Money just doesn’t stretch far anymore. It seems like I can’t leave the house without spending at least $50 – and that’s when I’m just going out for fruits and vegetables. My average Costco bill runs around $200 – $400 a WEEK and a light sushi lunch with my husband and 2 small children is NEVER under $60. Even something like going to a movie or taking the kids bowling somehow runs us around $100 after a few snacks! It’s frustrating because I don’t want to stay home all the time but I need to find a way to have a little fun while avoiding sinking into debt.
That’s why I try to ‘pinch pennies’ wherever I can. It’s not about being ‘cheap’. It’s about being mindful of my spending in order to save money whenever possible. Being mindful of where my money is going, and making small changes in my habits in order to save it, has been a huge step in having more money so I can treat myself (and/or my family) to something special once in a while.
It might seem like tiny changes in your habits won’t make a difference but it DOES. Even small savings add up to big savings over time. EVERY. PENNY. COUNTS.
Below are a few suggestions on ways to be frugal that are really working for me!
- Split your coins up into separate jars for nickels, dimes, quarters, etc. and put all your spare change in them. Every six months or so roll all your spare change and take it to the bank. You’ll be shocked at how much you have! TIP: Involve your kids so they can see first-hand how even small amounts of money can really add up over time! (My kids both have piggy banks and whenever they get/find money, they put it in there to save for something special. It really helps teach them about the value of a dollar).
- Whenever you can, buy items in bulk instead of pre-packaged. Some items I buy in bulk that saves me TONNES of money are rice, quinoa, pastas, dried fruits, nuts, seeds (such as pumpkin or sunflower), granola, chocolate chips and pretty much everything for baking – and most importantly, SPICES!!!! Buying spices from bulk bins will save you HUGE amounts of money. (I buy clear jars and containers from the dollar store to store everything in!).
- Buy yearly memberships (to the gym, for instance). The more you pay up front the more you save. (If I bought a monthly gym membership it would cost me $55.80 per month. If I buy a yearly membership, the cost is $515.84. I save $153.76 buy paying for a year up front).
- When looking for something you need (such as gardening equipment, kids bikes or sports equipment, items for your pets, etc.), try looking for good quality USED items instead of buying new and you can potentially save a LOT of money. For certain things Craigslist and other second-hand stores (Once Upon A Child is Coquitlam is one of my favourites) can offer amazing deals. (For example, when I needed a new dresser for the kids room, I found a beautiful and well-built one for $40 at the Salvation Army! With a little love and some paint, it looked brand new and I saved hundreds of dollars).
- Shop around for the best deals. Buy things like pop, chocolate bars, candy, holiday supplies, kitchen gadgets and gardening equipment at the dollar store. You’ll save a LOT of money. (The cost of a chocolate bar at Dollarama is around .75 cents. You’ll pay $1.50 for the exact same thing at 7/11).
- Wait until after holidays to stock up on things like wrapping paper, Christmas lights, Halloween decorations, cards, etc. You’ll save 40% – 70% and have everything ready to go for the following year!
- Keep your freezer bags to reuse them (if you’ve frozen something on a tray ahead of time and marked the bag, just keep using the same bag over and over again. I’ve been using the same freezer bags for 3 years now!
- wait for things to come on sale and grab non-perishable items whenever you see a good deal. (I found a case of 12 cans of mushrooms soup the other day for $4.99! That’s $0.41 per can. The average cost is $1.29 – $1.69 per can)!
- Buy meat and fish in large quantities, then divide into individual meal portions and freeze. Buy anything you can in large quantities to save money (toilet paper, canned goods, rice, etc) as long as it won’t go off/bad before you use it.
- Zest your citrus fruit before you use the juice – even if you don’t need the zest in the recipe. You can use this zest in everything from dips to salads to a topping for fish! If fresh herbs are starting to rot, puree them in the food processor with olive oil and freeze them into ice-cube trays. Then pop them out as needed to use in soups, stews, sauces, etc. Do the same thing with older fruit. Then pop into smoothies right from the freezer!
- When buying roast chicken from the Super Market, always save the bones. Also, save your onion, carrot, celery scraps and parsley stems in a zip lock bag in the freezer and just add to it each time. When you have enough scraps, you can make a homemade chicken stock to use in everything from soups, to cooking quinoa/rice/beans, to reducing and deglazing a pan for a nice sauce.
- Always use a spatula to scrape out the last bits of sauce, or whatever your using, from jars/containers. Those little bits add up to a lot and will save you money over time. (See my blog post about using a spatula to save money).
- save water by not running it while brushing your teeth and ensure you don’t have any leaky taps/faucets. Also, get a ‘rain catcher’ of some kind and use the water to water plants (I use my extra garbage can and keep it in the backyard to catch rain which I use to water my gardens).
- Shop for items in places that offer rewards/points. For example, where I live in British Columbia, Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart for hygiene and beauty products. Super Store has a points reward system for President’s Choice products. Costco has a membership fee but you get a rebate check in the mail that ends up being more than the cost of a member ship.
- when your shampoo, body wash, face soap, hand cream or anything in squeeze bottles seems empty, just add a few teaspoons of water and shake. You should get 2 – 6 more portions out of it! If it’s in a plastic container with a pump, cut the bottom off with scissors. You’ll get another few WEEKS worth of product that you would have otherwise thrown away!
These are just a few ways I practice being frugal. As I mentioned above, it might not seem like you’re saving much money at the time, but over a year the savings add up to THOUSANDS of dollars.
Being conscious of your spending will also encourage you to really think about how much you need something before purchasing it and hopefully will make it easier to avoid impulse buying. It’s also setting a good example for your kids to follow. Lastly, it’s often much more environmentally friendly to be frugal. Recycling, reusing and wasting less is always a good idea (: