11 Frugal Ways To Cut Back On Living Costs

I have a problem.

It’s called Amazon Prime.

I mean, who doesn’t want 2 day shipping, guaranteed? Well sometimes it’s not guaranteed because we have this thing called WINTER in Canada.

Being able to shop for groceries online and have them delivered to your house sounds pretty amazing, right? I’ve never tried it but I was tempted to when my second baby was born, 7 months ago. When you haven’t showered in 5 days and you’re too tired to even put regular clothing on, having groceries delivered sounds like a dream come true.

Convenience is what motivates many of us to make the purchases that we do. But you know what isn’t convenient?

Debt.

I think the majority of people my age, that I personally know have some form of debt whether that be student loans, a mortgage or credit card debt. I have mixed feelings about debt. I think it’s inevitable at some point in your life that you will have some form of debt.

I’m all about finding ways to cut down our our expenses as we have financial goals set for our family. Amazon Prime doesn’t align with my goals of being frugal and owning a home one day. Curse you Amazon Prime!

But I want to share ways we cut back on our spending.

  • Limit or eliminate Eating At Restaurants or Takeout : Why does food always taste better when someone else prepares and cooks it? Seriously. It could be a hotdog someone else microwaved and I’m all over it. Buying lunch usually costs $10 plus a $3 coffee a day (or more if you’re fancy) which adds up to $65 a week alone. If you factor in eating dinner out, a few times a week that’s easily another $50 or so. You could be saving $300 (or more) by limiting take out and packing your own meals.
  • Cook More and Buy Less Packaged (and processed) Foods: Sometimes I enjoy cooking but most of the time I only enjoy it if my husband and I are cooking together. One thing I’ve noticed with our grocery bills is the difference in what we spend when we buy less packaged, processed foods. Packaged is easier, no doubt about it! But it’s also more expensive because it’s convenient. I try to set myself up for success with very simple meals because it’s a generally chaotic time of the day. The more you cook, the healthier meals tend to be, as well. We do NOT eat organic, Keto or paleo. We have no allergies. I Have thoughts on the whole organic thing but that is a post for another day! If eating organic is extremely important to you but you have a tight budget then you will have to adjust your spending and other areas so that you can have a more flexible grocery budget
  • Have A Grocery Budget (and stick to it). When Dave and I first married, we spent about $50 in groceries a week, sometimes less. Since then we’ve fluctuated in what we spend on groceries. Recently I’ve reset our weekly budget because it was OUT OF CONTROL and I’m amazed at how little we can spend if we try. I challenge myself to do a few meatless meals a week, cook with all the meat I already have (in the freezer) and get creative with leftovers. Our budget isn’t $50 a week anymore, partly because we have a baby who drinks formula. But with some tweaking here and there we can typically eat within a budget of $65 to $80 right now, including formula.
  • Buy In Bulk. Speaking of Costco! It might be worth it to consider a Sam’s Club or Costco membership. In Canada a Costco (gold) membership costs $60 per year or $5 a month. You could easily split that cost in half and share with someone else in your family or even a friend. It’s easy to overspend at Costco if you don’t plan ahead. We typically purchase diapers, wipes, toilet paper and paper towels at Costco, once a month.
  • Shop Secondhand (especially for kids): I switched over to purchasing second clothing around the time I was getting married. I watched a documentary about the negative impact fast fashion is having on our world, today. It changed the way I went about purchasing most things. 90% of the clothing we wear as a family is second hand. I’m not a name brand person to begin with but surprisingly you can find some great brands when shopping second hand. So my 7 month old is a few pounds behind his 21 month old brother. Buying new clothing for him would be like lighting my money on fire. I have this mentality with all baby gear and things in our home as well. If I can find it second hand and repurpose it (if it needs it) then I’m going to do it. You can read more about my tips on buying second hand here.
cloth diapers
  • Invest in Reusable, Low or Zero Waste Products: We spend less than $60 a month on diapers. That is because we mostly cloth diaper. It’s fortunate for us that currently, the boys wear the same size diaper. My 7 month old and 21 month old wear the same size diaper! One box of Kirkland’s and one box of Huggies overnights gets us through the month, with 2 weeks worth of Kirkland’s leftover. Cloth diapers has saved us SO MUCH! And if you think we spend a ton on hydro/water from washing them all the time, read THIS. I also use reusable sanitary products which you can read more about here. We bring our reusable grocery and produce bags to the store.
  • Cut Down On Your Utilities. While utilities is included in the cost of our rent, we try to practice being smart with how/when we use our water and electricity because one day we will pay for these things. Where I live in Canada, they have on and off peak times of hydro/water usage. This means that you are charged more on your usage depending on what time of day/day of the week it is. As much as possible, We try to do laundry, shower and run the dishwasher during off peak times. Even with having cloth diapers to wash, I’m only washing them twice a week. Since my husband is in HVAC, he makes sure that the AC/Furnace are running efficiently. He changes out the filter and we close windows when we are running the air or heat. You could open windows for air circulation during the day, turn off lights when not in use and unplug appliances. Reuse dishwater for watering plants etc.
  • Do It Yourself: I am a HUGE fan of DIY. Most people probably think arts and crafts when it comes to DIY. But DIY can apply to so many things in life. It’s kinda scary how dependant we’ve become on others, to do things for us as a society. I’m wary of paying others to do everything for me. It’s good to have some SKILLS, am I right? I’m not very good with power tools but I’m letting my husband teach me. We’ve made all the decor in our home. I’m taking sewing classes this fall and we grow a garden every year. We learned how to can from my husband’s grandfather and we started experimenting with dehydrating different foods a few summers ago. My husband and I both grew up with fathers who were handy so naturally, it’s simple logic for us to learn to do certain things for ourselves. My husband is also in the trades so he’s extremely skilled with tools. We initially took our oldest son to a hairdresser for his first haircut but going forward, I’ll just cut it with my husband’s clippers. I know someone who does hair out of her apartment so I get my hair done (cut and highlights) at half the cost of what I used to pay in a salon. I LOVE a good shellac pedicure but I have a bag full of nail polish that I can use to paint my toenails for FREE.
  • Take Care Of What You Already Have: You might be wondering how this saves you money? I think it’s pretty simple but if you take good care of what you already own, the chances of it breaking and needing to be replaced are less likely. Inevitably there are things in life that will need replacing. But how much money do we waste because we are careless? My husband is in a field of work that places him inside people’s homes. He has seen everything you can imagine. He said what frustrates him is to see how people do not maintain their homes. A home is easily the largest investment of a person’s life. Why wouldn’t you take care of it? We don’t own a home yet but you can imagine that we’ve learned a lot about what not to do from the things my husband has seen. I think it’s important to note here that not everything can be done yourself. Sometimes you need to hire an expert so you don’t try to fix something way beyond your skill set.
  • Have One Car, Walk or Take Public Transit: Apart from a few months when we first married and then 1.5 years when my husband had a job with a work truck, we’ve only ever had one car. Right now he works really close to home and I am able to walk where I need to. Driving places with two babies kinda gives me anxiety right now so one car works well for us but it’s also a mindset. Do I HAVE to go somewhere every day? I usually spend money if I do. Having one car means you are paying less in terms of gas, insurance and car payment (or even LESS if you owe nothing on your car). It’s not always easy during the winter time to have one car but in the past I have driven my husband to work if I needed the car that day. During the summer I walk everywhere with the boys. We are fortunate to live in an area where parks, community centres and grocery stores are within walking distance. My dad takes public transit EVERY day into the city of San Diego. He enjoys his commute for the most part and it’s saving him a fortune in gas!
  • Live In A Place You Can Afford. This is unique to each family based on location, income and financial responsibilities. We currently rent because it’s what fits our budget at this time while we have other financial obligations to resolve before we can take on the cost of a mortgage. The cost of living is quite high, where we live. It could change at some point but we’ve lived the majority of our marriage in basement apartments and always in a shared dwelling place. This means that to some degree where we’ve lived, we’ve had to share the building with another person or family. Do I always LOVE it? Nope. Is it what works for us? Yes! When I really struggle with my perspective in this area, I try to remember that I get to be home with my babies every day for the next few years or longer. I’m so grateful and I wouldn’t trade that for the world even if it means that owning our own home is awhile away for us.

We are a single income family and we’ve been a single income family the majority of our marriage. I’m sure someone could say, “Just get a job, Sarah.” Thanks but I already have one. I’m raising my kids! And that’s not to say that a mom who works another job outside the home isn’t raising her kids. But where we live the cost of childcare would make going back to work completely pointless, for what I would earn. One income is what we’ve learned to live on. It takes discipline and perspective to live this way and we aren’t perfect at it. I think it’s taught us a lot about what we need versus what we want. It’s also fast tracking us to resolving financial obligations and having more freedom with our hard earned money!

What are ways that you cut down on the cost of living and save in your home? I’d love to hear from you!

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