We did pretty well in 2014, our first year of practicing conscious frugality. I cut back on things like buying lunch or going out for coffee. We didn’t buy much clothing. I started cutting everyone’s hair – including my own. In 2015, I’ve been trying to think of new ways to increase our savings rate. These are my ideas:
1. Alternative Working Arrangements
I have a long commute into work, 30 miles each way. One of the lessons of the great MMM is that living far away from work is a costly mistake. In 2014, my employer allowed me to start working from home one day a week. We have another office that is within biking distance from my home. Now, this office is rather small and doesn’t really handle work in “my department.” However, we’ve been ironing out the details of me handling some new assignments and spending one day per week in this other office. I’m optimistic that things will work out, so the long commute will only be necessary on three instead of four days per week, saving even more money on gas.
We’re also considering a switch to Mr. Smith’s work schedule. His employer is very flexible (he is a construction apprentice). He works about 31 hours per week right now, because he has been taking the kids to daycare and sometimes leaves early to do errands. Instead of working five short days, he could work four longer days. The money-saving part is if the kids stay home with him. It might be a little harder for him to do errands with two toddlers, but we would be paying less for daycare, while working the same approximate number of hours.
2. New Cell Phone Provider
This plan already is in the works and I’ve covered it before. It should amount to a big savings over the next year.
3. Snacks for Mr. Smith
My husband is still a reluctant frugalist. One of his main stumbling blocks is his stomach. The other day, he said something along the lines of, “If I can’t eat good food, it’s not worth it.” Mr. Smith works hard at a physically demanding job, so he has quite an appetite. He often gets pretty hungry for substantive snacks at night. There are many nights where he satisfies his hunger with a fast-food run. I see this as a big opportunity to save money. He spends money on the food and uses the car to go out for it. My plan? I’ve been looking into homemade, cheap, easy snacks for him (and probably healthier). One idea is homemade pizza pockets. Anyone have any good ideas? He is a meat and potatoes type of guy so things like nuts, oatmeal, or even pasta are not going to work.
4. Credit Card Interest and Car Payments
We have quite a bit of credit card debt and the interest is eating into our monthly income. As we continue to pay off the balances, the amount of interest will decrease, and we save money. I count this as a new way to save this year, because we’ve always seemed to have them maxed out to the credit limit before.
We have no car payments this year!!! Hopefully, things will stay this way for all of 2015. With the new baby on his way, we will eventually need a new vehicle, but want to focus on paying off debt for right now.
5. Skip On The Summer Road Trip
We are fortunate to have access to a family cabin on a lake in the woods. The road trip to get there is approximately 800 miles each way. Last year, we rented a minivan so my brother-in-law could join us. The vacation was relatively inexpensive because we made most of our own meals, didn’t pay much for any type of recreational activities, and the brother-in-law chipped in here and there. However, we still spent close to $1,000 on the trip. Things are a bit easier with new babies when you’re at home, as opposed to a cabin in the woods. More importantly though, we just can’t afford it.
Just a few years ago we seemed to equate an available balance on the credit cards to being able to “afford” things. Our perspective has changed dramatically and now we see that in our current “debt emergency,” the yearly road trip is a bad idea. We will do this trip again, but for 2015, we’ll just go on new adventures in our own backyard and rediscover our community.
6. Homemade Cleaning Supplies
Some of my recently-earned Amazon credits (Swagbucks) are being put towards ingredients to make homemade laundry detergent. There are plenty of “recipes” on the internet for cleaning supplies. Many of them are less toxic and should be cheaper than the store-bought variety. We’ll see what else I can concoct after the detergent. In addition, we’re going to use less disposables (ex. rags instead of paper towels). An added plus is that we’ll be helping the environment while lowering our expenses.
7. Get Serious About Gardening and Canning
My brother-in-law lives down the street from us. For the past couple of years, he has cultivated quite a vegetable garden. We have enjoyed the fruits of his labor. Alas, he is going to be out of the country for the next year. If we want fresh vegatables, we need to take over his farming duties. I’m hopeful that we will be able to grow a decent crop of food to supplement our groceries.
I learned how to can last fall and it is pretty easy. We will can as much as possible from the garden, especially tomatoes. Then, at the very least, we wouldn’t need to buy any more pasta sauce. What else should we grow and can?
8. Start Shopping Around For Better Prices
A new grocery store opened up in our neighborhood this month. So far, we have been pleased with many lower-priced foods. It’s time to use these options to our advantage. We tend to be arbitrary grocery shoppers. If we
need want something, we buy it, whether or not it is on sale. We only have a general idea of how much items cost at the different stores. This year, I will spend more time planning and tracking our shopping. Also, I’m going to start using coupons – there are plenty of resources on the internet.
It really comes down to be a conscious consumer. Just because there is a sale sticker on something, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good deal. With a little more effort, I believe that we can significantly cut this expense.
We have a nice wood-burning stove in our house. I miss it. Two years ago we bought a couple of cords of wood. Last year, the price of wood went up and we had a new furnace installed. It didn’t make financial sense for us to buy wood. I’m going to encourage Mr. Smith to get to work on chopping wood early in the spring. That way, it will be seasoned and ready to go by next winter – saving us money on heating costs.
10. Absolutely No Clothing For Me
In 2014, I tried not to buy any clothing, but ended up spending a little more than $100. Inspired by Mrs. Frugalwoods, I vow to not buy anything for myself this year. So far, so good 🙂
The kids will need some things (ex. shoes) but I will try to use consignment sales and/or gift cards from rewards sites to acquire items for them. Mr. Smith may need some new work clothing, but since it’s only going to get dirty and destroyed, he should be OK with shopping at a thrift store.
11. Super Frugal Joint Birthday Party
Goofball and Tornado both have birthdays during the summer. This year, we will have one party for both of them. It will be at our house. We will make food instead of ordering pizza. We will make our own party favors, entertainment, and decorations. Finally, we will suggest useful presents instead of more toys (gift certificates to the zoo or the museum would be perfect).
If we stick to the plan, by making more and saving more, I’m confident that we can pay off a significant amount of debt in 2015. It would be absolutely amazing to enter 2016 with no balances on the credit cards.