This past holiday weekend has really got me thinking. First, it's a holiday so there is always reasons to make food for cookouts. It's my husband's birthday, reasons for cake and presents (sort of). It's hot as can be so we have had the air on. We were also in a rush and I found myself spending too much at the grocery and frequenting fast food restaurants too often. Yikes. I had to really take a look at my spending and my wasteful habits.
I am not happy or "positively well" when my bank account dips lower and lower and it's mainly due to my erratic spending lately. I am ashamed that I have allowed myself to get to this recently. To top it off, things around the house are starting to fall apart or need repair. Our central air needs a new motor, my cell phone is dying, my coffee pot is falling apart and my washer is starting to sound deathly ill.
My husband is still making less, but he enjoys where he works. I don't want him to quit, but we have got to get our priorities back in line. I started looking into how to save money again. There are a few things that we started doing again that we shouldn't have so we are doing them now. Here are our ways of reducing over the next couple of months.
1. Canceled my larger newspaper subscription. I was receiving this newspaper only for the coupons twice a week, but I didn't use them because I don't normally buy a lot of boxed items. Plus, I prefer to read my local newspaper, the Wilmington News Journal.
2. Canceling cable. Yes, we had signed up for cable again during the cold months. We hardly watch it right now so it's stupid to keep it.
3. Hang clothes out to dry. I have been reading that it can cost anywhere from .30 to .40 cents per load to dry clothes. I do a lot of clothes sometimes and our clothes are falling apart from being dried so often. This will extend the life of our clothes and save on our energy bill.
4. Buying a blanket for our water heater. These puppies are less than $20 and will really make a difference over time.
5. Go to grocery less. I am going to go back to only hitting the grocery every other week unless I need fruits and veggies, but I can go to the farm market for my produce each week and spend less.
6. Gardening. We started a garden this year. We planted corn, peas, green beans, tomatoes galore, eggplant, peppers, carrots, strawberries and cucumbers. I am now starting to get cucumbers off the vine and everything else is looking great. I can't wait to start canning and start reducing our food bills. Next year, we are planting lettuce, herbs, watermelon and pumpkins and a variety of other vegetables to attempt to produce most of our food needs.
7. Raising chickens. This won't be for a little while, but we are hoping to start raising our own chickens for egg production. Many people are doing this now. Just please do not do this if you are really close to neighbors or don't have enough room for the chickens to roam. It's not fair for them.
8. Cloth napkins and rags. I bought paper napkins the other day because I didn't have any cloth napkins and it was driving me crazy when we ate dinner. So, I bought the paper but went to work making cloth napkins. I found a tutorial online and used fabric I found at a yard sale. Not sure it was the best fabric, but we are going to try them out. I will keep at it if I need new ones, but it's easier to throw a bunch of cloth napkins in the wash than to keep purchasing new paper!! It's also better for the environment. PS - they make great gifts.
9. Ask friends and family for things that need replacing or go to yard sales. I need mason jars right now. They aren't terribly expensive, but I know that lots of people have more than they can use and are willing to get rid of some. It just takes some asking. I posted a request on FreeCycle.org and I have sent an ask out to friends and family. Keep a list of things you need to replace. For example, I have a list in my car of things I need to replace like casserole dishes. I stop at yard sales when I come across one and check my list. I found a casserole dish and a nice cotton tablecloth the other day. Both items I was looking for and I paid less than $5 total for both.
10. Cutting out the extras. We rented a storage facility a few months ago because we thought we might want to move to an older home closer to town and wanted to start downsizing. We have since decided to stay put because we already have a great interest rate and we aren't going to find a house as efficient as our current one. Anyway,we still have a storage facility. That's an extra $55 a month. We are cleaning out storage and taking all unwanted items to my sister to sell in a yard sale and giving some things to people who could really use them. We are cutting clutter, saving money and helping others.
11. Clothing swaps. The start of school is just around the corner. My kid is growing like a weed and will need new clothes. However, I don't necessarily need to buy new. I would like to organize a clothing swap with other moms. I figured we could bring our older clothes to a swap meet and exchange them before school this fall. Either that or we could organize a way for everyone to sell items at a yard sale price to each other. We would make money and save on new clothes for our kids. The same can be done for adults too.
12. Find cheap things for kids to do. I am extremely lucky to have my parents next door. They are more than happy to help us with our daughter in the summer, but sometimes my mom needs a break. I found a day camp for my little girl at the college where I work. They have a great little program that last for five days from 9 to 4 and it only costs $20 for the week! They will learn about nature, growing food, trying items from the garden, crafts from items found in nature, etc. She will be exposed to some new and interesting things this year and I will feel good knowing my mom is getting a break.
13. Look for money. I am going to look for different ways to bring in extra income and to decrease our spending. My goal would be to pay off our bills, not to accrue more debt! Try looking for a part-time job, free-lance work, do small jobs for people for money, have a yard sale, sell your fresh vegetables from the garden, make jelly's and jam's and sell them, baby sit for a little extra cash. There are ways to bring in extra income. I know several people who are managing two or three part time positions to pay bills.
14. Keep goals in mind. We have the goal of becoming debt free in five years. We can't forget this goal. We need to make sure that we keep our goals in mind at all times. It's easy to forget why we aren't going out to eat with all of our friends or going on vacation, so we need to remind ourselves. If you are really struggling to pay the bills, than do anything you can to get rid of them. My favorite line is from financial guru Dave Ramsey, "Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else!" This means that you need to work really hard now to live really well later.
Hope this list gives you some ideas of your own. I am using it as a reminder to myself to keep going. It's actually kind of fun to try to find ways to save money once you get started. Just stay focused.
***After posting this I remembered a couple of things I wanted to mention.
15. Color your own hair. I have been going to a stylist for a long time. It is about $75 to have my hair cut and highlighted every 6 weeks. I finally decided to have her cut it off and color it all one color. I was afraid to color over highlights so I let her do this one. My next color will probably come out of a box. They have come a long way with home hair color and they are only about $10-15 (less with a coupon). This will add up to a savings of over $200-250 if I continue to have her cut my hair for $25 (Plus tip) the year. You can also learn how to cut your husband and children's hair (not letting him tough mine!). We have an adult education program at Laurel Oaks. They offer a hair styling class. These classes are not terribly expensive when you think about how much you save over time. I will continue to go to her to cut my hair because she does a wonderful job and I don't want her to lose my business. Continue supporting those people you have gone to for years if you can. They need your business too!
16. Stop eating out frequently. We have been eating out way more than I would like to admit this summer. I have been meeting friends and co-workers and my mom and daughter for lunches. Instead, I am going to ask them to bring a lunch and meet them somewhere. We have places to eat around campus and there's always the city park. I used to eat a sandwich at work and meet someone for coffee or tea later (I will go back to that). Don't ignore your friends or skip meeting up with them. Just find new ways to do it. Now, this doesn't mean that you can't ever eat out. I am still going to eat out on occasion, but I will try to make sure it is within my budget. Plus, eating in your own community supports local business.
17. Be thankful! Remember what you have that is great in life. I am extremely fortunate to have a wonderful family. My husband and I area on the same page financially and have the same future goals. I am thankful to have a good home to live in, plenty of land to grow my own garden, wonderful neighbors and kids for my child to play with. I am thankful to have my parents next door so we are able to help each other out. I am thankful for Wilmington College for my education and providing me an income and wonderful co-workers for the past 10 years. I am thankful to have my health.
Set your goals, cut back where you can and be thankful for what you have. Staying positive about these things makes them easier to achieve. If you think negatively about achieving your goals, it won't happen. You will hit bumps in the road, I certainly have and some recently, but get over it and keep going. Hope we can all begin living positively well!