Friday Question #95

By , January 8, 2010 4:26 am

image:stretching the dollarWhat are your tips for reducing spending?

Two Mondays ago, I mentioned that we cut back on spending in 2009, and Chez Julie asked me to share some of my tips. What a great idea!

I have a lot of tips and I bet commenters will too – so don’t feel bad if you can’t read them all – PLEASE SHARE your ideas!

I broke my tips into three categories: Shopping, Entertainment and General. Click “more” to read (skim, really) on.

Shopping Tips for Reducing Spending:

  • First things first – cut out unnecessary luxuries – for us, this was bottled water. We used to use one new bottle of water a day, and we started using reusable water bottles instead. Better on the pocketbook AND environment! For other people, this may include something like cutting back on the daily Starbucks and making coffee at home, or buying soda in bulk instead of from a vending machine.
  • Figure out where to buy the most economical necessities – we started shopping more at ALDI. We used to do all of our shopping at Super Target. I think we save at least $50 a week by shopping at ALDI. And if you have one of those stores where you have to have a “club card” to get the items at a discounted price, you are probably not getting the best deal overall. We have Dominick’s, Meier and Jewell Osco out here, but have compared prices and they are more expensive on everything.
  • Try the “off brand,” it’s probably less costly – related to the last tip. We thought we would hate the ALDI “off brand” food, but it is fine! We mostly buy produce there anyway.
  • Buy in bulk when it’s a great sale – when we see an item we purchase regularly on a heavy discount, we buy it in bulk, saving us money (and time) in the long run.
  • Use coupons and watch for good deals – I like to use to see if any of the things we buy are on sale at Target before we go there. We also look at the ads to watch for items to go on sale. And, I am not sure if other stores do this, but sometimes Target will have a deal that if you buy 2 or 3 of an item they will give you a $5 giftcard. In December, we saw that the paper towels we like were on sale for $10 each (normally $15). If you bought two you got the $5 giftcard. Score!

Entertainment Tips for Reducing Spending:

  • Instead of meeting friends for dinner, host dinner in your home
  • When meeting friends for lunch, bring your own – my friends know I do this ALL THE TIME. You save money, eat a healthier lunch, and still get to chat!
  • Look for coupons for things you like to do – Steven and I never go bowling unless we have a coupon. If you sign up at Brunswick, you get coupons once or twice a month. Instead of paying $5 a game, we pay $1.29!
  • Use Giftcards – ask for giftcards for birthdays and holidays if you can! At my office, we have a rewards program, and I use it to get movie giftcards.
  • Make small sacrifices in quality to get something for less – we found a theater that sells $4 tickets! It is not as nice as a normal theater, but it saves us about $20 a trip!
  • Use Netflix instead of Pay-Per-View or going to the movies – if you watch a lot of movies like we do, Netflix is VERY economical!
  • Stop paying to run races – look for those you can run based on a donation, or just run for fun (this one was hard).
  • Volunteer – it can be fun
  • Look for free events – watch for speakers at your library or find a website like Explore Chicago (but local for your area) that showcases events (both free and not free).
  • Visit local parks/forest preserves for fun – we have a massive forest preserve system out here, and there is so much to do!
  • Take classes at a community center instead of at a gym
  • Use the office gym, instead of paying for a separate membership – if you can, of course.
  • Go to the library instead of buying new books (or borrow from a friend!)
  • Choose a vacation location somewhere where you can stay with friends or family
  • Travel in the off-season
  • TRY NEW THINGS AT HOME! – we love cooking and trying new things at home… I think we like it better than eating out!

General Tips for Reducing Spending:

  • See if you can cut back with your bills – we looked into our Verizon bill to see if it made sense to switch to a smaller plan. Ironically, we found out we were on a great plan that is grandfathered in and we would be screwing ourselves if we changed it. Ha ha. We tried!
  • Stop using credit cards – only use them in an emergency.
  • Pay off higher interest bills first
  • Develop a monthly budget and stick to it – it will help to see where you are actually spending your money!
  • Save money by working from home – this may not be an option for everyone, but since Steven works from home, we are saving money on gas, insurance and I-PASS. In 2011, I will be allowed to work from home one day a week and this should help a tiny bit (my work already pays for my transportation to work).
  • Look into pre-tax pay deductions at work – some offices offer programs where you can take money out of your paycheck pre-taxes and use it for transportation or hospital bills.

And I believe you should  SPLURGE A LITTLE BIT and treat yourself everyone once in awhile! To stay sane!

40 Responses to “Friday Question #95”

  1. Mica says:

    All very good tips! I save a lot of money every week by militantly planning out my groceries and sticking too the list at Meijer (the cheapest option here. Actually, we could shop at Wal-Mart…but it would stress me out too much.)

    I should stop buying tea at the local coffeehouses and start bringing my own. Or just start drinking more water…
    .-= Author’s last blog post… I take this cold seriously! =-.

    Mica – please tell me you’ve seen this website – People of Walmart

    Sticking to a list! What a great point! You save money when you don’t go in and browse 🙂

  2. As always great post Kim.

    When I was in grad school I would stop by Starbucks every morning before going to school and one month I added up and realized I was spending $90 – $100 for coffee… that was an eye opener for me.

    I have a brita/pure type pitcher at home and one at work I don’t buy bottled water ever.. and when visiting in-laws I encouraged them to buy gallon instead of bottled.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Instant or Old Fashion? =-.

  3. SoMi's Nilsa says:

    I’m going to have to do a bunch of these things in 2010. While I’m not necessarily looking forward to the change, I do think it’s the right thing to do. Thanks for writing this.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Repardoned =-.

  4. Joanne says:

    I’ve never had a problem saving money – unless it’s the holiday season or just after. When I shop for others, I usually reward myself (it makes shopping and dealing with crowds tolerable). As for AFTER holidays, I think I buy myself a treat or two because I just don’t want the giving to end.
    BUT… in response to your question, because I am impulsive, I find if I really think about the items I intend to purchase, say give it a week or so, then I forget about them or take the time to look for a lower cost alternative if the item is necessary.
    In regards to foods/nutrition – that is one area I never skrimp on.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… CEimB: (Sweet) and Spicy Peanut Soup =-.

  5. Shannon says:

    Great tips! Thank you! I just bought a tiny accordian folder to put coupons in. I had no order tot hem and they were all getting lost and never used. Now I have no excuse but to use my coupons!

    In general, we do a really good job of cutting out non-essentials and saving money. But not using the coupons I have because I simply forgot or because I lost it was just a silly waste of money. I even took a picture of my little coupon holder so I can blog about it 🙂
    .-= Author’s last blog post… How to Handle Restrictions? =-.

  6. I’m all about the library . . . but here’s a tip – it’s not free if you don’t bring them back on time!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… One Whole Day Of Food =-.

  7. ChezJulie says:

    Thanks for the awesome post, Kim! These are great ideas! Some are tried & true but some I had never considered before.

    Bringing your own lunch is brilliant. I often have friends and colleagues ask me if I want to go to lunch on campus, and I always whimper a little because I know it will be more expensive in terms of cost and calories. But I bet I could easily sneak in my regular salad and just buy a drink.

    I am planning to do some financial organizing next weekend. You have inspired me that as part of that, I should take my old grocery bills to some other stores and compare prices. I think my grocery is a little pricey though it is convenient.

    Happy Friday!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Pants Score! =-.

  8. Kristie says:

    Nice tips! I plan meals and grocery shop off a list, but I am having trouble sticking to the list when presented with cool new foodie things… yep, I need to just tough it up!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… In the confusion and the aftermath, you are my signal fire =-.

  9. Love the tips! I was raised to believe that I NEED to save money, though WHY was never specified… so for years, every time I got any money, it went straight into the bank. Then I had to pay for graduate school, and a huge chunk of my savings disappeared in the blink of an eye, which was very depressing. My only real splurge is vacations, even though I do tend to keep it on the lower end of the cost scale; but other ways to save are definitely welcomed! 😉

    <3 <3
    .-= Author's last blog post… The Undisappeared =-.

  10. ShutupandRun says:

    I reduce spending by staying out of stores. I’m not a huge shopper, but I can drop some bucks if I’m in the right place. I also make a big batch of something healthy (vegetable soup, tofu/rice, etc) for my lunches for the week. I always find a promo code when I buy stuff on line. I remember my coupons. I fight extra charges on invoices/bills even if it takes some time.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… The Dog Did It (again) =-.

    Great tips! Cooking in bulk can save money AND time.

    And I ALWAYS fight charges too. I bought a verizon wirless card in April and the $35 activation fee was supposed to be covered. Long story short, I had to pay the $35, then call a few times a month for 3 months until I got my money back.

  11. Those are good tips! I def. need some of them (I’m horrible with my $) 😳
    I’ve started using coupons though! It’s a start…
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Pie for Breakfast…Pie for Lunch… =-.

  12. Christina says:

    We make a list every time we leave the house so we know where we have to go and what we have to buy so that we don’t get off track.

    We also are keeping the heat low and have saved about 20% this year over last year. WE just reduced it 2 degrees

    We replaced our light bulbs to the more eco friendly .

    I stopped buying pop and we shop at our local IGA.

    But I may have to add a few or yours to our list.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Changes to work for =-.

    Great list! We have been keeping the heat down as well (around 66-67). I wonder how much it is saving us!

  13. These are wonderful tips. I will be printing this out as I am hellbent on saving some serious money this year! BTW I love nextflix!!!

  14. The lunch thing is huge! I was amazed at how much money I save when I brown bag my lunch. And usually once a week, Steve and I split a bagel to bring to work instead of getting one each. An entire bagel usually puts me over the top, but a half usually does the trick.

    I think I’m going to do your water bottle idea. Any recommendations for a decent waterbottle? : )
    .-= Author’s last blog post… What Does Not Destroy Me… =-.

    I didn’t even think to point out to bring lunch every day! Thanks for reminding me.

    A lot of people like Sigg bottles but I don’t like how the metal ones sweat, and transfer the heat or cold. I actually use a Rubbermaid Chug Bottle. It is Plastic Type 5, which is safe to drink out of.

    Okay, now that I wrote that, I expect to get a lot of anti-plastic comments!

  15. Great post on spending, etc! Your pics are gorgeous too. 🙂
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Puff, the Magic Cereal =-.

  16. Erin says:

    The thing I’m really bad about is comparison shopping and using coupons. I know I’d save more money if I bought what was on sale and made meals that way instead of deciding on meals before going to the store and buying the food regardless, but it’s just so hard for me. Of course, I hate meal planning and grocery shopping in the first place so I try to make it as painless as possible even if that means spending more than I need to.

    We’re currently trying to figure out if we can lower our cable bill. We don’t watch a lot of tv (just a few shows), so we’re thinking about ditching the cable box and our Tivo and setting up a home theater PC and having Jason build a DVR! He claims it would only cost us $20 a year! I admit I’m skeptical but we’ll see.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Year in Review =-.

  17. Vicki says:

    Great tips!

    When we were first married, we were broke and found ways to make it work by using tips like the ones you have mentioned. Then he started making more and we increased our spending to match but in a lot of ways we’re being frivolous. Maybe it’s time to return to those kinds of habits.

    One thing we do is “pay ourselves first”. We take out savings and investments before we do anything else with our money after a paycheck and never touch these things…but I guess that’s more of a savings tip rather than a reducing spending one.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Run and Food =-.

  18. Ameena says:

    Great ideas! I use a lot of these to save money. The biggest money saver is to eat our less and at home more. I don’t mind spending more at the grocery store to buy different foods because in the end we eat better at home and don’t get tempted to eat out too much!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… I am not Martha. =-.

  19. Holly says:

    My BFF SWEARS by Aldi. She just started shopping there a few months ago, and I’m amazed at how cheap everything is! It’s kind of out of my way, but I need to try and go there every so often to stock up.

    My favorite on your list is to bring your own lunch when meeting with friends! The only thing is that I’m afraid I would get made fun of – do you have this problem? I went to a Colts game recently and brought my own wrap (um….not gonna pay $8 for a crappy sandwich!) and my friends were teasing me. Damn, I hate being so sensitive – who cares?! 😉

    This isn’t a tip to necessarily reduce spending, but I try to make saving into a “game.” I’ll record every 4 weeks how much is in my savings, and then aim to save at least XX amount each month. I check my bank account everyday, and sometimes that means I have to skimp on things that aren’t “needed,” (clothes, stuff for the house, or I might try to go light on groceries the week before), but it’s fun! hahaha but I am a nerd like that.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Calling All Friends =-.

    Get yourself to ALDI! Let me know it you like it 🙂 It is pretty different – you have to bring your own bags (or take their cardboard boxes) an pay 25 cents to use a cart (you get the 25 cents back).

    No one has ever made fun of me to my face. A lot of people know I am trying to save money though, and vegan, so I think they consider that. You just gotta do what you gotta do! Who cares what those suckas think? 😛

    I should try to make it into a game too. Right now the game is “How long can I avoid thinking about it…?” Ugh 😉

  20. RunningLaur says:

    This is a really nice list, and an important one too.

    The library is a big one for me. Phoenix has a really well set up system, and it just makes paying for books, movies, or cds seem silly. (The holds system is basically like a free Netflix account, but you’ve already paid for it in your taxes.)

    Most of the museums, the zoo, and the botanical gardens all have regular free days as well. I have a list of them for the year set up, so I know that it makes much more sense to go to the gardens on the second Tuesday rather than any other time, since it’s all the same plants!

    Trying to splurge every once and a while is a really hard one for me though – I feel so guilty spending money on myself unfortunately. But, I do know how to hustle a good race registration, etc because of it!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Three Things Thursday =-.

  21. Kim says:

    These are GREAT tips (and I love that you say you should still splurge a bit too). I think people have a hard time reducing spending because it’s very all-or-nothing, when it doesn’t have to be. Little choices here or there definitely add up. I suppose it’s the same thing with a change in diet/weight. It’s more the lifestyle choices than following some rigid plan that have the most benefit.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Understanding appetite =-.

  22. Linzi says:

    Thank you! Those are great tips! I am trying to find ways to save and be more balanced in my financial situation. I like the idea of having byo for lunch or when having friends over. This is great.

    And if you can plan ahead big splurge purchases then it’s budgeted in. Such as I need to buy a new camera the one I am using is 7 years old and my most recent one just broke. So I am planning ahead to use my tax returns to get one, but will spend the time now in researching and finding a way to get a good one at a good cost, maybe even check out pawn shops or craigslist. Thank you for posting these!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… My ten for 2010 =-.

  23. Ever since you told me about Aldi, I have been meaning to go check it out but it is just far enough away that I haven’t had a chance.

    I’m pretty frugal most of the time but with kids it sometimes is hard. Like when their school has fundraisers. I want to support the school and all but I can’t see buying $10 frozen pizzas that feed one person. That would cost me $60 to feed my whole family!

    Anyway, I love the tips and although I do most of them already, the rest are things I can try too, which is great!

  24. Ren says:

    One area where we really save a lot is cable television. At first, it was a reduction to basic cable + DVR (+ Netflix for movies and cable shows that we would miss). Then, we switched to antenna + TiVo. It took a while (about 18 months) to make up the cost of the TiVo in the savings from cable, but the quality of the TiVo was far superior to the cable company’s DVR.

    Later, there was the extra bonus when Netflix Watch Instantly became available on the TiVo. That mitigated the biggest complaint about not having extended cable — my kids were again able to watch Disney Channel shows.

    Netflix Watch Instantly with unlimited watching can be had for less than $10/month and TiVo service is $13/month (less if pre-paid).
    .-= Author’s last blog post… A Year in Photos =-.

  25. eatmovelove says:

    I love this post…Lord knows I need it…especially with my rising student loan and line of credit costs…:(…I really need to work on these all…one thing I tend to do is spend too much at the grocery store – I don’t know – I can’t give up my food ;)..but I try to look for deals if I can or make more stuff at home instead of picking up as many baked goods…

    I’ve also found that if you wait a couple of weeks, the “new” movies go to the “Cheap theatre” haha – $4 versus like $12…wow I really like those ideas above though…I’ve often debated if I should cut back on my cable and just watch shows on -line…but I don’t know if my computer can take it ;)…
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Give-a-way Winner! =-.

  26. Leah says:

    Those are great tips!
    Im all about a budget. I worked at a bank for 3 years, so I got to watch my account daily. I got really good at organizing my money. What I do is I pay half of everything each paycheck. That way Im never hit with a large bill. My spending money and my payment money are in different accounts too. That helps me a lot.

    As for going out, I have a visa that gets me points for free movies.1 movie per $1000. And I only use my visa for work expenses, so it doesnt cost me a cent.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… If You Could Change Your Past, Would You? =-.

    Great point – GET points! We just redeemed our credit card points for a gift card to the Sporting Goods store 🙂

  27. This is so true. Love the post. I’m starting to pay back my student loans so my spending has been cut drastically…BLEGH!!!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… A Day of Breakfasts =-.

  28. JennyMac says:

    If I had less interest in traveling, wine, and clothing I would save a bundle. lol. My mom uses Quicken and is militant about updating her expenses weekly. This is how she discovered with no room for denial she was spending over 300 a month at Starbucks. YIKES.

    And will you link your email to your profile? I cant respond to your awesome comments on my blog because I get “no reply” email address. 🙂
    .-= Author’s last blog post… The Edge =-.

  29. JennyMac says:

    wait..did cyberspace just eat my comment?
    .-= Author’s last blog post… The Edge =-.

  30. These are such great tips! We are currently on a cash basis except for those bills we need to mail, etc. It makes me much more aware of how much I’m spending when I have to let the cashier pry the cash out of my fist!!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… 5 Tips for Weight Maintenance =-.

  31. Christina says:

    Great list. Planning out meals and making a list would save time, money and a lot of stress trying to figure out what to have for dinner. The stress part I just realized while typing this and now I’m actually motivated to try that. Thanks!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Ramblings =-.

  32. sophia says:

    One of my New Year prayer topic/renewal is to cut back on my spending, so this post came at the perfect moment. Unfortunately, I already do most of the things you mentioned…and I’m still hanging! Why oh why?!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Call Me “Unni” Again =-.

  33. Etta says:

    I would shop at ALDI, but the ALDI here is in a bad part of town and I won’t go there. I’d rather not shop someplace where I don’t feel safe being by myself. We’re reading through the Dave Ramsey books right now. We need to be better about saving money.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Flooring Project =-.

  34. Mine are up! And it turned into a longer post than usual.

    Seven EASY tips!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… My iPhone 3gs External Battery – review =-.

  35. […] reduce, spending] Here are some of my easy tips for reducing spending. I don’t go in to as many items as Kim (from the Friday Question) does but these can add up quick so I’ll share a few of my easiest ones. Actually I think most of […]

  36. Jen512 says:

    I take cash to the grocery store, stick to a list, and I add up the total on my cellphone calculator as I shop. This gives me no choice but to stay within a budget and it makes me look at every single price. It also forces me to get the priority items first, and “extras” only if I have money left over. It takes me longer to shop with all the price checking and the adding, but it’s a lifesaver when you’re on a super-tight budget like we are!
    .-= Author’s last blog post… Brain Food =-.

    That sounds like a great way to shop! And that reminds me of another tip – take a calculator to the store to see if you would actually save money buying in bulk – sometimes you don’t! (calculate cost per ounce (etc.) and compare!)

  37. diane says:

    Strangely enough, Peapod has helped my co-worker and I both save money on groceries. Even though there’s a delivery fee, it’s less than it would cost for either of us to get an I-Go car or take a cab home from the grocery store (moot point for those of you who drive, although maybe in the end it saves on maintenance and gas, who knows).
    Anyway, you can shop by items you’ve ordered before or by specials. Since you’re not going up and down the aisles, it is FAR easier not to make “impulse” purchases. I stick to my usual list with an occasional extra item thrown in when I need it.
    The library book suggestion can be dangerous, though. I’ve stayed away from both that and Redbox because I am convinced I will end up getting burned by late fees when I forget to return things!!

  38. martymankins says:

    Great list of things you have done and tried. We are the same with our Sprint cell phone contract. Grandfathered 7 year old plan that would cost us more and for less minutes if we switched. And that’s with my 20% corp discount I get.

    My wife has declared 2010 as the year we get caught up on our bills, which means reducing travel and electronics 🙁 But I can’t complain since last year, we did Hawaii, New Mexico and Florida and I got a new camera, laptop and 23″ external LCD monitor.

    Last year, we reduced our Netflix subscription to just one out at a time, which is just over $9, but we still get unlimited discs and unlimited streaming. It’s a great deal for still keeping all of the subscription options.

    We have tried to reduce our internet bill by switching to another ISP, but Qwest is on year 10 of saying “we don’t service your area” even though the people that live across the street have Qwest DSL. So we stay with the $55 a month Comcast. I can’t complain since it’s speedy and reliable.
    .-= Author’s last blog post… The Eyes Have It =-.

  39. Nathalie says:

    Those are great tips! We don’t have things like coupons in Holland, but I just check all the brochures for the discounts, and shop where ever it is the cheapest that week. Up until a few months ago I was a shopaholic, but when I realized that I was spending way more then I had, I changed my ways. Now I just take a certain amount of money off my account with which I buy everything I need to feed myself and my pets. It’s easier to see how much money you’re spending when you have the money in your wallet, then using credit cards.

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