I think by now it's clear that one of my "hobbies" in life is to think of ways to cut down expenses and save some money without feeling deprived. Because let's face it, feeling deprived isn't any fun. But living within your means is a must, which means saving money is key! So, here are sixteen of my latest ways to save a bit of cash each month.
1. Go to a less expensive salon for your colors/foils. This is a huge money saver for me. What costs me $75.00 (or more depending) at one salon only runs me $45.00 at another. A bit of legwork in the beginning to find a good quality but less expensive salon? Sure. Maybe at first. But in the long run this one switch up can save you big chunks of money.
2. Stretch length of time between foils/colors by just getting your main roots done if you can. Another huge money saver. Quite a few salons offer this service for a fraction of what a traditional color/foil will cost. (note: quite often this is called 'breaking the base')
3. All those free books and gift cards your kids earned from all the summer reading you
Or? Save the gift cards for times like spring break or Christmas break and make a free outing out of it. Grab the cards and some Dairy Queen/Culver's ice cream coupons, head to wherever you have gift cards for and have the kids buy a new book to read over break, treat yourselves to some free ice cream on your way home and voila--a nice (and productive) outing with the kids that didn't cost you a dime.
4. Popped a bag of microwave popcorn but didn't eat it all? Save the rest! Put it in sandwich bags or plastic containers for your kids for later. Someone made a sandwich but only ate half of it? Save the uneaten half and encourage your kids to eat it later--like for a bedtime snack or nutrition break the next day at school during the school year. Not only are you not wasting food, but you're teaching your kids how to use things up instead of just wasting money by throwing it away.
5. Stop at roadside vegetable stands. Quite often they have day old and "seconds" that you can purchase at half off. Our favorite summer meal is BLT's, Cantaloupe and Sweet Corn with goodies from our favorite vegetable stand. We can get a dozen ears of corn for less than $3.00, a huge cantaloupe for less than $2.00, and a big basket of tomatoes for $4.00. Even better? We can usually get two meals out of the corn, enjoy the cantaloupe over the course of a couple of days and have enough leftover tomatoes to put on salads or eat as sides at another meal.
6. Make freezer meals. I'll be the first to admit that I am generally not a huge fan of them. But over the years I have come across a few recipes that we like just fine. Which not only saves me time, but the kids can easily make dinner then as well, but most importantly, it saves us from foolishly having to spend money on eating out. (I say foolishly, because I am fine eating out when we have planned to eat out, but not so fine with it when it's because I didn't think ahead.)
tip: a super easy way to make freezer meals is to double a batch of something when you're making it. make a double batch of sloppy joes the first night, a double batch of spaghetti the second, a double batch of taco meat the third and bam, you now have three freezer meals that didn't take any extra time or effort out of your busy schedule.
7. Support your reading habit by utilizing Little Free Libraries. It's a win-win situation if you ask me, because you get to support your reading habit yet, you're supporting all the Little Free Libraries in your neighborhood too by keeping books in circulation. This is another one of those activities where you can make a inexpensive, or even free, outing out of it just by stopping off for ice cream with your ice cream coupons or even stopping for 59cent slushies from the gas station or 59cent cones from McDonalds.
8. Make your own address labels. $3.00 or so for a pack of printable labels that you can run thru your printer is a far better deal than paying $7.95 plus shipping. One pack usually lasts me a good year or two, and if I feel like changing them up, I can make myself new ones any time I want. And anyway, the power company doesn't care what your address labels look like--they only care that you sent them a check. In that same breath, family and friends don't care what your address labels look like either--they're just thrilled to get happy mail from you! So save that money and make your own!
9. When you go do something fun as a family, give your kids a budget. Tell them you're free to stay as long as they still have money, but as soon as the money runs out it's time to go home. Chances are your kids won't spend all their money. Sounds crazy but it works. We do this on vacations. We do this when we go to places like fairs and zoos. We even did this on our last two trips to Disney World-- and every single day we left the parks with cash in our wallets.
10. I know they're fairly inexpensive anyway, but skip the sandwich bags. Starting this fall, pack your kids' lunches in reusable containers instead. I know it doesn't seem like it's very much to buy sandwich bags every couple of weeks, but believe me, as soon as you make the switch you'll notice the savings.
11. Print at the library. I haven't bought ink for my printer in ages. Instead of dropping $30 on ink every few months, I now just print things off at the library. At a nickel a sheet, it's a much better value.
12. Make pizzas for your kids for their school lunches. This was our newest trick this past school year and we loved it. On pizza night (which is Wednesday in our house) I would buy an extra pizza and on Thursday I put that pizza in my kids' lunches. It was a fun mid-week lunch treat for them and nice break from their usual lunch suspects.
13. Going out to eat? Order a less expensive item than you normally would. You still get to eat out, but you're saving yourself a few dollars by swapping your usual $11.95 burger (or whatever) for something like an $8.95 sandwich.
14. Sign up for text alerts to your favorite places. Quite often you'll get some sort of freebie just for signing up.
15. Say no to just one thing during your week. Say no to looking at the clearance racks at Target. Say no to driving through Starbucks. Say no to that bag of cookies, box of doughnuts, or new bottle of nail polish. You'll be surprised to see how many things there are to say no to in a week.
16. Stop reading ads. Reading the Sunday ads only entices you to spend. So stop reading the ads. I learned this trick from a friend a few years ago. I'll admit, the first Sunday I tried it was tough. By week two I was starting to go through withdrawals and not sure it was a good idea to continue. But by week 4 I was feeling better and really noticed a difference in how I felt and all of a sudden those Target deals didn't matter anymore.
Are each of these tips right for you? Maybe, maybe not. But hopefully they inspire you to think outside your own box a little bit to see where you can start saving some money! Need more ideas? Go here, here, here and here.