Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Focus on Finances : How I'm saving and what I'm gaining

This post has really been a long-time coming.
Like, a year in the works long-time coming.

This year we really wanted to buckle down on finances and save. We want to buy a house, and know we've got a long road ahead of us, and started to work hard to get us to where we need to be.
So we started to live a different life, that led us to where we are today, as fun as it turned out to be!

I've been wanting to share some of my tips and tricks to saving money, and how we were able to creatively spend in different ways to save BIG.

1. Limiting Fast Food.

This is a big "no-duh" answer, but hear us out. We spend most of our weekends in the car and commute a ton during the week. Sometimes a fast-food dinner really is the only option we are willing to make...but that being said, we changed our own rules. Only eating fast food when its not full price.

Most fast food places send out coupons, some even weekly. Places like Carl's Jr., which is really expensive before coupons becomes very reasonable and almost a dollar menu when you use them. Other places that don't do regular coupons will have text services that you can text the code to, and in return get sent promos. Places like Sonic, Iceberg, and even Beans and Brews are all really good with their promos!

By limiting how we consume fast food also allows us to save quite a bit, because if we don't have a coupon, we just don't do it, meaning we eat at home more.

2. Cooking at home more.

This became really easy to do the more I did the Foodie Friday posts. Most recipies feed a family of four, where my family is a family of two and a toddler. We just don't eat as much as the recipe calls for, so we usually freeze the leftovers. This turns it into frozen food, and to top it off, its so much healthier and tastier than the frozen dinners you buy.
I can't believe we used to buy and eat that crap!

The other factors that played into this were eating at family's homes more and taking leftovers home. That's one of my favorite perks to helping my mom or my mother-in-law cook!

3. Makeup boxes

This sounds really strange, spending money to save money? Stay with me, I promise you'll get it.
When I first started doing the boxes, I only did IPSY. I love my monthly glam bag and loved that I got $40-$50 worth of product from a $10 subscription box. Not only that, but they were high-quality items! They were both sample sizes and full sizes and lasted forever!

It took about three months...but suddenly I didn't need to buy eyeshadow anymore. Or eyeliner. I didn't even need to buy any mascara. The boxes were paying for themselves, because in a month for those three things, I would've paid about $15 alone. If I had to pay for lipstick I would've been well into the $20 range, and this is a MONTHLY cost.

I now subscribe to IPSY and Birchbox and I save myself quite a bit of money (I think we've estimated about $50-$75 a year so far). The only thing I need to buy anymore is my face powder. That took my makeup cost at the grocery store per month from $25 to $5, plus I have tons of products I get to test out and try.

Even better, Ipsy and Birchbox offer promos where they'll send extra products in the bag (like Urban Decay eyeshadows) when you write reviews on your products, making the bags even more valuable!

4. Canning

This one was one that takes a LONG time to do and seems totally unreasonable for a family of two, but when you consider that I did a lot of my canning with my mother-in-law and that we shared with the Workman clan, it becomes very reasonable. We canned pepper relish, and I canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and homemade salsa on my own. My MIL canned apple sauce and a few other items that will help us get through the season. These will not only taste good, but last quite some time for a great price!

5. Ad-Matching & Couponing

This tip takes a lot of time, and patience before it really kicks in as a great tip. First off, you'll need the store ads in order to ad match. With us, not all the ads get delivered in the weekly mail, so for a long time I felt like we were getting a bit screwed with. However, once we started picking up a weekly newspaper we started getting the coupons and the ad matches, making it worthwhile.

Then the coupons comes into effect. You sometimes need to wait a long time for a coupon and ad match to become valuable. You have to wait for the product to go on sale, or have to wait for a coupon of value to come into play. But, once you do, it is well worth it.

An example of ad-matching and couponing: Sunny Delight was on sale for 0.79. I had a coupon that said that I got a dollar off if I bought two. 0.79 x 2 = 1.58 - 1.00 = 0.58 (for two) or 0.29 each.
Sunny Delight, that is usually $1.75 at the store for $0.29? Yep. But you have to be good about it!

6. Freezing Leftovers

This is a tip my Oma taught me, and it's been very helpful so far! If you have more than two days worth of leftovers (we see it as two medium containers), then you need to freeze the rest. When we have leftovers we label them with what it is and when it was made, then put them into two containers, one for Bubba's work, and one for leftover night for dinner during the week. The rest gets frozen and can be eaten at any time.

This is also great because very rarely does my husband go to work and not eat a home-cooked meal for lunch. This means he isn't spending money on his lunches, saving us more than I'd like to admit.

7. Use it up - All of it

I used to throw away makeup and beauty products when I couldn't squeeze out anymore from the tube or bottle it came in. One day I read in Self Magazine that you can still get plenty of product out of it if you cut into the container to use it ALL up. Now we do that. When it comes to lotion, toothpaste, etc, we do cut into the products to get every last little bit out of it, and sometimes there is enough to last another month!

8. Clearance- Only Clothes Shopping

I have always done this, and cannot stand to pay full price for clothing when I know it will be marked down to clearance prices soon enough. With my son, this is a little bit harder for me because I want to buy him every cute outfit that I see! However, places like BuyBuyBaby and Babies R Us have excellent clearance sections that allow you to use store coupons on top of the prices. About a month ago I got my son three outfits (including a pack of socks) for less than $3!

Other places to check out for clearance is Target and Wal-Mart, who if you nicely ask the employees, will always show you where they've put the good stuff.

9. Write Reviews & Thank You's

This one takes a lot of time to do as well, but I like to write reviews, and send thank you's with companies. They're not putting this "how was your meal" on the receipt for nothing, and it does waste a considerable amount of paper if you think about it! So, I started writing e-mails, and filling out the forms when I have the time to do so. Sometimes I do them just because we had a great experience.

In return we've gotten coupons, and even a few gift cards from companies as thank you's in return. I've been doing these since high school and will keep doing this because not only are they asking me, but companies hardly ever get praised for doing a great job- they'll usually only hear from the angry consumers. This helps makes peoples jobs better on top of it all.

10. Don't Waste Money!

This one seems so obvious, but a lot of people don't realize WHERE their money is going! Sit down and make out your budget list, make sure you have your list of finances available, and make sure you know where every penny is going! Some people don't realize that when they take a day or two to pay a bill, that late fee adds up really quickly! Others don't realize that some bills are less costly when you pay in advance or do automatic withdrawal. This also applies for paying for two services when you only need one; like cable and Netflix (or Hulu and Netflix).


  1. I LOVE the suggestion about fast food. You never realize how much you're spending on it until you start to add it up. It's ridiculous! Great suggestions :)

  2. Some of these ideas are great that I've never thought of! I'm working on tightening our budget, so I love this list! :) Thanks for sharing!