Monday, January 12, 2009

How To Save Money - Now and Forever

Two of our friends have recently lost their jobs. Now they were not just low paying jobs or even middle-of-the-road, bridge jobs (jobs only taken to get to another job); they were professionals bringing in an income which supported a spouse, kids, house, and retirement. One of those friends was laid off two weeks before Christmas. Big time bummer. The big bummer part was that, he as such a nice guy, he had just helped his mother-in-law buy a house by lending her his savings thinking he would get the money back while in his "secure" job. Then he unexpectadly lost his job and the savings money was tied up in someone else's house and he then he had no income (his wife had a small part-time job).

Okay, maybe it wasn't such a good idea to lend someone ALL of one's savings, but still something like this scenario COULD happen to anyone of one us during this economic time. Since my husband is in an architect and he could possibly be laid off (after everyone else, besides the principal, in the firm is laid off so we will be able to see it coming) we realized we really have to be prepared. Last year we bought a bonifide fixer-upper home and we have spending all of our pretty nickels on house maintenance. This January we had to freeze our house spending budget. How our house looks today is how it will look a year from now (still needs lots of work though). So, the idea is that the money we don't spend on the house will go into our savings (which was almost all used to buy the house). I also started thinking about other ways to save money.

1. Groceries: Okay, if you are anything like me, you go to several stores to get all the ingredients for a meal. Lately, I have been a bit scattered and have been buying food that I need for that day. I go to one store to get produce (Henry's Market), another store to buy snacks and "fun" foods (Trader Joe's), another store to buy bulk items (Costco), and yet another store to buy the substantial foods such as meat and canned goods. I avoid the Von's, Albertson's, Ralph's, and those stores, because frankly I find them to be very expensive. But then, who has the time to go running around to all the stores I go to just to save money using my precious time up. I am not disciplined enough to make a menu and break all the ingredients up onto separate store lists. Last week I did make a menu and was able to get all the ingredients in one store (Food 4 Less) and my life and my budget was so much better.

2. Clothes: When my husband and I were first married we had a huge debt we had to pay off. It was my husband's school debt which was enormous. So, we froze our clothes budget and did not buy not even one sock for an entire year. It worked out fine after all and I really had to resolve to not looking at catalogs or trying to keep up with the latest fads anyway. Now, instead of cleaning out my closet, I exam all my clothes that I don't wear and try to figure out why I don't wear them. Shirt too short for this year's long wearing style? Pants too big or flare out too far. Too long, too big, too small, out of fashion? Once I figure it out, I take it to the tailors and she alters the clothes. Walla! I have new clothes for a smidget of the price. Shirts and pants may have extra material on the ends, but it now seems to be my new signature style.

3. Household Items: We have been trying to move into this house for a year. I know there are people out there who can move into a place and then three weeks later throw a party. Our house is still getting unpacked. If there is a "blank" space in our house and I see something on CB2 or West Elm (my two favorite decorating magazines) instead of buying the item I try to find if I have anything like it in our current household possessions. It hasn't always worked, but sometimes I find something that works even better. So, I have resolved to try and use what we already have, just move it around and try to be creative. No need to do it the same way as it was in the last place.

4. Entertainment: My husband and I love movies! Any chance we can we want to go and see a movie. I know for a date day we just sit and watch a movie and don't talk to each other, but after the movie stimulates good conversation. Well, first of all we can't afford to go to a movie and meal every time we go out (which is a rare treat anyway), so we have now resolved to be a bit more creative with our time. Now we try and go on a bike ride or walk down to a local cafe' in our neighborhood. With our kids we also go on bike rides or hikes and for low paying entertainment we have been enjoying bowling with the kids.

These are just a few areas we try and save money. What creative ways do you save or make money in your household?


  1. This is a great article! I can relate on so many fronts regarding being frugal. With a household of 7 I am constantly challenged to make the budget stretch. I have had huge success saving by switching from my local grocery chain to Grocery Outlet. I go there first, work with what they have and supplement the rest by heading to Henry's. I have also made it a regular habit to frequent thrift stores for jeans and shoes for the clan. I have restored many 'vintage' pieces of furniture that cost a few bucks and a few hours of elbow grease...but turn out very chic in the end. After visiting stores like Anthropologie I feel pretty confident in my rummage sale treasures. It's all about how you make it work. We are all entering into challenging times for our finances, but with a little change in perspective and creativity we can still enjoy spending and refocus on celebrating how much we saved versus how much was spent. Cheap is the new Chic!

  2. Two years ago I started an automatic savings account with ING. This is my rainy day account. ING provides a fairly good return (for a savings account) and since I can only access the account on-line, it is rare that I review or even see how much I have put away. Since I might get laid off in the next few months, this account may come in handy.

  3. The following website;
    looks great. I don't think I can use it much, since In our house we have to eat wheat free, sugar free and so on, but I think for most people it could be cool.

  4. Such a good topic!

    I married a very financially grounded man! Lucky me, or I would still be inserting my ATM card and seeing the message- "Insufficient Funds." Ooh, yikes! :)

    Our secret to a good budget (besides just plain ol' having one!):
    1) Dave Ramsey's Money Makeover, and
    2) We only use cash (envelope system). No credit cards, no ATM. It works! We don't live above our means.

    We really had to crack the whip on finances if I wanted to stay home full time.

    Thank you Lord for creative ways to make money too! Selling things on Craigslist, and MysteryShopping.