Last year I started writing posts titled 5 Simple Ways to…. These posts were popular, and it helped me to gain focus just by writing them! I wanted to continue writing them in 2011, but I realized there were many topics I wanted to cover but didn’t feel qualified to write about them. So I asked several of my blogging friends if they would help me with the series. As you can see from the list below, some of my favorite bloggers have agreed to share their expertise on simple ways to organize, decorate, dress better, use coupons, homeschool and more. Click on the links to see how they are making things simple in 2011!
- Laura from Heavenly Homemakers: 5 Simple Ways to Live a Natural Lifestyle
- Carrie from Springs Bargains: Simple Ways to Make Money From Your Blog
- Myra from The Casabella Project: 5 Simple Ways to Decorate on a Dime
- Melissa from A Familiar Path: 5 Simple Ways to Take Better Photos
- Jenny from Southern Savers: 5 Simple Ways to Start Using Coupons
- Lynn from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures: 5 Simple Ways to Save Time in the Kitchen
- Connie from Smockity Frocks: 5 Simple Ways to Have a Successful Homeschool Day
- Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam:5 Simple Ways to Dress Fabulously for Less
- Laura from I’m an Organizing Junkie 5 Simple Ways to Organize Your Home
5 Simple Ways to Save Money in 2011
Track Your Spending and Make a Budget
It is nearly impossible to save money without a plan. Even if there is no money left at the end of the month, creating a budget helps you see exactly where that money is going.
I always find that tracking your spending for a month before you make a budget is a good idea. Write down every penny you spend for one month, then the next month make a realistic budget based on your spending habits. I have never met anyone who wasn’t surprised by their spending habits once they wrote everything down.
When we first started writing down all our spending, I was shocked at our grocery and dining out bill. Simple changes allowed us to cut our spending by almost 50% in these areas and we were debt free in less than a year!
If you need help tracking your spending there are several free and inexpensive options.
Manilla is a free web based service that helps you better manage all your household accounts, including financial, utilities, subscriptions and travel rewards programs, in one secure place online.
Manilla provides customers with an automated, organized view of all of their account information, text and/or email reminders to pay bills and unlimited storage of account documents.
Mint.com is similar to Manilla. All your accounts can be managed in one secure place. See all your balances and transactions together, on the web or your phone. Mint automatically pulls all your financial information into one place, so you can finally get the entire picture.
With Mint you can even have bill reminders sent to your phone.
Mvelopes was developed my Crown Ministries and is another online method for managing your money. This program is not free, but you can try it for 30 days for free to see if it would work for you.
What I like about Mvelopes is that it is a digital “envelope” system. If the paper envelope system worked for you, you might want to give this digital version a try.
Quicken was the first money management system I used. While there are numerous new programs, if you are use to Quicken and it works for you I wouldn’t switch. It took me a long time to get use to tracking finances using a different program and if I had to do it again I probably wouldn’t have switched.
Although I don’t have any numbers to prove my theory, I think people in America waste a lot of money on food. If you set a food budget, you can plan your menu according to the money you have available. Menu planning is so simple, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be doing it! Menu planning helps save money in many ways.
- If you know what you are eating, you can create a shopping list, use coupons, and buy sale items.
- Purchasing food based on your plan helps avoid those… “what do I make for dinner” moments.
- Working leftover nights into your meny plan uses up leftovers instead of letting them go to waste. Throwing away leftovers is like throwing money in the garbage!
Learn to Wait
I had friends who made a list of all the items they wanted to purchase that cost more than $100. They put this list on their fridge, and they waited. At the end of a certain period of time if they still wanted the item and had the money, they bought it. Most of the time, they didn’t want it after they waited. I can count on one hand the deals I missed because I waited, and I regretted it. My husband and I even talk about those few once in a lifetime purchases we passed up. We talk about them, because they are so few and far between.
Every thing goes on sale, and goes on sale again, and goes on sale again. There are very few once in a lifetime deals. If you can avoid impulses purchases you will save money. My biggest financial mistakes all came from impulse buying! If you learn to wait for things you want you will usually find that you can get a better deal, you can find it used, or you will realize you really didn’t want it that much in the first place.
There is something about using the green stuff that makes spending it just a little harder. When our family was getting out of debt, using the envelope system was key to reducing our spending. We spent less, so we could pay off more. The other benefit of cash- if you don’t have any, you can’t spend it!
Research has shown that people spend 12-18% more when paying with a debit or credit card. I know there are cash back rewards with certain cards, and we can argue the benefits all day, but no one has gotten rich off of points or cash back.
I am not talking about newspapers in your recycle bin, although that’s a good idea too. Before you throw something out think about how you might use that item for something else. Worn socks = dust rag, shoe box = mailing box, coffee can= storage for kids crayons, newspaper = wrapping paper, the possibilities are endless. If you can reuse it then you are probably saving yourself time and money by not having to purchase something new.
How are you saving money in 2011?