Hello friends! Ever since we bought our gorgeous vintage 1929 farmhouse kitchen sink I’ve noticed that I’ve been making even more of an effort to save money. The thought of a kitchen remodel that includes that dreamy sink makes my heart happy! We’ve always been good at saving money, but it sure is a heck of a lot easier when we are working towards a goal! Today I thought that I’d share a few of my favorite tips for saving, while cutting back on all the “stuff” that can creep into our home.
I grew up in a large family with parents who were excellent at saving money. They had been in the Peace Corp in the early years of their marriage and, as a result, were more focused on saving money and helping others than buying things. They were very practical about purchases. We shopped at thrift stores before thrifting was cool, we wore hand-me-down clothes, and we vacationed at the state parks. My parents taught us the importance of saving money and not accruing debt, and those lessons are a big part of why my husband and I can afford our little castle.
I’ve shared before about how we save money on renovation projects and decorating, as well as some very important financial decisions that we made in our early twenties. Today I’ll share how we save money on day to day things. Many of these tips have to do with our family life with three young kiddos. The nice thing about this phase of life is that we realize that it is a season, and that it’s important to find the right balance for our family. The areas in which we choose to spend money verses saving are different now than they will be in the future. Someday when the kids are older their needs will be more expensive (sports and other activities, food for three teenagers, plus college). Hopefully at that point our house won’t need as much work since we’ll have completed a lot of the projects by then. Plus, I’ll be working outside the home again. It’s all about finding a good balance in each season of life.
It’s important to know yourself, your spending habits, and what makes you happy. For example, my husband and I are both on the same page when it comes to spending and saving money, but we spend money differently. I buy more things, but always make sure I find fantastic deals! He rarely buys things, but when he does want something he’ll do tons of research and make sure it is the best quality he can find. Then he keeps it forever! By understanding each other’s spending habits, we can work together towards our common goals. I don’t freak out if he buys something at full price, and he knows that I am saving money in the long run by buying thing we’ll need in the future for a great price now!
Tip #1 Buy Second-Hand
One of my favorite ways to shop for clothes, shoes, and toys is to buy things at the consignment store. I don’t consider it a “sacrifice” to buy used things. I think it’s very smart! Plus, it’s good for the environment because it’s a stylish form of recycling, and it’s good for my wallet. I love the thrill of the hunt for a great deal! I’m always so proud when I find a high-quality item for a fantastic price! We are in a phase of life where our kids are growing quickly, and it doesn’t make sense to spend tons of money on clothes and shoes that they barely wear. I tend to prefer shopping at consignment stores that are selective about what they buy and sell because the quality tends to be better and I can find what I’m looking for faster. If I do shop at a thrift store for kids’ items, I pick one that is located in a very fancy neighborhood because the selection of nice kids clothing and shoes tends to be better. Often, I find things that are brand new, or probably only worn once. I also love shopping at consignment stores for myself! I’m not kidding when I say that almost my entire wardrobe (including coats, shoes, and purses) came from the consignment store. It’s my favorite way to shop, and we save tons of money!
Tip #2 Yard Sales
The weather is getting warmer, and that means it’s time for yard sales! It’s so much fun to drive around the neighborhood on a Saturday morning looking for good deals. I always look for toys at yard sales. Have you ever noticed that when you take your kiddos to a friend’s house your kids think that their friends have the coolest toys? Use that to your advantage! Whenever my friends have yard sales I buy toys that I know my kids will love and then I save them for Christmas. There is no rule in life that says that you have to give your kids brand new toys on holidays! Now, admittedly, this works better because our kids are young. We probably won’t be able to do this as easily when they get older. But why not save money now, while still giving them gifts that they think are amazing? That mindset is part of how we manage to live on one income. Some of our kids’ favorite gifts from this past Christmas that they are still playing with were from yard sales!
Tip #3 Gift Closet
Planning ahead for gifts can save money and help to avoid the stress of having to buy a present at the last minute! In our extended family, we like to celebrate lots of birthdays, and giving gifts is part of that tradition. We also give gifts at Christmas time, as well as presents for all the birthday parties we are invited to for friends. Needless to say, we give presents to people literally every single month of the year. And I love that tradition! But it does take some advanced planning to not overwhelm the budget. My secret is to have a well-stocked gift closet. Throughout the year, I will buy things for specific family members even if it isn’t their birthday for a while, and I’ll save the items in my gift closet. I always try to have a collection of kids’ gifts that are appropriate for a variety of ages. That way I’m always prepared for both birthdays and holiday gift drawings. The former teacher in me loves giving books, so I have quite a collection of children’s books (The “Kohls Cares” books are my favorite and the money goes to charity), as well as sticker and art books (ALDI occasionally has a good selection of art books, so I stock up). I buy a box of birthday cards in bulk and I always have gift bags and tissue paper on hand, so when we get invited to birthday parties, I’m usually ready!
Tip #4 Create a Birthday/Holiday Wish List
Because we celebrate our birthdays and Christmas with so many family members, I’ve learned to be strategic with our wish lists. If there is something that I want, I’ll put it on my list (I literally keep an ongoing list on a notepad for me and the kiddos so when my mother-in-law asks what we want for our birthdays, I’m not scrambling for ideas). Then, after the holidays and birthday celebrations, if there is still something that we really want that we didn’t receive as a present, I’ll buy it. This strategy works well because it keeps us from making impulse purchases. We save money and aren’t as likely to fill up our house with tons of extra stuff. And I’m not going to lie, it makes me feel great about getting older! I look forward to my birthday each year because we always have such a fun celebration and I enjoy getting presents from my wish list!
Tip #5 Make Saving Money a Group Effort
Saving money is a group effort. I’m always on the lookout for things that my friends and family need, and we alert each other when we find good deals! My sisters and I also share kids’ clothes and shoes, which saves us a ton of money. Hand-me-downs are a great way to stretch the budget, and when our kids are done with them we pass them along to the next niece or nephew in line.
Tip #6 Make a Shopping Plan
Planning ahead for shopping trips can help to save money and prevent those impulse purchases. I never go to the grocery store without a detailed list. I plan out meals for the week and make sure that I have all the ingredients I need to buy written down on my list before I leave the house, that way I don’t accidentally buy multiples of things we already have. I also specifically plan a day for a shopping trip. Living in a small town means I have to drive a little ways to most stores, so I’m not able to just pop quickly into Target and browse on a whim (I know, it makes me sad too, but it does save money!)
Tip #7 Be Aware of What You Already Have
It can be very easy when out shopping to want to buy everything that catches our eye. But by asking ourselves if we really need an item, or pausing to consider if we already have something very similar at home, we can avoid making impulse purchases and filling our homes with too much stuff. Also, I regularly take a trash bag through the house (after the kids are asleep) and fill it with toys and clothes that we no longer use. I keep the bag in the trunk of the car for a few weeks just to see if they notice that a toy is gone. After a few weeks, if no one asks about any of the missing items, I donate the bag (so far they have never, ever noticed a missing toy). By doing this about once a month or so, it cuts down drastically on the clutter in our home, and it helps me to be more aware of what we already own.
Tip #8 Know When to Splurge and Save
Friends, there are times in life where it is worth it to spend a little more. The trick is to learn when something is worth the splurge and when it’s better to save. Generally, I recommend splurging on items that you will use for a very long time or that have a significant impact on your day to day life. For us in our current stage of life, we have a few splurges that we’ve been very pleased with, like our “fancy” phones. But we try and save money on items that we will only use for a short time, like the kids’ clothes and toys.
Being content with what we have and being strategic about how we spend money is so important. It’s all in our perspective, of course. So many people in the world have far less than we do. Whenever I start to feel frustrated about how slow our timeline can be for our home improvement projects, I look around and realize how unbelievably fortunate we are. We know we are very lucky and we are grateful for our beautiful kiddos and our many blessings. We don’t take this amazing life for granted!
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Have a beautiful day!