Ways We've Been Saving Money

in , , by Kristen Woolsey, 9:30 AM
Admittedly, my husband Blake has been handling our budget and bills for the majority of our marriage. It kind of started out that way because I moved into his home and I had almost zero bills to add to the pile. (Live at home as long as you can kids!) Recently, though, I've involved myself. For multiple reasons really, but mainly because I realized that I'm in a position to help take some things off of his plate and I create half the expenses-so I should be a little more proactive in our finances. 

We've got some big goals coming up! For example, our ten year wedding anniversary is in the beginning of 2020 and I'd really like to take a big trip, possibly overseas. And a few house projects are always on the list too. 

Maintaining a budget is incredibly challenging, and actually a little complicated. It seems like there are always things coming up, like repairs or parties that take a chunk out of your extra cash. Although our budget is still a work in progress, I thought I'd share a few things we have been doing to save a little extra lately.

10 Easy Ways to SAVE MONEY // Pugs & Pearls Blog

Meal Planning
As much as I love to cook, eating out is still a huge set back in our monthly budget. While it's inevitable that sometimes we will need to grab lunch out or won't have time to make dinner, we've ramped up our meal planning! I shared a few tips for meal planning a few months ago, but I have been experimenting with a new system. 

Sometimes it's really hard to be creative when it comes to picking out meals for the week! We decided to make a huge list of our favorite meals and create a meal plan for 30 days. It was very easy to name 20 meals that we knew and loved, and then it took a little brainstorming to come up with additional meals. We divided up that list into 4 weeks and made sure we weren't having the same genre of food multiple nights per week. I plan on leftovers at least one night, which also gives us some flexibility if we want to do a date night or go out with friends. To make it even easier on us, we made up grocery lists for each week. This has been such a huge stress reliever and there are no "what's for dinner?" questions. 

10 Easy Ways to SAVE MONEY // Pugs & Pearls Blog

Shopping at Walmart
Gah, I have a love/hate relationship with Walmart. Their prices are so much better than Publix. For example, a can of black beans at our Publix is something like 89 cents, but at walmart it's 50 cents. Obviously, a difference of 30 cents isn't going to move mountains, but that savings across the board has saved us quite a bit of money over time. 

I've learned to go late at night, or early on Sunday mornings and not a soul is in there. It's really the people that normally lurk in Walmarts that drive me crazy, so if I can go at a slower time, I'm happy! 

Overall, I've tried to just be more diligent at the grocery store. Sticking to my list, paying attention to sales, and not buying single serve items has helped me shave $30-40 off each grocery trip for the past month. 

*I also found that Brandless was a really great way to shop for grocery basics! I shared what we ordered from them recently, and we found that most everything was really great quality and only $3!

Ibotta
I started using Ibotta last year, I think, and I would save a dollar here and there. I started seriously using it a few months ago and I have noticed a huge increase in my cash back! Ibotta is an app that allows you to find rebates on things you are already buying. You just select your store, and unlock offers that that store carries. When you shop, you upload a copy of your receipt and get cash back on those items. You can cash out at $20. Using Ibotta at Walmart is SO easy! All you have to do is scan the QR code at the bottom of your receipt. It's painless! 

You can also get a certain percent cash back on several online stores. If I buy anything through Groupon or Poshmark, I always shop with Ibotta and get a little bit back from those purchases. My mom even let me scan her World Market receipt when she stocked up on wine, and at the time they were offering 4% cash back on any in-store purchase. Thanks momma! 


Ebates
Ebates has been around for years, but I only signed up recently. I don't know why, because it's SO useful! I installed the chrome extension, and Ebates lets me know when there is a cash back rebate on any website. I've ordered a few things recently from Etsy, Ebags and Hobby Lobby and there were rebates for those sites. EASY MONEY! This was stuff I was already going to buy, so it's really nice to get rewarded for things like that. 

From what I understand, they send out a check each quarter with all of your rebates. I've already gotten a check! 

Unsubscribing From Emails
I sort of started this last year, mainly to get rid of clutter in my inbox. One side effect of that being I am not being tempted with sales for my favorite stores! If I was notified everytime J Crew Factory was having a sale I would literally be broke. Instead, I only shop when I need something, and if they are having a sale, great. 

Sort of along these lines, I'm not clicking on other blogger's posts regarding sales or wishlists. I find it too tempting to look at and all too easy to click over to store's websites. 

Not Buying A New Car
This has been truly challenging! Blake and I both currently own both of our vehicles. Blake has had his Civic since 2005. It's still in immaculate condition, just a little older. As much as he would love a new car, we are really trying to be content with what we have. He drives his car to work and back, and we use my CRV for everything else. It's really saving us a large monthly bill by sticking with what we have. Contentment is not commonplace and we are really going against the grain. 

Making Reusable Swaps
One day, I'd love to say that we are a 'Zero Waste' family. It's been really bothering me lately with how 'throw away' our culture has become. Not only does it make me feel good to produce less waste, but swapping items out for their reusable counterparts has saved us money. For example, I no longer use ziplock bags. We swapped them for these reusable bags from Grove. Instead of dryer sheets, I use these wool dryer balls with a few drops of essential oils (See photo below). I also traded out our swiffer mop pads and dusting pads for these microfiber ones on Etsy. (Please note that those are 100% made in China and not a homemade item. They are great though.) Using my water bottles, insulated cups and reusable straws as often as possible helps me avoid buying drinks when I'm out and about. 

10 Easy Ways to SAVE MONEY // Pugs & Pearls Blog          10 Easy Ways to SAVE MONEY // Pugs & Pearls Blog

Acknowledging My Purchases
I've got a nifty little budget recording dashboard for the back of my planner, and it has forced me to acknowledge what I'm spending money on. It's easy to say you are only going to spend $100 on eating out in a month-but to see what it actually totals up to has kept me on track. It's also satisfying to see those totals decreasing month to month as I try to make changes. 

10 Easy Ways to SAVE MONEY // Pugs & Pearls Blog

Diligent Coupon Searching
Finding a coupon is sort of an obvious way to save money, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. It's always good to do a quick search for a coupon. You never know what's available! Last week, when I went into Michael's, I quickly checked their website and found a 40% off coupon that my purchase qualified for. One other suggestion: Etsy sellers almost always have an Instagram account for their shop and more times than not they include a coupon code in their bio. It takes just a minute, but it can save you a couple of bucks! 

Revisiting DIY Cleaners
One thing I've realized as I've compiled this list, is that most of these strategies are things I used to do, but just slipped out of the habit of. Making my own DIY cleaners is one of those things. At one point, all of my household cleaners were homemade (except for Clorox). Whether it was boredom or something else, I started buying a few cleaners again. In an effort to simplify and tighten my budget, I've revisited my DIY cleaners. One thing became very evident-I don't even need that many cleaners to begin with! A lot of jobs can be done with the same cleaners and the ingredients cost pennies.

10 Easy Ways to SAVE MONEY // Pugs & Pearls Blog

I've got a brand new recipe for an all-purpose Thieves cleaner which I am currently testing. Spoiler alert: I really love it already! I plan to dedicate an entire post to that recipe soon. I'm hoping to diminish my cleaning supply stash and not replace those items. Additionally, once I run out of my laundry detergent, I will be doing a DIY batch again. Last time I made our own laundry detergent it lasted well over a year!

Bonus: Do Things Yourself
Obviously, sometimes you need professional help. And then there are other times you can get away with doing things yourself. Whether that's home repairs, yard work, or chores around the house. I can think of two big examples that we've employed this strategy.

One is with my blog! There are beautiful, custom and expensive blog designs out there. Trust me, there have been many times when I've been tempted to hire out a redesign of my blog since I started in 2014! Instead I've tried to keep it simple with using a free platform, and choosing a highly customizable template from Etsy. Canva has been a huge resource for me in designing graphics and my logo. If something doesn't look quite right or I want to do further customization usually a quick search or Youtube video can help me figure it out on my own. 

Another example, is grooming my pugs! Bathing three dogs is probably the last thing I feel like doing, but it's too easy not to do it myself. When we only had Delly, we would take her in to get her nails trimmed each month. It cost about $15 to do it at our vet. Now that we have 3 dogs, we started trimming their nails ourselves, saving $45 a month. We use these clippers. Trimming their nails is an olympic event, but saving that money is definitely worth it. Vet bills are annoying enough! 

Leave me some feedback below! Who handles the budgeting in your family? Is it a team effort? What are your favorite suggestions for saving money? Let me know if any of these ideas inspired you!
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