With prices of food, gas, and everything else top of mind these days, I wanted to take a moment to share some of the ways I save money. For most people, it’s the bigger decision things (the size/location of your home or the age/type of your vehicle) that can make the most significant impact on your budget. However, those things are harder to tweak compared to these everyday tips. If there are any others that you have found to be helpful, please share in the comments.
When our family decided to replace cable with a Roku stick to stream television, before long we found ourselves with more and more monthly subscriptions. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, channels to watch HGTV and the Walking Dead… it adds up! So after having kids (who watch everything on YouTube), my wife and I found ourselves with very little time to watch tv except after the little ones had gone to bed. At this point we realized we couldn’t possibly watch all the content we were subscribed to. This tip is to only subscribe to one streaming service at a time. Last month, Discovery+ was running a promo for Shark Week so we picked that up for $1.09. Prior to that, we had Hulu for 3 months for a promo they were running for about the same price. Anyways, as of now, these streaming services do not lock you in to longer term agreements and make it quite easy to close/pause your account and disable billing. But, here’s the thing, the entire family actually gets really excited whenever we turn a service back on! My kids can’t wait until we get Netflix again or Disney+ again. In addition to looking forward to getting it, we take advantage of and enjoy the time we have it. Compared to when we were signed up for everything and the money was just streaming out of the bank account, we are definitely getting a lot more value with our current approach.
Ever since our kids were infants, we’ve received and passed along kids clothing with other families. I cannot even quantify how much money this has saved us overall. The thing about kids is they grow so fast they are constantly outgrowing one size to the next. This means that often times you can find lightly worn clothing that’s as good as new. If you aren’t friends with another family with slightly older kids, other options include a local Buy Nothing group, thrift store, or if you are lower income a clothing bank.
Speaking of Buy Nothing groups, they are a very good way to save money and keep some of your old housewares out of the landfill. If you haven’t heard of Buy Nothing, they are local groups specific to your neighborhood where people post items they no longer want. There are some rules that go along with giving/receiving but the main one is that everything must be free. I only wish this type of community existed when I was trying to furnish my first apartment – if you are patient enough, someone is bound to be giving away an extra microwave, dining table, or whatever it is you need.
Minimize Errand Trips
Where we live, we are a fair distance away from various shopping centers. Walmart, Target, Costco, Trader Joe’s, they are all a 30-40 minute drive away. The same with the nearest toy store, dollar store, sporting good store, or shopping mall. With gas prices as high as they’ve been, our habit of making and sticking to a shopping list has come in handy. Moreover, we reduce the number of trips we take, or make an effort to stop by those places when we are already in the area when we can.
Borrow & Return
Another thing that’s saved an immeasurable amount of money is our local library. Both of our kids consume books like candy. At any given time we have close to the maximum 100 items checked out. And, it’s not just books – our local library has electronic magazines, DVDs, and video games (including Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4). For some popular items, we might have to wait a few weeks in order to get them or it might take a few times of borrowing to finish but we aren’t in any rush and our patience quickly becomes excitement when our requests are ready to pick up. Offerings vary depending on where you live but our library has some unusual things available like state park/museum day passes, telescope, and even a ukulele.
Miles of Miles
After learning how to manage credit cards more wisely, we learned how to use travel rewards like airline miles and hotel points to our advantage. This past summer, we flew a family of four across the country to visit family for free. Within the next year, we hope to do another amusement park trip with free hotel, airfare, and park tickets. This all takes a lot of planning and discipline so please do your research and tread carefully if you try this saving approach.
Dial In Savings
Another “low hanging fruit” recurring bill I often see different in one budget compared to the next is the monthly cost of cell phone service. Compared to when we were Verizon customers, we have tried some comparable competitor plans that work just as well for a fraction of the cost. For example, we switched to a Total Wireless plan which includes two phone lines and unlimited data, talk, and text for $60 per month. There are others that can get by with less data on a Mint Mobile phone plan for $15 per line. One thing to note is that without an unlocked phone it’s harder to switch service to these carriers especially when you are financing your phone in monthly installments.