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.
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  • 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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How I’m Learning To Live With Less And Why I didn’t Always Love it.

I could feel the sweat starting to bead on my forehead and my heart began to race. My palms felt sweaty and my chest tightened. What was sending me into full panic mode, you ask? Well. I was creating my baby registry. 

Most normal mamas to be would probably feel excited doing this but for me, I found it overwhelming. You see-our society seems to think that babies need everything under the sun in order to function once they slide out of the womb. It’s a falsehood I tell you! FALSE. I plan to write a blog post on a minimalist baby registry and the things we have found essential in these first months of baby boy’s life. Also-I felt this way with my wedding registry. We tried to keep it simple and I really appreciated my very practical mother in law being with us when we registered.

chaos-227971_640I think our journey into pursuing a simple, less is more lifestyle was something that evolved. Our first year of marriage we lived in a shoebox. It was what we could afford. I think it was less than 400 square feet. I could be wrong but it was TINY. We loved it and to this day it remains as my favourite place we have ever lived. We hit a bump in the road when we moved into a 3 level town home. We filled that townhouse with so much stuff.We found ourselves in an awful position when our land lord suddenly needed her home back, ASAP. We moved  within 2 weeks and downsized to our current place but it was one of the most stressful times of my life. We had accumulated so many useless things that much of which ended up on the curb for the junk guy to pick up. (not our home in the picture above)

Fast forward to the present. I went on a rollercoaster ride in the last year or so of emotions. I struggled with feeling ashamed of where we live, in a small basement apartment we rent in a very modest brick home. I wrestled with the comparison game, seeing how most of my close friends lived in these beautiful homes. I didn’t want to invite anyone over and I certainly wasn’t proud of my home. When we shared that we were pregnant a few people immediately asked us if it was planned,  followed by the question of when we were going to purchase a home. Talk about insult to injury. I doubt people meant to make me feel this way but I felt so inadequate. It made me feel like we were irresponsible for starting a family because we didn’t have everything set up the way society pressures us to. I felt like I had to apologize for our home the rare times people would come over. Instead of being grateful, I had really lost sight of what was truly important and valuable. I needed a good kick in the bum from one of my favourite writers-Matt Walsh. He writes a great article on the statistics of young people, money and having a family in today’s world. He says,

“I’m talking about people who harbor the faulty but common belief that marriage and parenthood should be the culmination of young adulthood, rather than the cornerstone of it. What my generation has decided it “needs” is to live a luxurious, fashionable, Instagramable life. And it’s too bad for them. They’re missing out. I thank God for my unfashionable childhood. I wouldn’t trade our humble family vacations in our Astro passenger van with duct tape on the door for a thousand swanky trips to Disney World. The sacrifice and simplicity ‘builds character,’ my Dad used to say, and you know something? He was right.”

Read the full article here.

I will share more about my struggle in moment but let me share some of the reasons why we are pursuing a lifestyle of having less things:

  1. Space. While we have a large garage that we share with the tenants upstairs, within our actual living space we don’t have much storage. I don’t have a linen closet or pantry, our closets are small but functional and there is no extra storage in the bathroom apart from under the sink. My living room is very small so there isn’t much extra space for lots of baby toys and I love this. Lack of space has made us be very intentional about what we purchase for our home.
  2. Money.canadian-money-in-bank_925x  The cost of living here is very high. I’m a stay at home mom so we live on one income. (That is the situation we agreed on so I could be at home with our son) My husband manages our money well and this is a blessing. We have to be intentional and practical about what we purchase so that we see our money go a long way. It’s decisions as simple as, do I get my hair done this month? Or do we invest in a new vacuum that we’ve been needing? That might seem silly or even sad to you but trust me, it’s ok! I’m not sad about these things anymore. I’m realistic about what I can afford, reguardless of how that fits into society’s standards of living.
  3. STRESS. Seriously. I have felt my stress level sky-rocket as stuff accumulates around my home.  Did you know that clutter and excess stuff actually affects our brain function?!  A 2009 study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women who described their households as “cluttered” exhibited increased fatigue and depression with correlating high cortisol levels, and a research project by UCLA in 2012 saw a similar link. Cortisol is bad news for healthy brain activity, as heightened levels of the hormone can cause lasting negative changes in brain function and structure.” Bad news.
  4. Because we love learning new skills that help us save money. We cloth diaper 90% of the time. Most of our clothing is second-hand (you read my post on buying second-hand clothing here) and we make most of our home decor. We’ve learned to garden and my husband’s family has taught us how to can. Our dehydrator has been a great tool in the kitchen. My husband goes hunting up north with his family, when he has the time. He’s literally bringing home the bacon (well more like bear meat which I haven’t learned to cook yet) so we have free meat to eat.  These are just some of the many frugal ways we’ve learned to save money. You can read more about that here.
  5. We have financial obligations. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of this but everyone has financial obligations and it looks different for every person. We don’t want to be bound by these things in the years to come so we are trying our best to be responsible now so we can have a debt free future.

Earlier I talked about feelings of shame and inadequacy with our current living space. It literally robbed me of joy, contentment, peace and made me jealous of others. I’ve needed a major attitude adjustment. Comparison really is the thief of joy. (Teddy Roosevelt)  I am working on my gratitude and learning to love our family’s approach to life. You know what is so ridiculous? I live in such a nice place! The kitchen was brand new when we moved in and our landlords remodeled our bathroom last summer. It’s gorgeous! All that to say, there are standards of living in the world today that just aren’t realistic or wise. There can be really negative consequences of wanting to have it all or what someone else has. While we are nowhere near perfecting our simple way of life, we are learning how to invest our time, energy and money in the things we feel are worth it for us.  These ideals are things we value and want to pass on to our son as he grows up.

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Please don’t misunderstand me, in this. Living with less doesn’t make my family and I better than everyone else. We are learning some great things living this simple life. Having an abundance of things and money doesn’t make a person wrong, either. As long as we know what is important at the end of the day.

“Love people, use things. The opposite never works.”-The Minimalists

Do you take a less is more-minimalist approach to life? Or maybe you hate the less is more approach? I hope you were able to glean some useful information from this post and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

*A great resource on living a minimalist approach to life are these guys, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, The Minimalists. They have written books and have a wonderful documentary out. Check out the trailer below.

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11 Ways We Save Money and Practice Being Frugal

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In Today I’m going to share the ways in which my husband and I save money. This saving money thing has never been a strong point for me, personally. Thankfully I married someone who is much better at it than me! I’ve taught my husband that it’s ok to splurge sometimes and he’s taught me that I don’t need the things I sometimes want. Learning to live frugally and simply has been an adventure for us. At this point in our marriage, we enjoy finding new ways to be frugal. We love to think of ways we can be self-sufficient.

Food

Limiting Eating Out: We don’t eat out often and we enjoy it so much more when we do go out for dinner or order a pizza. It’s special! This leaves us more to spend on groceries. Think about this, that the average cost for two people to eat dinner out is around $50. If you are buying lunch every day during the work week that is easily $50. This all adds up fast! When we were both bringing in an income, I bought lunch multiple times a week and we ate dinner out frequently. We actually saw a savings in this area when I quit my job outside the home. It goes to show how much more food you get for your money when you eat at home. It’s not easy and ask my husband, I LOVE TO EAT OUT. But we see savings when we practice frugality in this area.

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Growing A Garden: We fell in love with growing our own produce the first year of our marriage. Both of my husband’s grandfathers were farmers. It’s in his blood and he is so dang good at growing things. I like to organize what we will grow but he does most of the gardening. We’ve had a garden 2 years out of the 3 we’ve been married. It’s so easy to do and having fresh produce is so wonderful. Our growing season isn’t very long here so we take advantage of it. We see most of our savings with this in the summer and fall because of harvest.

Canning and deydrating foods are great ways to save money. Buying dehydrated fruit is costly and while it might take time to do some of these things, you can see some savings.


Buying Bulk: I love Costco but not everything is worth buying there. Right now the things that we find are most cost-effective to buy from Costco are diapers (they last forever since we are only using them at night), formula (it’s just as good as the fancy stuff in stores) toilet paper, paper towels and my husbands shampoo/body wash.

Sticking To The Grocery List and Limiting Grocery Store Trips: I’m not always good at this but when I manage to only get what I put on my list, I stay on budget. I’ve also found that multiple little trips to the grocery store add up quickly. Sometimes that means going without something until our next planned trip. This can be a great way to save. What we spend on groceries fluctuates but considering how little we eat out now, I’m not as overly concerned in this area. I don’t buy organic either. It just isn’t something I have figured out yet. But a great tip for clean produce is soaking them in vinegar and water to get any gross stuff off. We are fortunate that we don’t have any food allergies so there isn’t anything we have to avoid.

Having A Depression Era Pantry: I’m still working on this and it’s a fun project! During the depression many mamas were able to still feed their family nutritious, filling meals with very simple ingredients. I’m trying to stock my pantry with simple staples such as rice, flour, oats, dried beans and basic canned goods. Then I try to challenge myself to make simple meals using simple ingredients. This often leads to healthier eating!

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DIY: We make most of the decor in our home and we keep it simple. A year or so ago, I went a little crazy at Michael’s craft store, setting up my craft supply. I try to make cards because already made cards are stupid expensive. I love Home Sense with all the beautiful decorations but I can’t justify paying their prices when I know we could probably make it ourselves. Thrift stores are great places to find jars, old picture frames and other items to repurpose.

Buying second-hand and using cloth diapers are great ways to save money.

Here I talk about buying second-hand clothing. Here I talk about cloth diapering.

Having one car has been a huge money saver for us. It fits our family and works for us right now. It’s not always easy and I stay home a lot but we don’t need two cars at this time in our life. We can’t justifty the extra cost.

Practicing frugality is actually very easy once you establish good habits! But it takes hard work to live a simple life in today’s materialistic world. We want convenience but you know what is inconvenient? Debt! We don’t have it all figured out and it’s not always fun to say no to things we want. But it is worth it to be responsible to our financial obligations and build good monetary habits. It’s also brought an openness in our marriage and we spend more quality time together.

Whatever your situation, don’t be afraid to try new things! Do you enjoy finding ways to save money? What are some things you do to practice frugal living? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!