While there are plenty of blog posts out there sharing ways to save money each month, many of them are overwhelming and unrealistic. Read on for strategies we use that really work!
From an early age, my Dad instilled in us the value of hard work and living within your means. I vividly remember him saving his change all year and having us kids roll it for vacation. We got $20 each for doing it, and that was our vacation spending money. If we wanted extra money for something like school clothes or makeup, we were given a chore to earn it. It was rarely just handed out. Because of this, I became a bit obsessed with saving my money. To this day, I’m always looking for creative ways to save money each month, and many of the things on this list came from my dad.
Money saved is money earned. Read that again.
Money you don’t spend = money saved = money earned. It’s that simple!
My dad also kept track of every penny he spent. He always wore shirts with pockets and kept a small notebook there. If we stopped at 7-Eleven or picked up fast food, he’d take that notebook out and write down what was spent before driving away. I watched him do this every day of my life. While I don’t have a notepad, I do have a spreadsheet, and I know where every dollar of my money goes.
Keeping track of your money is crucial.
The first thing I do every morning is make coffee, sit down at my desk, open my budget spreadsheet, log into the bank, and enter anything that came out overnight plus what we spent the previous day. It takes five minutes! In order to SAVE money, you must first know where your money is going.
My spreadsheet columns are income, monthly bills, necessary spending, and frivolous spending.
- Income is ANY money that comes in (paychecks, side jobs, selling things, etc…)
- Monthly bills are mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurance, etc…
- Necessary spending is groceries, gas, home repairs, medicine, etc…
- Frivolous spending is eating out, coffees, that new purse that you wanted but didn’t need…
There is a grand total at the bottom of each column, so it’s very easy to see what we did right or wrong each month. For example, this month we went about $135 over our frivolous spending budget. A quick look at that column revealed that we hit up Starbucks more than usual, so we’ll do better next month. Those small debits add up, and this helps keep you in check. There is NO wondering where our money goes.
You must be willing to do this first! It can be as simple or elaborate as you want. For a long time, I kept a notebook on the counter that my husband and I would write in daily. Find what works for you and just start!
So, now let’s talk about realistic ways to save money each month. If this list seems overwhelming, you don’t have to do all of them at once. Choose a couple of things from this list, and start there. Don’t make the mistake of thinking small savings don’t matter. Nickels and dimes add up.
Don’t be a brand snob.
Buying generic will not only save you money, but you may even find new (and more affordable) products that you love! For example, non-organic Swanson broth is almost three dollars at most grocery stores. At Aldi, the organic broth is less than two dollars. Not only is it better and better for you, but it’s cheaper!
Cancel everything you don’t use.
Take a look at your monthly expenses and cancel anything you don’t need. For example, are you using that gym membership? My husband was paying around $20 a month for a gaming membership he rarely used. I was paying $29 a month for an image plan that I had forgotten about. Just canceling those two things saved us almost $50 a month.
Food is a major expense! Check out our ways to save money on groceries!
Cut your cable.
I’ll be honest, this is the one thing on this list that we haven’t done yet, but I’m adding it because we are going to. Cable is costly, and these days you can watch pretty much anything you want on Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV stick. We already pay for Netflix, and my son-in-law lets us use his Apple TV account, so I’ll report back with an update on this post after we’ve tried it for a couple of months!
Negotiate your bills.
This is something I do twice a year. I call my cable, cell phone, and insurance companies and ask for a lower rate, and I don’t beat around the bush. I come right out and ask them what they can do to lower my bill, usually after reminding them that I’ve been a long-time, loyal customer. EVERY time that I do this, I come out ahead.
Clothing and furniture are just a couple of the things you can buy on the Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, and OfferUp. While you’re there, you can also sell some of your things and make some extra cash!
Check your hobbies.
Hobbies are fun, but they can be very expensive. Even though I cook for a living, it’s also very much a hobby. Groceries can get expensive when recipe testing and playing around in the kitchen, so I try to be intentional about what I’m buying and how I can repurpose those ingredients. My husband loves fishing and needs minnows and tackle every time he goes out. He had no idea how much it was costing us until I showed him our spreadsheet. Since then, he’s found a new bait store where minnows are cheaper and is using more artificial bait.
Shop at liquidation closeout stores.
Here in Nashville, the most popular closeout store is Bargain Hunt. I make a point to stop in regularly, as inventory changes quickly. Our store has a LOT of overstock from Target. I regularly find Magnolia Home items for dirt cheap, and they make great gifts! Honestly, when we need something specific, I’ll check Bargain Hunt before I go anywhere else. My husband got all the gardening tools he needed at a fraction of the price. Other popular chains are Ollie’s, Dirt Cheap, and Treasure Hunt. Stores like Dollar Tree and TJ Maxx are NOT true closeout stores. A true closeout store is one that buys up the overstock from big box stores and sells it at a drastically reduced price. You often see the original stickers on the products
Find free events.
These days, almost every city has three events that can be found on its website, Eventbrite, social media, etc… My favorite way of keeping up with local events is to follow my favorite local bloggers who post that kind of content. Make a date night out of it. Pack a picnic, go to a free event, and BYOB whenever possible. Here in Nashville, many places even allow you to bring your own bottle of wine. Paying for drinks out adds up quickly!
Reconsider organized sports for your kids.
I’m being honest, I was always thankful that my kids had no interest in sports. I had several friends who had kids in sports, and I can’t tell you how many conversations we had about how expensive it was. In some cases, it can be upwards of $100 a month per child. If you want your children to be involved but simply can’t afford organized sports through the school or the city, consider volunteer programs, community projects, and hands-on activities specifically for children. You could also form a group with other mothers and come up with a neighborhood sport or activity.
Earn cash back for your purchases.
If you shop online, shop through Rakuten, which is a rebate site where you get cash back for shopping. I have been a member for years and regularly earn between five and $600 a year- in FREE money on my purchases. They even have a browser extension that makes it virtually impossible to forget. For example, when you go to worldmarket.com, the browser extension prompts a pop-up that says “activate your 8% cash back”. They make it incredibly easy to use!
Pro tip: If I find a printer that we need at Staples, I take a picture of the product number and go home and order it. The price will be the same online, and I earn cash back for my purchase!
Trade services with your friends and family.
I really love doing this! I cook all day every day, but I have friends that hate cooking. Some of them own their own small businesses and are always happy to trade products or services for a home-cooked meal!
For one-time projects, consider renting.
We literally just did this. My husband wanted to cut down all of the trees and bushes that have grown up in the back of our yard, and he told me repeatedly we needed to buy a chainsaw. At the time, we didn’t even know you could rent things like this from Home Depot and Lowe’s, but you totally can! Instead of spending God knows how much on a chainsaw that we would probably never use twice, he rented one for the day for around $75 I got the job done!
Some other things you can do to save money each month:
With a little practice, men’s haircuts can be pretty easy to do. Wahl has a great little haircut kit that’s a perfect place to start. It’s a little more up front but will save a ton of money in the long run.
Get cash back at the register instead of going to an ATM and paying fees.
The next time you get a prescription filled, ask if the generic is cheaper and make the switch.
DIY gifts will not only save you money, but they’re more meaningful. I can honestly say my favorite gifts are always handmade.
Don’t pay others for what you can do yourself. My husband and I are both pros at googling literally everything and figuring it out ourselves. If we have to hire someone, you can bet it is absolutely something we just cannot do. That even applies to my work. If there’s a glitch on my website, I’ll do my best to fix it myself before having to reach out to my tech guy.
Stop smoking, vaping, etc.! It costs a fortune, and it’s terrible for you!
More money-saving posts you may enjoy:
- Save on Fresh Produce
- Lower Your Electric Bill
- Affordable Date Night Ideas
- How to Get Free Movie Tickets
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