Tip Tuesday — Save a Penny

With a leettle expert advice, we’ve decided the new roof can wait for a few years while we save up to pay for it in cash. If things get really bad, we may send Laylee and Magoo to live in the attic holding pots and pans. Maybe they’ll make friends with the rats who will one day repay Laylee by making her a beautiful ball gown, which I will subsequently tear to shreds.

So now, rather than adding a high interest second mortgage payment to our monthly expenses, we need to save an extra $400 per month for the next 3 years. I am personally scared spitless considering I feel like we’re living close to the edge of our income as it is.

I’ve started to institute some cost-saving measures around the house and wondered if you had any other ideas to help me out.

1. You’re just not that into it — You may think you are now, in light of the amazing sale going on at J.C. Penny. But take a moment before you buy that rhinestone encrusted t-shirt or 3 TBSP capacity motorized jell-o grinder.
-Picture yourself carrying the item home.
-Where will it go in your house?
-How often will you use it?
-Tug and pull at the fabric. Is it likely to stretch out wide and shrink to the flattering level of -just above your belly button with only a few washings?
-Do you have anything at home that could do the job just as well with a little creativity?
-Would you put it on your birthday wish list and be happy with it as your gift?

In the end, if you wouldn’t be tempted to buy it at full price, don’t snatch it up just because it’s on sale.

2. Just because the recipe says you need it, doesn’t mean you do — I have always been one for following a recipe to the letter, especially the first time around. If it says to buy Kalamata olives to the tune of $5 per jar, I listen to the recipe. Not anymore my friends. There are tons of great substitutions you can make. Also, the more you make from scratch, the more you save. It doesn’t have to be hard. This book is helping me immensely. I’m also saving a lot with The Grocery Game.

3. Form an accountability group, preferably with someone who is effected by your spending habits — Dan and I have started meeting each night to discuss how much we’ve spent each day and what we have to show for it. If I know I’m going to have to say out loud, “I bought myself another brown purse because this one has more pockets and ooo look how much more current the style is than the other 10 brown purses collecting dust in my closet. IT HAS GOLD RIVETS!” I’m 67% more likely to leave the purse on the rack. I may be sad for 30 seconds but by the time I get back to my car, I feel mighty powerful for just walking away.

4. To quote Mir, “Friends don’t let friends pay full retail.” Subscribe to wantnot.net for great deals on things you were planning to buy anyway.

5. Have you ever heard of the library? – Don’t buy every book you ever thought of reading. Fully half the books I buy end up going back to the used bookstore as soon as I’ve finished. I waste buckets of money doing this every year.

Now share your tips, I beseech you.

reasons: rolling half-chewed apples, playdates, future Oscar wins, pigs feet

This entry was posted in domesticality, money, shopping, tip tuesday. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Tip Tuesday — Save a Penny

  1. Carrie says:

    We’ve been trying to save my whole salary to make sure we can live off one salary after Lucky arrives. One way we’re working on doing that is by paying cash for everything during the week- not groceries or gas, but all the other little things. Makes me very aware of what I’m spending.

    But there’s nothing wrong with making your kids hold buckets under the drips. After all, they need to earn their keep, right? 🙂

  2. Shalee says:

    Pay yourself first. Well, give back to God first, but you’re next. If you need to save $400 and you only get paid twice a month, then take your $200 off the top. It’s amazing how you can adjust and work with what you have left.

    Make a budget. It really does help to sit down, talk over expenses and then have a page to refer to the budget. Keep the budget where you can see it; it will encourage you to keep at it.

    Use cash as much as possible. When the cash for your budgeted food is empty, you don’t go to the store. Same with entertainment, clothing, Walmart and the such. Cash only will help you to judge what is a necessity and what is an extra.

    Plan for expenses that you know are coming. All kids grow – so set aside money for new shorts that you know your kid will need this summer. If you’re sending your kid to camp, then save up for it. If you know you’re taking a weekend trip, set aside a little bit to make it easier on your budget.

    Realize that used is not inferior. I shop at a Junior League Resale boutique for clothes. The same suit that is sitting in Ann Taylor right now for $300, I can find for $20 in a couple of months. Or I can go when I know they’re having $1 day sales and really stock up on clothes. (I work in an office, so I have to maintain a certain business look.) But I find all sorts of excellent jeans, shirts, etc. for very little money. I grew up on hand-me-downs so this type of purchasing doesn’t bother me at all.

    If you know you have a buying problem, don’t carry cards and don’t go to those stores. Can’t buy what you can’t see. Well, you can with the internet and all, but it will help you refrain from impulse purchasing. Better yet, cut the cards up and go cold turkey.

    Get rid of things you don’t need. We’ve been without cable for years and we discovered that we actually like not having tv. Same with cell phones, boats, extra cars, dry clean only clothes, etc.

    Cut going out to eat down to once or twice a week. It really does add up, even if you were only going to McDonald’s or Taco Bell.

    See all money not as your own, but as God’s. If you can become a stewart of it (like a banker) and realize that you don’t own it, the unnecessary purchases release their grips a lot easier.

    Can you tell that we’ve been working on this too? We just want to get rid of debt!

  3. Kimberly says:

    Sometimes the fun of shopping can be had without spending money. But your wallet away and go dream shopping. My hubby and I did that a lot when we were broke. We had fun dreaming of what we’d buy someday, and when we came home we realized that we were okay as we were. I like to make online wish lists as well…very fun.

    Another thing is to clean out the fridge on a regular basis (less spoiled food!), and if you don’t have one already, perhaps invest in a chest freezer so you can stock up during meat sales, etc…

  4. Heather says:

    PaperbackSwap.com — for my books! I LOVE IT!!!

  5. Jason says:

    http://www.pinchingyourpennies.com – best site ever for helping you save $$.

  6. Brooke says:

    If you can stick to a budget, buy everything with a rewards credit card and pay it off each month. By the end of the year we earn enough miles to fly home for Christmas for free, which is a huge relief on our travel budget.

    Check out movies from the library rather than renting them from Blockbuster. You may have to wait a few weeks until they are available, but its worth it.

    Get creative for date night. ‘Dinner and a movie’ is both expensive and boring. Go on a picnick. Visit the museum for free on the first Thursday of each month.

    In college my roomies and I donated plasma for. Sounds weird, but earning up to $300 a month while helping to save lives was not a bad way to earn some extra cash. Especially for just sitting there.

    http://www.bejane.com has a bunch of do-it-yourself tips for women. Everything from energy saving tips to repairing hardwood floors.

  7. nosurfgirl says:

    The accountability thing is a GREAT idea.

  8. slawebb says:

    Host a clothes swap with your friends. This can include clothes and accessories for you and your kids. Invite your friends. Bring what you need to get rid of and take whaty ou need. No matter how much you bring you can take as much as you need. Whatever is left over gets donated. I personally got my needs met this way. I’ve lost tons of weight this last year and don’t have the money to buy new. A friend of a friend was having a clothes swap and I was able to get several pairs of pants and shirts that fit. I didn’t have much to give because I had just moved, but was able to take what I needed.

    The freecycle website (www.freecycle.org) lets you and others in your area post to give away items that you don’t need. This also allows you to get things that are offered or post wanteds. You just never know what people are willing to get rid of if they know someone needs it.

    I also believe in the law of attraction. If you need something and think about it, you will probably find a way to get it. The more good you put out there the more you will receive. The more you give the more you will receive. Ask and it shall be given.

    Turn your heat down. Now this may sound a little unreasonable but believe me, if I can do it so can you. I live in Vermont and it’s really cold right now. Our fuel bill for this last month was over $200 and that’s with the heat at 60 during the day and 55 at night. Now we keep it at 55 pretty much all the time. We put on sweater and long johns to keep warm. I also tend to go to be earlier so I can get under the down comforter and actually be warm all over. I do have 1 day a week I turn it up to 60 during the day. It’s a real treat. That may be a little over the top for you but you could at least turn it down when ever you leave the house and consider turn it down a couple of degrees. Also we brought down our bill a little by turning down our water heater a little. It’s still pleanty warm, but now as hot, so it’s not being heated as often. If your water heater needs replaced consider a flash water heater. It heats the water as it’s needed instead of continually heating the same water over and over again.

    So those are my suggestions. Thanks for this. I can definately relate and can use the suggestions.

  9. Karen says:

    Go shopping with a list and stick to it. Buy NOTHING that is not on the list. Carry a calculator if you have to. Buy generic store brands whenever you can. Krispy Rice for $1.98 tastes just as good as Rice Krispies for $3.98. Same with just about anything else. Except peanut butter. And ice cream. But ice cream is fattening so don’t buy it anyway.

    Recently I’ve been trying to grocery shop for two full weeks at a time. If I don’t have to stop in the store ten times a week for this and that I’m less likely to make impulse purchases.

  10. bon says:

    Make menus for the week/month then base your shopping lists off of what you have planned. Go to the store and buy only what is on that list.

    At least that’s what I have heard…

  11. allysha says:

    Ben and I get a small allowance from each paycheck that we can spend how ever we want. It’s not a lot, but it’s nice to have something to save or spend completely frivolously. I choose books and chocolate! It’s just nice to have that little emotional space for spending something, if you know what I mean.

  12. Kismet says:

    When we were young and chronically broke we would play a little game wherein we tried to see how many days in a row we could go without spending any money. Aside from paying the necessary bills, it is amazing how much discretion we really do have in spending. Even a buck here and there once or twice a day adds up. See if you can do it and how long you can go.


    P.S. we are trying to go back to one income soon so are back to playing our game. I love the advise your readers have given and plan to implement a lot of this info. 🙂

  13. Tiffany says:

    Do the roof yourself, have your husband get together some buddies for a weekend or two and repay them with pizza. Thats what we did and it worked out great only ended up costing about 2 grand or so for supplies.

  14. Melissa says:

    These are all great ideas! We buy a lot of things on clearance or second hand. I went to WalMart yesterday and hit the clearance racks – they had mens shirts for $5 each. They had pj’s for baby girl that will work in the summer for $3. I have been looking for a chest or trunk to store my piano music in for years. I finally found one at a yard sale for $30. I think it’s all about patience.

  15. Gaft Girl says:

    Most libraries also rent movies – my child has seen all the Baby Einstein movies and we haven’t purchased a single one! Always pay yourself first. Every paycheck I put a certain amount (lately it has only been $10 because we are working on paying off our student loans) in savings. My husband and I have also implemented an allowance system. We each get $10 a pay check (a whole $20 a month!) to spend as we see fit with no complaints from the other party. He buys video games and I buy scrapbooking stuff. Works great and no fights about money.

  16. Katherine says:

    First I must say kudos to you for making a plan to save money! Everyone has shared so many great suggestions. As I read many of them I kept thinking, “that’s what Dave would say!” At the risk of sounding like a commercial, Dave Ramsey’s book Financial Peace really does help with the whole budget / saving / getting out of debt / avoiding new debt/ thing! So, I would highly recommend reading his book, listening to his show, or taking a Financial Peace class. While I must confess that we don’t always follow his advice, by TRYING what he says my husband and I are managing as a single income (think government employee, not private sector!) family in a DC suburb. Couldn’t do that if we were living like everyone else!

  17. The Scritchy One and I are presently saving up for a downpayment on our first home.

    As we don’t have kids yet, our finances are fairly simple. We set monthly goals for savings, and shift money to the savings account as soon as it arrives. We know precisely what our expenses are, and we leave just enough to cover our expenses until the next check hits. Worse comes to worst, we can shift money out of savings to cover unexpected expenses that crop up, but knowing we have precisely x amount in the checking account – and only spending money from our checking account – helps us keep our expenses in line.

    Also, we’re trying to be smart about our loaning. To help cover a downpayment, we’ve taken out a student loan. While loaning money in order to loan money may seem counter-intuitive, we calculated the interest over a few years – when we would be able to pay it off – and discovered that the interest was equal, almost exactly, to one month’s rent, leaving us with the option of either throwing money away entirely or throwing money away in order to get a house.

    Keep in mind all those great economics terms:

    Opportunity cost

    Sunk costs

    Marginal cost


    If you film people take econ, of course…

    Don’t avoid spending to fix a problem now only to have to spend more to fix it in the long run. Obviously, the roof doesn’t qualify for this, as you can put it off for now.

    Look for ways to make extra income. Sell stuff you don’t need and is only cluttering up the place.

    Keep in mind raises. If Dan gets a pretty standard raise every year, you can stagger your savings – say $300 the first year, $400 the second, and $500 the third. This leaves you with the exact same amount of cash while distributing the pain of saving, and surely Dan gets a raise more than $1,200/year.

    Invest the cash! Don’t just stick it in a savings account, put it in things like CD’s, etc. Maybe not the stock market so much, especially after today, but in things like savings bonds and CD’s.

    That’s what I have on my mind, at least. Good luck!

  18. Pugwee says:

    First, if you deprive yourself then you’ll make the mistake of one day loosing control and overspending by a lot. JC Penny has some really great deals. Whenever my wife goes shopping I tell her have a good time and don’t forget to buy lunch because I know that she’ll make every dollar spent count. She gets upset when I brag about how she can go shopping all day buy 5 shirts and spend less than $15 from places like Penny’s, Mervyns or the outlet mall.
    There are other things to do. We don’t eat out much, because I cook better than most places I’ve eaten. Spend the $ on better food instead of going out. Take your lunch to work, take the snacks to the zoo or park.
    Put the credit cards in a box and hide it in the garage or let the rats guard them for you.
    Bye a Vac-U-Seal machine and look for the sales, Thriftway sells New York steaks for under $4 a pound I even hit a sale for beef tenderloin for less than $4 per pound.
    Set up a seperate savings account at your bank, then set up automatic $ transfer every payday or even every day. $14 per day will give you a feeling that your not really suffering and you’ll see the balance increase.
    Collect coupons, not just from the paper but from walking thru the stores. Some days my wife and I go coupon hunting at the local stores, you know those red boxes with the coupons. We take about 3 or 4 and save them. They are MFG coupons so watch the expire date, look for the sale at any store, we use them at Wal-Mart. Make space for paper things that you’ll always go thru like tp, paper towel. Then when you see them on sale or buy 1 get 1 free, use the coupons you’ve collected. You can even make coupon hunting into a game with the kids, you never know what will entertain on rainy days…
    If it’s a roof your saving for, get a break down in prices and figure out what you can do yourself. Things like take off the shingles and dispose of them, you might find that you can save thousands doing things like that.
    Good luck, but remember if you start denying yourself or family too much there will be a rebellion and the savings will disappear.

  19. Pugwee says:

    First thing is don’t deprive yourself or family you must spend some because if you don’t you might loose it and spend it on really bad things and spend way too much.
    Start with grocery shopping:
    My wife and I go coupon hunting, I’m not talking about just the Sunday/Wednsday papers, I’m talking about the red boxes you see in the grocery stores that have coupons in them. Those are Manufacturer coupons and can be used at any store, including Wal-Mart, Walgreens… Sometimes we just go to a few local stores that have those and collect the coupons to use when items go on sale, they work really well on the buy 1 get 1 free. Don’t be afraid to break up the shopping, husband takes an item with coupon and you have the same item with coupon and go thru the check out behind him as a seperate order.
    Buy a Vac-U-Pack seal machine and a meat grinder, those are real $ savers.
    Look for those 10 lb. sales on meat. For hamburger or ground beef use roast beef, bottom or top whichever is on sale that week. You cut away the fat and grind into hamburger, or cut in cubes for stew. It’s very lean and you pay a lot less.
    When it comes to chicken, buy the whole or breast with bones and remove the bones yourself, save the bones for chicken soup or chicken stock.
    Create space in the garage or other place for storing things like paper towel and tp. When they’re on sale buy extra.
    Go to the stores that have the best sales, but only as long as they’re either along the way to where ever your headed or on the way home from someplace like work that way you’ll save on gas.
    Take your snacks and lunches with you from home try your best to avoid eating out, most places are over priced and not healthy.
    Set up a savings account and have automatic money transfer. You set that up with internet banking, you can either do it every paycheck, but that seems like a big chunk at once or do it daily. It will seem like less of a chunk if you only put $14 per day.
    Since you’re looking to do this for long term invest into some energy saving things, lights and water are the biggest money wasters. During the cold winter use window insulation kits that’ll increase your window “R” value a lot even on double pane because a lot of the time the seals are not working and you’re loosing heat. Don’t forget to look for those things on sale or a mail in rebate. Remember it’s just $14 per day you need to save.
    Finally, try to get a price break down on the roof. Find out how much you can save if you do some of the work yourself and just because the price is what you see now it won’t be that way in 3 years.

  20. Sketchy says:

    I really like ING for our savings. They give a great rate and they have lots of little incentives that really add up (you get $25 for opening and account with $250, stuff like that. Check it out!

    I like to double up on meals to save money. I freeze the 2nd half. It really doesn’t take much more time and then I have something for those nights when I’m tempted to go out.

    And I think its important to reward yourself, so set some goals and if you make them you get a night out or something special.

  21. Susan says:

    Allysha beat me to it–build some “mad money” into your budget. If you can have a little splurge every once in a while–even if it’s just a fancy coffee once a month–you will be more likely to stick to the bigger budget. When every single dime is predesignated for something, the budget starts to feel like a ball and chain, rather than a positive goal. Having just a little wiggle room can make all the difference.

  22. Heather O. says:

    We’re struggling with the whole saving thing, too, also in anticipation of a new roof. Quicken is a great way to see where everything is going, and we are always shocked to see where it goes.

  23. I’ll send Derek up to do your roof. He learned the trade as a teenager and still has all the tools. I have learned a few good tips from “Natural Home” magazine.

    Hang you clothes to dry. This takes a little extra time, but the average american household uses 10% of it electricity on the DRYER alone.

    Use indigenous plants in your yard, so you never have to water. (OK, maybe you can skip that one up there in rain country.)

    Recycle everything. There are ways use up every last thing you can think to throw away, not just the milk jugs. There was one cut project for using old T-shirts and weaving them into welcome rugs, kind of like those hot pads everyone did in elementary school.

    Walk everywhere. This not only saves you money on gas, but gets you moving, which is always good.

    Unplug electrical appiliances you aren’t using at that moment. Thing’s like tvs and dvd players suck juice even when turned off.

    Don’t shop at Costco. This may fall under the heading “addiction recovery,” but you can’t go in there without buying some great thing that you don’t need. And comes in some Pluto-sized box. And then you’ll eat it, and you’ll feel crappy about yourself, and you’ll end up finishing the 4 pound tub of Jelly Bellys in two days, and you’ll go buy another one, thinking you can have self-control THIS TIME. Just trust me. It never works. Just don’t fall into their trap.

  24. Brooke says:

    Thought of another one: bring snacks. I was so hungry at the mall last night and wanted so bad to buy the soft pretzel that smelled so good. Then I remembered I had some dried mangos and chowed on those.

  25. Mary C says:

    I 2nd the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace info! We have been following his plan for over a year and LOVE it! We pay for everything in cash, have our monthly budget divided into envelopes, and when that envelope is empty, no more purchase in that category until it is restocked the nest month. It really opened my eyes to how much the little things (like starbucks runs or McDonald’s sweet teas) add up!
    Also, I started taking the kids outgrown clothes and selling them on ebay. I made about $200 in a few months of sporadic listings. Even if I only made $3.00 on a shirt, that was $3.00 I didn’t have before!
    Also, you can consign your old clothes.
    I just had to change my thinking. Before, 2-3 dollars here or there wasn’t a big deal, but now I realize how much and how quickly it adds up! Good luck!

  26. Alissa says:

    1. stop going to target

    that would save me at least $100/mo

  27. Heffalump says:

    Menu planning is a great way to save money. If you have what you are going to cook planned out and shopped for, then you won’t be tempted to get a pizza or go out somewhere at the last minute.
    Also, make sure to budget a little bit of money for renting a movie, or doing something fun. Sometimes when we try to save we go crazy not letting ourselves do anything and then it explodes in a spending frenzy.
    Make purchases after really thinking about it. Make a list of things you need or are going to need soon, and even if something is on sale, if its not on the list, then you don’t need it and can pass it by.
    By the way, my DYM T-shirt came in the mail yesterday. Thanks!

  28. Jane says:

    Grow a vegetable garden this summer. It can be a family activity.

  29. Lei says:

    Look at what you ARE spending money on and see which of those thigns, if any, you can live without or “downsize”.

    Form a babysitting co-op rather than pay babysitters.

    Do a dirt cheap dinner night every week – ramen, mac n cheese, whatever you can tolerate!

  30. Ann says:

    Thanks for the tips, I just recently became a couponer, so this was awesome! My tip is refurbishing those wonderful cleaning tools available now…instead of buying the disposable pads for Swiffers, make your own, I like the cloth diapers. Then throw them in the wash and reuse. It’s also better for the environment!

  31. elliespen says:

    This is going to sound so stupid and obvious, but it applies to finances whether you’re trying to save or not. Open and review ALL your statements from the bank, credit cards, etc. Make sure you know what’s going on with your money so you don’t find out later that your bank has been charging you fees for the last ten years.

    You wouldn’t believe how many letters I answer a month explaining to people that their fees won’t be reversed because they were informed of them every month/quarter/year; it’s not the company’s fault if the clients don’t read the information we send them, etc.

    It’s scary to know that some people think that just because they haven’t done anything with their money or just because the maturity date isn’t for another ten years that they don’t have to think about it now. This goes for everyone here — be informed about your money!

    (Judging by the comments people have left, though, I don’t think this warning applies to many people here, thank goodness.)

  32. Renae says:

    My dad is reasonably handy, and he always re-roofed the house on his own. It sounds like you have a large support base of friends– all you need is one person who knows what they’re doing and several others who can donate the labor. I remember it being fun. It’s not every day you get to climb a ladder. Really– ask your friends. You could even donate half of what you save.

  33. Surcie says:

    I know you beseeched, but I’m not one to give advice on this subject!

    I will say, however, that I think using online coupon codes is fun. I like the challenge of finding them and seeing how deep a discount I can get. I feel a little better about buying myself something online if I’m to get a decent discount. So maybe they’re just helping me justify my spending. . .NEXT!

  34. jane says:

    We use Quicken too, and it helps us a lot. We get together every week and discuss buget, enter receipts, and see how we are doing. I also think allowances are a great thing– then I don’t get mad at hubby for going out to eat too much and he doesn’t care if I buy shoes, etc, just as long as I’ve saved up the money in my own little category.

    Also, we have our financial emergency savings money (which needs to be liquid) in an internet money market account–Zions Bank has one with the highest interest rates I’ve seen. http://www.zionsbank.com/money_market_accounts.jsp?leftNav=pf_savings&topNav=pfinance

    Thanks for all the good ideas– Good luck!

  35. The thing I do (or don’t do as the case may be) to save money is I just don’t go to stores/malls/read retails ads (other than the grocery store). If I don’t see it, I don’t know I want it and that seems to make me more content and spend less money.

  36. Stephanie says:

    I’m with Jason and comment #5.

  37. We need a new roof really bad! But saving for it just isn’t feasible right now. All our vehicles broke down at the same time, lol. We need to fix the leaky radiator still in dh’s work car, and who knows what on my car, and the van is dead, needs $3000+ for a new engine. The roof just doesn’t seem like its got a hope. But we do have lots of people who volunteered to help us do it when we are ready! So materials will cost us. And we have a close friend who is a contractor who can guide us, we may pay him to supervise.

  38. Pam in Utah says:

    Ok, on a random and less than econ 100 advice, here’s a recipe to help cut the breakfast cereal cost. 🙂 1/2 cup wheat (on my grinder-setting 5 out of 10k{cracked fine}), 1/2 cup oat bran (yes oat bran!), 1/4 cup of golden flax seed (ground in a coffee grinder or you’ll be mad at having to spend money on a new blender or wheat grinder!!!!!) Add these three items to 5 cups boiling water and 1/2 tsp salt, bring to boil and turn down heat. Simmer ~15 minutes. Add raisins, turn off heat and enjoy with a dollup of good yogurt and milk! It’ll save a lot in breakfast cereal and doctor visits in the long run! Great for omega 3s and cholesterol so you can live to see the grandkids! Good luck with the saving on other things. 🙂

  39. Emily says:

    Good Ideas! I enjoyed reading them. Looks like its all pretty much covered.

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