There is no part of me that claims to be a financial expert in any way. However, Farmer and I have been married for almost 8 years now, and we have managed to save over $230,000 in that time frame. Let me be clear, this is NOT because Farmer makes a lot of money. He doesn’t. In fact, by America’s standards, we fall below the impoverished line because of how many kids we have(4). I am a stay at home mom, so the way I bring in the big bucks, is by NOT blowing through everything Farmer brings home. Saving this much money is all directly related to what we choose to do with the money we DO HAVE.
I love to read other people’s ideas and tips on saving money so I thought you might want to know how we do it around here. I am certain you won’t agree with all of my financial opinions, and that’s okay! But hopefully you can find one or two things that might work for you.
Before I start the list …. I wanted to share a few things that helped us out big time.
To really be able to succeed at saving money, we needed a true motivation. This will be different for everyone, but in our case, it was saving for our dream home. For someone else it might be, taking their family on a huge vacation, being able to pay for their kids college, or starting their own business. Maybe your motivation is to get out of debt and quit fighting with your spouse about money, or to be able to get out from under owing other people money. Find your motivation so that when your shopping, you can say no to that extra something that you don’t really need.
It has really helped to have reminders all along the way so we are always thinking about our motivation. I have been working on other things for our dream home for years. I save pictures and articles about the things we want all the time. We are constantly being reminded that if we are diligent with our saving, we will reach our goal and be able to build what we want.
And you have to have a budget. Unless you make a crazy amount of money, you just can’t save effectively without having a plan, and keeping track of what you spend. For me, the best strategy has been cash. I can see exactly how much I am spending and how much I have left. I put our budgeted amount of cash in my planner every month. I am careful with what I spend it on. And when it is gone, it is gone, and I just have to wait until the next month for more money. If you always stick to that, you will always know exactly how much money your spending and how much you can save. Everything else goes in the bank!
So shall we get started on this crazy long list?? Buckle up, it’s going to be a long ride! In no particular order ….
- Don’t go out to eat.
Going out to eat adds up really fast, especially for our family of six. We budget $100 a month for “outings” and then we eat at home the rest of the time. $100 bucks usually gets us two trips to a fast food restaurant or one big night out with pizza and bowling. Imagine if we were going twice a week. That would be like $400 a month!
- Live life for the adventure, not the screen.
We don’t have a satellite subscription, Netflix, Blockbuster, or any other subscription of the sort. Every single one of these things are for entertainment only. There are a million and one ways to get entertainment that don’t require you to pay for something on a screen. It may seem like a small payment each month, but over the course of seven years, that’s a lot of dough!
- Grow a garden
I few weeks ago I figured out that growing our garden saves us over $2,400 each year. 7 years of that = $16,800. You don’t have to have a bunch of space to grow enough veggies to make a big difference. If you click HERE you can see a garden plan I drew up that produces $244 in 9 square feet. Or you can subscribe to The Real Farmhouse and I will send you my complete list of the 26 things I plant in my garden every year, and how much each plant saves me. Then you can design your own garden to save you even more money. One tomato plant alone can save $50-$150!
- Side jobs and skills
Over the last few years, Farmer and I have both had a number of small side jobs. He started a part time hay hauling business that brought in a nice side income for about four years. I coached basketball at the high school for one year, and then organized a kids camp every winter after that for five years that did really well. I taught personal fitness training for 1 year and was a Zumba instructor for two. I also started selling my extra produce at a local fruit stand 3 years ago. Another one Farmer and I have done together is babysitting, and currently we are long term house sitting. Pick something your good at or that you enjoy, and figure out a way to teach it or offer your services somehow.
- Borrow Entertainment
I like movies just as much as the next person. Sometimes you just need to chill out and relax in front of a good flick. Do you know how many people around you have DVD collections the size of Texas?? Find a friend with one and trade DVD’s. Quit buying a movie every time you go to Walmart. We have traded or borrowed DVD’s, CD’s, entertainment boxes, and even an outdoor projector several times. If you hate asking to borrow things, then offer something to trade!
- Preserve everything you can get your hands on
If you knew that taking a day off and preserving food could save you hundreds of dollars, would it change the way you feel about canning, baking, making jam, etc? Every fall we spend an entire day, sometimes two, freezing sweet corn. We can get it for free if we go pick it ourselves. Then everyone helps shuck it, blanch it, cut it off the cob, and put it in bags to freeze. We end up with around 50 bags of frozen corn that lasts us the entire year! Yes it takes an entire day of work, but it also saves us hundreds of dollars. There are people all over the place that are letting their produce go to waste. Find them! They are almost always happy to see it get used.
If you grow a garden, that’s awesome! But if you let a bunch of it waste then you are putting in the work for nothing. Schedule days to make sure you get as much as possible preserved. If you honestly knew how much money it saves, it might even be worth taking a day off of work to do it.
- Make trades
The first time you ask someone if they would accept a trade for something instead of cash, it’s going to feel a little awkward. But on the other hand, the first time someone says YES to a trade, your going to be so excited you’re going to want to trade for everything! People LIKE trades because both sides win! Just a few weeks ago we traded an old grain silo that we weren’t using anymore to a guy in exchange for drawing up our house plans. He gave us a service that we couldn’t do ourselves, and we gave him something we weren’t using anymore that he had a use for. We both got what we wanted and we only had to fork over 1/4 of the original bill. Try it out sometime, it’s addicting!
- Show appreciation for gifts and hand me downs
Whenever anyone asks me where I shop for my clothes, they are always surprised by the answer. Nearly everything my kids and I wear, was given to me.
The next thing they want to know is how I get people to bring me their clothes that they would have just taken to good will. And the answer is …. show some serious appreciation when things are given to you. And I don’t mean say thank you, I mean make a BIG DEAL out of it. I don’t think I have ever straight up asked someone to give me their old stuff. But when people give me things, I make absolutely positive, that they know that I appreciate it. I have written thank you notes, actual cards, not texts or emails. I have taken pictures of my kids wearing the clothes or playing with the toys and sent them to whoever gifted them to us. I wear the clothes they gave me when I am around them and say thank you again. If it is food or produce that they give me, I will take them some food in return.
If people know that you are using what they gave you, they are going to keep bringing you stuff. I have several awesome friends that call me every year to let me know their fruit or veggies are ready for me to come get simply because they KNOW I will use it. The word spreads from there. Everyone around here knows that I appreciate any extra produce they have and that I won’t let it go to waste. So every year I have more and more people giving me things.
- maintain your weight
Clothes are expensive! For me personally, all it takes is ten pounds and I can’t wear most of the clothes in my closet. If your weight fluctuates all the time then you need several different sizes of clothes on hand. A new wardrobe can be several hundred dollars or more, depending on your personal style and preference. Save yourself a bundle by maintaining your weight and not being forced to buy new clothes.
- Know your schedule
This might not be as big of a deal for you as it is for me, but knowing my schedule saves me a lot of money on makeup and other beauty supplies. I stay home quite a bit. When I am home, there is no reason for me to put on makeup. Of course I clean myself up and try to look nice for Farmer, but I don’t need to put on makeup every day to stay at home. Makeup is another one of those things that ads up fast. Make it last four times as long by only putting it on the days you are going somewhere.
- Never buy on credit
You know how interest starts out small but the more you owe, the crazier your interest payments get? It works the other way too. The more money you save, the faster it grows. By never allowing yourself to buy anything until you have the money to buy it, you will never be paying interest and you will never be in the hole. I can’t even put a number on how much this has saved us over the years, but Farmer and I have been debt free for about 6 years. Once we paid off our debt, we were able to start saving A LOT. Now we don’t buy anything on credit, we just wait a little while until we have the money.
- Give of what you do have
This kind of goes along with showing appreciation when people give you things. If you give to other’s, they will want to give back. Be generous with what you have, you just might be surprised what people will want to do for you if they appreciate your generosity.
- Research everything
I have been blown away by the range of what people charge for things. When I take my time, research the product, and look for other options, I save BIG! For example … by shopping around for someone to draw up our septic system design instead of taking the first bid we received, I saved over $500. The highest bid we recieved was $1,4oo, and the lowest was $475. It only took me about two hours to make a few extra phone calls.
- Be patient
This is directly related to researching everything. If you give yourself time to find the best deal and your not rushed, you will have the opportunity to find the best deal. After searching on craigslist for a few weeks, I found enough tile for our entire bathroom, still in the boxes, for $100! Later I saw the same tile at the store, and it would have cost us over $700 for it. Be patient when buying anything big, research your options, and you will be pleased with what you find.
- Ask for things
Now I am not saying you should become a begger, but it’s okay to ask about things sometimes especially if you know they are not being used. Here is a perfect example …. A few weeks ago I was driving to the store and as I passed my friends house I noticed two of her big wooden tomato cages were laying in her burn pile. Now I can assume she is planning on burning them right? So all I did was shoot her a little text asking if she was going to burn them, and she happily told me that I could have them.
You want another one … A few days later I was at the store again and the produce guy was sorting through some stuff. He picked up some strawberries, took a good look at them, and turned to throw them away. So I said wo wo wo! Are you throwing those away? He said yep, they are getting too old. So I said can I have them? Then he scribbled out the barcode and wrote free across the top of 8 packages of strawberries! Sure there were some that couldn’t be used, but I went straight home and made two batches of delicious jam and had some left over to put on ice cream.
Asking doesn’t have to be awkward or greedy, just pay attention and when you notice something going to waste ask what is going to happen to it.
- Eat before you shop
Someone told me this a long time ago but I don’t remember who. It has proven to be excellent advice. I notice a complete change in what I buy when I go to the store hungry versus full. I buy healthier stuff, cheaper stuff, not convienience food, and whole lot less of everything.
- Cloth diaper
I actually only do this part time, and it still saves us quite a bit. When you have a lot of kids, diapers just seem to turn into a huge deal. One blog that I read about cloth diapering claimed that she was saving 30-50 cents for every diaper changed. I haven’t don’t the math to know if that is true, but I do know that I used to spend over $100 every month on diapers and pull-ups, and now I spend about $20 on disposable diapers and my entire collection of cloth diapers only set me back $80. If you would like to read about my PART TIME cloth diaper strategy click here.
- Shop thrift stores, craigslist, yard sales
I understand this is not exactly everyone’s “style”, but you can find nice stuff for crazy good prices if you look often. Like I said earlier, I saved over $600 on brand new tile on craigslist. Thrift stores are awesome for kids clothes because often times they don’t get used much before the kids grow out of them. I buy all my husbands work shirts for like $2 at thrift stores … they are just going to end up covered in oil and torn apart anyways. Some other things that I always buy from one of these three places are: kids books, craft supplies, fabric, magazines, picture frames, some sports equipment.
- Quit over eating and snacking
I come from a family that takes eating very seriously. I remember almost every Sunday afternoon, eating so much food, that I had to stretch out on the couch because of how uncomfortable I was. I have since learned better, but I still have the ability to put away some serious food. I have noticed though, that when I over eat like that, I can eat over twice as much food as I should. That means the grocery bill is twice as much! Same goes for snacking all day long. Snacks foods are expensive, not to mention usually not very good for you. So eliminating snacking and over eating has the potential to cut down significantly on your food bill, especially if you eat like I used to.
- Pay off all debts
Every debt you have is costing you interest. Make it top priority to pay off your debts and you will be amazed at how little you can live off of. Do whatever it takes to get your bills payed off. Farmer walked to work for about six months when we were saving up for a car just so that we didn’t have to take out a loan. Not taking out a loan saved us thousands of dollars. It was totally worth waiting a few extra months and only having one car.
- Involve the whole family
The kids need to learn about money anyways, why not get them involved with the family finances. Once our kids knew what we were saving for, they were actually excited to help us save money. It makes it a million times easier to tell our kids “let’s not buy that right now, let’s put that money towards your new bedroom” instead of, “nope, we aren’t buying that because I said so”.
Wow! That just went on and on and on didn’t it? My fingers are cramping a little bit! I hope that some of these things can be helpful to you on your money saving journey. It’s been long and hard at times, but I can’t tell you how awesome it is to not argue about money with Farmer. It’s also an amazing feeling to know that we did it, and we can start our new journey of building our own home. If you would like to know more about How we are building a 1/2 million dollar home for $300,000 click here.
You can do it! Start saving more Right Now!!