I am here to share some tips today that will make you a total spartan, a thrifty, penny pinching goddess if you will. I’m always looking for ways to practice being frugal and as I figure out ones that work, I like to share them!
I have a great grandmother (my mom’s grandma) who is 107 years old. She was born the year the Titanic sank, 1912! This woman lived through the Great Depression and at one point in her life was a single mom to two children, one of which had severe disabilities. And while she’s never shared how she survived those times in her life, I’d like to think she was pretty savvy with her pennies. She had to be!
I also have a grandfather who came from a farming family of 8 children and when I say they were poor, they were dirt poor. They didn’t wear shoes during the summer and my grandfather was operating farming equipment at the age of 8 years old to earn his keep! My husband comes from a legacy of farming as well, both his grandfathers were hardworking and financially savvy men.
As of recently, our family situation is that we are living on one income. It’s what works for our family but it doesn’t come without sacrifice. We have to watch our money closely and while we live comfortably, we aren’t careless with our spending. We can’t afford to be! In order for me to stay home with our boys and devote myself to raising them while running our home, I’ve had to be very creative with our finances. I’m here to share some tips today that have enabled me to stay home without tanking our bank account.
- Budget. The most typical way anyone will tell you to pinch your pennies is by budgeting. BUT when our family budgets, we see the most come from our money! If I can recommend ANY budgeting software, I would say YNAB is superior. It’s not difficult to use and it teaches you how to break the cycle of living pay check to pay check. It shows your where your money is going by making you track everything. Check out YNAB here. It’s worth the purchase! *You can even try it for FREE for a month!
- Have One Car. We have only ever had one personal car. We’re fortunate that my husband has almost always had a job that provides a work truck. In the earlier seasons of our marriage when he didn’t have a company truck, he would bike or bus. One car means one car insurance payment and if you own the car outright, no car payment. Our car lease is our biggest expense right now but it is what it is! We look to save in other areas. I can make a tank of gas last for an entire month because we stay local and walk as much as possible in our small town.
- Become A Skilled Worker. I have a lot of thoughts about the emphasis that is placed on degrees and University in society today but that is a post for another time. I think our society is lacking skilled workers and by skilled workers I mean people who can offer or a basic service or skill. I think of the trades or vocational schools as a valuable way to pursue secondary education. The Canadian government is literally paying people to pursue the trades and other skilled worker certifications.
- DIY. This goes hand in hand with being a skilled worker. The more self sufficient you are, the more money you are going to save. You can save so much money by doing some of the following:
- Bake your own bread and baked goods.
- Can your own goods.
- Sew your own clothing, bedding and linens.
- Grow your own food. Hydroponic gardens and grow lights are making DIY gardening SO MUCH EASIER now!
- Make your own home decor.
You get the idea! If you can figure out how to do it for yourself, chances are you will save some valuable time and money.
- Cloth Diaper, Reusable Goods and Reduced Waste Living.
We have seen so much savings with these things! Is it more work? NO. Is it gross? NO. It’s all about perspective. We use disposable diapers and regular toilet paper but in times when our finances are tight, every cent counts. I have a collection of microfibre cloths I purchased on Amazon that I rotate through every week. They are superior at cleaning up messes than paper towels and have paid for themselves over and over. I’ve been asked if the cost of laundry against the cost of things like cloth diapers cloth makes it worth it. While I’ve never done the cost break down, I have made sure I have enough diapers, wipes and reusable rags to get me through the entire week without having to wash anything. I wash them all together in one load on the weekends. If you’re interested in cloth diapers, check out my post here to get you started!
If there is one thing you can do to save money it’s buy things secondhand. Anyone can do this! We are literally throwing away money when we buy things like clothing and other home goods, brand new. Why does it have to be brand new? Don’t get me wrong-we buy things brand new. But I LOVE thrifting. Our most recent thrifty finds were a bread maker for $15 and a BRAND new cat scratching post for $8. Our cat was going to town on some new carpet we installed upstairs so I was looking at a $40 scratching post on Amazon. My husband came home from goodwill with an $8, brand new scratching post. WIN. 95% of my kids clothing is given to us or purchased second hand. You can buy kid’s clothing second hand for a couple bucks or less. You have to do it right so that you don’t justify spending MORE money and buying more useless junk. Check out my post here on buying secondhand.
- Stick To A Grocery Budget, Meal Plan Low Cost Meals.
This is unique to each family. My family does not eat organic. My personal thoughts on organic is that it’s a huge scam. Feel free to disagree, it’s ok! But I honestly consider true organic food, food that you raise (livestock) and grow yourself. We also have zero food allergies or intolerances so we don’t have to adhere to any kind of special diet. You can eat healthy and affordably by incorporating things like beans, legumes, and produce that’s in season. There are local butchers you can buy half a cow from that will feed your family for a year. My husband’s uncle raises his own pigs and butchers them every fall, so sometimes we get fresh pork. We sometimes receive fresh bear, venison or moose from when they go hunting. Meal planning ALWAYS saves us money! If I plan out our meals, I’m more inclined to cook with what I have-not run out and purchases random ingredients. My husband’s grandfather taught me many skills in the kitchen including how to grocery shop. I remember him telling me to shop my pantry first and then price match second. Always shop your flyers and try to price match (coupons in the US). Pinterest has a million ideas for meatless or cheap, healthy meals! One of our favourite meals is refried beans, rice and cheese burritos. It’s filling, cheap and delicious!
- Trade Services
Earlier I talked about being a skilled worker or having basic skills that can save (or make) money. So, say you need something like childcare in a pinch and you don’t have extra funds laying around. If you have another skill set, you could arrange with someone to watch your kids while you offer your skills in return. It may take some negotiating and figuring out how to fairly trade services but it’s worth a try. That is why I so strongly believe in being a skilled worker and having a basic set of various skills. How many amazing businesses have we seen grow out of a basic skill that someone has? You never know what you can accomplish until you try!
- Build A Depression Era Pantry.
Have you ever heard of this? It’s a lifelong goal that I have. Women had to be incredibly savvy to feed their families and stretch their dollars during the economic crisis of the Great Depression. Many of these women worked diligently to have a pantry filled with food staples that were low cost, nutritious and would fill the bellies of their family. Think things like beans, rice, flour, sugar, lentils, etc. Check out this article for more details on how to build your own depression era pantry!
- Go Off The Grid.
What the heck? Ok, so my husband and I talk about being able to do this in our lifetime. What does this even mean? Basically being able to go off the grid means that you are self sufficient in terms of hydro, water, sewage, obtaining your own food etc. . This is a HUGE accomplishment when you consider how we live in society today. The average person today does not know how to find resources for their most basic needs and that is SCARY. My husband and I have spent a considerable amount of time researching what it would take to go off the grid. Call us crazy but we see so much value in being self sufficient in these things. People who know how to live this way will be in a good position should the time ever come that the economy collapses and our current way of living is made impossible by food, water and power shortages.
- Unplug And Reduce Hydro/Water Usage
Literally though……unplug your appliances. Turn off lights in rooms you don’t use. If you’re home all day, use natural light from the windows and no electrical lights at all. Do your laundry, run your dishwasher and take showers during off peak times. Where I live in Canada, there are times of the day that it’s cheaper to use the electricity and hydro. Using less of these resources is such an easy way to reduce cost of living. We take it seriously since we are no longer renting and now we’re paying per use! Invest in a high efficiency furnace and take good care of it. I say that because my husband is in the HVAC industry but people costs themselves so much in service repairs by not taking care of their appliances. You should also always shop around for a better price when it comes to repairing things that you aren’t skilled to fix. Support small businesses by hiring the guy who does his own side work of repairs and installations. I can guarantee that you will pay a fraction of the cost!
- Stop Eating Take Out.
I understand that every family budgets for what they consider important. In all my years of budgeting and cost cutting, I have only ever seen what a huge waste eating take out is. We still eat out as a family or grab the occasional coffee from Tim’s. But constantly eating out is a sure fire way to blow through any budget you might have. The average fast food lunch today is at least $10. If you’re eating out twice a day plus a morning coffee, you’re spending upwards of $150 a week on meals. That’s $600 a month and $7600 a YEAR of take out. WHOA. If you’re struggling financially, you literally can’t afford to eat out and it’s the number one way you’re going to see a difference in your finances. Eating take out is purely convenience. Try cutting back on that morning coffee to start with and make your own at home. Not only is eating what you have at home more affordable but chances are it’s also healthier!
- Stop Going On Vacations You can’t Afford.
Ok, hear me out. I know we all work hard and we feel that we deserve a respite from our hard work. But here’s the big question-can you afford it? Our family can’t, honestly. If you have debt you’re serious about paying off, it’s hard to justify putting a vacation on your credit card. Again-this is unique to every family but no-one can deny that traditional vacations are a huge money pit. If you’re able to pay for them in cash, that is fantastic. If you need to get away, why not road trip or do something locally? There are lots of wonderful ways to rest and relax without breaking the bank or going into debt. My family all lives in the States and we haven’t been there in quite a few years because we can’t justify the cost of travel. But my family understands this and because it’s more affordable for them to travel here to Canada, they visit us! It works well for this season, though I look forward to making it back home at some point in the future.
- Cut The Cable, Choose A Cheaper Phone Plan.
Cable is such a huge expense and considering the quality (or lack of) of what’s on TV today, is it even worth it? I remember one year we were paying $180 a month for CABLE. That included our internet but holy smokes, WHAT?! There is just no way to justify that for our family. We now have a low cost internet plan and we stream everything through Netflix, Amazon Prime and Youtube. Our phone plans are another story but since we don’t have cable, we can justify paying a little more for our phones at this time. We got rid of Apple Music because we can listen to all the free music we want on Spotify or youtube. There are lots of streaming options available today, it’s pretty easy to say bye bye to cable!
- Stop Paying For Convenience.
I think about how we’ve lost the ability to do basic things for ourselves today. Think about how much money is spent paying someone else to do something for you that you could easily learn how to do! One time our neighbour asked my husband to install curtain rods for him and offered to pay him. It was the simple task of using a few basic tools. My husband didn’t charge him but I think those are basic skills people should have. I’m not talking turning your home into a complete hack job to save some money-that can be disastrous. My husband is in the trades and he is naturally skilled with tools, basic electrical, woodwork, plumbing etc. so maybe I take for granted the skills he has. But you can probably mow your own lawn, learn to change the oil in your car, put on your own snow tires etc. What about painting your own nails or cutting your family’s hair? You could learn to clean houses and offer childcare. Those are valuable skills to have if our family were ever in a financial pinch and needed to earn some extra cash! What is a new skill you could learn today? You might surprise yourself.
While I could go on and on about money saving tips-I admit I am no expert. But our family has learned some valuable lessons over the years due to our unique situation. When I immigrated to Canada, I had to wait over a year to obtain a work permit. My husband worked 3 jobs on top of full time school, to support us. Often times he would work a midnight shift at the youth prison and then go straight to school the next morning. Our families were generous and made sure we never went without.
But we did our part during that time to spend as little money as possibly while living as frugally as possible. We lived in a tiny 400 quare foot basement apartment, took public transportation. (all our cars died that year), grow our own food, and ate a LOT of pasta. My husband was back in school part time literally 2 days after my son was born. We were living off one paycheck per month. Again, our family made sure we didn’t go without anything but we sure tightened our spending and live as minimally as possible.
There is so much to be said for learning to manage our money properly and finding ways to cut costs. These are lifelong skills that we can pass along to our children and while education has it’s value, so does having basic skill sets by which we can live. What are some ways your family saves money? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!