Ten tips for tightening the budget

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It should really come as no surprise that I am all about saving money.  I mean, seriously, 90% of the stuff I own came from a yard sale, thrift store, or Craigslist.  So yeah,  I am definitely frugal (cheap).  Like most people out there, I try to stick to a pretty strict budget.  I work in a public school so I’m not exactly making the big bucks.

But even if I were, I could never be the kind of person to throw money around.  Because I want to save our money for things that are really important to us like a bathroom reno and a special trip for our 10th anniversary. I don’t want to spend it willy-nilly with nothing to show for it (fast food and movie tickets don’t exactly last forever).

Here are my top ten tips for cutting the budget without making your life miserable.  Which really is key.  If you are miserable, you are pretty unlikely to stick with it.  (Really. If you have ever been on a crazy diet you know I’m right. The more miserable you are, the less likely you are to stick with it).

10 budget tips

  • Ditch cable.  Cable and satelite TV are such a racket.  We were paying around $60 a month for DirectTV but decided that was way too much for the few shows we actually enjoy.  Now we pay $16 a month for Netflix and Hulu Plus combined.  We love Hulu for new shows and Netflix for marathoning old TV series that we missed the first time around.
  • Use the library.  We are lucky enough to have a fabulous library system where we live.  Free books, DVDs, audiobooks, even ebooks.  I mean seriously, what an amazing resource. You would be foolish not to use it.
  • Open the windows.  I am so not someone who sweats all summer and freezes all winter in my own home in the name of saving ten bucks a month.  But I do try to remember to open the windows and turn off the a.c. whenever it is pleasant out.  An easy change that can save some money.  Plus, who doesn’t enjoy some fresh air for a change.
  • Buy used.  If you have seen pretty much any project I have ever done, you know that I love to buy used stuff.  It is cheaper.  You can find more unique and more awesome stuff.  Plus, I just enjoy the thrill of the hunt.  Once you get used to buying major furniture pieces for $25, it is pretty much impossible to go back to spending hundreds.
  • But…not too much.  I adore hunting for hidden treasures at yard sales, thrift stores, Craigslist, Target’s clearance section… And by always being on the lookout, I find really great deals.  However, if you are really trying to curb your spending, stay away from yard sales, thrifts stores, Craigslist, pretty much everywhere I just mentioned.  When you are cutting back to the essentials and you aren’t actually in need of anything, perusing these places is just too much of a temptation.  (Personally, I think this is only a good short-term measure for extreme cost-cutting.  Eventually you are going to need to buy something and when you are looking for awesomely cheap stuff, it takes awhile to find what you want.  So you pretty much need to always be on the hunt to some extent).
  • Re-evaluate your phone plan.  This is a step we are taking soon.  We got rid of our landline around seven years ago and haven’t missed it one bit.  But our cell phone bill is one of our most expensive monthly expenses.  We both adore our smart phones, but we are thinking about dropping our data plan when our contract ends.  If we both go back to a basic calling plan with unlimited texting and no data, we can save $70 a month which is $840 a year.  Plus we will still be able to use all of our favorite aps on our Ipods or smartphones wherever we have WIFI access.
  • Do it yourself.  Not just the big stuff like painting and building and such.  Mow your own grass.  Clean your own house.  Change your own oil.  Our check engine light recently came on.  Normally, we would just take it to the shop and let them deal with it.  This time we went to an auto part store and had them hook up their code reader to the engine.  After talking to a mechanic friend, my husband was able to change the spark plugs and wires himself.  Not only did he save us at least $100, he also gained a lot of self confidence.
  • Ditch the Daily Deals.  I know, this one is tough.  I love all the awesome flash deals out there from groupon to zulily to joss and main. Love them.  But…they pretty much never contain things I actually need. They really just contain a ton of temptation to buy stuff I don’t need.  The best thing to do is to just unsubscribe from all of them.  But I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that – especially Very Jane.  (It is my favorite).  So instead I content myself with deleting them without reading unless it is time to buy a gift for someone or I am looking for something specific.
  • Eat in.  We love to eat out.  But even eating a great meal at a cheap Mexican place (our fav) is so much more expensive than cooking at home.  Instead of going out for date nights, we are trying out new recipes at home.  (Which also saves on a babysitter and helps with healthy living.  A triple win).
  • Pack lunch.  For me, this is really easy because working at an elementary school, lunch out just isn’t an option.  But it would be so convenient for my husband to pick up lunch out everyday.  Which really adds up…especially when you eat as much as my husband does!  Seriously, he still eats like a teenage boy. So he makes sure to pack plenty of food everyday.  And I keep healthy snacks in my desk to avoid the temptation of the vending machines.

So there you go – ten tips for tightening the budget without ruining your life.

What are your best tips for saving money?  I’d love to hear them – I know there has got to be some really great money-saving ideas I’m missing.  Sharing these tips at Link Party Palooza and Tutorials and Tips Link Party.

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  1. says

    Great tips – I wish I could convince my husband to ditch the cable but he has to watch football. I would suggest you check out Page Plus prepaid phones. My husband and I go through Kitty Wireless (online dealer of Page Plus)http://www.kittywireless.com/ They have a forum that will educate you. We bought two Verizon (new for my husband, refurbished for me) CDMA phones, Motorola Droid phones. We pay $12 a month for each phone and get 250 talk minutes, 250 text messages and there is some data but we turned off the data because we both work where there is wireless and we have wireless at home. They have other plans that have more but are very reasonable. For our area Verizon has the best reception and they use Verizon towers in our area. Educate yourself in the forums first, there is a wealth of information there on buying phones, etc.

  2. Anonymous says

    Awesome list! We boycotted cable & Direct TV about 6 months ago…best thing ever. My 9 & 11 yr old boys are catching classics that I grew up with on the local channels only. We also have Netflix. I do the thrifty shopping too & would never pay full price when I can redo it myself. I’m tempted to ditch the extras on the cell phone too. I’m missing just the basic texts & calls…good enough for me.

  3. says

    Love the point about not even shopping at Garage Sales and Craigslist when you want to save money. The last few months, I have found amazing deals at the Goodwill. I was going there like two times per week (two different ones) and I was getting things cheap but lots of things. I knew I needed to take a break. So, the last month I haven’t even went to look. Sometimes for me it’s all or nothing. If it’s on sale, I have a terrible time of saying no. Maybe when I start going back, I will have a fresh perspective. Great article.
    Ashley@Biggerthanthethreeofus recently posted…Peel and Stick TileMy Profile

    • Carrie says

      Ashley, I am just like that. If I can’t buy something that is a great deal, I would rather just not even know about it. It kills me to see something amazing for a steal and not buy it. That is a lesson I have been learning for awhile now…and I just keep on learning it.

  4. Private Krankenkassen says

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  5. Jan Elizabeth says

    We are experimenting with not turning on our heat this winter (so far – it’s only October though, lol) and we bought an electric fireplace. It’s amazing how much better it warms the whole living area than the electric baseboard heat, and hopefully it will be a lot cheaper since it’s just one fairly small appliance. We’re also going to put film on the windows and do weather stripping around the door. Our heat bills are usually $250 per month in the winter, and it’s only a two bedroom suite, so reducing that is definitely worth the time and energy.

    • Carrie says

      Sounds like a great idea! I’ve thought about doing film on the windows too but haven’t actually managed to get it done so far!

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