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What I Will and Will Not Do to Save Money

September 17th, 2012 at 03:32 pm

Yesterday afternoon I was outside putting pre-emergent weed control fertilizer on our lawn. Earlier in the year we decided to fire our pest control and lawn control services (which we were paying over $700 a year for combined) and do those things ourselves. I bought the supplies for the pest control applications, and then this summer I went to a local nursery and got a full detailed list of what product to use and when to use them to keep our yard bug-free and weed-free.

So yesterday as I was outside putting the herbicide on our lawn I was thinking, Yes, this isn't that hard and totally worth it to save some money to put towards more important things.

And that got me thinking about what I will do to save money, and what I will not do to save money.

I know this is a very personal topic--I guess that's why they call it "personal" finance. If there aren't too many things we're willing to give up or cut back on to save money, then obviously we won't be able to save much.

When I was a kid, I thought we were the poorest family in the neighborhood. I mean, I thought we were dirt poor. Compared to my friends, I didn't have nice clothes, didn't have as many toys, didn't go out to eat or to the movies nearly as much, etc. But also my parents were always very tight-lipped about money and never told us how much we had/how much we spent, etc.

Fast forward to about 6th grade, I remember being in Orlando for a family vacation to Disney World and we went to a timeshare presentation. The salesman was really trying hard to get my parents to buy a timeshare and asked them how much their monthly mortgage payment was. They said we didn't have a mortgage because it was paid off, and the salesman was shocked! I didn't really fully understand what that meant at the time.

My parents also never took out loans to buy cars. And when me and my siblings were older, and we got the chance to go on big trips with a high school class or group, they insisted that we go and they paid for it. We each went to London with our Advanced Placement English class our senior year, and I remember being shocked that we could afford it and some of my friends' parents, who I always thought were so rich, could not. I also got to travel to Spain with my Spanish class.

Now my parents are in their 70s and are comfortably retired. They own a modest condo but they are able to afford to travel at least once a year. They've been to Europe 4 times since they've retired.

I think for me the key to saving money is finding a good balance. Which is hard to do. I don't want to cut back so much that my kids are embarrassed of their clothes. I do want to talk to my kids about why we make the decisions we do when it comes to money and spending. I want them to understand that when we skip out on something, we put that money towards something that we value higher.

OK, so here are some things I'm willing to do to save money:

1. Cut back on my cell phone.

When I quit my job to become a SAHM, I switched to a pre-paid cell phone. I think the first year I bought $100 in minutes, but when I bought that highest minute package it enabled me to achieve gold status and from then on all of my minutes would roll over. I think now I spend between $25-$50 a year on my cell phone. I don't have a data plan on it and I only use it for emergencies. Sometimes I am tempted to get a cheap monthly plan with data, but I know that if I go to that, there will be no turning back.

2. Cut back on going out to eat.

This is a big one. I remember while I was still working, and after we adopted our first son, my hours were very hectic. We used to go out to eat for almost every meal on the weekends and get take-out frequently during the week. I remember I added it up one month and we had spent almost $1000 on going out to eat. In one month. It was crazy! So now we go out to eat about once a month. And it's a big deal. Usually DH and I go out to eat during a Parents' Night Out (while the kids are at church) and we will also take the kids out to a "fun" place (like McDonalds or somewhere with a playground) once a month. This has made my SAHM job harder since obviously I now have to plan meals for the week. The worst thing is to be unprepared with a meal and feel like we "have" to go out to eat. We've wasted so much money on that in years past. Sometimes we will pass by a McDonalds or Sonic and my kids will ask if we can eat there. If we've already done that for the month, I'll tell them no but explain that we are using that money to save up for our next vacation. And I think they are starting to understand.

3. DIY home care.

As I mentioned above, we are now doing our own pest control and weed control. We'd also like to start mowing our own yard beginning next Spring (we don't have lawn equipment now, we are going to ask for some for Christmas and/or buy some used equipment on Craig's List). We spend almost $1000 a year paying someone to mow our yard, so combined with our savings on pest/weed control this will save us $1700 a year.

4. Buy used kids clothes.

This isn't something I could do too much with my boys, since there aren't many boys' clothes available at consignment shops, but I've saved a bundle by shopping at resale shops for my daughter. And online. And they are cute and look good.

5. Drive across town for the cheaper grocery store.

Yes, I will drive across town to shop at Aldi. It saves me a ton of money every week, without clipping coupons. I find it is cheaper than even the generic brands at regular grocery stores. It's only a 20 minute drive, I have to bring a quarter for the shopping cart and bring my own bags. But totally worth it.

6. Skimp on clothes and makeup for myself.

Ok, some women probably are not willing to do this. I don't wear makeup every day. Especially my foundation, it is expensive and I've tried cheaper brands and they just aren't the same. So some days I just don't wear makeup. I don't have a lot of new/trendy outfits. I can live with that. I don't look like a slob.

7. Cut back on family entertainment expenses.

We rarely go to a movie theater. Usually we wait for the movie to come out on Netflix or I go to Redbox and get it for $1 or less with a coupon. I record movies on our DVR that are played on regular TV and have a family movie night on Friday nights. I buy a big bag of popcorn kernels and make home-made microwave popcorn in a lunch bag. Or I'll even buy a small bag of candy at the store for a treat for these family movie nights. So at most they cost us around $2. We go to parks a lot on the weekends, we go outside and ride bikes, go to the library, and attend many of the other "free" events in our neighborhood and city. We don't do expensive things every weekend like the movie theatre, zoos, museums, etc. Not to say we don't ever do those things...we just do them rarely and as a special treat.

OK, I'm sure there are many more things I could write about what I'm willing to do to save money, but those are the big ones.

And now for what I will not do to save money:

1. Cut back on family vacations.

This is a big priority for our family. Growing up, we always took a family vacation every year. Now we might not have always stayed in a fancy hotel, and most of the time we packed everyone in the station wagon and drove, but I hang onto those memories as an adult. And I really want my kids to see places and treasure memories from our vacations. So we do go on a "big" one every year and maybe 1 or 2 local weekend getaways. I do spend a lot of time trying to save us money on the vacations we take. For example, when we went to Disney World in 2010 we rented a timeshare condo and shared it with extended family. We used airline points for our plane tickets. We ate breakfast and dinner in our condo and only spent money on lunch in the parks. Honestly, having groceries and cooking in a condo save a huge chunk on any vacation! I figure the kids are only young once, and we sacrifice our normal weekend entertainment in order to do some bigger things a few times a year.

2. Buy stuff that's on sale just because it's cheaper.

What I'm mostly talking about are birthday and Christmas presents. I don't want to get caught up in buying things just because they're a good deal, if it's not something my kids really want or would enjoy. I also will not get them socks and underwear for Christmas. Again, this stems from my memories as a child.

Ok, this is getting really long so I guess I'll just stop here. What are you willing to do or not willing to do to save money? Has it changed over the years?


3 Responses to “What I Will and Will Not Do to Save Money”

  1. Jenn Says:

    My values are similar to yours. I will give underwear and socks for Christmas though (but not as the only gift). We also gave up the yard service but unfortunately didn't replace it with proper DIY care and it doesn't look nearly as nice. Knowing that you're getting good results gives me some inspiration to see if I could try it. How much do you spend on fertilizer and weed prevention products?

    What I won't do? Each junk food in place of meals, no matter how cheap it is. Give up vacations, although we did reduce the frequency so we could have nicer vacations.

    Our kids have thought that other families are better off than we are, but their eyes are starting to open now that our oldest is preparing for college. So many others who have driven new cars and eaten out after every sporting event have nothing saved. I wonder if they'll act surprised when retirement approaches too?

  2. snafu Says:

    While we are now in a condo whose external care & maintenance is covered by HOA fees we had always DIY home & yard care & maintenance like prep for fall , sinks & shower heads, one bthrm each year. Get it off/out was the hardest part. [need liberal use of WK40]

    If you like to do research and think planning is half the fun...self organized travel costs 1/2 of organized tour for foreign countries and willing to fly on international airlines.

    Endless planning, know what goes on sale which months and asking for discounts results in best value for best price. I tend to buy Consumer's Value product as I hate paying for bells & whistles on appliances that I don't use or find
    unnecessary.

    I make menu plans based on loss leaders in the ads/flyers and keep them all in a binder. Eating out is mostly special occasion or a new restaurant with friends. Funnily, we prefer having friends over for dinner, much better for conversation and getting to know people.


  3. Jerry Says:

    We also get mostly used clothing for our family -- partly out of necessity while I am in school and money is tight, but also because we like to repurpose things. I am blessed with a wife whose keen eye leads to fantastic bargains. In fact, some people have assumed that we both come from wealthy families (HA!!) because our daughters are all gussied up in their secretly-inexpensive outfits. I think that it also offers us some insurance of knowing that we can live well for less, so when I am gainfully employed we will hopefully not feel the need to try to spend money carelessly. It sounds like your parents did a great job and knew what was most important! Europe is a great place for a kid to learn and experience. You were fortunate and didn't even know it! Smile Jerry

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