The Ways I Save (And You Can Too)

I’ve gotten such a great response to my couponing post that I decided to share with you the small ways I save. It’s easier than it may seem.

When I first started, I was a thinking that my savings ways wouldn’t last. I mean, who wants to clip coupons all the time? But, I was seeing how big an impact it was having, so I kept going.

Start with a goal. Any goal. You may want to save up for a vacation. Maybe you want a new pair of shoes. Perhaps there’s a new bedspread you’re dying to have. Having a small, but reachable goal motivates you. It’s easier to pass up a Starbucks coffee if you realize that you’re then $4 closer to that item you want. If you’re thinking about it in the grand scheme of life like retirement and savings, you’ll think that $4 cup of coffee isn’t a big deal. By starting with smaller goals, you’re teaching yourself good spending habits. Eventually, you’ll be able to look toward those long-term goals, like buying a house, and know the few dollars you’re saving each day will add up and your goal will be attainable.

Here are the top money suckers that I have found. Cutting them out can save you a ton.

1. Going out to lunch.
Just bring a lunch. It will cost so much less. You can get a frozen meal for less than $1.50 (with a sale and coupon). Buying bread and deli meat will last you all week and run you about $5. Bring your lunch.

2. Getting take out most nights.
This goes along with #1. Make dinners yourself. They will most likely be healthier, and there are a ton of meals you can make in 20 minutes or less.

3. Not using a coupon when you do go out to eat.
There are tons and tons of deals out there for many restaurants. From all of the deal sites like groupon to restaurant.com, many of the places you go will likely have a deal associated with it, and some of the deals can be quite good. For example, last Friday, Dan and I went out for dinner where we had bought a $25 gift certificate for only $2. Our bill was about $40, so after all was said and done, we ended up paying about $25 for a nice dinner. Yes, it can be done.

4. Going shopping “just because.”
Shop for specific items – this goes for a grocery store or any other kind of store. Browsing will lead you to seeing more things you want. I find having a shopping list helps, though I still have problems with this since I am definitely a browser.

5. Not taking advantage of all of the free things to do.
I live in Chicago, and there is always a ton of free or nearly free stuff going on around the city. Between street festivals, museum free days, park district pools, movies in the park, Summerdance, beaches, the lake path, Lincoln Park zoo, and concerts in the park, you can hardly say everything to do in the city is expensive.

Don’t forget to do your research ahead of time if you’re traveling to learn about some great free things to do too. When Dan and I went to San Francisco, we saved about $72 by scheduling our museum visits on their free days.

6. Ignoring services deals.
Part of saving involves cutting out the frivolous ways you spend your money. That likely includes facials, mani/pedis, and massages. But, if you find discounts, indulging in these items once in a while is OK. Case in point: I bought a mani/pedi deal for $10. I’ll be meeting a friend there who also bought the deal. We’ll have fun chatting and catching up, something we would likely do over dinner. The $10 we spent for spa services is about the same we’d spend per person on dinner anyways. And this way, we have pretty nails too. It’s all about finding the right deals you know you will use. And not buying too many deals.

7. Going to the movie theater.
I will start by saying I’m not a big movie buff. I usually have no problem waiting for the DVD to come out and then seeing it through Netflix at home. I realize this may be going too far for some people, but if you can wait until a movie’s been out for six months or so to see it, I highly recommend waiting. Netflix costs us about $10 a month, which is about the cost of one movie ticket. Beware though, I did hear Netflix is changing their pricing structure, so I’ll need to see if staying on with Netflix will continue to bring us savings.

An added layer of savings would come if you gave up cable all together and relied on Netflix. I know a few people who have done that, and it works for them, but I’m too much of a TV junkie to give up cable. How would I watch Teen Mom, Jersey Shore, and Supernatural? Yes, I know I watch bad TV, no need to comment on it.

Oh, and sometimes you can get deals to movies. Look for groupons or livingsocial deals. I think I was able to get a fandango gift certificate for 2 tickets for $9. Not bad.

8. Buying items on credit, and not paying it off at the end of the month.
Interest charges are so high. If it is at all possible, wait until you have enough money to pay for it outright. Making the minimum payment on your credit card each month is a sure way not only to not save any money, but also to get deeper and deeper into debt.

9. Doing a girls’ night out.
Cab fare and expensive drinks add up, but no need to cut out fun time with friends. Instead, alternate hosts and plan girls’ nights in. Be creative with it, and it won’t feel like you are all just sitting around watching TV. Have a wine and cheese night. Host a tea party. Have a spa day. Hold a cookie exchange. Start a monthly book club. The key is that if everyone brings something to share, it costs each individual very little.

Doing these things will save you money. I started being cost conscious around the time I got married last year, and I am truly amazed at the amount we have been able to save by these cost cutting measures.

I do have to admit, the couponing has led to a lifestyle change for Dan and I. We’re smarter about how we spend our money, and it has definitely made us more creative in planning nights out and in choosing birthday/holiday/anniversary presents for one another. I am so glad that Dan is so supportive of the changes we’ve made that allow us to save. He’s more careful to bring lunch to work instead of going out. Before planning a date night, he checks to see which restaurants we have gift certificates to spend. He waits for movies to come out on DVD. I know he was truly in the thrifty spirit when he told me he wanted to bring some hot sauce to keep at work, and asked me if I had coupons for hot sauce…any brand. A man after my own heart!

I hope this post can help you reach your goal. I am learning this as I go, and I guarantee you that if I can save, you can save.

Have I missed any great money saving tips? If you have one, comment below.

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6 thoughts on “The Ways I Save (And You Can Too)

  1. I have a cost cutting suggestion! You mentioned cutting out cable and I have an addition to that, so it doesn’t feel like you are missing cable TV:Instead of cable, we watch shows off of Hulu, or the show’s main website. Most network TV shows, like ABC, FOX, NBC, the CW and cable channels like MTV and Comedy Central (to name a few) put their shows up online at midnight after they premiere. Now I know it’s lame to hover over a computer to watch a show, so we bought an HDMI cable (about $5 – 25, depending on the brand) that directly transmits the data from your computer to your TV screen. This way the quality of the show still looks perfect and since it also transmits audio, you can control the volume of the show with your own remote. So technically you can watch all of your aformentioned shows (with less commercials!) as long as you don’t mind waiting a day. However, there are some shows that you still can’t get legally online ("Unsolved Mysteries" on Lifetime comes to mind) that you would probably miss, although I just catch up on that one when I go to my parents’ who DO have cable 😉 I really don’t miss cable TV after not having it for a year. 🙂 Lauren

  2. <div>Thanks for the great tip, Lauren!</div> <div> </div> <div>I knew that Hulu had shows to stream, but I had no idea that most of the major networks has streaming available too. I'll have to check that out if I ever miss a show and my DVR doesn't catch it.</div> <div> </div> <div>Waiting a day to watch a show wouldn't bother me in the slightest. I hardly ever catch a show on the day it airs anyways. Of course, it would be difficult to host Grey's Premiere Party this way. :)</div> <div> </div> <div>The HDMI cable is a good investment. We have one so we don't have to watch our Netflix streaming on the computer screen. <br></div>

  3. Yep, I think NBC, FOX and ABC (those I watch most) usually post through Hulu, but CW and MTV have their own stream. That’s how I watch Gossip Girl, Teen Mom, etc. 🙂

  4. When I worked downtown, I was shocked at how many people my age don’t do numbers 1 and 2. We cook most nights (or eat leftovers) and I bring my lunch every day. Seems like a "duh" kind of thing to me. I don’t think it even takes all that much more time if you’re willing do do some research and try new recipes. It doesn’t have to be boring, either. I have done some fun things for lunch – egg salad, tuna salad, plum and goat cheese on pita, besides soups, chili, etc. My lunch always looks better too. And it’s much healthier to cook for yourself than to get take-out every day. Cooking is kind of a bonding thing for us, too. I think we appreciate going out more if we do it less often. Drinking alcohol out of the house is also a big money suck. Doing it at your place is so much cheaper.I love Teen Mom! And other junky TV – Say Yes to the Dress, What Not to Wear, It’s Me or the Dog (hey, at least that one’s educational…) I have to say, I haven’t given up Starbucks yet, but all my SB comes from my credit card points. 🙂

  5. By the way, have you ever heard of this site called mint.com? It’s a personal finance site. I’d highly recommend it. It graphs out all of your expenses each month and helps you set budgets. And we connected it to our bank accounts so it updates automatically.

  6. <div>Thanks for your comments, Diana. I truly cannot understand how some of my co-workers buy food from the cafeteria every day (at least $6) for lunch, and then turn around and complain about how they have no money. Bringing food in is the way to go, and like you said, it's healthier too.</div> <div> </div> <div>I also agree cooking is a bonding experience. Dan and I often make dinner together, or I'll sit with him and our dog outside while he grills.</div> <div> </div> <div>Good point about drinking out less. Drinks get marked up a ton. I prefer my wine with my dinner at home. Or, like I suggested, having everyone bring a bottle to a party. There are some BYOB restaurants out there that are wonderful, so you can still eat out, but not have to pay high drink prices. Some places may charge a small BYOB fee though, either by person or by bottle. Metromix put together a great <a href="http://chicago.metromix.com/restaurants/roundup/chicago-byobs-by-neighborhood/2173408/content">list of BYOB</a> places by neighborhood last year. You can also look at a particular restaurant's yelp page as reviewers are likely to mention if a place is BYOB.</div> <div> </div> <div>I totally understand not being able to completely give up Starbucks, but I have to play devil's advocate and ask if there are any other items you can get when you redeem your credit card points? Maybe gas or groceries? Haha, but that might be taking it too far. I have been known to need a Starbucks fix myself from time to time. We only use gift cards too.</div> <div> </div> <div>Finally, yes, we do use mint. We're hoping to set up some long-term goals soon. it is quite the handy site.</div> <div> </div> <div>Thanks again for commenting!<br><br></div>

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