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
- Myra from The Casabella Project: 5 Simple Ways to Decorate on a Dime
- 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
- 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?
Great article! Menu planning is one of the things that I want to focus on this year. I’ve been doing it halfway, but I think it will really save us time and money if I plan out the actual meals a little better.
I heartily agree with the waiting too. My husband and I have started keeping a list of things that we want during the year. Waiting helps us evaluate how much we need it, and then those same things often end up on our Christmas wish lists! Then, even fairly practical items are exciting because they’ve become wants instead of needs!
Looking forward to the rest of the series. :o)
Love this post! Thanks so much for reminding me to WAIT. I used to have the list and somewhere along the way, I just started buying items, thinking I needed it then. It feels good to have a new/old plan for 2011. Thanks again!
My husband and I were blessed with a membership to a club store for Christmas, and we’ve already started using that to our advantage. We went in on Monday and set a limit of $75 for ourselves. We got enough food to last for at least 2 weeks, and it’s all healthier than what we would have gotten if we hadn’t set the limit (also another goal this year).
Love this series! Thanks for doing this. I’ve enjoyed reading all the posts by different bloggers starting with the Heavenly Homemaker who I read daily.
I love the “Wait List” because in that time period of waiting, you can sometimes find a free way to fulfill that want, or a much cheaper DIY project!
What a great post! My budget is out of control!!! These are great tips for helping me get the control back! Thanks!
Good points. We tend to spend cash, so we don’t have to dig in into our debit cards (which pushes us to overspend). Thanks for reminding people like me, that I am sane.
I love the idea of paying cash for everything. I am that debit card user. When I have cash I don’t want to spend it, but I’ll swipe that card without even thinking. I have made month to month goals for myself. I like to see results fast. Hopefully the month to month goals will keep me on track and focused. Thanks for the great post.
One note on the “recycle” part… At least for me, I have to add a detail in there of “what can I use this for… that I need now.” I tend to be more on the pack-rat end of things, so holding onto stuff because I could use it for something else ends up with me having way more stuff than I need.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that for our food budget, I need to keep myself *below* budget for some months because I go to Costco with my mom (she has an account, I don’t) about once every 2-3 months. When I do that, I tend to spend extra to stock up our pantry with things we need. It comes out cheaper, but it requires a bit of planning to make it work.
Great tips! I also used my debit card to pay for everything as I’ve learned my lesson with credit cards during my college days. This year, I also got rid of my landline. Why pay extra for landlines when the only calls that come through are from telemarketers. Plus, I have unlimited talk/text/web with my StraightTalk phone. We’re pretty much attached by the hip 🙂
List are great for me,have a pretty short one so far,but they will make a significant change in my wallet for the month.For example, I walk my kids to school,it’s a long 4 blocks but it’s a nice walk and I have more time to connect with my kids as oppose to the car with the DVD always on! Also, got rid of my landline and my contract cell phone and went with a prepaid. Also, with Straight Talk,glad it seems to be popular! The activation was so easy, and the coverage with Verizon makes it worth it! Also,am beginning to pack my lunch for work instead of going out with the gang and spending too much!Hope I helped someone,thanks for all the ideas!
Mother Dearest says
Paying cash is a really good one, I’ve found that to have been saving me money this year so far. Finding ways to save for 2011 is important for us and our future. I even made a pretty drastic change this year and switched from my cell phone contract over to prepaid. It was a big move but definitely resulted in big savings! My family and I use Net10 and more specifically its unlimited plan for $50 a month. There’s no catch, its an awesome deal and I wish I had come across it sooner. Definitely recommend giving prepaid a shot, you won’t regret it 🙂
Danielle W. says
I started this month making a menu for the entire month shopping the bulk of that list in one day and only making runs to the store for fresh items such as milk eggs and produce. If a good sale on something that is not fresh comes along i will make an effort to snatch it up and stockpile it, but if I stay out of the store i will spend less and if i know what i am making for dinner the night before we will not go out to eat because i don’t feel like cooking. If it is written down i am more likely to follow the plan 🙂
Gabby Gabbers says
Paying cash is a good one! I always spend so much less when I have cash on me instead of using my card. Another thing that I did for my family was switch all of our cell phones over to prepaid wireless. Literally cut our bill in HALF. My husband couldn’t be happier with my find! I did the research and found that Tracfone was the best fit for our family. Oh the savings, coverage, high quality phones, etc. are all offered with this service. Happy April everyone!
Bridgette @ Blessings Multiplied says
Thanks for sharing! Paying cash is a great way to stay within your budget. I look forward to reading more on your blog!
Christina, the Youthful Homemaker says
We have really been working hard to stay on budget recently. We have a tendency to get in our checks when a semester starts, spend like crazy, then we’re scraping along for the rest of the semester.
It has been really hard adjusting, but it is SO nice to know that every month we will be able to pay all of the bills without scrambling.
Great article! I to am a Happy Housewife and I just adore your blog! A lot of what you say is so true… its all about simplifying things. We cut down on a lot of our exspenses but sitting down and literally taking a pen and paper to things. For us eating out was an issue ( i know i should cook more) and now we are creating a meal plan on Sundays to find where we can save and what we can make at home. Also- we had ridiculously high costing cellphone plans and after my hesitation on switching to a prepaid phone we finally jumped ship and switched to a company called tracfone. Extremely reliable and most importantly- saving between the two of us and one child – 3 phones we are saving 160 dollars a month. We each got a smartphone like some samsung ( sorry not totally tech literate) and we have this family plan with no contract and no fees and i mean just each month it is so nice to know that money will be saved. bills are tough but this is one thing that has sorta been a blessing in disguise!
I have used Mint before, it definitely is helpful, we realized we spend so much money on food and started using and sticking to a grocery list!, Definitely helps. I remember one time we almost went into our savings to go buy some groceries assuming we had no food in the house, but a miraculously delicious meal was made that night with food we had in the house smh!