Friday, March 18, 2011

My Top Money Saving Ideas

One subject everyone is talking about today is the economy. Food prices, gas prices, clothing, and other necessities have all gone up. Way up. And who knows when or if they will top out?

Not only are prices going up... packages are getting smaller and the standards for quality are being lowered as companies fight to keep prices down. Not working! We just end up getting less of a not-so-good thing for more money.

This is definitely a time when we all need to be on our toes. Know where our money is going... and then make it go as far as we can. We can't sit back and hope someone will be there to help when we need it. We need to do our part now to hopefully lessen the blow of future setbacks.

I put my faith and trust in God... knowing He will provide for my family during these difficult times. He always has and He always will. No doubt. It says so in His Word and He has proven it to me over and over again through the years. His word also says to walk wisely. I wouldn't be wise if I didn't do my best at managing my money.

Now.... I say that God will provide, but my idea and His idea may be completely different. My 'necessities' may be His 'luxuries'. I want to learn to let go as need be. I want to be flexible. I don't want to try and hang on to things I can't afford. Finding new tips and tricks that I can use helps me do that.

I started to think of the things I currently do that save me the most money. Some I've done for years, some I do on a regular basis, and some I'm flexible on. But, these are what works for me and applies to my family and situation. You may be able to use some of my ideas, you may use them already. Some may not apply to your situation at all, and some you may need in the future. So... Here they are:
  • Make your own laundry soap. I've been making my own laundry soap for a couple of years now, and I will never go back to store bought. Very easy to make and it's been my top money-saver. Click here for the recipe.
  • Shop the sales... BEFORE you need it. This has been another great money-saver. When something you use goes on sale... buy it. And buy as much as your budget allows. Always check the expiration date. You don't want to buy more than you can use before it goes bad. It's better to buy what you need NOW at a cheaper price than to wait until you need it at full price.  If you're going to end up buying it anyway... why not spend less for it? I check the store ads each week as they come out and make a list of sale items that I use. After a while you will notice that some items, such as meats, go on sale at regular intervals. I usually buy enough to last until the next sale. If you're just starting out... even buying one extra of an item each time will begin to get you ahead. But think ahead.
    You don't want to spend all of your money and only have a pantry full of ketchup! 
  • Shop at more than one store. This kind of goes alone with shopping the sales. I check the sale ads for every store in my area. They all come in the mail at the same time. When I go to buy the sale items... that's all I buy. The sale items. Nothing else. If you were to pick up an extra item at every store you visit, it would defeat your purpose of spending less. Also check your local dollar store. Mine has great prices on spices. Not much else though... you'd be surprised how fast those dollars add up!
  • Condense errands into as few trips as possible. I try to plan the bulk of my errands for one day a week. Other than that... I will keep a list of errands to be done, and the first person to head in that direction is the lucky one who gets to run the errand along their way. Gas prices are too high to make unnecessary trips, no matter how short they may be. And if you shop at more than one store, you'll need to plan ahead. Another reason for keeping ahead by shopping sales... you won't have to waste your gas running to the store for something you just ran out of.
  • Buy in bulk. I buy in bulk as much as possible. You have to learn prices, which you'll do if you're shopping around at other markets, because sometimes buying in bulk is not the cheapest way to go. Here's how I see it... If I can buy an item in bulk for less, or if it costs the same, I will buy in bulk. If I can get an item cheaper on a sale somewhere else, say it's a usual sale item at another store, then I pass on the bulk item. The only time I buy in bulk when it costs more is when it would cost me more in gas for the extra trips to the store. Seems to even itself out in the cost of money and time spent. 
  • Use less meat. This can be for budget and health reasons. I don't like to make 'meat' the center of our meals. I try to use more veggies, rice, and beans to a dish. Add a salad, bread, or a bowl of fruit. Dicing the meat and adding it to a meal helps it go farther as well, as in casseroles. When we grill... it's hard to say no to a big juicy steak. But even then, a lot may be thrown out with the plates. I've learned to cut steaks and chicken breasts in half. When I make chicken as the 'meal', I usually cut it in strips. Everyone eats less but still seems to be filled. Not to mention you'll cut back on the hormones that are in the meats.
  • Make it yourself. There are many convenience items you can make at home yourself. Pancake Mix, Waffle Mix, spice mixes or blends, hot chocolate mix, brownie mix, biscuit mix, onion soup mix, ranch dip mix... anything imaginable. We even learned how to make our own 'Starbucks'. Believe me... if you can find it at the store, or even a restaurant... I'm pretty sure you can find a recipe for it on the internet. Try several until you find a favorite. Even non-food items such as, Laundry Soap, liquid hand soap, fabric softener, and window cleaner. It may seem overwhelming, but getting started is the hardest part. For storing bulk mixes (and even bulk foods, such as pasta, rice, beans, etc.) I use food grade buckets from the bakery at my local market. Usually they will be happy to give you any empty 'icing' buckets they may have, just be sure to ask for the lids. For spices, I keep the containers from my local bulk food store. I buy spices in bulk... so I just refill the containers with spice 'mixes' when they are empty. Be sure to label your buckets and spice containers... 
  • Have a leftover night.   See what's left from the previous meals of the week and make a new meal out of it. If you can't make something new... serve different sides or fruit with it. Just try to use it up before it goes bad. I've even learned to see what's in the fridge when I'm meal planning. Are the carrots and celery a little limp? Why not throw them in a soup or stew? How about a stir-fry served over rice? Or... the apples aren't being eaten as quickly as they should? Slice them and offer them as a side dish. Same with other veggies. My kids seem to eat more fruits and veggies if I offer them with a meal or slice them up for a snack. Just can't use the leftovers right away? Try freezing them. I do a lot of cooking for the freezer, and many meals can be frozen. Sometimes I will freeze leftovers as a whole meal for another day. Often I will divide leftovers into single servings to freeze for lunches or meals when everyone else is gone. Sending leftovers in school lunches is another good idea... most of the time... just don't forget the utensils.  :)
Whew! There you go.  My top tips... at least some of them. I kept thinking of other things I'd like to share, so rather than making this a longer post that no one will finish... I'll just save them for another time. Maybe Top Tips Part 2? More Top Tips? Hmmm...

I hope you found something useful here. I love sharing ideas. So do me a favor, will you? If you have a great money-saving tip, would you share it with me? Just leave a comment below. Any household tips are welcome. Married, single, young or old, kids or no kids... we all have to spend money. So may as well learn from each other... right?

Thanks for reading to the end! God bless!
Mary Ann :)

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