A while ago, I wrote about our family overspending on or discretionary budget. We needed to save $475 to get back on track. And I’m happy to report that we’ve done it – 6 months later. In addition to eliminating our overspending, we reduced our discretionary spending budget each month by $200 (working hard to pay off those student loans, which we did in July 2013). In total, we saved $1500 from our discretionary in less than a year! It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it–you can get your spending back on track by using these smart solutions to help you make important, lasting decisions.
Use what you already own. Since I’d been price matching for more than a year, we made a plan to use up the food we’d already purchased and only buy essentials to get through some of these “lean” months. We were able to eat a lot of the food we’d already owned and it helped us make room for more items. This allowed us to find the really good deals on the items we wanted and increased our monthly grocery savings dramatically. I also tried experiments to see what could save us money in the future. Frozen, thawed milk? I would only recommend using it for baking (not drinking). But our homemade bread froze and baked beautifully.
Tip! It’s amazing how much you can save when you make it a priority not to spend money–you can be creative with new uses for old things and how to stretch your dollar further and change the way you think about money. Even if you don’t need to save money, try this experiment–donate your extra money for the week to a worthy charity, then you’ll know how living on less can benefit you (and others!)
Take advantage of special discounts. Earlier, I mentioned our vacuum was on it’s last legs. Turned out it had become ineffective a while ago. My sister had a chance to purchase a vacuum for us with a nice discount, so we decided to make the investment. The new vacuum is amazing and our floors have never been cleaner. Because we were able to use the discount, we saved about 10%–making the purchase worth it even when we were seriously saving. You’ll need to decide what is essential and what can wait. Because we got the new vacuum, we waited a few months to get new ceramic cookware (another great decision, it’s the best and safest cookware we’ve ever purchased).
Budget and track every purchase. What I didn’t tell you about our goal is for many of our “lean” months we’d spend more than 1/2 of our monthly budget in the first week. Talk about a challenge! It always seemed we’d had a few necessary charges that added up a little quicker than we’d thought. But we knew about it immediately, because we track everything on our budget list. How did we make it work? We followed our smart saving strategies and made sure we got the best deal for everything. Because we tracked everything as we were spending it, we were able to see how close we were with every purchase. Even if it’s a simple piece of paper that you use to list your spending; do it! By knowing what you can spend and tracking it, you’re already poised to be more successful for staying on track.
The right thing will come along at the right time; know when to wait. We went to the mall one day to look for sports equipment and I had an unbelievable coupon to my favorite store. But it meant that I’d be spending $50 to $100 on items I didn’t need. I went in, I picked out and tried on my items, and I put them back and left the store–tough! Instead I went to the body care store and used my coupon for my freebie. On the way out, I found my running Bondi Band headbands at a kiosk (I got two for $17 total). I wouldn’t have been able to purchase the new clothes and the headbands, so it was an instant lesson in be glad you waited. You don’t need new things–it’s easier not to go in a store if you have trouble monitoring your spending. Take it from me, just stay away until you have money to spend.
Use free & pre-paid options available. During our extra savings months, we went on a fancy dates, watched rented movies, went to Andy’s custard, took the family to the zoo and went to a local theme park. How did we do all of these awesome things? We used what we already owned – our gift cards, pre-purchased passes and found creative ways to do what we wanted. By making great use of the items you already own, you’re still able to have a great time and not spend any (or much) extra money.
Price matching saves the day. Our goal was to reduce our monthly grocery spending by 80%. By using my price matching preparation and shopping strategies, I was able to reduce our monthly grocery spending by 49% for the first half of the year, that totals to more than $860! I didn’t meet my goal, but my result is not too shabby. If you aren’t price matching–you’re missing great savings. Start by printing ONE local weekly ad each week (I’d recommend Aldi) and get your strategy together. As you grow more comfortable, add all of the local stores. I find them online, book mark the site and print the relevant weekly ad pages each Wednesday.
Find ways to make extra money. One of our regular work in progress projects is to invest in a few things that provide a financial return—each season we participate in local events to sell clothes that our children have outgrown–the check brought us back up to a reasonable discretionary spending amount. Look at options available to you for extra money, can you sell your gently used clothes? What about selling items online sites like eBay or Etsy? Do you have a talent that can make money? Invest in these to help boost your bottom line.
What an interesting challenge this was–but we did it and we survived! It wasn’t easy, but keeping a positive outlook really helped us accomplish this challenge and now we’re back on track for our monthly spending (and our extra savings for our student loans). You can make a change in your family’s spending–even if it’s a small change, it can be an important change. Find where you can use your time and talents to make a difference and work to make it happen!