How To Save Money Realistically

Real Life Strategies to Save MoneyI read a lot of blogs dealing with living frugally and how to save money. And a lot of them have really good advice on where to trim some fat if you really are living above your means. But I really don’t know a lot of people who are out on shopping sprees every weekend blowing all (or some) of their income. Most of us are already scraping by and putting as much as we can in our savings.
I can’t speak for everyone’s situation, only my own, but I am one of the “saving when I can” crowd.
The bad part is, I make a decent income on paper. With the raise for 2016, I will make $20.04 per hour. But that’s before I start getting raked over the coals. Our insurance cost (family) is almost $700 a month. I put 10% into my 401K (I’ll be 40 this year- I’m not scrimping here) and they only match 3%. I pay $350 a month in child support. (A story I may tell someday….) All this BEFORE the government takes its cut, but I’m taxed with no dependents. So, where I originally make $3200 in wages, I’m down to $1800 BEFORE they tax me.
I don’t have a huge house or a huge house payment. I keep our utilities as low as I can. I keep our grocery budget to around $300 a month by gardening, canning and freezing what I grow. I make homemade cleaners for the house. I bake our bread weekly. I make my own shampoo bars and soap. We don’t eat out a lot. We rarely watch a movie that isn’t on Netflix- we don’t even pay for cable; just Internet, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon prime streaming services.
So, obviously we are living within our means- barely.
Now, I love Dave Ramsey and he has some great ideas for saving money. I totally agree with paying cash for a car, the Emergency Fund and the like. However, who in the world would go deliver pizzas if you have the opportunity for overtime??

I read blogs who say that they are “SAHM” with an income of $6000 a month. Ok, this may sound harsh, but really that isn’t grounds to freak out and say how “poor” you are and how you live so frugally. You should be doing fine depending on where you live. Ok- probably not if you are living in a big city or a part of the country where the cost of living is high. I have only lived in four states in my whole life; Ohio (now), Missouri, Kentucky and Arkansas. With the exception of living right outside of St. Louis, most of these are generally cheap to reside in. As long as you are living within your means. (I’ll say that a lot; trust me.)

Here are my top tricks to saving money without spending a lot of time on it:

Use your Smartphone and the apps available to save money.

Looking at my phone, I have at least 4 apps installed that I use almost every time I go shopping.  Ibotta is by far my favorite.  You just add savings by getting recipes, watching short videos, or other quick tasks and then you verify your purchases, scan your receipt, and they deposit your savings into your account.  I love using this to get gift cards to save up and help with holiday costs.  I only buy what I was going to anyhow, so I don’t end up getting a lot of things in my house that I will never use.  You aren’t saving money if you end up throwing it away anyhow!!

Meal Planning

This one was the hardest to implement, but saves us way more than anything else.  I’m a huge fan of freezer cooking.  (I have an entire post on it here.)  So knowing what we are going to eat and only buying what I need for that week or two (depending on how I plan) saves us TONS.  This week I will end up only spending $20 at the grocery, and that is for simple staple items to finish off my plan- I think I need milk, butter and some flour, plus a few other perishable items.  When you have a plan, plan ahead for it, and then stick to it, you will be amazed how far you cut your grocery bill.

Planning for leftovers.

Sunday dinner is a big deal here.  It’s our time to converse and plan for the week ahead. (Okay, realistically it’s me planning outloud to CS and him nodding a lot.)  Usually I roast a chicken or cook a pot roast.  I know this ahead of time and then plan to reuse it on that weeks meal plan.  A roast chicken will turn into a casserole or chicken & noodles, and most of the time the left over pot roast is used in BBQ beef (which CS needs to eat as a sandwich, while I eat it over rice.)  Planning ahead and preparing a bit of extra rice turns into fried rice or some other meal for the week ahead.  There is nothing I hate more than spending money on something just to end up watching it get thrown away.

Making homemade cleaners and household products.

This one tends to crack up my co-workers.  We have discussions about sales and coupons all the time and it never fails that someone asks me, “What kind of laundry soap do YOU use?”  The people who know me laugh before I even get, “Homemade!” out of my mouth.  I’ve been doing this for years with Fels-Naptha, and recently I even started making my own bar soap to grate for the powdered laundry soap too!  I can make a few pounds for about $20, and my recipe only calls for 4oz.  That’s enough for 8 batches- of a 5 gallon bucket full each.  I only make laundry soap once (at most) every 6 months.  So, doing the math, I spend less than $20 PER YEAR on laundry soap!  I also made my own dryer balls to use instead of dryer sheets and use vinegar in the rinse cycle for static issues and softening.  I use vinegar, blue dawn (which is really cheap with coupons), baking soda and essential oils to clean everything in my home.  I’ll get more recipes posted so you can learn more about this. J


Granted this is seriously seasonal, and it’s a lot of learning to get started, but there has never once been a time that I regret walking out to my garden and coming in with loads of tomatoes or zucchini.  We have all seen the price of produce skyrocket, and I do what I can to supplement my grocery bill by skipping the trip to the store and just harvesting in my backyard.  Not only is it cheaper, but it’s healthier.  At least once a week during the summer we have a meatless meal- which is completely free!!  I grew it all!!  (Ok, I suppose you have the cost of seed, but when you get pounds upon pounds of zucchini from a $2 seed packet, after that first one, it’s free. LOL)

Other ways I’ve found to save money??

Selling things on Ebay
Selling your crafts on Etsy
Repurposing everything you can in your home. (I hate waste.)
Keeping your home well insulated and winterized.

What are the best ways YOU have found to keep your budget in check?

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