Tag Archives: money saving tips

We’re making some serious progress

If you’re following my progress through my progress meters in the sidebar, you may have noticed some changes over the weekend.

Our emergency fund is now over 75% complete! Woo hoo! We’re getting so close! Our Europe fund doesn’t appear to have changed, but it did. I increased our savings goal for Europe to $10,000 since we’re now hoping to take an extended trip.

So how did we make such a sudden jump in our savings? We decided to move the money from our “summer savings” account into our emergency and Europe funds early.

Originally, our plan was to keep the money we’d saved for the summer in its own account until we made it through our no spend summer without needing extra money. Now that it looks like our cash budget will get us through the summer on our tighter budget, I kept looking at that money like it was “free” money. But “free” money is dangerous for me. When I have free money, I start thinking about all the stupid things I can buy with it.

So I went ahead and moved half of it into our emergency fund and half into our Europe fund. It’s still there if we get into trouble later in the summer, but I’ll be a lot more hesitant to pull money from our emergency fund than I would have been with the summer savings account.

Basically, I don’t want to make it easy for us to fail. As long as that safety net was there, the stakes weren’t quite as high for our cash-only budget. But now that I’ve gotten used to a 75% complete emergency fund, I’m going to work extra hard to keep it that way.

Bottom line: the easiest way to save money is to do just that — save it. When money is floating around without a purpose, it’s too tempting to spend it. When you assign it to a specific savings purpose, you’ll be a lot more likely to protect it.

Do you keep extra money in your checking account? If so, I recommend that you move it to a savings account, set a purpose for it, and keep only the money you need to live in your checking account.

Easy ways to cut your grocery spending

grocery-shoppingIt was less than a year ago that I was frustrated with our $85-$100 a week grocery spending. I didn’t feel like we were being extravagant, and yet we couldn’t seem to cut our spending. Looking back, I realize that we were making a lot of mistakes. By making a few simple changes, we’ve cut our spending by $30-$40 a week without feeling deprived. That’s a savings of over $100 a month!

These tips may not apply to you if you’re already living frugally. But if you’re just getting started or you’re struggling to cut high grocery costs, this may be a good place to start.

Plan your meals around the sales.

Every week, we look at the grocery ads for both of the stores in our area. You can do this online at MyGroceryDeals.com. After looking at all of the sales, we plan meals based on what’s on special that week, or we plan to stock up on staples that are on sale to save money in later weeks. Make a list, and stick to it! Impulse purchases are almost always unnecessary.

Stockpile when staple items are on sale.

We cook a lot of chicken-based meals. One of the first things I realized when we started cutting grocery spending is that buying just enough chicken for the week was eating up our budget. If we needed three chicken breasts for the week, we’d pay as much as $4 a pound just to buy what we needed. Now that I stockpile, I’ve realized that chicken breasts go on sale for $1.99 a pound once a month. When that happens, we stock up with 12 or 15 chicken breasts, freeze them in serving sizes, and use it throughout the month. You can do this with other meats as well as non-perishable or freezable staples.

Avoid snacks and other extras.

When I took a good look at our grocery spending last year, I realized that a lot of what we were buying wasn’t for meals. It was extra stuff that may have been on sale or just looked good that we were throwing into the cart. Cutting out these extra purchases will cut your spending and make it easier to avoid snacking at home. In the beginning we cut out everything that wasn’t part of a meal just to get used to the concept of buying only for meals. Now we’ve been able to work healthy snacks back into our grocery trips by shopping the sales and limiting ourselves.

Drink water or iced tea instead of soda.

Seriously. I still struggle with this one because I enjoy drinking a diet soda with dinner, but you can cut your grocery spending by $12-$20 a month just by cutting out soda and packaged beverages.

Clip coupons.

I’ll be honest. I’m terrible at clipping coupons, and this has not been part of my grocery saving strategy. But if you find you have a knack for coupon clipping, you can save a ton by matching coupons with in-store deals. We typically don’t purchase packaged foods, so I’ve found that coupons aren’t very useful for us for groceries.

Add a “leftovers night” to your meal plan.

You can easily cut about $10 a week from your grocery cost by planning for six meals instead of seven. This is also a good way to clear out your refrigerator and avoid wasting leftover food.

Our $50-$60 a week grocery budget is considered pretty high for two people in the frugal world. Many frugal families of four are able to eat well for $30-$40 a week. But we consider groceries to be one of our few luxuries because we love to cook and eat.

What about you? How do you keep your grocery costs down?

Photo by B tal

Frugal date nights for around $10

Photo by justonlysteve

Now that we’re living on a cash only budget for all of our discretionary expenses, one of the areas we’re really cutting down is entertainment. We still want a little fun money, but we’re limiting our entertainment expenses to about $10 per week.

I’ve been brainstorming some things we can do for about $10 a week instead of going out to eat. It’s funny, but these are already some of our favorite date ideas. By cutting out the restaurant meal beforehand, we’re saving $25-$40 a night.

See a matinee.

I realize that in some places, you can’t even get two tickets to a matinee for $10 anymore. Some theaters offer special discounts on movies that have been out for a while or certain showtimes, though. Our theater offers a discount on the last matinee of the day, which brings the matinee price down from $7 to $5.50 per person, so we always go to that show. Find out if your theater offers any discounts, and plan your trips to the movies around their specials.

Pizza and a movie.

If you can’t go to the movies for $5 per person, then just stay in. Order pizza and pick up a movie at Redbox for a dollar. If you use a promo code, the movie is free. Pizza restaurants like Domino’s and Little Caesars are offering large pizzas for $5, making this a $5 date night instead of $10. If you’re like us and you prefer your homemade pizza to fast food, this date costs even less.

Take a drive.

We love to walk our dog around the neighborhood or our city’s downtown on nice nights. But if you’re tired of the same sights, consider taking a drive to a nearby city in the evening. Try to look at the things you may have seen a hundred times through new eyes, or just enjoy a good conversation. Some of our best ideas have come from long car rides.

Add a bottle of wine to a weekend meal.

Wine is one of our favorite ways to dress us a normal meal and make it feel special. There are a ton of good wines available at most grocery stores for under $10 a bottle. Adding it to your regular meal can make it feel like you’re on a date in a fancy restaurant instead of eating at home. Turn off the TV, set the table, and talk to each other like you would at a restaurant.

Coffee and dessert.

If you really want a treat or something to do after dinner, head out for a cup of decaf and some dessert. Sharing the dessert will cut costs and calories, but you’ll still get something sweet. I’ve always thought restaurants were fun, and this is a great way to dine out without spending a lot of money. Sometimes instead of going to a restaurant, we head to Barnes and Noble for a frou-frou Starbucks coffee drink and some book browsing.

What do you do for fun when money’s tight?

Frugality is good for the Earth


Everyone’s thinking about ways to be more eco-conscious these days. We’re also thinking about ways to save money. Luckily, the two go well together. Most of the habits that are good for the Earth are also good for your budget.

Here are some little changes you can make to help your wallet and the planet:


Consuming less doesn’t just create less waste, it also costs less. Walk or carpool to reduce your fuel consumption (and gas bill). Turn up your thermostat this summer to save electricity. Take shorter showers to conserve water. All of these things will impact your budget and reduce your footprint.


Think before you throw anything away. Is there something else you could do with it? Find creative ways to reuse household items, donate old clothes to Goodwill, check Freecycle before you buy anything new, and list your gently used items on Craigslist to reduce someone else’s consumption and make a little money.


It’s tough to make money on regular recyclables, but it’s possible to earn a little recycling high-tech items. Computers, cameras, cell phones, iPods and other electronics that are too outdated to sell can all be swapped for Amazon gift cards at Gazelle.com. In many stores you can exchange your used ink cartridges for a discount on new ones.


Take care of the things you already own. Mend your worn clothes instead of replacing them. Regularly service your car to maximize gas mileage and extend its life. Check your tire pressure frequently to increase gas mileage and lengthen the time between replacing tires.


Organic is best for health and the environment, but the cost can be high. Even for non-organic produce, you’re paying for transportation (and diesel engines are burning fossil fuels to transport them). Why not save some money and fuel by growing a garden? If you don’t have the space to grow produce, consider an herb garden. Herbs are pricey, but if you have a sunny porch or window you can grow your own for next to nothing.

What frugal habits do you have that are good for the environment?

Photo by aussiegall

Planning ahead to keep cooling costs down

Photo by snapapicture

This may seem premature depending on what part of the country you live, but it’s already time for us to start thinking about summer cooling costs. The temperature here over the weekend was a beautiful 75-80 degrees. However, because we live on the third floor, a balmy 80 degrees outside usually means an uncomfortable 90 degrees in our apartment.

Last year we made it until the beginning of June before we turned on the air conditioning. Using fans and open windows, we were able to keep our apartment reasonably comfortable. On the hottest spring days last year it wasn’t pleasant, but it was bearable. We’d like to make it that long again this year.

Over the weekend we spent $25 on a new fan for our bedroom. It’s portable, so Tony will be able to bring it into the living room where he works during the day or into the kitchen when we’re cooking.

Without air conditioning or heat, our electric bills are typically $45-$50. Once we turn on the A/C it will at least double, and the cost to cool our apartment will probably peak at $150-$160 in July and August. The temperature will probably remain in the 80s through October. Ugh.

I complain about the cost to cool our apartment in the summer, but our monthly average actually isn’t so bad. Our heat bills are pretty low in the winter. In 2008, we paid a total of $1,019.67 in electric bills for our 900-square-foot apartment. That works out to about $85 a month on average. Not too bad when you look at the big picture, but it’s still painful to see our electric bill triple in the summer.

Here are some ways we reduce the cost to cool our apartment:

  • Keep the thermostat set at 80 degrees. We try to keep it set at the lowest temperature necessary to keep humidity out and stay comfortable, but not frigid.
  • Close the vents in the guest room and keep the door closed so we’re not cooling a room we rarely use.
  • Keep the blinds closed in the afternoon to keep the temperature down.
  • Use fans throughout the apartment.
  • Minimize oven use, especially before sunset.

We’ll save $100 by waiting until June to turn on the A/C, and hopefully utilizing these methods throughout the summer will reduce our costs somewhat even after we turn on the air conditioner. Minimizing air conditioning also minimizes our energy use and carbon footprint, which is good, too!

I wish we were tough enough to make it through the entire summer without air conditioning, but temperatures reach 100 degrees frequently where we live. We were without air conditioning for three days when we first moved in at the peak of the summer, and it was too hot to do anything but sit in front of a fan covered in sweat. And let’s just say my husband is not a pleasant person to be around when he gets too warm. I’d rather have a high electric bill a few months out of the year than a crabby husband.

How do you keep cooling costs down in the summer?