2016 is upon us! The start of the new year is exhilarating for me; reflecting back on a successful 2015 and more so looking forward to all my dreams and desires for the 12 new months to come.
Call them goals or resolutions, but either way, I start out each year with a vision; many visions actually of everything I want to attract over the next 365 days – and most importantly, the action steps to get there.
Finances are usually part of most people’s goals for the year. Fortunately, my husband is very savvy with money (or perhaps a better word is conscious). Since being married, over the last five years, with the motivation from my other half, we have come up with some unique and creative ways to save money. As much as I enjoy spending and living large and no matter how much we earn, we always take measures to save money.
As business owners, my husband and I work hard for our money so why not put more in our pockets with a few lifestyle changes? Whether you are trying to save money to get by, you are comfortable in your finances but want to build up more savings, or even if you are well-off and just want to be smart about spending, we’ve come up with some simple ways to save this year.
One of the biggest ways to save money is to…
Cook at Home:
When my husband and I first met, I ate out often: every day for lunch, most days for breakfast during the work week, and at least 2x a week for dinner. At one point I ate out most of the time and packed on 40 lbs. It was a terrible, unhealthy 1.5 years of my life (compared to my normal working out and being 120 lbs). But aside from the unhealthy impact eating out had on me, I was spending a small fortune each month. If I conservatively add up the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners plus drinks, I was spending $250 a week eating out. That’s $1000 a month…$12,000 a year!
While my husband and I were first dating and having fun, we continued with my habits of eating out often, but then we transitioned to cooking at home. Not only do I LOVE to cook and it helps me destress, we started eating clean and we know exactly what we are putting in our bodies. Yes, that lobster ravioli or artichoke crab cake with sautéed spinach is so tasty out at our favorite restaurant, but if we broke down the nutrition and calories of these dishes, I am sure we would be horrified.
Today, we still go out as a treat 1x every 1-2 weeks for dinner, but eat breakfast, lunch and most dinners at home. We work at home which makes it somewhat easier, but even if you work in an office or outside of the home, eating breakfast before you leave and packing a lunch is attainable. I worked in the corporate world and was able to bring food to work no problem. It’s easier than most people think.
Total Savings = $12,000 a year minus $2160 (the occasional dinner/lunch/breakfast out) = $9840 (nearly $10k a year in your pocket).
Of course you would need to buy food to cook at home but most of the time when we go out, we have food at home we can cook instead.
Money Saving Tips When Eating Out:
Make it Count When You Treat Yourself
When you treat yourself to dinner, make it count! Eating out 1-2x a month should be a real treat. Don’t shy away from dropping $80 – $100 on dinner for two. Since it’s a rare occurrence and you work hard for your money, make it worth it. In the end you are still saving money by not eating out multiple times a week.
Enjoy Alcoholic Beverages in a New Way
Like to drink? Have a glass of wine or drink of choice either before you go out to a restaurant (if you are not driving) or when you get home. Now that I am pregnant, I realize just how much we were spending on drinks when we ate out. 1-2 glasses of wine for me; and a beer and/or a whiskey neat for the hubby easily could run us $40 or more. Most times, the drinks add up to be more than the food total.
For seven months I’ve enjoyed ice water with lemon or tea when we eat out and by association by husband rarely drinks now. Not only have I realized that we don’t need to order drinks when we go out, it’s healthier and a lot cheaper.
I’m not preaching to give up drinking. I do understand after a hard week’s work (or day’s work even), a glass of good wine or a cold beer can be a real treat. So, why not eat dinner out and then enjoy a drink at home? It’s the best of both worlds; saving money and enjoying your favorite treat in the comfort of your home.
Buy Restaurant Deals
Use Groupon or other restaurant deal sites. If you are in New Hampshire, check out the app dealici where you save 25%-50% off at local restaurants (they will be expanding to other areas). Just think, you are already cutting down on how many times you eat out, adding a deal on top of this is just icing on the cake. (I know it’s a bit contradictory to the first point above about making your occasional dinners count, but there are Groupons for nice restaurants, too).
General Note: Always tip the server. This is NOT where you want to cut corners and save money. Servers work hard and depend on tips. So give a 20% tip if the service is good.
Money Saving Tips for Cooking at Home:
Create Date Nights at Home
Pick a movie or if you have kids, choose a fun family game to play after dinner. My husband and I love at home date nights. We choose a fun dish to cook (from recreating tapas like potato bravos and bruschetta to blackened fish tacos with cabbage slaw and even turkey meatballs with pasta…and more). Paired with a nice wine, romantic table setting, and good conversation, it’s just as satisfying as dropping $100 at a restaurant. Instead though, we are spending about $35 on dinner (including the wine – $25 with no wine). Plus, you have leftovers for the next day which counts as another delicious meal.
After dinner, the couch is so close and the movie can start right away: another $20+ in savings from not going out to the movie theater. If we stay home to watch movies 1x a month instead of hitting the movie theater, this in and of itself puts $250+ a year back in our pockets.
Buy Local and Fresh
We always love to support our local farmers and farm stands; eggs, fruit, produce…you save money plus there is no GMO. Just fresh goodness our bodies crave. Supporting your local economy helps to reduce emissions too. It’s a win-win all around.
Choose Different Recipes to Cook
Ever feel like you cook the same ol’ dinners all the time? For us this happens and used to be the reason we darted out the door to try a new restaurant. Now, we try different recipes to spice things up and keep us cooking at home. We used to always cook baked cod with lemon; then I found a recipe for pan seared cod with a delicious lemon, breadcrumb topping. So we switch back and forth to keep it interesting. And why cod all the time? We cook salmon and tilapia now too.
In full disclosure, I have cooked recipes that my husband and I did not care for – this is never fun. My husband says after dinner, “Please don’t experiment anymore.” This is his kind way of saying he did not prefer the dinner we just ate. So, now I make sure to read the comments from others who have cooked the recipe. If many people love it; likely we will too. I always cook with foods we know we love, too.
Cook For Two Meals
Another way to save money (and time!) is to think of two meals made from what you are cooking. A classic example in our home is cooking a whole chicken in the oven (but most of the time we buy the pre-made rotisserie chicken from the store for convenience). Pair this with potato and sweet potato puree with a salad for dinner, then the leftover chicken can be picked for chicken salad sandwiches or chicken noodle soup. We even put the leftover bones/carcass in a cheese cloth and make homemade chicken broth.
Some Other Unique Ways to Save Money This Year:
Drink Coffee at Home
Depending on what coffee brand your loyalties lie with and how many coffees a day you buy, you could spend $850 – $1400 or more each year. This is enough money to pay your cell phone bill annually!
I personally gave up drinking coffee all together (back in my college days working 3 jobs – and one of which being sales – I could put down four coffees a day with no effect, but I digress). This has saved me a lot of money. For my husband’s occasional cup of Joe, we invested in a Keurig home coffee maker. He loves Green Mountain Nantucket blend.
Reusable Shopping Bags
Besides the stylish look and ease of carrying groceries with our BAGGU® Duck Bags, reusable bags are a great way to save money. You may be asking how does this save money. Well, in our home we have a rule that we only buy enough food to fill however many bags we have with us (after a while you know how much each bag will hold comfortably). Before, I would fill up all our Duck Bags and then have more plastic/paper bags from the store for the rest of the items purchased. Buying too much at once leads to wasting food, which means wasting money.
My husband is from Europe and it’s customary to go to the market or store daily for food you need so we sort of adopted this concept. We do not go daily, but I don’t mind going 2-3x a week for items we need instead of one big shopping haul. We save money by purchasing only what we need this way.
Never Shop While Hungry
This simple, golden rule truly saves you money: never go food shopping hungry. (On the other side of the spectrum, don’t go shopping when extremely full either – nothing will look appealing and you may find yourself wandering the store with a semi-empty cart.) I drink a bottle of water before I go grocery shopping and eat a KIND bar or ½ apple. Otherwise, and especially while pregnant, I will come home with the entire store. That quinoa and couscous blend I was so motivated to try while at the store, will just end up sitting in our cupboard for months.
I did a test before and I buy $60 or more in food when I go to the store hungry. So for example purposes, by saving $60 a week for the entire year, this is $2,880 I’m keeping in my pocket.
Buy One, Donate One
My money-saving husband implemented another “rule” in our home: if we buy one, we donate one. So if I buy a pair of shoes, I donate an old pair I have at home. I know this sounds like spending money, but it has actually saved us money. Now, when I go to make a purchase, I ask myself what item I will donate if I buy something new. It just gets me thinking, “Do I really need this?” Most of the time the answer is no and I do not make the purchase. Plus, anything we donate is a tax write-off some more savings come from this.
Don’t Rush to Buy that New Car
As soon as I pay off a car, I start to think about buying a new one. Not this time! I paid off my 2005 Dodge Durango 6 months ago and having no car payments is amazing. I’m able to reallocate those funds to pay towards other bills like my student loans. I may not be driving the flashiest car and yes, I dream about buying my Range Rover Evoque someday soon, but for now, my truck runs great and I’m saving $270 a month. In a year that’s $3240 that stays in my pocket.
Pay At Least the Interest on Student Loans
Student loans in this country are outrageous. I graduated with a 4 year degree and left school with $45k in student loan debt. Today I owe near $70k because of the interest accrual. I consolidated my loans and got the lowest interest rate as possible. Now, I make payments to cover the interest so my debt does not go up. I will start making higher payments to start chipping away at the principal too. I am not a financial advisor so I encourage you to speak with one to create the best plan of action for your situation. This is just what I did.
Hit the Gym
Yes, again, you may be spending $25 a month for your gym membership, but in the long run you will save money. Working out is my medicine for everything. It takes away my anxiety, makes me happy, and keeps me strong and healthy all year long. This means, less doctor visits and long term prevention from other bigger health issues – all saving me money. Plus, when I feel less stressed, energized and happy, I am more productive at work. Again, this is more money in my pocket.
Change Your Thinking
Our thoughts are powerful and our true inner-most beliefs dictate our reality. I’ve been using the law of attraction for years to save money and attract money to me. Replace all negative thoughts like, “I’m broke,” “I have so much debt,” “I will hopefully buy a home someday” “I can never catch up; it’s always something,” “My student loan debt is out of control,” “I have no extra money to save,” etc. By saying and thinking these thoughts, we actually attract exactly what these thoughts are. So we continue to be broke, have so much debt, rent and not buy a home, etc. By changing our thoughts and our beliefs to things like, “I’m so grateful I am living comfortably with extra money,” “I am so excited to be paying off all my debt,” “I will buy a house by next year,” “I am paying off my student loan debt,” “I have extra money in the bank as savings,” etc. will help us attract exactly what we are thinking and believing. Even if these things have not happened yet, feeling gratitude as if they have, is a powerful way to attract what we truly want. We must also truly believe that it will happen removing all doubts and limiting beliefs. These are called “grateful intentions.” I’m so passionate about this, I even wrote a book about it!
So in what ways do you save money? What are your 2016 goals and what actions will you take to get there? Comment below – we’d love to hear!