Wednesday, March 16, 2016

12 Ways to Save More Money in 2016 // New Year State of Mind

A lot like with travel... folks have been asking how it is we save money. We explained some of our travel budgeting tips... in our 12 Ways to Travel More in 2016 post, but what about everyday budgeting? Here KC and I have come up with 12+ tips for saving money every day. This is a dense one, but you guys asked, so we're delivering! :)

So here you have it, our top 12 Tips For Saving Money at Home.

1) Track Your Spending 
Use a site or app like Mint, pull records from online banking system, write down each purchase, put in phone, etc. Put those numbers and info into excel, seeing what you have spent, and where you have spent it is often enough to change some habits / create awareness.... (see #2)

2) See Where You Are Spending Most/Too Much
Do you notice particular places that you spend a lot of money? Or spend frequently and it adds up? What are you purchasing at these times? Maybe you've gotten into the habit of running out for a soda/smoothie/coffee/tea/etc. each afternoon or even a few times per week. Those $2 purchases really add up! Online shopping a weakness? Avoid it! Grabbing too many dinners out? Impulse buying at Target? Know your weaknesses so you can avoid them. Or at least be more conscious when you come face to face with them! Then you can actively ask yourself, "Am I buying this because I really want it? Or because it's a habit?" A little of this thinking can make a huge impact.

3) Evaluate Your Subscriptions and Services
Do you buy lots of magazines? Subscribing can save you upwards of $40 each year per magazine. You can do digital subscriptions as well! If you hold a subscription but don't like the magazine anymore, end it! :) Buying lots of books? Look into your library! Great options here. Bloggers and reviewers can sign up for Netgalley or blogging for books to receive free books in exchange for a review. Do you not actually use your Netflix? Skip it for a few months, and see how much you miss it! It saves you money, and if you really, truly, miss it, you can sign back up again. Same goes for home cable! Do you actually watch your cable? If not, you shouldn't be paying for it! Same with gym memberships, online memberships, bundles, etc. Do you really need to go "commercial free" on spotify? Or to get those extra channels? Can you do your own pedicure at home? Identify where you can downsize and eliminate! My thought is we are all paying for more things than we use! We shouldn't!

4) Use Coupon & Rebate Apps
We shop at Target frequently ( I should write an entire post on saving at Target... ) but, they have two great apps that will save you money while shopping there. One is Cartwheel, which gives small discounts on items from groceries to electronics at checkout. The other app is the Target app. It has a lot of store ads etc. It also has mobile coupons. Many stores have this! So search the app store to see if stores you frequent do too! Many times you can combine these coupons with paper ones, and sales... #megasavings I also use Ibotta. It's a rebate app. You scan your grocery bar codes and photo capture receipts for rebates. You can cash out in many forms, but I like to turn it into credit so I can buy books... or other things off my wishlist! :) I'm sure there are many others out there!  Michael's and Hobby Lobby both have app coupons as well, for you crafters! Are there any you guys love that I should try?!

5) Give Up Sweetened Beverages & Lower Your Bar Tab!
These are bad for our health, our teeth, and the budget. I am by no means perfect at this... but I try to buy less coffee out, and less soda out and at home. Especially if this is something you do regularly... it can add up! Same goes for all of you who go out regularly. Putting a limit on your drinks is a great way to cut your budget and stay healthy! Buying these less out is a first good step. Buying them less for home is a good follow-up. Putting a weekly/monthly limit on sugary and alcoholic drinks can help keep these costs down too. Even starting super small! If you drink 7 sodas a week, try cutting back to 5 per week! That makes a big difference.

6) Eat at Home
Similarly to getting drinks out, eating out is a huge way to spend money quickly! Try to save it for special occasions or put a weekly/monthly limit on how many times you can eat out to save some cash. Even if you make a specific goal, "I will only eat at Chipotle twice per month," that is a great way to start! Cooking at home can be extremely easy but also much much more cost effective! A week's worth of groceries could be the equivalent of just two meals out for a family of 2! (depends on where you are eating!)

Bonus: Eat veggie. Meatless meals are much cheaper, as well as healthier! Veggie pizzas... black Bean Enchiladas... veggie soups... cheese tortellini.... so many options! Grilled cheese, breakfast for dinner, veggie stir fry....

Check out these meatless recipes from my blog: Black Bean Corn EnchiladasCinnamon Vanilla PancakesVeggie Pot PiesBreakfast BurritosBelgian Waffles, Pumpkin Waffles, Easy Cheesy Potato SoupShell Stuffed Shells. 

7) DIY In the Kitchen
Eating at home saves tons of money, take it one step further by making basics that you use a lot! For example, seasonings are extremely marked up! If you use Taco Seasoning, Italian Seasoning, Poultry Seasoning, etc. frequently, just make it yourself. Buying the individual spices and renewing your stock over and over is SO MUCH CHEAPER. Same goes for things like broth or stock. You can make your own with veggie scraps or parts of a chicken, etc. Just keep a bag of the scraps in the freezer until you have enough to make the stock. We tend to go through a lot of broth in the winter months! Make your own desserts from scratch as well. Mixing your own cake mix or pie crust is much cheaper than buying them prepackaged! There isn't always time to do this stuff... but when you are able to... it really pays off! Sometimes, making a lot more than you'll need at that moment is also a good plan. That way when you're busy, you can pull a pie crust out of the freezer, or dig out your huge jar of taco seasoning and you're set! A super easy, but super cost effective kitchen DIY?! Vanilla Extract.

8) Freeze it!
When KC and I try recipes there are often too many servings for just the two of us. We don't do well eating the same meal 5 times in a row. If we can cut it in half, we usually will. If we can't or don't want to we will often freeze it! Things like chili, pasta sauce, some pastas, etc. freeze very well. We have a TON of 2 cup pyrex containers that we can take from the freezer to work. Easy peasy. Freezing is also a great way to use up weird things that you can't finish a container of for one recipe. For example, it's hard for us to use a whole container of fresh herbs. They can be frozen by themselves, in cubes of butter or oil for sautees, etc. Same goes for things like tomato sauces, adobo chiles, and even chicken breasts. We often thaw chicken breasts and won't have time to use them! Re-freezing isn't food safe. So we will boil them, shred them, and then freeze them. We can pull them out when we need them for a recipe. There are entire books and meal planning strategies that work around freezer meals. This is just a few basics!

9) DIY Around the House
Making your own cleaners, air fresheners, dryer sheets, swiffer pads, napkins, paper towels, etc. is easy and saves you money for a very long time! We recently made these wool dryer balls... and haven't bought dryer sheets in over 6 months! Our clothes are static free, we don't have to worry about chemicals .. and these will last for quite some time!! To top it all off, it saves on drying time as well! Which means our laundry is dry sooner, and our energy bills are lower! We also don't buy air fresheners. We don't like chemicals in our home, but it's also very easy to make your own vs. buying an eco alternative. I reused an old leave-in conditioner bottle, filled it with warm water and 20-30 drops of lavender essential oil. I leave it in the bathroom (where we keep the litter boxes....) and use it to freshen the room as needed but also during our box cleaning. It's so cheap and extremely easy to make. Get creative with places you can cut these costs in your home!

10) Cut Out Disposables
Similarly to above... is there a disposable item that you buy regularly that you don't need to? Could you cut out using face wipes, paper napkins, or paper plates? What about water bottles? Fill your own! Get your own to-go mug or thermos instead of getting the to-go containers for home. Even if you do take your containers out to a coffee shop, they will often give a small discount for bringing your own mug! Stop using paper plates, paper towels, paper napkins, etc. Taking just a month to try out life without those things can be enough to show you that you don't need to buy them. That saves so much money, not to mention it's easier on the environment!!

11) Carefully Evaluate Purchases
How many of you are impulse buyers? Inexpensive DVD, bought that. Clearance Find, bought that. Scarf that you definitely don't need and are pretty sure you like, bought that too. It's SO easy to purchase things that seem like a good deal. Or an opportunity that can't be missed. But can we really not afford to miss them? I've been trying for the past few years to purchase only items that I love or need. That means books that I want to read, I probably borrow it, get it at the library, or as a free ebook. A book I know I will read again, and want to keep, I buy it. Clearance top that fits mostly ok? Pass. Trendy dress, the last one in my size... unless I try it on a and LOVE it... pass. Cute new shade of nail polish, probably pass. Do I really need another coral-y pink? Is it really that different than the 3 I have at home? Probably not. So next time you're shopping, ask yourself, "Do I need it?" "Do I LOVE it?" It can definitely change how much you consume as well as how much you spend!! Make a conscious effort to borrow, trade for, and rent/check out what you can to avoid buying, buying, buying.

12) Buy Used When You Do Need/Want to Buy Something
When you do want to buy something, consider buying it used. After falling in love with a book, and knowing I'll want to read it again, I will decide I want to own it. I then either order it used on Amazon, or check out local bookstores that sell used books. If it's not there, I can wait. This also goes for DVDs, CDs, and even clothes/home items. When I am looking for a new lamp, an end table, something to spice up my wardrobe, etc. I spend an afternoon combing through local thrift stores. There are all sorts of treasures to be found there. Sometimes they're quirky, but sometimes it's the Target button up that I wanted to buy last year... but just couldn't allow myself to spend $30 on. Paying $5 for the same shirt, feels better! If you aren't into thrifting. Try things like Thred Up, Plato's Closet, and other resale/consignment stores. Amazon and local book/entertainment stores have great deals on used books, CDs, DVDs, etc. Kristen made this fabulous list of places to get books for free/cheap! :) :)

Bonus tips!

13) Unplug Sneaky Electronics....

Did you know that electronics and appliances suck energy even when they aren't in use? Your TV, your computer, your toaster.... they're all using energy when they are switched off! Which means you are paying for the energy they suck.... when you aren't using them! One way to combat this? Unplug them. Not practical? Plug your TVs etc. into a power strip, and switch the power strip off at night and when you aren't home. Doing this can save you $10-20 per year on your energy bill. It may not seem like a lot... but it adds up!

14) Use the Library!
Libraries stock most any book, audiobook, or ebook you may want to read. Not to mention DVDs and CDs. Use the library! It can save you money on cable, netflix, book buying, subscriptions to magazines, or things like audible. Maybe not all of these are for you, but changing just a few of them could save you $10+ per month! While saying goodbye to a magazine subscription might only save $10 per year.... saying goodbye to cable... well that's quite the savings! :) In addition to things you can check out at a library; libraries can also be a great way to use free wifi, reserve study or meeting rooms, join book clubs, and go to free events.

15) Use Things Up Before Buying New!
There is probably something for each of us, something that we buy way more often than we need to... For some, it's beauty products. We're always buying new eye shadows... but never finishing up old ones. We spend money on new products, yet we don't get our money's worth out of the old ones. There's nothing very good about that! Many beauty lovers participate in things like "Project 10 Pan," where they have to use up 10 products before buying any more! Maybe it's shampoos you've been trying but they just don't work for your hair, use them as shaving cream! (I'm serious!) If you like to buy books, to the point where it's racking up the $$$ consider reading two you own, before buying a new one. Even better if you sell the ones you finished before buying new ones! There are tons of places that you can apply this idea. But basically, use what you have, before you buy new. So what if body wash isn't your favorite, it still works... use it up! Maybe you are tired of a color of lipstick, why not try it with a gloss over the top, or just grin and bear it until it's gone?! It's easy to grin when you're thinking about saving money for something fun! This is one of the easiest ways to save money! The same goes for things that are on the verge of dying... jeans getting thin? Keep wearing them until they can't be worn anymore (even if it's just around the house on weekends!), keep using that old vacuum until it legitimately will not run anymore. You get the idea!

16) Sign Up for Perks at Places you Frequent
If you shop frequently at a bookstore, coffee shop, restaurant, hotel chain, online store, etc. See if you can sign up for a points, or frequent shopping card. I'm NOT talking about a credit card, I'm talking a punch card type thing, where you get a free cup of coffee after purchasing 10. I'm talking about getting "____ points" for your purchases you're already making, that will add up to free goods, shipping, coffees etc. down the line! We signed up for a program like this for a hotel chain... which at first wasn't really getting us anything. But as we stayed there more (when it was still the best $ deal), we racked up points. On our recent trip to Houston, we ended up with a free night in a king room! That's awesome, for not a lot of work on our part! We also occasionally get free king upgrade night vouchers in the mail, just for being a member! Which is great because we can pay the "two double bed" price and sleep in a king instead! Be choosy with these types of programs... but if you legitimately shop there... go for it!

Looking for more ways to get the most out of 2016? "12 Quick Things to Start the New Year Off Organized," "12 Ways to Invest in Yourself This Year," and "12 Ways to Travel More in 2016."

How do you save money at home? Do you use any of these strategies?

What are your tips for me? I'd love to know!



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