My Christmas shopping is done and, though the holiday is not yet past, my mind has been on conserving, now and in the coming year. When I started staying home full-time, when my second daughter was born, I looked for creative ways to save money wherever I could. These are a few of my favorite tips for doing so. I know these ideas won’t necessarily work for every lifestyle, but they work well for us.
Get rid of the cell phone. It’s been two years since we’ve had cell phone service and not having it has saved us $1,000, over the course of those two years. Before we discontinued use, we had one cell phone on my parents’ family plan, for $50 a month. We do have internet at home (we currently pay $49.99 a month), as we need it for work, so we use Skype for the majority of our phone calls and email instead of texting. We have an old-school flip phone for emergency calls, which is serviced by Ting. Our average monthly bill is now less than $8 a month. This setup works for us because our entire family is together most of the time, so we don’t have a lot of keeping track of one another to do. I remember feeling so liberated when we stopped cell phone service and I still don’t miss it one bit. I love being free from texting (there are still more than enough ways to be in touch) and I feel untethered when I’m out and about.
I’ve had to train my friends that a Skype phone number works just like a regular phone number and it still confuses people when I give a “home” number and no cell number (I don’t give out the emergency cell phone number). When I told an acquaintance at the library that we didn’t have a cell phone, to save money, she exclaimed, “That’s so weird!” Really, though, it’s great.
Turn down the heat. This is a common tip, but it’s one I’ve been really working on this year. One of the women I used to work with at Whole Foods was really good at saving money—she owned a beautiful house and land in the mountains and took trips overseas every year and ate well and had no debt, all on a Whole Foods income, supplemented by her art—so I always took note whenever she said something about saving money. She said she never turned the heat above 65°F. That’s what I’ve been aiming for this winter, turning it down to 50 at night. Sometimes I bump it up to 67 for awhile during the day, but 50 at night has been just fine. I don’t get overheated and have nightmares as much as I used to. My daughters rarely complain about being cold during the day, as they’re constantly jumping around, but if my husband or I are feeling chilly, we have to ask ourselves if we are wearing our slippers and sweaters! We’ve also been using firewood more this winter, now that our girls are old enough to stay away from the wood stove, and we’ve been blessed to have some supplied by a friend for free. That wood stove can get the temperature well over 70 in no time!
Of course, the second piece of the energy bill is using less hot water. This is something I currently struggle with, with children’s laundry and bathing and my own desire to escape to a long, hot shower. Still, I know it works. When my husband and I were newly married, we were house-sitting and saving up to go backpacking in Europe for two months. Somehow, I convinced him that we needed to take cold showers to save up. The energy bill for the month was $20!
Skip the gym membership. My husband and I are some of the least athletic people I know, here in our fit state of Colorado. When the weather is nice, we go hiking and I take my daughters on long walks, but you’re not going to find us in a gym. When we want to get in more exercise, we’ve been using workout videos in our little living room! It’s most effective when our daughters are asleep, but they actually love to join in. We just have to make sure that we don’t hit them in the head while doing jumping jacks. Also, they love to inhibit our pushups by climbing on us. That’s part of the fun though.
During the month of October, our daughters had been eating candy all month long and by the time we got to the week of Halloween, my husband and I were ready to be done with the sugar-induced outbursts. We asked my daughter what she wanted for Switch Witch (they exchange all of their candy for something else) and she requested “a pink exercise mat.” My husband found a really cushy one (with the cheesiest name ever) and it’s been perfect for exercising on our wood floor.
Our go-to workout lately has been Mark Lauren’s bodyweight training app. We link it to our t.v. and love that you can sync your own music to listen to during the workout (the music softens during the instruction and then goes back up for the duration of the exercise). Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred is also great, because it’s only twenty minutes long. I also love New York City Ballet: The Complete Workout. It has beautiful music, serene narration, and is very challenging.
Use the library. We reserve book purchases for special occasions and for our very favorite books.
Achieve freedom from diapers sooner, rather than later. I feel rather passionately about this one; I want other parents to know the joy of (relatively) early potty training! Both of my daughters were diaper free by the time they were eighteen months, which was a huge financial relief. I have a post on potty training tips, here. Also, I quit buying wipes when my second daughter reached diaper freedom, using wet toilet paper to get her bum clean instead. Wipes are expensive!
Install a bidet attachment. As a whole, Americans consider themselves quite hygienic. However, we are behind the curve on this one. Once, when I was listening to public radio, an Italian band being interviewed said that the most trying aspect of touring in the states was not having their bidets. I believe it! Once you have one, you won’t want to live without it. The bidet reaches places toilet paper can’t and gets you immeasurably cleaner. The money-saving aspect is that you can use much less toilet paper. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that you can cut your toilet paper expenditures by three-quarters (some people even choose to eliminate toilet paper completely, choosing to towel dry). Now we can’t imagine life without a bidet. We have this one for travel. In our home, we have the Tushy ($10 off, with this link). More on the benefits of a bidet, here!
Read encouraging books. A couple of books I’ve enjoyed on financial freedom are The Spender’s Guide to Financial Freedom: How a Spending Fast Helped Me Get from Broke to Badass in Record Time and The Art of Money.
Pretty funny tips, right?
What about you? Do you have any favorite money saving tips to share, quirky or not? I’d love to hear in the comments below!