How to REALLY Save Money (because you’ve already skipped the latte)

In a noisy world where it feels like everyone wants you to spend your money, today I’d just like to tell you how to save more of it. Here are 11 ways to save money, that have actually made a tangible difference in our budget.In a noisy world where it feels like everyone wants you to spend your money, today I'd just like to tell you how to save more of it. Here are 11 ways to save money, that have actually made a tangible difference in our budget. #frugalliving #moneysaving #budgetingtips

There’s plenty of money-saving advice on the internet, but it doesn’t always come from people’s actual experiences. It’s often hypothetical, trite, and doesn’t speak to the circumstances of the people who actually need the ideas. For instance, I’m tired of reading the advice to “skip that fancy Starbucks latte you buy everyday!” I only buy a latte a few times per year, not per week!

Telling people to skip the latte, pack their own lunch, or cancel cable is as insulting as it is stale.

So here’s something a little different: I’ve brainstormed the specific things we’ve done to save money these past seven years, and now I’m sharing them with you.

Being careful and intentional with your finances is an important ingredient to a flourishing home. It doesn’t do to dwell too much on money, but we can’t deny it’s an aspect of our lives that needs stewardship.

If you’re frugally minded, you have likely worked on some of these things already. If that’s the case, consider this encouragement and motivation to stay that frugal course, because we’re right there with you! But who knows? Maybe you will find some fresh ideas here that can make a difference in your family’s finances this year!

Real Ways We Save Money and Live Frugally

1. We made a budget

This is the (often painful and tedious) first step to managing your money wisely. But we’ve learned that we can’t pay off student loans, save for our big goals, or live consistently below our means if we don’t know where our money’s going. For budgeting, we currently use Dave Ramsey’s free software, Every Dollar. We track all my blog expenses and income on a Google spreadsheet.

Another thing we’ve learned is that we need to frequently reevaluate our budget. We check categories to see if we can trim one down, or if one is too tight and needs more leeway, or if we need to come up with a new category for a new season. Basically, don’t be lazy about your spending and saving habits. Keep the pulse of your finances so you can manage them (or they’ll manage you, right?).

2. We drastically reduced our phone bill

Three years ago we were spending $140 per month for our cellphone plan. And the phones weren’t even the current “generation”! Not many of our budget categories had wiggle room, but I knew this was one that did. Luckily, I found a friend’s blog review of Republic Wireless. This company uses a hybrid of cell service and WiFi so they can offer cell phone plans that are much more affordable than bigger companies like ATT&T or T-Mobile.

How much more affordable? Well, for our two smartphones with unlimited talk, text, and plenty of data, we pay only about $35 each month! Update: We found out Republic ALSO offers a discount for teachers, which means we actually only pay about $25/month now! This means that we’ve freed up over $100 in our budget every month.

Switching to Republic Wireless has saved us over $1,300 per year! When we made the switch, we had to buy new Android phones up front, but we chose cheap options. After a couple of months, the switch had already paid for itself!

Here's how to save money on a tight budget. Non-cliche advice for the frugally-minded homemaker.

3. We shop at Aldi

Aldi is a nationwide discount grocery chain that I’ve been loyal to for ten years. Their prices are significantly cheaper than any other store we’ve shopped at. The “catch” is that Aldi stores are much smaller than conventional grocery stores and have less options. Some people find this limiting, but I love it because it makes for a simpler, more efficient shopping trip! Aldi has its own natural/organic line, which allows us to eat healthier options without the higher price tag.

If you’ve never tried Aldi, I highly recommend you check for a store in your area. I know it can be overwhelming to familiarize yourself with a new grocery store layout and products, but in this case it’s extremely worth it! My main caution with Aldi is that you stick to the basics and staples when you shop. Aldi carries a number of fun imports and specialty foods, as well as low-priced frozen and processed foods. It’s easy to get excited about their prices and end up going overboard with what you buy. So save the “fun foods” for an occasional party or family night, and turn your cart aside if it begins to veer towards the Gouda.

4. We buy cheap food

Where you shop makes a difference, but how you shop probably matters even more. Whether or not you have access to an Aldi, you can still reduce your grocery budget by always going for the cheaper food option of any category. You need fresh produce, so make the cheapest versions your staples. For example, we buy lots of carrots, russet potatoes, onions, bananas, navel oranges, and cucumbers. We’re less likely to buy avocados, bell peppers, pomegranates, and berries because these are more expensive and won’t stretch nearly as far. Buy produce in season for the cheapest prices, and only get the “special” produce when it’s on sale.

Here are 11 real ways to save money, even when you already live cheap.

There are dozens of other ways to go the cheaper route: buying canned wild salmon instead of fresh, a plain can of tomato sauce instead of a jar of pre-seasoned pizza sauce, cheaper cuts of meat, etc. For more ideas, here are 25 common grocery store items that we simply stopped buying (and what we use instead).

In my opinion, the big secret to saving money on food is to change your definition of what’s normal and what’s a treat. Ice cream, raspberries, salad dressing, frozen pizza…change your thinking to count items like these as treats, and you’ll save hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year. Whenever I feel deprived for passing up the cream cheese, I just remember that many people in the world live on the simplest of diets: rice, beans, fresh fruit, chicken…just basics. We can make good meals out of basics and do just fine.

[question]If you haven’t read my blog post on How to Save Money on Groceries without Buying in Bulk or Clipping Coupons, open it in a new window to read when you’re done with this! In this post, I explain why knowing your own psychology in the grocery store is KEY to saving money![/question]

5. We delay spending

This is more of a personality quirk of mine that has turned into a helpful way to stay frugal! I like making lists of things I want to get for myself, or the home, but then I’m often a bit lazy about actually making the purchases. A few months later I still haven’t bought the items, and I realise that half of them I don’t need or already found for free. Now I purposely postpone spending, knowing my needs and desires may change down the road. This habit has saved our family a lot of money, and made us more intentional and effective with our purchases.

These are the five major things we’ve done to reduce our spending. However, there are some smaller but still effective ways to save money that we’ve worked on. These need less explanation:

6. We switched from disposable to reusable for household items

Disposables can be convenient, but they’re a money suck. Here are fifteen ways to avoid disposables around your home, and here are some additional ideas for your kitchen. Buying reusable options does take some investment, so make these changes gradually.

7. We decluttered our stuff

Early in our marriage we went through a major stuff purge. We carefully evaluated everything we owned, and trained ourselves to view items critically and intentionally. I outlined the process for simplifying your home in my book, Your Simple Home Handbook, which is available HERE.

And if you haven’t read it, here’s the post where I talked about how decluttering my home changed the way I spend.

8. We rarely shop at the mall or Target

We don’t want to put ourselves in the path of items we don’t intend to buy. Browsing is a costly pastime; if we do want to “shop around,” we do it in a thrift store or the used book store! When we do need to purchase something from a large store, we treat it like a surgical strike: choose the item ahead of time online, then beeline for that item in store and get out with our wallets intact.

Here are 11 effective ways to save money that actually work and make a difference in your budget!

9. We make our own cleaning supplies

I’m very minimalist with my cleaning supplies, using a small stash for most tasks, and a slightly bigger arsenal for deep cleaning. I also recently added some essential oils to our cleaning routine.

My caution with homemade and natural cleaners is that you not go overboard. Have fun, but if you’re really trying to save money make sure that things things you make are replacing/reducing the stuff you would buy, not adding new expenses and clutter to your life.

10. We just pick one

This is a general rule of thumb for anything from subscriptions to entertainment to activities. Pick your favourite from the options available. We just have Netflix, rather than Netflix and Hulu and Amazon. I’m subscribed to one magazine.* I don’t get monthly subscription boxes from anybody! (There are a couple of subscription services I use that don’t require a regular shipment, which I appreciate.) When we want to spend money on a family outing during a school break, we only pick one.

We would spend too much money and time if we tried to do all the things, services, and offers available.

*Update: I’m no longer subscribed to ANY magazines! I decided to check them out for free from my library. Even though I’m usually a few issues behind by the time I get my hands on a copy, the savings is worth it to me.

11. We don’t have long commutes

My husband lives five minutes from the school where he teaches, and I work from home by writing my two blogs. In the past, we’ve picked apartments that were within walking distance of work! We’ve saved lots of money on gas, which can be a very large budget category for some people. You can’t always control where you live or work, but the next time your job or home changes, keep the commute time in mind.

What have you found to be the most useful ways to save money?

18 Comments

  1. Menu planning is key for keeping our grocery budget low. I recently challenged myself to cut my grocery budget in half to motivate me to use food we already had at home. Planning out our meals and making sure leftovers are eaten have really helped. It hasn’t been easy but it’s been satisfying. I may even continue a little longer than I had originally planned because we still have so much food in our freezer!

    1. Yes, menu planning is so important for living frugally. We’ve been very off and on about it, but set a New Year’s Resolution to get back into meal planning since we’d chronically been going over in this budget category all last year. We were faithful about it this past month and it felt amazing to actually use what we bought, not have a crowded fridge with spoiling food, stay in budget, and still eat well!

  2. Thank you so much for being a blogger who shares real tips, not just on frugality, but in every post you write! I am excited to see some of these suggestions. Phone bills seem to be an untouchable subject for most budget blog posts, but I have also found it to be an easy way to save money, especially if you are willing to give up smartphones. Having just a plain Tracphone has really simplified my day, and its only $7 a month! It is especially refreshing to remind ourselves of the simple meals of most of the world when we feel like we are deprived of “treats” on our budget. How blessed we are to even be able to consider these options. I will definitely be thinking of your mindset when I’m passing over special options on my next Aldi run and sticking with those good-meal basics!

    1. You’re welcome, and thank you for your encouraging words! I should look into the option of Tracphones, although Republic is working great for us right now. We don’t really need or use smartphones as such like most people do, so I’d be willing to “downgrade”!

  3. THANk you for the great article! We plan our food for the week and only shop once. We also hunt and fish which saves a ton on protein. My husband also processes the meat himself with is incredible! The other item to add is shopping at farmers markets. I can get almost all my vegetables there and eggs for $50 and I feed 3.

    1. That is so awesome that you can supply some of your own meat! I bet that does save a lot of money! We’ve started to just meal plan for the week as well. We used to grocery shop every other week, but always went over budget or had to do smaller shopping trips in between, which defeated the purpose. Planning and shopping for one week at a time has kept us more accountable.

  4. We do things that are good for the environment and save money as well. We take very short showers (turn on shower, get wet, turn off. Apply shampoo to hair and body. Turn on water, rinse off and turn off water–you’re plenty clean and the water is on a minimal amount of time), we turn off lights when leaving a room and keep the thermostat at the lowest (in winter) and highest (in summer) that we can live with, we buy bulk products whenever possible (oatmeal, spices, tea, etc.), we use a high efficiency washer and use the coldest setting, we line dry our clothes and we also collect rainwater for the garden. It’s a little work but it feels normal, so we don’t consider it a burden! We use the library for most books but if we really have to have a book, we look on thriftbooks.com–great prices and a huge selection of books available.

    1. Thank you for these helpful additions and for sharing more ways to be frugal. My parents taught us many of these things growing up, so it’s made it very natural to implement in our own home. And I hope we can pass on this frugal mindset to our kids! I do need to start collecting rainwater for our young blueberry bushes this year–they take a lot of water so that is a great tip!

  5. We’ve found that if we relentlessly control our large expenses, the smaller expenses fall into line with a lot more ease. We recently sold our larger, newer house in a shiny subdivision and moved to an older area with lower taxes and expectations. There’s not a lot of keeping up with the Joneses here!

    Our cars are older, too. I want to curl into a ball and die when I consider how much some of our friends are spending on car payments and insurance.

    1. Yes, big expenses are so important to consider…but they really do take forethought! If we ever buy a home down the road, we’re going to make sure we’re not locked into something that’s more than we can chew, whether that’s with upkeep costs, renovations, property tax…there’s so much to take into account. I bet it was a relief to you to be able to simplify your life with your living space! And while we would like slightly more reliable cars in the future, the beaters are a blessing right now!

  6. Thank you for this ! We have a family of 7 including 2 grown boys and 3 growing girls 😁 Food was a major expense and I have been trying to live cheaper ever since our circumstances have changed. I actually developed anxiety over finances and have been working very hard to reduce expenses.
    We do not have an Aldi near our town (they are not everywhere in Australia yet!) But I would love one to come here – I would definitely shop there! As it is I just stick to the store brand of everything I can. We go without a lot of treats by choice for health reasons – there’s no point working out then eating junk πŸ˜‚
    I make my own cleaners now too including washing powder/liquid and I love it!! Its sooo much better than buying it and I just watch people put the expensive stuff in their trolleys and shudder. There’s so much you can make with so little 🌷 better for wallet, health and environment!
    I make our food from scratch and can make a tray of sausages or mince stretch to 4 meals for 7 people and it feels great. We use leftovers for lunches and like you only buy the basic fruit and vegetables not the expensive ones – its amazing what you can do without !
    I make my own bread, ice cream and jam or buy the store brand.🍞
    We make our own cookies and cakes or buy the specials. πŸͺ
    Our foodscraps go to the dog and chickens so I don’t feel they are wasted.πŸ₯šπŸΎπŸ“
    We take short showers too which helps cut down on gas.
    We have all led light bulbs.
    We don’t subscribe to anything that costs money. With movies we buy them on iTunes and watch them over and over which is actually cheaper in the long run than renting. πŸ“½
    I have been finding joy in shopping at thrift shops for clothes furniture and glassware and our girls have a ball there as we often can’t find nice clothes in the stores anyway!
    We pass clothes around amongst our friends which saves a heap of money.
    We have been making homemade gifts lately instead of buying stuff and it’s great! πŸ’
    I have stopped buying any skincare products and make my own from coffee oil and coconut oil and baking soda etc. I absolutely love it!!! I much prefer my homemade things to the expensive products I have tried over the years and my skin looks better too! I make it as gifts too which is cheap and beautiful.🌼
    I still need to actually do a budget tho – I am sort of an ostrich when it comes to this !! I guess one day I really will have to do it πŸ˜‚

    1. Sounds like we’d be friends in real life(: I had a big family growing up (6 kids), and this frugal mindset is something my parents taught us early on. It’s a good and simple way of life, and makes so much sense for your health, wallet, the environment, everything!

      1. Thanks Elise 😁 and thank you for your email .. it’s great your son is learning about Australian animals πŸ¨πŸŠπŸ¦ŽπŸπŸ•Έ 😁
        I have not always been so frugal sorry to say but I am taking pleasure in it. It has been out of necessity lately as our economy in Australia has not been so good and our business has suffered .. but as it all comes from God I am trying to accept it as a blessing and am being content with our state at the moment. God will provide and we just need to trust in Him .. but in the mean time I am having fun in our humble life and it is really fulfilling to make most of our household products. I have been doing a lot of research about homemaking and making cleaners and beauty products and ways to save money and have found your website very helpful and encouraging too πŸ‘ thank you for all your efforts and I look forward to reading more from you in the future 🌷

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