Updated: Aug 9, 2019
Cutting your expenses in order to save up extra cash is something we all want to do, but oftentimes we can’t figure out where to start. Perhaps you want to save up for an emergency fund to provide more financial security, save for a downpayment on a home, pay down debt, remodel your home, or buy a dairy cow for the farm. Luckily there are many things you can do to slash monthly household spending. Here are the things we’ve done here at the Old Soul Rad Trad household.
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Food and Drink
Learn to cook or bake. You can save money on restaurants and learn a new, marketable skill.
Limit fast food and eating out. It’s much cheaper to make a nice dinner at home than take the family out to eat at a fast food joint. It’s also healthier, saving money on gym memberships and health care.
If you do go out to eat as a family, frequent places where kids eat free.
Plan your home-cooked meals around produce that’s in season and what’s on sale. Do your research before getting to the store by checking out your local grocery ad (often posted online) to create your shopping list.
Don’t shop for groceries on an empty stomach, and stick to a grocery list you made ahead of time. Otherwise, you’re more prone to impulse buy and purchase more food than you’ll need.
Don’t let food go to waste. If you have food in your fridge, design your meals to use it up before it goes bad. You don’t want to buy groceries just to let them go too waste, and then have to buy even more food to replace the food that went bad!
Drink water instead of juice, soda, or coffee. Water costs pennies per gallon compared to any other drink, and is low calorie.
Grow food yourself by starting a garden, and have enough left over to sell for a profit.
Make multiple batches of food at once. Put one batch in the fridge and store the rest in the freezer to eat later when you don’t have time to cook. This way, you’ll save time cooking, can buy food in bulk, and prevent the need for last minute fast-food trips.
Pack meals from home for work and road-trips, rather than eating out. On road trips, bring a cooler and shop at grocery stores, instead of going out to eat.
Make your own coffee at home instead of buying it at a coffee shop every morning.
Invest in a crockpot. A crockpot uses less energy than an oven or stove and saves on cooling your home in the summer. It’s also incredibly easy to whip up a delicious, budget-friendly meal, like chili, soup, or BBQ chicken, as you just put it in the crockpot and let it cook for 4-8 hours unattended.
Take advantage of member rewards programs. Many grocery stores, feed stores, farm-supply shops, and auto parts stores offer discounts if you sign up for their free membership program.
Even if things are on sale, don’t buy them unless you need it. It does you no good to be trying to save money, but then buy a $100 electronic you don’t need because it was 20% off.
Clip coupons. Many stores also have smartphone apps that provide digital coupons, so if you shop there often, download the app and select coupons for items that you would buy anyway. Don’t use coupons for things you don’t need, as this will just increase your spending.
Sign up for email lists for everywhere you shop: auto parts stores, grocery stores, Home Depot, farm-supply shops, etc. You’ll likely start receiving coupons in your inbox for things that you’d buy anyway.
If you travel, choose a hotel chain, car rental agency, and airline that you really like, sign up for their rewards program, and stick with them. You’ll end up with free car rentals, flights, and hotel stays.
Shop around for deals, especially for big purchases. Check multiple retailers before making a purchase to find the lowest price.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. Sometimes there will be an unadvertised discount that you can take advantage of. Some retail store associates are also given permission to provide a discount to make a sale, so asking won’t hurt.
When online shopping, always do an internet search for promo codes before checking out. You can often find codes for free shipping or a percent off your order just for looking.
Take advantage of free cash back sites, such as Ebates. You can get several percent in cash back for your online purchases at many popular retailers.
Pay off your credit cards every month. Credit card debt will eat away at your savings and quickly become a large portion of your monthly expenses, so never carry a balance from month to month. Paying off your debts redirects more of your income to savings rather than paying interest on debt.
Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk saves you money because you pay for less packaging over time, and therefore get more product for your money. But check the unit price on the price tags, because sometimes the smaller sizes can still be cheaper.
Buy generic. Generic brands, whether for food or medicine, are typically just as good as the name brands, but are much cheaper.
Shop consignment stores and clearance racks for clothing, especially for kids who will grow out of their clothes in less than a year.
If you need new furniture, build it yourself.
Don’t buy the latest smartphone - an older model does much of the same things at a fraction of the cost. My wife and I both have Motoroloa Moto 5G smartphones, which we purchased for $200. They’ve lasted us over 2 years already. Sure, the camera isn’t as good as an iPhone’s, but with the $1500 we saved we can buy a really nice camera instead.
Know when items regularly go on sale. For example, watermelon goes on sale in July, often costing less than what it costs to buy when it’s not in season. Furniture and mattresses go on sale around labor day and memorial day, winter clothes go on sale in the spring, and grills and lawn equipment goes on sale in the fall.
Buy next year’s Christmas decorations immediately following Christmas. This applies to other holidays as well. You can regularly get decorations for 50-75% off.
If you need to buy gifts for Christmas or birthdays, plan ahead so that you can purchase it on sale. Many items will go on sale after Thanksgiving and Christmas. There’s nothing wrong with buying Christmas gifts on December 27 for the next year!
Utilities and Insurance
Drop cable. Cable plans often cost over $50 per month. If you need TV, consider switching to internet-based TV, which is often cheaper. Or if you regularly only watch one channel, see if you can subscribe to watch their content online, often for less than $10 per month. If you can do without TV, spend your time learning new marketable skills or developing your hobbies, such as woodworking, reading, exercising, blogging, cooking, or sewing.
Shop around for cell phone plans. When my wife and I got married, I switched both of us to Republic Wireless for our smartphone plans. It only costs us $48 per month, including taxes, for all the texts, calls, and data we regularly use. That’s about half the cost of many other cell plans, and we’ve had no issues with service.
Install LED lights wherever possible, since they use less energy overtime than traditional bulbs.
Take shorter and cooler showers. Note that I did not say cold! It takes a lot of energy to heat up water. To save on your electric bill, turn the water temperature down a couple degrees.
Turn your A/C up 1-2 degrees in the summer, and the heat down a couple degrees in the winter. Doing so will save a lot of energy.
Open windows instead of running the A/C.
Refrain from using the oven in the summer. The oven will just heat up your home, and then you'll be paying to run the A/C to cool it down again.
Run the dishwasher only when it’s full. Again, this will save on water and electricity.
Cancel unused or underused subscriptions. Often, these expenses go unnoticed because they are often less than $20 per month. However, they can add up. Go through your credit card or bank statement and cancel any magazine subscriptions, TV subscriptions, gym memberships, and monthly club memberships that you don’t use or rarely use.
Buy term life insurance instead of whole life insurance, and invest the difference. Term life insurance costs much less per month than whole life insurance, because while term life insurance only pays out if you die during the term period (for example, 20 years), whole life insurance pays out when you die, which is a guaranteed certainty. However, by purchasing term life insurance instead, and then investing the difference in a Roth IRA, you’ll still have life insurance when your family needs it most (while the kids are still growing up and living at home), but will also have a nice nest egg for retirement. Plus, if you invest in a Roth IRA, the money can be passed to your spouse and kids after your death with no penalty, essentially becoming a life insurance payout and likely larger than the amount you'd get from a whole life insurance policy.
Don’t buy a house that’s too big for your family. A house that is too big uses more electricity, requires more maintenance, and separates the family, making it more difficult to be close and tight knit.
Buy cars used, rather than new. Why pay extra money to have you car value depreciate significantly in the next couple years? You can buy a vehicle that is 3-7 years old for a fraction of the new price and get nearly the same number of miles out of it.
Regularly change your car oil and air filter. Performing regular maintenance on your vehicle yourself saves money and makes your vehicle last a lot longer. My father would meticulously maintain his vehicles, and every single one lasted for over 20 years and 300,000 miles.
Carpool. If you know someone who lives and works near you, suggest carpooling. You can take turns driving, saving you both money on gas and car maintenance costs.
Ride your bike to work, if possible. You’ll save on gas and get a lot of good exercise.
Consolidate your errands into as few trips into town as possible to save on gas and limit the need for car repairs and maintenance. Not to mention you’ll save a lot of time by limiting your time sitting in the car.
Be a defensive driver. By driving the speed limit, paying attention to other drivers to anticipate their next move, and removing the need to hit your brakes all the time, you will save tons of money on car insurance, gas, car repairs, and maintenance.
Shop around for car insurance every time you renew your policy. You may find a cheaper alternative.
Perform needed maintenance on your appliances as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the more likely more damage can occur due to mechanical stress.
Repair what you have instead of buying something new. If a strap on a bag breaks, sew it back together. If the handle of a shovel breaks, replace the handle instead of buying a whole new tool. You’ll not only save money but also learn new skills along the way. Fixing things yourself has become rather easy to do with so many online tutorials and videos available. Plus, you learn new skills that you can market later on.
Sometimes, buying a more expensive, but higher quality item makes sense. It’s better to buy quality items, such as tools, that will last 20 years, than to spend money on a lower quality item that is half the cost but will break within a year. Plus, you’ll spend less time and money maintaining it.
Learn to sew so you can repair, and even make, your own clothing.
Wash clothes and diapers with cold water, rather than hot. They’ll be just as clean but will save energy.
Give your kids unstructured play time and let them use their imagination, instead of buying them new toys, videos, or electronics.
Work out doing yard work and farm chores, instead of joining a gym. Many chores around the farm are just as beneficial to your health as lifting dumbbells. If you love lifting weights, buy some from your local thrift store and do your exercises at home!
Give homemade items as gifts instead of buying them at a store. We’ve gifted homemade candles, fresh produce, jams, furniture, and even a meat chicken!
Don’t smoke. Smoking is the easiest way to run out of money and stay without money.
Trade labor or farm goods with your friends and neighbors. If you have tons of eggs, and your neighbor has tons of blueberries, swap eggs for blueberries. Or offer to mow their lawn in exchange for some milk from their dairy cow.
Don’t use self-storage. If you find that you have more things than you can store, hold a garage sale or sell your items online at the many secondhand sites. Usually, whatever you are keeping in a storage locker costs more to sit in storage than it would to purchase new the next time you need it.
Become the family barber and hair stylist. A cheap haircut will cost you $15 these days, so it really adds up if you have five boys that need haircuts each month. Mater uses these hair clippers and these barber scissors to cut Pater’s hair. After cutting hair for a couple months, you pay off the cost of the supplies and then haircuts are free!
What are some ways that you save money and cut expenses? Share in the comments.