Okay - there is something extremely important about saving money and keeping within budget, for me at least. But I need to note, it definitely used to be easier to sock money away. I am not original in saying that with the price of fuel and health care and everything else going up, any saved money - or money spent wisely - feeds directly into those costs that don't seem to have a ceiling these days. It is rewarding, however, to figure out ways to be careful with money in ways that you can control.
Here are a few things I am doing to keep costs down.
1. I bought almost all of our fall and winter clothing at thrift stores. Except some shoes and leggings for Willa and a pair of jeans for me. This included winter coats and sweaters. Our local thrift stores are phenomenal. I'm finding seriously quality brand-name stuff hardly worn. (This might be one of the perks of college town living - oh, the disposable income of a 20 year old!)
2. Thrift store housewares are also hard to beat. Glass Pyrex bowls for a quarter each. Cool blue Ball mason jars for storage for $2 each. Wooden frames with original art for $2. A vintage luggage set that can be relined and then also used as a 'side' table for a total of $3 for two suitcases. Old flour sifters and sweet cereal bowls with flower prints. Enamel bowls and saucepans. An upholstered chair for the kitchen. Each piece has a bit of class and a lot of personality.
3. And, thrifting for Willa. Second hand costumes, wings, boas and costume jewelry that sell for $.25 - $.50 make for hours of dress-up. We have been loving gently-used puzzles and board games. And bags of beads. And hand-sewn smocked dresses for her baby dolls.
4. I have been making as much of our cleaning supplies as possible. From different combinations of baking soda, vinegar, Borax, castile soap and essentials oils. This includes kitchen cleaner, tub and tile scrub, all-purpose cleaners, window cleaner, laundry detergent, etc.
5. I have been making as much as I can in the beauty department, too. Baking soda shampoo, brown sugar-honey-almond oil facial scrub, deodorant and lip balm.
6. Most purchases get a lot of thought. Do I really need it? Will it last? Will I be throwing it out in a month? Just taking this pause and being really aware of purchasing has been huge.
7. From-home lunch to work every day - with the very occasional bought lunch . Coffee shop coffee and teas are also a treat and not a part of my workday routine. We are definitely limiting eating out as a family, too. Or, when we do, splitting entrees or going to inexpensive eating out options.
8. I've been getting to know my beans, lentils and grains. (They will fill you up for pennies.) Put these items together with a slow cooker and you have a huge pot of something to eat from for days. I next hope to verse myself in bread baking.
9. Library books and thrift store books, only. The no brand-new books rule is only broken for the occasional cook book.
10. When shopping out in the big world - sales, coupons, free shipping.
11. Our entire 'entertainment' portion of our budget is Netflix and its streaming option. When you live out in the country, with no cable, this is the most appealing thing to have (for us). I use my own freelance money for time out with girlfriends - movies, concerts, the occasional cocktail or dinner.
12. Technology - The inexpensive, basic, way-old cell phone works for me because, well, I really dislike cell phones (my weird thing). I am actually a part of Corey's work phone plan and he'll tell me that I used my phone for three minutes last month (and I'll think that is a lot while he is actually making fun of me). Our computer is old, my iPod is old - but I still feel really fortunate to even have this stuff. Our one indulgence is a nice TV - because we don't go out much and honestly just love being at home. (There, I said it. I love relaxing with the TV.)
13. Freelance work - I call it my ace-in-the-pocket. I can do it for an hour or two after Willa goes to bed. Or during my lunch hour and on weekends. Money earned this way used to be for treats, but as of late, it is mostly for savings (to ultimately cover the sneaky bills that have been surfacing all year for health care and house or car maintenance). Or for the occasional outing mentioned in #11.
14. A friend introduced me to Vitacost.com. I can buy many of our hippie drugstore needs through here at deep discounts.
15. If it can be patched, patch it. If it needs just a coat of paint, paint it. If it can be altered for a second life, do that, too.
16. Exercise - Running, walking and hiking are free. Being a university employee allows me to belong to the gym for an affordable rate. I also 'take' classes in my living room with favorite DVDs.
17. I just started canning. This past weekend was apple butter and applesauce. Over the summer it was pickles. I'm still not totally sure how much money this will save us - but it felt thrifty while I was doing it. Does that count?
I need more ideas! What do you do to keep within budget?