Oh man ya’ll! I can’t believe we’re staring down the barrel of the last week of the year! This year has been a crazy up and down roller coaster ride for my family and I, but all in all? It’s been a great year for us personally and for us in business and our finances as well. One of our big goals going into the start of 2015 was to cut our expenses as far as we possibly could. Not only was saving as much as we could out goal, but we also had a goal of getting as many chemicals as we could out of our lives and bodies. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed sensitives to chemicals to the point where if they are used in my home or in my food, I end up with chronic pain and stiffness that disrupts my life to the point that I end up without one. Fast forward 12 months and a ton of chemicals removed and we’re all healthier, I am pretty much pain free and our bank account? Well it’s fatter. These 52 ways we saved in 2015 are how we fattened up our bank account this year and yes, some of them helped with those nasty chemicals too.
With a new year on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to start looking at ways you’re going to save money in the new year. That’s why this post is 52 different ways. There are 52 weeks in a year so that makes tackling one of these items each week the perfect plan and a great way to start the new year! If you’re planning on doing these as one each week for the new year, keep in mind that some of them won’t take that long to do. In fact, some of them are a quick five minute things that you will barely even register that you did.
52 Ways We Saved in 2015
If you want to do these quicker than one each week, by all means, go ahead. In fact, I recommend it because the sooner you put these into play, the sooner your budget will be lighter. Some of these can be especially helpful if your budget is tight right now. Ready? Let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about ways we saved in 2015!
First and foremost, we redid our budget. Why? Because every budget should be looked at at least once every couple of months. When we looked at ours, we found that we actually had old bills on there that needed to be removed. Why? Because since that money wasn’t being spent on a bill, it was essentially just being wasted. If it’s been more than a month or so since you looked at your budget, I recommend you start there as well.
The next thing we did was to look at our car expenses. Unfortunately, we’re locked into a car loan so there wasn’t much we were in a position to do about that. We could, however, hit at our car insurance. So off I went and what did I come up with? $264.00 in savings each year. It took me about 5 minutes to make the switch and I pocketed that extra $264.00.
Another thing we did to save money on the car was to go get a tune up and 4 new tires. Our car needed tires anyhow and the tune up made it run better. Making it run better meant we got better gas mileage and were able to fill up less often.
Then? It was onto the utilities and tackling phantom electric use. If you’ve never heard the term, phantom electric is the power that your appliances and electronics use even when they’re not powered on. The cost of that power can drive your electric bill up without you realizing it. A quick solution (and what we did) is to use power strips and outlet taps. For the kitchen we used a Grounded 6-Outlet Tap. This not only turned our 2 spot outlets into 6 but it also made it very easy to just grab and unplug the entire shebang without having a long power cord as we would have with a surge protector or power strip. For the living room, office and bedrooms, we put everything on a power strip. Again, it makes it easier to just unplug it all and since these are rooms where the cord doesn’t matter too much, we went with the strip.
The final step to lower our electric bill was to put our lamps on timers. The timers that we bought was fairly cheap to invest in a handful. Emma has a bad habit of leaving lights on and usually Tom and I don’t notice them right off so it was well worth the cost of paying for the four or five timers we bought.
To save on our water bill, we started using gray water for things like washing the car. The grey water we use is from the side of our kitchen sink that doesn’t get used too much for dishes, etc. The water that flows through that side is clean the vast majority of the time and when we know it’s not going to be, we just connect the drain pipe again so that it doesn’t run into the collection bucket we keep under the sink.
We also put a timer on showers with Tom getting 10 minutes and Emma and I getting 15. That gives us all plenty of time to do what we need to do without wasting too much water. To help keep track of times, we just bought a simple timer so that we can set it before we get in the shower.
To help cut our grocery bill down, I did a couple of things. First, I organized my stockpile. If your stockpile or pantry is messy, you could easily be buying items that you already have on hand. Doing that is a waste of money because usually you end up with more than you can reasonably use before it expires. To prevent
The second thing I did was to take a look at my menu plans. I typically use the same 5-6 monthly menu’s and just rotate them out in a random fashion so that we’re not getting bored with what we’re eating. Unfortunately with the way that I do them, if I don’t pay attention, we can easily have meals planned that none of us really like. Maybe they were a recipe that we were trying or our tastes have changed, but those meals are a waste pure and simple since no one wants to eat them. To cut down on that waste, I re-did them, removed any meals we no longer cared for and added in meals that are new to our tried and true files.
After all of that was done, we took a look at the way we were spending out money. We had already cut the majority of our spending and living costs in 2014 out of necessity, but we still had room to cut a few. The best way for us to cut our spending on groceries and household items, which was already pretty low, was to start making as many of our own products at home. Like I said in the beginning of this post, it had a dual purpose to help remove the chemicals from our lives. This step alone accounted for over 30 steps that we took to save. Each one has saved us hundreds in 2015 alone. We make our own reusable dryer sheets, shave cream, shampoo and more. If you’re interested, you can check out the entire list of things I simply stopped buying so that you can do them in your own home. We implemented one new homemade item each week and it worked out fantastic!
Once all of that was put into play, we connected our savings account to Digit. Digit is an automatic savings program and we LOVE it! Digit analyzes your spending and saves small and random amounts for you in an FDIC insured account. Over the course of the 8 or 9 months we’ve used it, Digit has saved us well over $3,000 and we’ve barely noticed it since the deposits are so small.
When we looked at our entertainment budget, we realized that we were paying for Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime (for the Amazon Instant Video benefits), and CBS All Access. In other words? We had subscribed to so many tv services that we were paying more than the $25 per month that I was budgeting for and we were paying for services that we really didn’t watch. To cut down on that, we dropped CBS All Access and we dropped Netflix. We watch Hulu and Amazon Instant Video the most so there really was no reason to keep paying around $15 per month for the other two.
We went unpaper in 2015 too. What I mean by this is that we are now using unpaper towels and I even made the leap and went cloth in other areas too. Getting rid of the paper products we rely on so heavily in our lives and going to a reusable cloth version isn’t an easy step and it certainly isn’t for everyone, but it has helped us save significantly over the last 12 months. We buy the majority of our cloth products (paper towels, etc) on Etsy or in different Facebook groups.
Emma and I both have long hair, but Tom keeps his pretty short. To combat the cost of haircuts every few weeks, I bought a set of clippers and started cutting his hair myself. I spent around $20 for the clipper set which means that it paid for itself after just one use.
I also started using the gift cards that I earn free to pay for the household items that we don’t make ourselves. Using the gift cards to buy those items means that we don’t have to use cash so it saves us big time. As long as I earn $200 per month, I can easily cover everything I need to.
To help combat high cell prices, we switched our cell service from Verizon to Republic Wireless. Our monthly cell bill dropped from $125/mo to just $15! Yes, we had to buy new phones, but we sold our old ones and made the money back very easily. I can’t recommend Republic Wireless highly enough. We love them and I’m absolutely in love with only a $15.00 bill each month!
When I have to shop in store, I always make sure that I head over to Raise.com before I leave the day before I leave the house. Why? Because I grab a gift card for the store I’m headed to (usually Walmart or Target). I’m spending the money anyhow and when I go to Raise I’m actually able to save a little. For instance, last month, I had a $100 budget for my Walmart trip. I went to raise and got my $100 Walmart card for $94.xx. It may only have been a $6 savings, but that’s $6.00 more than I would have saved otherwise.
For online shopping, we put the 72 hour rule into place and for purchases that are $100 or more, that rule stretches to 7 days. What rule? If we want to purchase something online, we have to wait the 72 hours or 7 days to make that purchase. It gives us the chance to re-think things and whether we truly need the item.
We also stopped using a cash only budget in 2015 and yes, it ended up saving us money. Why? Because it works the opposite for Tom and I. If we have cash, we blow through it quicker. The debit card however gets checked and re-checked before we swipe it.
Another grocery savings tip we started in 2015 is to stretch our meals. Instead of cooking double portions for the family, I will add cheap fillers that taste great. Things like rice and egg noodles can usually be added to soups and stews to help them fill you up quicker. The result? We actually have leftovers now to eat for lunch the next day which means we’re spending less.
One thing that helped us save a TON of money was that we also switched banks in 2015. We were with a credit union that was charging us fee after fee after fee. Normally a credit union is better than a big bank, but in our case, it simply wasn’t. When we switched our checking account to a regular bank that charged less fees, we saved over $50.00 per month.
Finally, these last two things work hand in hand together and one of them, you may not be willing to do. We however were and our budget is lighter because of it. First, we actually moved in 2015 so that we could downsize (Six Dollar Family). Previously we were a family of 3 with 2,000 square foot of space. 3 people in a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom home. In other words, we were paying more in rent and more in utilities for space that we didn’t need and in fact? Didn’t even use. Instead, we downsized to a 1500 sq. ft home that was not only cheaper on rent but cheaper on the other utilities as well. The funny thing about that is? It is still more space than we need and we will likely downsize again sometime soon.
Moving is what brings this last and 52nd way to save money. The home that we moved into does not have central air. I know, it sounds odd, but it can be pretty common in our area. Since we were dealing with window air conditioning units, we wanted to ensure that we weren’t losing any of the cool air during the hot summer months and none of the warm air during the cooler winter months. To make sure that we didn’t, we bought several rolls of 3.5 mil plastic sheeting and a staple gun. We covered the windows with the Visqueen, covered a couple of other areas in our home too that we don’t use on a regular basis (out of the way closets, etc) and covered unused doors that lead to the outside (our home has 4 total doors to get outside, we covered 2.). Once that was done, we used a can of Great Stuff to seal any other air leaks that we could find. The result is that even with 4 window air conditioning units, our home stays cooler than our previous place that had central air. Oh and my electric bill? Lower than the other house by over $100/mo even when we weren’t running the central air.
Saving money isn’t always easy and no one should ever promise you that it is. My family saves for one reason. We want to be able to live the life of our dreams someday. Having money isn’t about having a fat bank account. It’s about family, vacations, gifts, education and everything else that a fat bank account can provide. I realize that some of these will be above and beyond what you might be willing to do to save a buck or three (hundred), but I’m also 100% positive that if you even give half of these 52 ways to save a chance in 2016? You, like us, will find that your budget is lighter and your bank account is…well? Fatter.