I spend a lot of my time thinking about ways to save money. Money is a precious resource and every penny wasted is a penny that I don’t have to spend on things that I really want… like shoes. Some people (sensible people) have much grander goals, like paying off mortgages. I have grand goals too – but shoes motivate me more. Just being honest.
Irrespective of how rich or poor you are, there is always an opportunity cost to every penny you spend. There is an old saying that basically says: It isn’t how much money you earn, it is how much you spend that determines your wealth. So saving money makes sense.
After many years of trying a bunch of different money saving techniques, I have found that the keys to success are:
- Be open about saving money – there is no shame in saving money, it’s actually sensible. I used to feel that I was being cheap when I tried to save money. I even thought that people would think I was poor (heaven forbid). That’s a hang-up from my grand-mother who instilled “appearances” into my psyche. Mine was a single parent family and we weren’t wealthy so we tried very hard not to look poor. Whatever the reason, it’s simply nonsense. I’ve got over that and now I just say it. If something costs more than I want to spend – then I say so.
- Avoid temptation – don’t go to places where you know you’ll end up spending money that you don’t want to spend. That can be anywhere. The important thing is to identify your weak spots and don’t go there.
- Make saving fun – build in celebrations and congratulations. I use an awesome app called “My Weekly Budget” so I literally record every cent that I spend. To make it a bit easier I don’t record things spent in cash – I simply record the cash being withdrawn. This works because I make very few purchases with cash. This app lets me know when our family expenses are below the amount that I have targeted. When they are – we reward ourselves. …not by spending money, of course!
- Keep track of what you spend – if you record every penny that goes out, you will really see where money is being wasted. To make this possible you should always get a receipt. Keep them. Record them.
My biggest budget challenges come under the headings below.
I love giving gifts but they can get expensive. My top gift giving tips, and there are no surprises here:
- Make the gift… Really there is a whole blog just on this!
- Make your own cards.
- Wrap the gift in brown paper and trim it with pretty gift wrap. Expensive gift wrap will last forever this way.
Coffee with Friends
You want to catch up with people, but you don’t have to pay for it. So, if you go out, eat before you go and drink a coffee too. If you’ve had a coffee (or tea) before you leave home, then you won’t really want another one. The same goes for food, if you’ve eaten first then you won’t yield to temptation and order food. In the cafe just drink a glass of water (tap water). Water is good for you so your wallet and your body will thank you.
Some people are happy to eat only vegetables. I am not, and frankly, my husband gets narky if our protein intake falls. Therefore, in my house, saving money includes continuing to eat meat – especially steak. Obviously that ups the money saving challenge.
So here are my tips:
- Buying meat:
- Buy meat on sale. Usually you’ll need to use the meat pretty sharpish – or freeze it. Meat is usually on sale because the use-by is close.
- Buy cheaper cuts or types of meat. My favourites are legs of lamb and pork. However, you can get some amazing topside roast specials too. These meats are beautiful when slow cooked and you can easily make enough for two meals which saves you prep and cooking time too.
- Minced meat is your friend. Especially when you buy it on sale! Twenty years on I still love my favourite university meal of beef and beans. It’s a delicious one-pot-wonder.
- Plan, plan, plan. This makes an extraordinary difference. If your menu is planned and you buy only what you need to make it then it makes sense that you won’t have anything left over that you don’t use. You also won’t be short of something that you do need so you won’t be tempted to make multiple trips to the supermarket.
- Only enter the supermarket with a list (after you have planned).
- Shop once a week. No more. If something runs out, then you do without or substitute. Sticking to this rule saves you time and petrol as well as keeping the grocery bill down.
- Shop in non-affluent areas – obviously you shouldn’t spend the savings in petrol to get there! But a couple of suburbs over can make a difference. I’ll give you an example – a luxury that my family enjoys is eye fillet steak. Don’t we all! My challenge is to get it as cheaply as possible! I pay a $10/kg premium on my steak if I choose to buy it at the up-market supermarket vs the saver-friendly supermarket (no sacrifice in quality). If I want to sacrifice a little quality, then I can save another $10/kg by going a little further to a discount supermarket. When I do that I buy extra and freeze it.
- Prioritise your groceries – yes, seriously! I recommend that you choose what brands or products matter to you and what doesn’t. For example – eye fillet steak matters to my family. However, I don’t need to have brand label toilet paper or paper towel. I literally halved my grocery bill by ditched all branded cleaning fluids including dishwasher tablets and detergents. I also cut out branded shampoo too. It was expensive and made no difference. My family and I use Aldi shampoo and conditioner.
- Buy based on the cheapest per unit cost. Bigger packages are not always cheaper. I even ask the drive through McDonald’s to tell me the cheapest way to get the kids their special event – McDonalds for lunch on the weekend.
- If you have time, make things yourself. I try to avoid the cost of processed foods by baking my own treats (cookies, cakes, fudge). You can save an absolute fortune by baking your own bread.
Clothes are tough and I love clothes. Mostly I save money so that I can have nice clothes. However, I follow a few rules:
- BUY ON SALE. We all do this already right? I shop off-season in the international sales.
- Buy once or twice a year. I plan and I buy everything that I want in one batch. I don’t recommend that you browse and look at things in between seasons. I find that I am more likely to buy things that I don’t want or need if I do this. Additionally, my overall clothes spend is higher if I browse and buy in between. … actually the same principal applies to grocery shopping and dieting! I just don’t go into local boutiques or shopping malls.
- Pick your compromise items. Mine is knits. I love them, but I don’t need cashmere or high quality. I buy Marks & Spencers and I adore them.
- Buy quality, but fewer pieces. I have my pieces for season after season. I update my wardrobe with shoes – or inexpensive pieces like my M&S knits.
I seriously hope that this helps you. Feel free to share your money saving tips. I know that I am terrible at collecting coupons and getting free stuff. I am full of admiration for people that get the hang of that. I just don’t.