Tips on Saving Money

First of all, thank you for your comments, emails, and private messages in response to this post I really appreciate your advice, support, and empathy in regards to my lack of ideas in this battle known as parenting. We are slowly working through different ideas and trying to see what best fits with our strong-willed little girl. Once I find the answers, I’ll be sure to share them with you. Until then, I’ll strain to keep a smile on my face throughout the hours of tears {her’s or mine} that occur.

Moving on… 

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Ahh, long weekends. How I love them.

Thank you, MLK, for having a birthday on the third Monday of every January so Adam can have an extra day lazying around with us.

We’ve been out enjoying the beautiful weather, playing in large ball pits, and riding Thomas the Trains as ways of endless entertainment.

We really do try to make the best of our weekends.

{We spent a total of 500 yen for all that fun! There are some things I enjoy about Japan. Cheap entertainment for our children being one of them.}

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So, the main purpose of this blog post. Saving money. I know my ears always perk up when I hear about saving, only because it truly interests me. I love seeing where I can cut corners and what others have to say on how they are able to stretch a dollar or cut down on spending.

With it being a new year, Adam and I have gone through and talked about saving more this year and how we’re going to do it. Here are a few tips I have:

1. Set a budget. I find this to be very important for short term and long term saving. It can be a bit tedious at first, but once you have gone through every single expense, you can then come up with an idea of what money needs to go where and how to cut some corners. Maybe instead of drinking a $5 latte every day, you can start making coffee at home and putting that money towards your savings account (I recently switched over to making all my coffee at home and haven’t looked back! We save about $15/week by this simple sacrifice that wasn’t even hard for me to do!)

2. Make Goals. Once you have set a budget, sit down a make short term and long term financial goals. Such as: try to save an extra $10 a week, max-out yearly IRA contributions, don’t keep a balance on your credit card, only use cash to buy groceries every month, etc. Goals really help you see where you are now and where you want to be in the future. At the end of the year, look back on those goals and see once how you did. Change them as needed next time around.

3. Don’t carry debt. Besides our mortgage {which is currently paid for by renters}, we do not have any debt. We used to have a car loan and student loans, but we both knew that having debt isn’t the most financially sound decision. So, we saved up and paid the loans off early. Carrying debt of any kind is usually not beneficial. I would suggest looking at what debt you have and deciding if paying it off quicker than the term of the loan is feasible. If so, do it.

*Adam and I do use a credit card. We pay it off every couple weeks or so and have never carried a balance. Read the next point and you’ll see why we choose to have a credit card.

4. Use credit cards with added perks. Now, I know some financial gurus recommend never having credit cards at all. If you are a person who tends to fall deeply into debt because of one, then please, by all means, do not go this route. But, if you are able to use your credit card reasonably and pay it off on time, then I think having a credit card is a great thing. And here’s why: our credit card company gives us a percentage back every time we use our card.

For example, if we spend $1000 with our credit card, we get points back, which we can redeem for straight-up cash or use the points on their website to receive cool things. Since Adam and I are bargain shoppers and can find the things they have on their website for cheaper, we take the cash every time. We just redeemed some of our points a few weeks ago and I’m putting that money {plus my cash from Christmas presents} to buy a new camera. Cool, right? Obviously, you need to have patience, but it’s totally worth it. If you’re going to be buying gas or groceries anyway, why not use the credit card and get money back for it? 

5. Meal Plan. I wrote a post back in October {read here} about setting up a meal plan. And, I’m here to say, it’s working! I sit down at the beginning of each month, write out a month worth of meals, and then weekly I go grocery shopping to fulfill those meals for the week.

This helps save money a few different ways.

1) When wondering what to make for dinner, I just go to the side of the fridge and look at my meal plan. I know I have all the food I need for each recipe. It makes life so much simpler. And, when Adam comes home and asks, “What’s for dinner?” I always have an answer for him!

2) We eat out a lot less. I am never at a loss for what to make, since I’ve already taken the time previously to think about each meal. I then don’t fall on the “oh well, let’s just go out to eat” excuse. Saving money and eating healthier! Double win.

3) I go to the grocery store only once a week versus multiple times a week. I have everything for the week’s recipes written down and I generally {with a few exceptions} only make one grocery run a week. Since it’s my least favorite chore, this makes me happy in many ways.

I would love to hear of any ways you use to save money. I’m always looking for new ideas. I view it like a fun game of sorts. Take a little time to think things out, save a lot of money.

Oh, I should mention, I’m not a couponer. Never have been, probably never will be. I’ve tried, but it’s just not for me. I will use the coupons they have hanging in the aisles if I was going to purchase that item anyway, but since Adam and I don’t get a newspaper with ads in them, I’m not about to print coupons off with our printer when I will most likely forget about them anyway. But for you couponers — good for you!

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