There are 2 things to remember when it comes to spending wisely: 1. Time is money - You can buy so many things to save time. If you want to cut back on your spending, you need to be willing to put in the time. 2. You can have everything. Just not today.
** Updated 5/17/2012
I just wanted to share a little bit about using credit cards wisely. Using your debit card for purchases and bills can be dangerous. If you get mis-billed or double billed, which happens, it can drain your bank account and can take weeks to recover, leaving you high and dry. It is wise to find a credit card that provides good protections and rewards. There are 3 benefits: 1: If you get mis-billed or double billed, you can contact your credit card company and the transaction can be put on hold for investigation without wiping out you bank account. 2: Some cards provided an extended warranty on your purchases. So, if a buisness won't honor your refund or exchange, your credit card company can protect you. 3: Building rewards. You can collect points for flights, vacations, and sometimes even cash back rewards. Now, it's very important to not carry a balance. Set a limit on your monthly spending so that you can pay it off every month. By not carrying a balance, you do not accrue intrest charges.
- Eliminate waist and re-use: It seems like you can get just about anything in disposable form these days; ranging from paper towels, paper plates, disposable diapers, wipes to make up remover pads. Think about everything that you just throw away, it's money down the drain. Try switching to washcloths for cleaning, using the plates sitting in the cabinet, cloth diapering and wipes are big savers too. Instead of throwing something away, try to re-use it or find a new purpose for it. *We dedicated a month and to see if we could fill up our big kitchen trash can once after watching No Impact Man. We weren't able to pull it off, but it brought a lot of attention to how much we were just throwing out. We've reduced our waist 10 fold since then. Now we have a closet where we put stuff to re-use, ex: coffee containers, wine bottles, cereal boxes, etc. We actually have a blast making things out of trash!*
- Make it, don't buy it: I just love Pinterest! Have I said that before? You can find a DIY tutorial on there for just about anything. Need a set of stackable outdoor chairs? Make 'em. Baby mobile? There's a million ways to make those. *We've proudly made our kitchen table, coffee table, side table, and a wall shelf by using discarded wood and furniture. Our kitchen table was once someone's workbench.*
- Garden and buy local: Grass looks nice and all but it doesn't really serve much of a purpose... Take half of your lawn and grow a garden. Try using heirloom/open pollination seeds, you can get years of use out of just one packet. It's great to get the kids involved too. *My Wild Thing loves to go sneak lettuce and kale out of the garden for an afternoon treat. I'm not sure that he would want to eat those things if he hadn't watched them grow from little seedlings.* If you don't have a lawn or your city folk like us, urban gardening is the way to go. You can use anything as a planter; shipping crates, an old wheel barrel, bowls or cups... I could go on all day here. Also, buying local produce from farmers markets or joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) not only helps your wallet but it also helps the economy. Support small business. These guys are family farmers that put their blood, sweat, and tears to grow quality crops. Local is better than organic.
- Cook from scratch: Everyone knows that you will save tons on money by eating at home, but you can save even more by making everything from scratch. You could buy a loaf of bread for $2.99 or make one from scratch for 25 cents (p.s. you don't need a bread machine to make bread). Everything that is pre-made, in the box or bag is going to cost you a premium. *I would say that our family of 4 eats about 75% organic fresh produce and non-processed foods... sounds expensive? Our monthly grocery bill runs us about $450.* Aside from the money that you are saving, eating processed foods (even when they have that cute little organic label or a picture of a pretty hillside farm on the front of it) is loaded with unnecessary calories and sodium. - Don't have the time? Eat it the way nature intended to. Eat it raw, eat it simple. You don't need fancy recipes to feed your family a well balanced diet.
- Take hand me downs and buy used: Kids go through clothes so fast and sometimes, they only wear them just a few times. Don't be afraid to take hand me downs from a friend with an older kid or buy used at a consignment shop or garage sale. I'm not just talking clothes here; furniture, toys, kids gadgets like swings, bouncers etc. I'm also a big fan of curb finds. People will throw something out for the slightest imperfection. Hello? Crayon washes out! When it comes to furniture, you want to look for something that has potential. It may look crummy on the surface, but if it's solid wood, you can sand that baby down, put on a new coat of varnish and voila! looks like new!
- Make a budget and track your spending EVERYDAY: Don't just spend freely without knowing where it goes and you can't just ignore you're account balance. When you're making your budget, be realistic. Maybe you eat out once a week *we do*, maybe you like to go see a movie once in a while... put it in there. Don't pretend like it doesn't exist or it will sneak up on you later. Map out your spending and see where it's going. You may be surprised to see that you are spending a lot on eating out or buying frivolous things. When you break it down, it's easy to see where you can change your spending habits. After all is said and done, see how much you have left over, (I know that some of us don't have a lot) and try to block out a portion of that to save. If you end up having a bad month, then at least you left yourself a buffer.
- Find those extra expenditures and cut them out: Think about your monthly expenditures and ask yourself if you really need it all. Cable can cost a fortune. An antenna will cost you about $60 and is free to use indefinitely. You can watch all of your network shows and prime time TV in HD with an antenna now a days. Do you need a smart phone? Better yet does everyone in your house need a smart phone? *Wonderful and I decided that we did need one, but that it wasn't necessary for us to both have one.* The service on each smart phone costs an additional $30 on top of your contract. Gym memberships that your not using... a home phone that just rings with sales calls... find out what you don't need and cut it.
- Be a loyal customer: Loyalty will get you a long way with your insurance company, cell phone company, internet provider, and your bank. Your insurance rate goes down the longer your with a company and your bank is more likely to give you a better interest rate after you've been with them for a while. It also gives you the leverage to say, "Hey! I've been with you guys for 10 years, you owe me a better deal.". Bouncing around can get expensive with early termination fees, start up fees and deposits. *Wonderful said that I should give the disclaimer to still shop around for a better deal. He's right. You can take that deal and go back to your people and say, "These guys are offing me this. Will you match it or beat it?". If they can't, maybe it's time to move on.*
- Buy smart and take advantage of the freebies: First of all, always make a shopping list! Never, ever, EVER buy anything off the list before going home and sleeping on it. That's what you call an impulse buy. 9 times out of 10, you'll realize that you didn't need it the next day. When making a big purchase, ask yourself a few questions first: How long do I expect this item to last? What's an appropriate amount to spend on something that is going to provide X amount of use when I make X amount of money? And give yourself a spending cap before you price out the item. *For example, Twinkle Toes is almost 11 months, and she needed new summer clothes. I knew that they aren't going to last for very long and I'm just going to end up giving them away in a few months, so, I gave my self a $75 spending cap before I went in the store.* Most importantly, don't buy cheap! It'll just fall apart and you'll have to buy another one. Buy something that is well made and durable so that you only have to get it once. Don't forget to take advantage of your freebies: I don't have a long list here because... well... I grew up with the Texas Republican Agenda in my ear. I'm not talking about welfare or food stamps, ok. I'm talking about your local library and special deals... This is tough to explain... *for example, the children's museum out here does half price if you go after 4p. The aquarium is free to locals on the 3rd Tuesday of every month.* Get savvy on that stuff. Living Social and Groupon are pretty cool too.
- You can have everything that you want, you just can't get it all today. Spread out your spending. *We leave a "free spending" section in our budget for things that we "want", but once the limit has been reached, it has to wait til next month, even if we have the money for it.*
Baby saving tips: (I can add more of these later too, because there are tons! *I'm always telling people that we have "free" babies.)
- Cloth Diaper
- Make your own baby food
- Don't buy toys. - They really don't need them, a measuring cup and a wooden spoon has brought more happiness to my children than any toy that I could have ever bought them.
- Be minimalistic. Kids really don't need much. Just you.