If you’re a regular reader, you know I recently started a personal money make-over. I started using a budget for the first time ever. You can read about and get a free budget template here. If you’re like me, and haven’t ever really been intentional with your spending, you might not even know how to start saving money. It can be overwhelming not knowing how or where to start. I am in no way a money expert (obviously), but I have been learning a lot as I go on my own journey here. That is what I will be sharing today, what I have learned so far in terms of cutting spending and where you can save. This post will give you a check-list of sorts of where to start when it comes to saving money and cutting expenses.
16 Easy Ideas to Start Saving Money Today
1. Eliminate Starbucks/Drive-Through Drinks
If you read my last budget related post, you know Starbucks was (okay is) a weakness of mine. Darn rewards app. Making a rule to cut those out completely saves money right away. If you need help breaking the habit, switch to something you can make at home. To replace my expensive chai tea latte habit, I started buying Tazo Chai Concentrate and making my own at home. Much cheaper (hint: it’s even cheaper on Amazon then my local grocery store), tastes better because I can make it just how I like it. It actually made me feel angry for wasting my money all that time. Now I just grab one as a treat every now and then, and then I feel silly because it really doesn’t make sense to spend that money!
2. Take Inventory of your Kitchen
This was a big eye opener for me. I had way more food than I thought I did! The first week I took inventory in my own kitchen, I barely bought any groceries at all! Clean out and organize your entire pantry so you see every single item and know what you have. Do the same thing in your refrigerator and freezer. In doing so, you’ll be able to make a list of meals that you can make without buying anything else. Once you do that and you’ve finished all of those meals, take inventory of your kitchen again before every single shopping trip. See what meals you can make from what you already have, or only need one or two small things to add to it. This has saved me a lot of money, and eliminated a lot of waste which is very important!
Just today, I made a grocery list and I was SURE I didn’t have any of the things on my list. I promised myself I would take inventory before each shopping trip though, so I did. I ended up scratching 5 things off my list, which were all really expensive things, because I did in fact already have them!
3. Take Inventory of your Entire House
I have been on a mission to declutter and organize my house. While doing so, I have realized that I already had those batteries that I just bought for my son’s toy. I also already had more shampoo and conditioner, an extra razor, and dish soap. But, I didn’t realize I had them, so I bought more when I didn’t need to. Organizing all of your house so that everything has a place will help you to know what you have, and then not purchase it when you don’t need to. There’s also the added benefit of just feeling less stressed because your house is organized and clean.
4. Make a Shopping List and Stick to It
I may have admitted this in my last budget related post, but if I didn’t, I never used to make a shopping list. Instead, I just went up and down each aisle, grabbing whatever I wanted. I might make a list of ingredients I needed for something, and then add on 30 other things I randomly picked up throughout the store. Lately I have been making a list and only getting what is on it. Guys, my kids think I have lost my mind. I called my husband one day and told him that I’m so glad I’m doing this, because I didn’t realize how spoiled our kids are!! Life lessons, people. It’s become a fun game to stick to only what is on the list and know we cannot get anything else, because it’s not on the list.
5. Use a grocery delivery service like Shipt
I know some people will say this costs more money. However, hear me out here because I think there’s a strong argument for it. I paid $99 for a full year of using Shipt. That purchase was pre-budget life, but I think I would pay it regardless, and here’s why:
- Time and energy are precious commodities: For me personally, and probably for most of you, taking a trip to the grocery store takes a lot of time. It means loading kids in the car, unloading them at the store, figuring out who is riding, who is walking, who is getting strapped onto mom because she needs room for the groceries too. Then there is struggling to focus on the list you just made because you’re trying to herd cats (cough, cough, I mean children) through the store. Followed by standing in the checkout line saying “no” 87 times to candy bars and $1 half-full bags of chips. It means loading the kids and the groceries back into the car, only to drive home and unload them all again into the house, where you are left with no energy to do anything else afterwards.
- Limiting temptations: If you don’t actually go to the store, you don’t have the option to browse all the aisles and be tempted to buy things that are not on your list. In the Shipt app, you search for and select what you want, review your final list, then place your order.
- Decreasing other spending: Skipping the actual trip the store saves gas, time, and the chance that you might stop at Starbucks. Is that just me who used to do that every time?
6. Cut unused subscriptions
You know when you get those emails saying you have a receipt from the Apple Store, and you see it’s that app for $3.99 per month, and then another for $9.99, and so on? Those emails where you say to yourself, “Self, I need to cancel that. Let me save this email so I don’t forget.” And then, self forgets. Yeah, those emails. Find them all and cancel that crap. Block out 20 minutes and go through every little subscription and cancel them. If it’s something you really, really use that benefits your life in some way, keep it. If not, it’s like the shirt in your closet you wore once a year ago. But worse, because it’s still costing you money every month.
Related: Get Cash Back Every Time You Get Gas
7. Get creative for entertainment
I know this is hard, especially when you have kids. Lately I have been trying to have more days of the week that I do not spend any money, than days that I do. To accomplish that, and also not lose my mind with three kids, I have to get creative with our entertainment. Thankfully, we have memberships to some local places. For example, the children museum. When my kids say they want to go to somewhere like Bounce, the trampoline place, I suggest the museum instead. Whatever entertainment options you have around you, try to opt for the free ones. For us, that means the playground, beach, staying home and swimming in the pool or watching a movie, or using our membership to the local zoo.
When we do spend money, I have been trying to be smart about it. Keyword trying. I’m still learning and getting better. For example, there are a few new movies out that we want to see. Our favorite local theater is $6 on Tuesdays, so we only go on Tuesdays. Otherwise, it’s double the price. The old me would have just done it on Saturday because I wanted to. The new me thinks it’s crazy to pay double when I can pay less for the same experience on Tuesday.
8. Shop car insurance
My husband and I had the same car insurance for about eh, a decade. Recently he (Chris) made the smart decision to finally shop options, and ended up saving us hundreds of dollars on the same coverage. It sounds silly, but I tend to put off things that are going to take me any time at all because I have this idea that it’s going to be a big ordeal. For example, I have on my to-do list to call our TV and Internet provider because every year our “promotions” run out and our bill goes up. It will probably take me 10-15 minutes max, but I always say I’ll do it tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m wasting money. Makes no sense. The lesson here: don’t be like me, be like my husband.
9. Export your bank records and sort by category.
Doing this gave me the real picture of what I was spending. The first time I did this I was shocked at how much I was spending at the grocery store and eating out. My gosh the eating out.
In your online banking account, you should be able to export an Excel file of your bank records. I pulled mine for the “past 90 days”. Then I went through and copied out items onto separate sheets of the Excel file. For example, one for eating out, grocery store, misc (crap I didn’t really need), bills, gas. Then it was easy to do a quick sum of the amounts and get a total of what I had spent in a given month and in the total 90 days in each category.
Doing this not only helps to get the big picture of what you are really spending, but it gives you a base for what your budget should be. In some areas, you can tighten it up a bit, or a lot. In the eating out and grocery categories I knew I could majorly cut back. However, what I spend on gas is pretty much what I have to spend on gas, and I actually now budget a little higher for gas just in case we take a little road trip.
10. Consolidate student loans, only if it makes sense.
A while back we refinanced our house with the goal of getting rid of our PMI, which we did (hallelujah!). So there’s another tip, if you are paying PMI, please try to get out of that! To the point, we took some extra cash out (second mortgage) since we now have equity in our house, and used it to pay off anything that had a higher interest rate. Our mortgage interest rate is 4.25%. We had several student loans that were at or above 6%. So we paid those off, which obviously doesn’t clear us of that debt, but it basically means we now owe it to someone else at a lower interest rate.
We had several student loans at rates lower than 4.25%, so we just left those alone and are still paying on them.
If you can pay less interest, that’s always a good thing.
11. Eat less meat to save on your grocery budget
When I became vegan, I started saving so much on groceries. Yes, I am buying meat for my family. And no, I am not telling you to become vegan. However, meat is a big expense category within the grocery category, and just by having one meatless night per week, you could save a lot! You can make veggie quesadillas, soup and salad night, or keep it simple and have breakfast for dinner!
12. Create and follow a budget, for everything
The word budget used to really freak me out. However, ever since I started following a budget, I have had fun keeping track of it and learning new ways to stay within budget. It almost feels like a fun game or challenge to figure all of it out and be in control of your money. So first, if you want to know how to start saving money you have got to create a budget. Here’s how I created my budget, and a free template for you to use.
Next, you have to stick to it! Here are some easy ways to save money on groceries without coupons, to help you get started.
13. Sell the stuff you no longer use.
(Disclaimer: When I am very excited about something my inner West Virginia girl comes out.) Ya’ll, I have been making money selling my clothes!! I had been putting off cleaning out my closet for a long time, but finally went on a decluttering spree. I was very hesitant to start selling my clothes on apps for one reason: the post office. The thought of having to drag three little kids to the post office all the time to ship things was not appealing to me, at all.
BUT, turns out you don’t have to go to the post office, so I am in! When you sell clothes on Poshmark, you just print out a prepaid shipping label, package your item, and you can schedule a free pickup from USPS. You can even sell home decor on Poshmark now too!
Decluttering your house will make you feel less stressed, which will have so many benefits in your life. You might as well turn your clutter into cash as much as you can! Before you start, decide on a use for what you make. Are you going to put it all towards a credit card debt? Maybe you’re going to put it all in a savings account as your emergency fund? Decide on a goal and have fun selling off stuff to reach it!
14. Make a 30-day purchase rule.
One of the quickest ways to start saving money immediately is to stop spending it on things you don’t really need. Easier said than done, I know. To help, you can institute a 30-day purchase rule where any purchase that you don’t absolutely really need (gas, food, utilities/debt payments) has to wait 30 days. About to buy that cool new gadget at Target? Wait 30 days. If you really are still thinking about it and just have to have it, then you can go get it. Chances are, you’ll forget about it.
15. Drink More Water.
I know you are thinking that’s a silly way to save money, but it really works! I have always struggled with drinking enough water on a daily basis. Because I am currently breastfeeding I need to make sure I stay on track. I realized that one way I can do this and save money is that any time I am outside of my house, choose water. If we go to dinner or lunch out, I only order water to drink. It saves $2-3 each time, and helps me up my water intake. Take water with you everywhere you go, and before you pay several dollars for a simple drink, really think about if you really need it. Most of the time, you’re better off just drinking the water.
16. Share your goals with friends and family.
If you are trying to cut back on spending but no one around you knows, it’s going to be a lot harder. Sharing your goals not only gives you more accountability, but it also makes it easier for them to understand when you opt to do different things outside your norm.
When it comes to all the best ideas on how to start saving money, this is really just what I have learned so far. I am definitely no expert, but life is teaching me lessons and this is just me sharing them as I go. One of the biggest ones I’ve learned so far is to keep learning and move on from mistakes. With any goal, whether it be financial, health, or anything else, when you make mistakes, fall of course, or slip up a bit, the worst thing you can do is dwell in it and beat yourself up. Learn from it, note it down as a wonderful lesson on your journey, and keep plugging along towards your goals!
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Hi, I’m Jessica! I am wife to Chris, and mom to Kaiper, Alana and Koa. I am a graphic designer, website developer and aspiring author. In this space, I share about everything from parenting, working from home, food we cook, and lots of things for kids! Learn more about me here.