I hear people all the time saying that it takes too much work to save money and that they would much rather buy what they want when they want it rather than seeking the best deals on items. This got me thinking about if there was any truth in that and if so, have I been wasting precious time over the years being frugal? So I sat down one afternoon and wrote a list of all of the many ways that I save money that take little to no extra time out of my day. After looking at my list, I would say at least 90% of my frugal habits take zero additional time out of my day and I cannot even begin to think how much they have saved me over the years. To prove my point, I will be giving each of the ways I save money a ranking of zero to five on an effort level scale, with 0 being no additional effort needed and 5 being a total pain in the tush. So if you are one of the people who thinks that saving money is too hard, maybe I can change your opinion…and save you a few dollars in the process!
11. Cook at home
Now everyone knows that cooking at home will always be cheaper than eating out…it just is. However, that does not mean that it is necessarily harder. If you have a nice arsenal of easy ‘go to’ meals to choose from, dinner is as easy as throwing a casserole in the oven and popping a salad on the table. Or even just making a quick meal of eggs, toast, and fruit that everyone enjoys. I especially love to roast things all together in the oven and call it good. Literally, I just throw some kind of meat and veggies on a sheet pan, top with a little oil and seasonings, then we are good to go. Another thing I love to have in my freezer are frozen pizzas (of course they were bought on sale!). We save those for last minute meals when we just cannot spare the time to think of anything else to make or for fun family game nights.
Effort level: Hmmm….it really depends but I would rank it as not any harder than going out to eat. When you factor in driving to the restaurant, ordering, eating, and paying for the meal…it really is easier to just eat at home:)
12. Bring Snacks (everywhere!)
We almost always bring either a snack or a drink with us when we go anywhere, but especially if we are going to be gone for more than an hour. Ready-made food in town is always exponentially more expensive than the food you have at home. My son will ask for a bottle of Gatorade that the gas station has marked up to $2, when he has the very same bottle at home which we bought on sale for just $.69! Bringing snacks with us is especially a brilliant idea when we go to the park. After running around and playing, the kids are always hungry, thirsty, and irritable. Being about to tell a child on the brink of a meltdown that we have a nice cold drink and snack in the car, has saved us loads of money (and sanity) time and again.
Effort level: 1 (you do have to pack it after all!)
13. Give allowances
Wait a minute….how can giving allowances save me money you may ask?? Well it does! The way it works at my house is that as long as my kids do their minimal daily chores they get a set amount of money every two weeks, but the catch is that they have to do it without complaining (that was a brilliant clause!) The other catch is that I will not buy them anything except the bare essentials they need (or want) in most cases. I am not a tyrant when it comes to this, but generally if they ask for something that I do not think they need, I will tell them they can buy it if they use their own money. Now the ball is in their court, if it is truly something they want then they will happily pay for it, but if it is something they just think they maybe would have liked, they will pass on it. I think giving allowances to children makes them more responsible and aware of what things cost. I will also say that my children have never thrown a tantrum over something I have refused to buy them in the store (I guess I have just been blessed??) **I promise I am not a terrible parent. They do still get food, clothes, and love from me, as well as presents for holidays and birthdays….and maybe if we see something at a yard sale or the thrift store….well no one is perfect after all!
Effort level: 1 (I do have to make sure they do their chores with good attitudes, but that is really all I have to do)
14. Eat right and exercise
Now we are coming into a touchy subject…healthy living. Yes, there is work involved in leading a healthy life, but I like to think you will save yourself so much time, stress, and money if you stay on top of your health. The way you can make it easier, is to just build your exercise into your daily life. Are you going to watch tv? Why not do a few squats while you enjoy those episodes? Are you going to the store? Why not park in the back of the parking lot and get a few more steps in? Are you taking your kids to the park? Why not walk around the playground while you watch them play?
Eating healthfully also does not take anymore time then eating unhealthfully does. You still have to open packages, cook items, and shovel it into your mouth either way…just make the better choice!
Being healthy does save you money in the long run by decreasing future medical costs (they will come, I promise you) and helps you to not have to buy larger clothes each year…we all do it occasionally!
Effort level: 0-2 depending on how much effort you want to put into it!
15. Use up gift cards
Gift cards are money people! I read somewhere that billions of dollars go unclaimed through gift cards each year. In fact, stores intentionally promote gift cards for this very reason. I myself have let gift cards go unused in my wallet for years, but I do eventually get around to using them…I promise. If you just cannot bother to go to the store and use the card, you can always re-gift that card to someone else…it’s a win/win situation:)
Effort level: 0
16. Find free things to do
Every town has something free going on at all times, I promise. Our favorite free things to do are to go to the park, library, and splash pads. We also enjoy having play dates with friends and attending community events on special occasions. I always make a big deal out of mentioning that something was free to my kids because it makes you feel like you have won the lottery. So many people around the world do not have access to the many wonderful parks and libraries that we do and we should never take that for granted.
Effort level: 0
17. At home fun
I think we all love having fun at home. You are just more comfortable being in your own home with your own family. Finding ways to enjoy each other can be as simple as playing games as a family, baking something together, popping a bag of popcorn and then enjoying a movie together, or even just sitting around and telling jokes will work. All kids love spending time with their parents, we tend to forget that and feel that we have to spend money or take them on big outings for it to count. My kids love to just sit at home and play games with us…and if we make a pan of brownies…all the better.
Effort level: 0-1 *depending on if making brownies is involved:)
18. Dual enrollment
Lots of people love to debate the wisdom of taking dual enrollment classes. There are the common fears that the kids will be missing out on the college life or if it will hurt them to graduate early?? Both are very reasonable fears. Here are why we choose to take dual enrollment classes:
-Dual enrollment classes are two to three times cheaper than normal college classes. The student also does not have to pay rent or living expenses since they are staying at home.
-The average college student will never graduate college…sad but true (**But if they have taken the basics already in high school, those four additional years are cut down to two very manageable years…and suddenly it looks way more manageable)
-The student gets credit for both their high school and college transcripts from just the one class. I think this is huge. I remember vividly sitting in a World History class in college thinking that I had just taken it the previous year in high school and that it almost seemed like a waste of time. Being able to just jump into your major classes on your first day of school….I would have killed for that opportunity.
-We also love that Emma can take these classes while she is at home, so I can help her if something comes up. Since we homeschool, we really didn’t know if she would be comfortable learning in a classroom setting, so it has been nice for me to be here if she has issues (thankfully everything has gone so smoothly!!)
Effort level: 0-1 for me because I do have to drive her to class….and probably like a 3 for Emma because she is actually doing all of the work, but thankfully the classes are not as hard as she feared they would be.
19. Ask for useful gifts (and encourage kids to do it too)
I guess I am a weirdo…but I absolutely love getting useful gifts! I almost always ask for kitchen items or household goods for my Christmas and birthday gifts. I have tried to teach my kids that getting useful things will always make you feel better in the long run. Useful does not mean boring! For instance, my daughter needed a new backpack for school, so since Christmas was coming up, I told her that might be a good gift for her grandmother to give her. She was thrilled to get a more expensive backpack in a beautiful design that she can use again and again. My son is a little harder to convince, but I am wearing him down. This year he received an Amazon gift card from a relative, but instead of getting another Lego set or a toy that he will not play with for more than 10 minutes, he chose to get a lap desk. I suggested this as an alternative to a toy because he is always complaining that his papers get smooshed on his lap. And you know what??? He has used it every single day since he got it:)
How does this save me money? Well if they are already getting something they need from someone else, this frees me up to give them something else they will need which of course saves me in the long run.
Effort level: 1 (I sometimes do have to find a way to sneak the idea into their minds)
It is almost always cheaper to make things on your own….now is it easier….that depends. Some things are really simple to make, while others are total beasts. But I will argue that the satisfaction you get in saving money and the joy in knowing that you made something with your own two hands, usually will make up for all that stress (unless its plumbing…then no…just no) If you do like making things and you are relatively handy then DIY projects can be a joy to you and to your wallet. Every year I make gifts and do little projects around the house and I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I saved money and actually made something really cool with my own two hands. So head over to Pinterest for lots of cute ideas and make something new!
Effort level: I would rather not say:)