So, I’m going to share some of the things that have worked for us, in hopes that it will help you. (A hidden motive is that I also hope you will share with me what works for YOU – yeah, not completely selfless.) Those of us who are Frugal & Fabulous must stick together.
Key note: I don’t consider us “cheap.” We leave good tips to servers. We don’t re-use ziploc baggies or trash bags. We don’t mooch off people (except maybe our parents who are so generous with free meals). The point is – there is a major difference between being cheap and being frugal. To me, being cheap means depriving yourself or others when trying to save money. Frugal – being FABULOUS while saving money.
Because, let’s face it: I’m really not the one to give lots of money advice. Go to Suze Orman or your local financial advisor for that. But, while people who know me are laughing at me giving money tips, the truth is that Ryan and I have managed to stow away money for short and long-term savings while paying off credit cards and paying down other debt (like our house and student loans) substantially. All while living a pretty dang good life, in our opinion.
Ryan has always been a saver, so he taught me. But, I have learned to do small things to make a big payoff. It’s all about the little steps.
I’m going to share some of the ways that we have been able to save money. It’s just a little here and there. But, it adds up… quicker than we ever think.
The most important way to save money – in our minds – is to evaluate non-essentials.
So, what are things that you that you don’t use or don’t use enough to justify paying for?
Here are some examples of items we have deemed non-essentials (this is continually evolving and won’t be the same for everyone):
– This month, we cut my gym membership at $29.95/month. I used it 3 times in December. That’s $10 per visit. It’s not worth $10 for those hours of hell. I really despise going to the gym. I am more likely to work out at home. So, why have the membership?
(Saved: $359.40/year by eliminating a membership that I didn’t use anyhow)
– I also cut out getting my nails “did.” When I added up the fills and time spent driving and waiting at the salon, it wasn’t worth it. Plus, I can type a lot better without falsies. (Saved: about $400/year by appreciating my real nails)
– We said ta-ta to bottled agua. Much of the reason was environmental, but it also saved us some cashola.
(Saved: totally guessing at $260/year or about $5.00/week for a sale case of water by not falling for the bottled water habit)
– I also started stretching out my cuts and colors. Originally, I got my hair cut and colored every 5 weeks. Now, it’s 7 weeks. Two weeks doesn’t make a difference with my hair (my stylist actually suggested it), and it means I pay the price less often. (Saved: about $360/year by eliminating the need for 3 stylist visits)
– We don’t have cable or dish. (GASP!) Don’t worry, I did the same thing when Ryan informed me that we weren’t paying to get dish or DVR. (GASP!) However, it’s been a year without cable, and I have to say that I survived just fine. If we had cable, there would be some channels and shows that I would tune into (like everything on Bravo and TLC), but not enough to justify the cost. About 95% of the shows I enjoy are on network television. If I’m itching for a TV fix and there’s nothing on (like everything Saturday and Sunday), I pop in a movie from Redbox at $1. Or, better yet – I read a book or magazine. You wouldn’t believe how much reading I have gotten done this year.
Not having cable has also made me realize that I used to just zone out in front of the television. It wasn’t necessarily enjoyable. But, I did. Now, I do things that I want to do – blog, read, do things around the house, craft. Such a better use of my time.
(Saved: about $720/year by avoiding cable)
– Coffeehouses get to see me less. It’s sad because I really adore the local java stops and Starbucks. But, come on – it’s not necessary. I still go once in a while when the craving hits, but not nearly the frequency of the past. And, I don’t just go because it’s on the way.
(Saved: about $250/year by cutting back on the grande skim peppermint mochas)
– We don’t eat out often. We still do, but it’s definitely been cut back drastically. There were times where we ate out 5/7 nights during a week. But, let’s face it – it’s significantly less expensive to eat at home. And, we actually enjoy it. We’ve even started eating at homes on Saturdays, to avoid the rush at restaurants and crowds. When we do eat out, we often use coupons. This sounds almost cheap, but we have a coupon book that we purchased from the Rotary. Many local establishments have coupons for buy one get one FREE. Yeah…. I said free. Do you have those books? I bet you have them in the area, you just have to find them. The catch is, most of the coupons exclude weekends (tricky). So, we often go out on weeknights instead. It’s actually kinda fun to get out on a “school night.” Plus, we get to try out new places (many of which are locally-owned). And, since we don’t go as often, it’s much more of a treat.
(Saved: close to $1,000/year by staying in more often)
– Finally, and this is a big one – I have almost completely stopped shopping “for fun.” My “fun” hobby cost me thousands of dollars. I still shop once and a while. I still go with friends and family members for fun. I still go out on the day after Thanksgiving. But, I don’t go by myself just to kill time. I don’t drop by the mall unless I have a purpose. Why?
Because I’m a recovering spendthrift. =) It would be like dropping off a woman on a diet at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet or a recovering crack addict at a drug dealer’s house.
Maybe not quite so serious… But the truth is, when I go to a mall, I buy things. It’s that simple. I don’t window shop. I don’t browse. I go for the kill.
So, I only go there when I need to buy something. There are times when I need a pair of black heels or a certain article of clothing. But, since I don’t go to the mall often, these needs pop us less frequently. I still have far too many clothes and shoes (and my bursting closet proves it). All of my credit cards from my spendthrift days are paid in full. So, why add insult to injury? (Saved: $2,000/year is probably a conservative estimate of what I save by keeping my hiney out of the shopping mall – I have past credit card bills to prove it)
These are several ways that we have made cuts to our spending without sacrificing anything, in our opinion. Everyone’s version of essentials is different. I hope that you think about what is non-essential in your life. Simplifying is more than just cleaning out junk drawers (although that may be part of it). It’s also cleaning out unnecessary things in your life (whoa – getting deep here).
So, tell me… is this helpful?
What have you cut or what could you cut to save a little extra?