12 [the number of months in a year] = $1272). Keep in mind that your utility bill will be higher during more extreme weather situations)

3) Quit Using Most Paper Products

I am a nurse. I like things to be clean. Therefore, I do not trust hand towels that others might have dried their not so sterile fingers on. I also don’t believe in using the same wash rag to clean my counters and dishes. I’m weird, I get it. I figured out that my obsession with sterility was costing me a chunk of change each month. So, I decided to cut up some t-shirts and use them instead of paper towels. I feel that this is JUST as easy as using a paper towel! I’m not really sure how much this saves me, but Growing A Green Family has some good insight on the topic. I definitely don’t have to take the trash out as often! *NOTE* Make sure you sort your rags into bathroom cleaning, kitchen cleaning and ect. You don’t want to cross-contaminate. You may also want to consider washing your rags with BLEACH….just a thought.

4) Analyze Your Cleaning Products

Quit using clorox bleach wipes, individually wrapped mirror wipes, swiffer pads, dusters and other such-like products. I don’t know why I ever thought these items were so great. They drained my wallet. I now attach a micro-fiber towel to my swiffer. It works just as well. I use the aforementioned t-shirts to clean my sink, counters ect. instead of clorox wipes, mirror wipes, etc. Every time I pass pre-packaged cleaning wipes at the store, I wonder why I ever wasted my money on these products.

5) Quit Comparing Yourself

I think women REALLY struggle with this. Running into someone who looks like they have it all together, can make one feel inadequate, ugly, not smart enough…ect. I KNOW there have been times I ran to the mall, bought new jeans, shirts etc. so I could feel good about myself. That was a waste.

I have also compared my home to others who make a lot more money. In my head I would say “Wow. Their bedroom is bigger than my living room, dining room and kitchen put together.” This is not healthy and can cause one to spend money when they don’t have it. Be happy for your friend, colleague, ect. They will probably appreciate you more when you are TRULY happy for them and not envious of their gifts, looks, house etc.

6) Explore Cheap Dating Options

Hike, play games together, cook for each other, walk your dog together, find an inexpensive ice-cream shop, start traditions. These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. My hubby and I rely on these a lot!

7) Turn the Lights Off

I used to roll my eyes when people told me this, but it does make a difference in your utility bill.

8) Utilize Craig’s List
I’ve sold a lot of things on Craigslist or sites like it. I’ll list a few, just so you can see how useful it is! I sold an old christmas tree for $15 dollars. Someone bought an ab-doer for $17. I also sold two area rugs (I can’t remember the amount), a bunch of camping supplies, Insanity DVD set and probably a few other things I can not remember. I’ve probably made about $200 dollars selling stuff I no longer use. (You may ask why we ever bought an ab-doer…that was a purchase my husband made BEFORE I met him:)

9) Unplug Unused Appliances

There’s this phenomenon called vampire power. Apparently, some appliances use electricity even when they are not turned on. Also, be conscious of electrical items that are in rooms you don’t use much. Do you need that digital alarm clock turned on in the guest bedroom?

10) Think About Your Hair

I like pretty highlights. I like having auburn streaks in my hair. Do I need this? No. I’m pretty sure my hubby does not care about the color of my hair as long as it is not grey. The truth is, getting your hair colored  is wasted money. I’m still trying to come to grips with this:) I’m in the process of growing my highlights out. I will save hundreds of dollars/year by doing this.

11) Make Your Own

I’ve started baking my own granola bars and cereal. It’s surprisingly quick and easy. It saves money. You can apply the “Make Your Own” principle to many different areas of your life. I re-upholstered two of my chairs and 4 throw pillows for about $45. I’ve varnished a set of drawers I received for free. These items elicit admiring comments ALL of the time. Look for ways to do things yourself. You’ll appreciate the item MORE and your wallet will thank you.

12) READ

I became motivated to save money because I read some inspiring blogs (The Simple Dollar, Frugal Dad are just a couple). Reading is also entertaining, not to mention educational. The urge to go to the mall will be muted while reading a good book.

13) Eat Those Oats!

I can’t get over how much cheaper Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat and Grits are than boxed cereal. They are also healthier. Don’t like the taste? Add a little brown sugar or something else you fancy. Think you don’t have enough time? They make Oats that cook within a minute. Set your alarm a couple of minutes earlier:)

14) Find the Cheapest Grocery Store

My husband and I currently shop at ShopRite and Trader Joe’s. Every time I look up prices for “sale items” at other stores they STILL don’t compare to the price at these two stores.

15) Skip The Coupon

This may seem counterintuitive. Most of the coupons I come across are for BRAND NAME items. Clipping a coupon does not equal instant savings. Think about it. Does your family need Cheetos or whatever else the coupon is advertising? You will save MORE money buy not buying a unecessary item. This brings me to my next point.

16) Buy Generic

Some people seem to have a problem with this. I don’t. I find generic items USUALLY taste just as good as their brand name counterparts. Buy the generic item, unless the brand name item is on sale and costs less.

17) Skip the Junk Food

I was raised this way. We never had junk food in our home. I have been literally SHOCKED when I’ve opened other people’s pantries (with their permission of course). I’m greeted with boxes of M&M’s, large bags of Doritos Chips, Hostess cupcakes, and other fattening foods. I would be HUGE if I kept these items in my pantry. Plus, I’d have to add another $75 onto my weekly grocery bill. Just skip the junk food. I know everyone likes to have something sweet every now and then, but you don’t need a concession stands worth of treats in your pantry. Quit buying too much junk food. Your medical and grocery bill will thank you.

18) Use Canvas Grocery Bags

Our grocery store gives us $00.05 for every canvas tote we bring a long. We save about 30 cents a week by doing this. It’s not a lot, but it adds up. 30 cents x 4 (the number of weeks in a month)= 1.20 x 52 (the number of weeks in a year)=$62.40. You can do a lot with $62. We also like our canvas totes because they carry more groceries. This is important to us, since we have to climb a large flight of stairs to get to our kitchen. Thus, they save us time and money.

19) Stay Away from Soda

I feel like a hypocrite writing this tip. I LOVE Diet Coke and am currently drinking a can. I know it’s not healthy and it wastes a lot of cash. That’s why I’m adding it to the tip list. I will someday be a non-soda drinker and my bank account will have a lot more money in it! For example, if you drink one 12 pack of soda per week you are spending about $3.99 (this is the name-brand price in our area). 3.99 x 4 (the number of weeks in a month)= 15.96 x 12 (the number of months in a year)= $191.52. This does not include sales tax.

20) Think About It

Some people waste money without even thinking about it. Last week a friend state “he frequently buys souvenir pens, cheap sodas and other junk so his bill will add up to $10.” (Some stores accept credit cards ONLY when the bill is $10 or greater). My immediate thought was, “Hmm…I wonder if he knows how much money he is just throwing away.” Think about what you are buying. This small action will save you mulah.

21) Ditch the iPhone, BlackBerry, ect.

My husbands employer used to pay for internet service on his phone. Then, he got a new job. We were forced to foot the phone bill ourselves. After a couple of months we dropped it. He purchased a cheap phone. Our bill decreased by approximately $90/month. My husband has even stated “I feel less stressed when I don’t have e-mail on my phone. I don’t have to constantly check it.” I am less stressed, too. It drives me crazy when people feel the need to constantly check and respond to e-mail, texts or etc. I actually consider it to be rude. Anyway, $90/month = $1,080/year. That’s a lot of extra cash in our pockets.

22) Hang Dry Your Clothes

Not only does this lower your electricity bill, it also lengthens the life or your clothes. Have you ever found a spot on your favorite shirt AFTER you dried it? It’s almost impossible to get the stain out. It’s easier to get a smudge out of an item that has been hang dried.

23) Organize Your Pantry

It’s very frustrating to go shopping and buy something only to find out you already have two of the same item. This used to happen to me a lot. Then I typed a list I frequently update. This has saved me money! I no longer buy 3 extra bottles of cinnamon, crushed red pepper  or other such like items. I just check the typed up sheet in my pantry while I’m writing my grocery list. It is also worthwhile to maintain the neatness of your fridge.

24) Organize Your Entire Home
I believe an unorganized home can eat money out from under you. How many times have you replaced an item because you can’t find the one you already have? Have you ever paid a bill late because of forgetfulness? Do you often go out to eat because of a lack of planning? These situations all point to a lack of organization. I’m not a guru on the subject, but I have read a few helpful books on the topic. The FlyLady is a great resource for beginners!

25) Continue to Look For Ways To Save
A few years ago, I probably would have refused to do quite a few things on this list. I also did not save as much money during that period of my life. Be open-minded and LOOK for ways to save. You’ll be glad you did!

Want more some more insight on saving money?  Here is a group of blogs full of tips.

*This blog reflects the opinion of the author. Please understand that all information or opinions gleaned from this blog are done so at your OWN risk*