We didn’t even budget until last summer when we started saving up for our land. We were so mindless about our spending because we didn’t really have a goal. Now we have a HUGE goal- to build our own home and to give Joe a few years sabbatical to do so. After analyzing our spending that first month, our eyeballs popped out and I may have cursed. We needed to shave off thousands annually in order to invest for the future. While we’ve cut down on the little things (no more coffee shops, acai bowls, eating out all the time, expensive musicals and concerts, etc.) it’s the big changes that make the most difference.
Here are 5 frugal steps we took this past year, in order of impact on our bottom line.
- Fired my housecleaners. This saved us almost 1800.00 this year. Having maids come every three weeks was a lovely post-partum gift to myself, but it had to end. I worked up the courage to fire them last summer by a) relaxing my standards of cleanliness, and b) finding better cleaning products that make cleaning an easier habit. Now the house isn’t ever sparkling clean, but it doesn’t get filthy the way it did 2 or 3 weeks post-maid. As an HSP, I am my own filth-o-meter and tackle messes when they bug me. But I only clean about 15-20 minutes a day, which is totally doable. I’ve embraced the idea of “clean enough”. As for products, I’m loving Norwex envirocloths and glass polishing clothes. They deep clean using just water. Water is free!!! I also purchased the e-cloth microfiber mop. Mopping my kitchen, bathrooms, and main traffic areas takes less than 10 minutes now, so I have no excuse but to do it once in a while. Piggybacking on this one, we also fired the gardeners to save 600.00 this year.
- Played the miles card game. We’re finally in a place financially to play the miles game without racking up debt at insane interest rates. This means paying our balances in full each month via automatic payments. After just 3 months, we’ve scored 700.00 in travel credit, and will add 1000.00 more credit in a month or two. That’s enough to cover our 4 flights to Oregon this summer, plus rental car. I wish I’d started racking up miles long ago. We used the advice in this post to get started.
- Joined a homeschool charter school. In exchange for work samples, activity logs, and meetings with a teacher each month, we are given funds to pay for books, school supplies, lessons, classes, memberships to museums, zoos, our local mission, and more. I pretty much don’t buy Sisi anything out of pocket anymore. It all comes from the charter school.
- Shop used clothes. I started this for ethical reasons, but we save a bundle on clothing shopping used (almost exclusively, barring undergarments and my husband’s clothes.) Here’s my shopping strategy: My favorite is thredup.com for myself and the kids. I put anything that catches my eye into my cart. Narrow it down to my favorite 10-15 items. Have it all sent to me (free shipping!). Try it on, mull over it for a few days and see if it fits in with my (fairly minimal) wardrobe. Send back what I don’t want (usually 80% of the items!) for a refund. I’m left with a few items in great condition that have already proven they stand up to washing and normal wear. I haven’t set foot in a mall in a long time, which is crazy because that used to be one of my favorite places to take the kids!
- Took up hobbies like embroidery and map-making. These hobbies provide me with cheap entertainment, are very therapeutic, and make cute handmade gifts for friends. I’ve also vowed never to buy cards again. Instead I’ve stocked up on blank white cards and envelopes so I can quickly watercolor a pretty design.
I have more frugal moves in the works- switching our cell plan to twigby, getting rid of the tv and netflix (!!!) and meal planning to cut the grocery bill down even further. Food is by far our biggest expense.