Over the past year or so, I have learned several things about saving money everywhere I can. I figured I would share a few of my tricks with the blogosphere, and maybe you guys will get a new idea you can implement to shave a bit off your monthly expenses.
I shop at Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and Tom Thumb. Granted, my Tom Thumb tends to be a bit more expensive than I would like, but it’s so much closer to my apartment than any other grocery store (except Sprouts) that it’s worth it for the few items I don’t buy at the other stores.
One of the ways I save money is super simple: make a meal plan (vaguely in your head or specifically written down) for the week and write down everything you need. I try to base my meals around sales and what I have in my pantry/fridge, but I don’t always do a good job of that.
Another thing I’ve found helpful is to watch for meat sales, stock up, and freeze. Meat is probably the biggest cost in anyone’s grocery budget, so if you can buy in bulk while it’s on sale and freeze what you won’t use quickly (I like to freeze the amount I usually use to cook a meal in individual freezer baggies), it will really go a long way towards reducing your expenses. I also like to buy frozen veggies. They’re just as healthy as fresh veggies, but they last soooooo much longer, which is great when you’re like me and tend to make lots of stir fry meals that use up only a half bag of baby carrots and last a week.
This one will be hard for most people, but it will help a lot with your budget AND health: do your best to cut out processed, refined, and fast food and cook meals at home from scratch. Whole foods are ALWAYS better for you and tend to fill you up more, which means you need to eat less to feel full. I also like to cook up big batches and freeze individual servings in freezer baggies for a quick meal when I don’t feel like cooking or don’t have time to make something from scratch. For example, I recently made these delicious whole wheat oatmeal apple muffins from scratch and froze them to eat when I feel like a change of pace from Luna bars. They’re about 150 calories each, low sugar, low fat, and I only need to eat two for breakfast and I’m fine until lunchtime.
I buy all of Hermione’s dog food and special treats at Aldi. Their big bag of dog is much, much better for my budget than the dog food the shelter was feeding her (seriously, fancy shelter, dogs don’t have to have organic food). The vet told me I needed to start feeding her Greenies for her teeth (she’s showing early signs of gingivitis), so I shopped around and found a big box of Greenies at a local feed store for 20% less than the prices at those big pet chains. As far as I can tell, the feed store’s prices for food and treats are also cheaper, but not as cheap as Aldi, so if you don’t have an Aldi nearby, try looking for a feed store.
For toys, I like to wait until a day or two after a major holiday and stock up on themed toys when they go on clearance at the big pet chains. I managed to get this cute little Valentine’s Day caterpillar toy that Hermione just LOVES for about $2. Not bad, right? She still hasn’t mutilated it, either. I figure it’s good for another month or so before she completely tears it up.
Did you know you can get one of those hand soap pumps and fill it up with water and a bit of antibacterial dish soap? It works just as well and is much, much cheaper. You can also use common (and cheap) supplies like baking soda and vinegar to:
- clean drains (it’s like the old baking soda and vinegar volcanoes from elementary school!)
- remove mold/mildew from shower tiles (vinegar + tooth brush=squeaky clean!)
- scrub tough stains out of cookware (baking soda and a little water will make a cheap and effective scrub)
- freshen up your carpet when you vacuum (sprinkle baking soda around, let sit for 5 minutes, and vacuum up)
- clean your microwave (boil vinegar in the microwave and the cooked on crud will wipe away easily)
- clean your coffee pot (run a cycle of vinegar through the percolator, then run two cycles of water to rinse)
I also make my own laundry detergent from Borax, washing soda, and bar soap. It’s been a huge money saver; I’ve made two batches since last March and STILL haven’t used up all the Borax and washing soda. I used about a third of each box and one bar of Zote soap (finely grated) for each batch and the batches last about 3 months for me (I do about 3-4 loads a week).
So, in recipe form, that’s:
- 1/3 box Borax
- 1/3 box washing soda
- 1 bar Zote (or other) bar soap, finely grated
Mix together in a large bowl. Store in a cool, dry place. Use about 1 tbsp per full load of laundry.
Also, did you know you can use vinegar as a softener in the washing machine and a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer to get rid of static cling? I promise your clothes won’t smell gross. I’ve been doing my laundry like this for a year and so far have no complaints. And just think: in addition to cutting costs on ridiculously expensive laundry detergent, softeners, and dryer sheets, you’re also avoiding all those chemicals getting deposited on your clothes (and in your lint catcher)! It’s a win-win, yo.
OK, so I don’t have a lot of advice here since I rarely wear makeup, but I do have a few tricks:
-Baby powder + cornstarch = cheap, effective shine remover.
-Use sensitive or unscented baby wipes instead of makeup remover wipes. They work just fine for removing everything except my waterproof mascara.
I hope these tips give you some inspiration! Comment below if you have other money-saving tips. I’m always on the lookout for good ideas. 🙂