Thursday, December 11, 2008

Saving Money, Saving Sanity

My friend Katz posted a blog here where she shared some of the things she's doing to help save money. She asked others for their input, and when I started thinking about what to write, I realized it was enough to fill a post, so here goes...

I am not the most frugal person. I am not very thrifty at all. But some of my mom's good habits have rubbed off on me. To be honest, when I think about being good with money, I often think of my sister Karri as my role model. She got almost the same degree as I did without student loan debt at the end of her program because of her thrifty ways. And she and her husband have some really good financial ideas and investments. I want to be like her in so many ways.

Anyway, I feel like a big part of saving money requires organization and planning. I remember my mom used to cut coupons and scour the grocery ads for deals, often going to many different grocery stores. I tend to stick to one grocery store, but I have been known to hit up more than one and bring coupons to help cut some costs. In addition, I've recently started doing some menu planning. I used to eat solely based on what I FELT like eating, making food related to how I was feeling. But food isn't supposed to replace therapy or friendships or other things that affect your mood. It's supposed to sustain you. Planning has helped me remember this, and I can plan based on what I already have in the house as well as what I have coupons for or what's on sale, which is a bonus. And, planning ahead helped me get some Martinelli's apple cider for Thanksgiving (what we were told to bring) at $2 a bottle instead of the later sale price that was $2.50 at one time and $3.00 at another time, or even paying full price when it's not on sale.

Joe and I used to each get $20 a week for lunch and $20 a week for allowance. We've stopped both those habits (although I think the allowance is a good habit we should restart to avoid over-spending), and we instead talk about purchases before making them (usually). Instead of spending $40 a week on lunches, we now spend significantly less. I buy frozen entrees for Joe to take with him to work. They are usually $1-$2 each, which is a heck of a lot cheaper. And with me working from home now, I grab leftovers or a sandwich or something like that for lunch, which also helps me avoid the snack machine temptations and other temptations that were around my office (HELLO Specialty's Cafe & Bakery!).

We use Netflix, and we use it enough to justify the expense. The movies we watch take up time we would've spent watching movies anyway, but we're often watching at home instead of spending just shy of $20 by going to the theater.

I also combine my errands to try to make fewer trips, another habit I picked up from my mother. If I know I have to go to a certain area for something, I see what else I might need to do/get in that same area.

We reviewed our cell phone plans and joined into a family plan, saving us quite a bit of dough. When we found we weren't using nearly as many minutes as we had combined, we saved money by switching plans yet again. We downgraded our cable bill by comparison shopping (it's amazing the kinds of deals you can get when they think they'll lose your business!) and getting rid of some channels we never watch. We tend to drive my car instead of his car (mine has better gas mileage and uses cheaper gas than his) when we're together. We take the bus (sometimes, but not frequently) or we walk when we can and it is feasible.

We don't eat out nearly as much as we used to. We don't go out for dates tons, and we don't spend tons of money usually when we do. And we're currently working on a budget. With the money we save, we set it aside so it doesn't just get spent on something else. Saving money helped us buy a lot of (needed!) new furniture recently (which is finally being delivered this week!).

Lastly (for now), I purchase some things off-season and shop second-hand stores sometimes during a particular season. We're thinking about buying a pre-lit Christmas tree after Christmas so we'll have it for next year. I've bought a lot of discounted decorations that way. We still have some candy canes from last year that were super cheap (and they give hot chocolate a great flavor when melted in it!).

But I'm not super thrifty by any means. And I know some of you are. What do you do to help you save money and your sanity?


Debra said...

Oh, and another thing we're doing to save money is more of a long-term thing: we're paying extra toward our mortgage every month. It adds up to about 1 extra payment a year, which can shave off approx 10 years off the life of our home loan. YAY!

Katz said...

I fell in love with Redbox when we lived in Vegas. We only rent from Redbox machines and can get 2 free rentals on Monday nights. We also got our cable company to take $30 off our bill by telling them what Comcast was offering us to switch.

Becky..AMHW said...

Netflix has that movie viewing box you can buy for around 99 bucks...hook it to your TV and have instant movies anytime.

But you don't need it necessarily. If your TV has the ability to be used as a computer monitor you just have to hook the proper cable and configure your windows to multiple screens. Just move the Netflix instant movie window over to the TV. The picture quality might be crap (which some care about but I don't) but you can watch instant movies all the darn time!

I love my Netflix. Instant watched an interesting documentary on what happens to people when they die with no next of kin. Got me through folding 7 loads of laundry.

I meal plan too. I have since we were in college and had NO money. Saves so much money.

BeatlesDiva said...

I'm trying to pinch my wallet as well. You've given me some great suggestions. Thanks!

Debra said...

Netflix also recently started a service where you can watch (some) instant movies through your XBox, so we have that set up as a way to watch instant movies, but I have in the past watched some instant movies on my computer.

And I knew I was going to forget something else I do... I have about a billion people in my family, so I got boxes of greeting cards (4 different kinds) and I send those to family members for birthdays, weddings, etc. I also use those for baby showers and other events. But I'm thinking to save even more money in the future, I might just go to e-carde.

Karri said...

I think the key to living frugally while keeping your sanity is to be sure that you are spending your money on memories, not on things. Memories and experiences with your husband will last. They will be fun to look back on at laugh at while things just go out of sytle, get damaged, or are forgotten.

Debra said...

These are good ideas as well.

click here

And Karri, I understand what you mean, and I've talked with Joe about that. But if someone is used to things being equated with importance, it's hard to break them of that habit.