Trim Your Expenses Without Cutting Your Lifestyle

The first time my husband and I tried to cut our expenses significantly, we were newly married.

I’m not going to lie—our penny pinching made life miserable.

We bought food that we didn’t like because we could get it cheaply with coupons.  We made gross casseroles that used all of our cheap processed foods that we bought.  We slept on a mattress on the floor because we didn’t want to buy a bed frame.

Now, 15 years later, we still like to penny pinch, but we also realize that it’s important to enjoy life.

Thankfully, we’ve found creative strategies to trim our expenses without making life unbearable.

Make Restaurant Food At Home

trim-expenses-not-lifestyle

trim-expenses-not-lifestyle

My husband is Japanese, and we love sushi.  However, with three growing kids, taking the whole family out to eat for a sushi meal easily runs us $100 or more.

Ouch!

But that doesn’t mean we give up our enjoyment of sushi.  Instead, once a month I splurge and buy smoked salmon, avocado, cucumbers, and seaweed. My husband makes the sushi rice, and we have hand rolls.  True, we’d get more variety if we went out to eat, but doing it this way, we only spend around $20 to enjoy sushi instead of $100 or more.

Thanks to Pinterest, there are many restaurant knock off meals you can make from home.  Whether you choose PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef or Red Lobster’s Cheddar Biscuits, you can make the restaurant food you love at home for a fraction of the cost.

Patiently Wait For Clothes To Go On Clearance

I have two daughters who are just 18 months apart.  I buy clothes for the oldest and then hand them down to the youngest.  However, I found that buying cheap clothes from the stores resulted in clothes that wore out before they could be passed down.  That strategy didn’t save me any money.

Now, I often find good quality clothing at garage sales or second hand stores where I can buy the brands I like at a fraction of the retail price.  I’ve also come to adore Hanna Andersson’s quality clothing.  However, I can’t pay full price.  Instead, I wait for their twice a year clearance and buy the clothes when they are 75% off retail.

Keep Track Of Grocery Sales Trends

My kids are starting to eat a lot, as in more at a meal than either my husband or I eat.  It takes a lot of food to fill their growing bodies. One way I do so inexpensively is by keeping track of sales.  Last December, Sprouts sold oranges 4 pounds for $1.  I bought a 40 pound case for $10.  This December, they did the same thing.  Now I know that this is a pattern that I can plan for.

In addition, I’ve learned when Sprout’s puts their meat on clearance.  If I show up sometime around 9 a.m., I can usually get quality meat deeply discounted.  I buy as much as my budget allows and store it in the freezer so that I don’t have to pay full price for meat.

Another strategy I use to save on groceries is to get rainchecks.  Sprout’s rainchecks don’t expire, which is nice.  Recently, they had grass-fed beef on sale for $3.99 a pound.  I bought about 20 pounds worth.  In addition, whenever I was near Sprout’s that week, I stopped by.  Because this sale was so popular, they were often out of beef.  Each time, I got a rain check.  Now, I have four rain checks that I can use at any time to buy low cost, healthy beef.

With a little ingenuity, you can maintain your lifestyle while saving a bundle.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy upscale tastes at a fraction of the cost?

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

7 Ways To Save Money On Your Pets

We have two cats in our home.  In fact, I’ve had cats, and sometimes dogs, as pets my entire life.  I’m not alone.

Approximately “70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats are owned in the United States. Approximately 37-47% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 30-37% have a cat” (ASPCA).

While pets can enrich your life, they can also cost a small fortune if you’re not careful.  However, there are steps you can take to have a pet without ruining the budget.

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Review Journal).

If you want a pet but don’t have  a lot of extra money, consider smaller pets like fish, hamsters, or a bird.

Keep The Pet At A Healthy Weight

Each year when I bring one of my cats in for his annual check-up, he has gained a pound.  This has happened over the last three years, so he’s now quite obese.  This year, the vet told me to only feed the cat ½ cup of food once a day.  Otherwise, he warned me, the cat was likely to get diabetes and would require daily insulin shots.  That’s not something I want, both for the expense and the oh, so fun aspect of chasing a cat around with a needle.  Just like humans, cats that maintain a healthy weight are more likely to live longer with fewer medical issues.

Buy Pet Supplies At Big Box Stores

You can get almost everything cheaper at stores like Costco or Sam’s Club.  We buy 40 pound bags of cat litter at a ridiculously low price at Costco.  We buy our cat food in bulk on Amazon.

By shopping this way instead of just picking up what we need at the pet store or the grocery store, we save a significant amount of money.

Create Your Own Pet Insurance

Pet insurance can be expensive, and just like other insurances, it rarely covers the entire price of a procedure.  Add in exclusions, and you may find that you’re breaking even between what pet insurance will cover and what you’re paying in premiums and deductibles.

A better way is to create your own pet insurance by setting aside a certain amount for pet care every month from the moment you bring your pet home.  Set aside $50 a month, and in four years, you’ll have $2,400 saved for any expensive procedure your cat or dog may need.  Continue to do this throughout your pets life, and by the time they reach 10 years old, when many medical issues crop up, you’ll have $6,000 saved.

Decide How Much Care You Can Afford

Another important step you can take is to decide how much you’ll spend on your pet.  With today’s medical advances in pet care, treating your pet for any number of conditions is possible, if you have the money and are willing to spend it.

Groom Your Pet Yourself

As much as possible, groom your pet yourself.  We routinely brush our cats, cut out matted fur, and clip their nails.  By doing these tasks ourselves, we easily save over $100 a year, if not more.

Owning a pet is a privilege and a delight.  However, if you take the right steps, it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Do you own a pet?  What do you do to reduce your pet care costs?

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

Balancing Biblical Financial Principles Of Contentment, Hard Work, Stewardship And Generosity

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As I’ve studied personal finance in the Bible, I’ve found four main financial principles that God emphasizes, repeatedly.

Those principles are contentment, hard work, stewardship, and generosity. As I’ve written about these principles and discussed them with others I’ve discovered that balance is absolutely essential. When we overemphasize any of these four principles it can be detrimental to how we are honoring God through our finances.

To get a better idea of what I’m saying, let’s look at what happens when you focus too much on just one of these principles and downplay the rest.

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My Shopping Experience At A Discount Grocery Store

One of my goals for 2017 is to lower my grocery bill.  Because my kids and I have multiple food intolerances, namely to gluten, dairy, and beans, and because we try to eat organic as much as possible as well as grass-fed or pasture raised meat, our grocery bill can be very expensive.

However, I know our monthly grocery expense can be a lot cheaper than it is now.

The last few weeks I’ve been reading blog posts and watching YouTube videos about lowering the grocery bill.  One strategy that intrigued me was visiting a discount grocery store.

We happen to have a discount grocery store about 30 minutes from us, so when I was running an errand nearby, I stopped in.  Here’s what I discovered:

shopping discount grocery stores

shopping discount grocery stores

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your grocery needs, especially if you want a healthy, well-rounded diet.

Many Of The Items Are Older Than The Recommended Sell By Date

My kids love Enjoy Life cookies, but at $3.50 or more per box, we don’t get them often.  My son was excited to see that Enjoy Life cookies were just 50 cents a box at the discount grocery store.  However, they were two months passed the best by date.  We still got them, but I quickly learned to check the expiration date before considering any purchases.

My husband likes coffee and milk drinks.  I found some for him priced at 3 for $1.  However, one of them had a use by date of one year prior.  No thanks.

You Can Find Items That Haven’t Expired Yet

Having said that, I did find some items that hadn’t expired yet.  A gallon of milk was just $1.99, and it was 12 days until it reached the use by date.  I also found some salad dressing for .50 that would not reach the use by date for another three months.

Take Your Time

If you visit a discount grocery store, take your time so you can check out the expiration dates.  I don’t mind buying some items a month or two passed their best by date, but for most items, I would prefer to buy within the best by date.  Shopping at the discount grocery store takes extra time to check all of the dates.

Look For A Specialty Section

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the discount grocery store I went to had a small gluten free section.  Gluten free pasta, which normally sells for $3 or more per pound was available for .99 a pound.  They had the Enjoy Life cookies that I mentioned as well as a large selection of other cookies, crackers, and snacks.

The Store May Not Be In The Best Neighborhood

The discount grocery store I visited was not located in a terrible location, but I have heard that many discount stores are in less than desirable neighborhoods.  Use care depending on the location.

My experience at a discount store was eye opening.  If we didn’t have so many food intolerances, I would probably have been able to buy more.  However, when I’m in the area, I will stop by.  The inventory changes frequently, and you never know what bargains you’ll find!

Having said that, if I had an Aldi near me, I think I’d just go there so I could have a more well-rounded grocery experience.

Have you shopped at a discount grocery store?  If so, what was your experience?

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

4 Ways To Slay The Dining Out Dragon  

Ten years ago, when my husband and I only had one child, we ate out. . .a lot.  Every Friday night we ate out, but dining out two or three other times during the week was not unusual.

We spent hundreds of dollars every month at restaurants.

Our experience was not unique.  “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, the average American household spent $2,787 on restaurant meals and takeout, compared to $3,971 on groceries.  But in 2015, the average amount spent on restaurants and takeout jumped $221 to $3,008” (Fox Business).

save money by eating at home

save money by eating at home

Now days, we have three children with growing appetites.  Taking the entire family out to eat can easily run us $75 to $100, depending on the restaurant.  So, we rarely eat out.  Usually, we eat out less than a handful of times per year.

If you’re trying, like us, to keep more money in your wallet and slay the dining out dragon, here are some ideas that may help you:

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Quick Fix Meals.)  Another idea is to make double of any meal that you cook; eat one that night and pop the other one in the freezer.  Then, you’ll have your own fast food in the freezer.  Simply pull out a meal to defrost in the morning, and cook it up at night.

Make Meal Time Easy

make meal time easy

make meal time easyWeeknight meals don’t have to be complicated.  Pick simple meals for busy weeknights.  Bacon, eggs, and toast (our favorite dinner—breakfast for dinner), comes together quickly.

Hearty salads don’t take long to prepare if you have the ingredients prepped ahead of time.  Grilled cheese or homemade burritos can be made quickly in a pinch.

For inspiration, check out one of my favorite cookbooks, The Weeknight Dinner Cookbook.  Online, you can find great recipes on Food Network—try 30 Minute Dinner Recipes.

Buy Some Convenience Foods

Even with the best laid plans of making meals ahead and trying to make quick meals, you may still find yourself empty handed some nights.  For nights like these, you’ll want to have some convenience foods in your pantry and freezer.  Yes, convenience meals cost more, but you’re still saving money compared to what you’d pay to eat out.

Buy Some Comfort Foods

Many times, years ago, I wanted to eat out because I was tired and stressed.  I wanted comfort foods.  We all have days like this.  Rather than turning to dining out, create or buy your own comfort food.  One of our favorites is Chicken Pot Pie, but I also buy frozen egg rolls for my kids when they’re craving Chinese.  True, these aren’t the healthiest foods, but somedays we just “need” comfort foods.  If you allow a time and place for these foods at home, you’ll be more easily able to resist the desire to eat out.

How many times a week do you eat out?  How do you combat the desire to eat out more frequently?

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

Begin Preparing Now For Christmas Expenses To Avoid Holiday Debt

Last week on Facebook, I saw a meme that said, “17 More Fridays Until Christmas!”

Yikes.  Can it really be true?

Unless you’re someone who revels in Christmas festivities and wishes it could be all year long, you likely are not giving much thought to Christmas now.  After all, it’s still summer, albeit the end of summer.

However, now is actually the perfect time to start planning for Christmas and the spending that goes with the holiday.

prepare for Christmas Expenses early

prepare for Christmas Expenses early

Christmas Spending – It’s Not Just Presents

Shoppers around the country said they were planning to spend an average of $929 for gifts the 2016 holiday season, up from $882 in 2015, according to the 32nd annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group, Inc.

Sure, presents eat up a sizeable portion of our Christmas spending, but they’re not the only extra expenses you’ll likely have in December.  Too often December expenses surprise us because we forget all of the little ways we spend money this month.  Make sure to consider:

  • Food: You may have a get together or two at your house, but you’ll also likely plan on attending several potlucks this month.  It’s not unusual for your grocery bill to be higher than normal for these reasons and because Christmas dinner itself is usually a bit fancier (and more expensive).
  • Parties: Oh, the holiday parties in December.  Maybe you’ll need to bring a bottle of wine to one party and a hostess gift to another.  All of the parties that you attend will spread the Christmas cheer. . .and thin out your wallet.
  • Tips: We all plan for gifts for our loved ones for the holiday season, but what we often forget is that we should tip those who help us in our lives.  Do your children have a daycare provider?  You’ll need to give her a sizeable tip or Christmas bonus.  There is also the mail carrier, hair dresser, your children’s teachers, the list goes on depending on how many service providers you have in your life.

How to Save For Christmas Ahead Of Time

December is likely one of your most expensive months of the year, but you can start planning now so that you have the cash upfront instead of being blind-sided by the expenses as many people are each December.  If money is tight, there are several strategies you can utilize to find the money you’ll need well before December is here.

Put Aside A Certain Amount Every Month

If you have some wiggle room in your budget, simply decide how much you want to spend in December for the holidays.  If you’re going to spend $900 and currently have nothing saved, you’ll need to put aside $300 for the next three months.

Sell Some Items Around The House

We all have items that we could part with to make some extra cash.  I have four outgrown kids’ bikes in my garage right now that I could sell, and I’m sure I could find some other items.  Declutter your house and make money for Christmas spending.

Have A Pantry Challenge

If you’re like most people, you have a bulging freezer and pantry.  Why not take a certain amount of time, say one week for each of the next three months, and just don’t go to the grocery store. Live off the food you already have in your house.  Take the money that you save from not grocery shopping and putting it toward your Christmas fund.

Curb Your Social Life 

Likewise, consider cutting down on your social life.  If you go out three times a week, can you cut that to one or two times a week?  Take the money that you would have spent going out that additional time each week and put it in a Christmas fund.  Instead of taking the family out to a movie at the theater, stay home and catch a movie on Netflix or Sling TV.  You’ve just saved at least $20 that can go to your Christmas fund.

Use Cash Back Sites Like Swagbucks & Ibotta

Do you have a Swagbucks account?  If so, now is the time to start using it again.  If not, sign up for one now! For every 2,200 Swagbucks that you earn, you can get a $25 Amazon gift card.  If you start now, you could easily get $50 to $75 in Amazon gift cards.

Another great cash back site to use is Ibotta.  The app has a ton of rebates available, and you can get cash back via PayPal and Venmo for buying things you are buying at the grocery store already anyway. Just find the rebates for the things you buy and add them to your account. Then scan your receipt once you’re done shopping and you’ll get the cash credited to your account in no time.

What steps are you taking to prepare now for Christmas spending?  

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

Frugal Activities That I Don’t Find Worthwhile

Most people, even if they don’t consider themselves frugal, have some things that they do to save money and avoid waste.

They do things like tipping the condiment bottle upside down in the refrigerator to get the last few drops or adding a little water to the bottom of the shampoo bottle to get one more wash before throwing the bottle away.

I consider myself relatively frugal.  I routinely tip the condiment bottle upside down and I add a little water to most bottles whether they be shampoo, dish detergent, laundry detergent, etc., to get the last little drops out.  I also do a host of other activities from cooking from scratch, to hanging up laundry, to keeping my air conditioning at 81 degrees in the summer, to name a few.

frugal-activities-not-worthwhile

frugal-activities-not-worthwhile

Over the years, however, I’ve found some frugal activities to not be worth my time.

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My Number One Frugal Living Tip: Plan Ahead

Have you ever thought how much money you waste because you simply haven’t planned ahead?

Your doctor’s appointment runs over so you’ve missed lunch and are hungry.  You stop and get fast food because you neglected to pack a snack just in case.  You’ve likely just cost yourself $5 or more because you didn’t plan ahead.

We’ve seen this phenomena in action when it comes to weather. When I lived in the Midwest, every time there was a threat of a snow storm, people would make a mad rush to the grocery store.

I lived where winter storms were common, so it would seem prudent to have a stock of food and water just in case you get snowed in.  But time after time, there would be a mad rush at the grocery store, and shelves would be bare.

If you plan ahead, you can save yourself a lot of money.

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a Christmas budget and buy them throughout the year.  Instead, I keep a list of the items that they’re interested in, and as I see good sales, I buy them at the lowest prices I can find.

I have learned using this strategy, however, that I need to save some of my Christmas present money for November and December because I do continue to find some good sales then.

Budgeting For Big Expenses

I do not enjoy budgeting, but I don’t enjoy scrambling to try to find money to pay a bill, either.

Nowadays, I take every irregular expense we have and save for it slowly.  For instance, our auto insurance is due every six months.  I take the total amount we’ll have to pay and divide that amount by six.  Each month, I put 1/6th of the payment away, so when the insurance payment is due, I have the full amount waiting in my account.

These are just some of the many ways I’ve learned to plan ahead, and, as a result, save our family money.

There are still times where life surprises me, and I have to pay more than I would like because I didn’t plan ahead, but I try to minimize those times as much as possible.

How does planning ahead save you money?  What strategies do you use?  Have you had times where you didn’t plan ahead, and you had to pay significantly more than if you had planned ahead?

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

How We Have Saved Almost $1600 Dollars A Year On Our Monthly Bills

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post that called “How To Save Money On Just About All Your Regular Monthly Bills“, where I went in depth talking about ways that you could save on all of your regular bills, from your utility bills to entertainment costs to insurance premiums.  We gave over 25 ways to save on your regular monthly costs.

While I had already put a lot of the tips I shared in the post into practice, I knew there were some areas where we could definitely improve.

We were still paying far too much for our home phone and internet services, and we also were paying for redundant services that we already had through another provider.  In addition we’ve obtained new homeowner’s and auto insurance, which also saved us a ton of money.

Over the past couple of months we’ve been able to cut back and save in a number of areas.

When all is said and done we’ve been able to save almost  $1600 a year just by making a few changes.  Those changes didn’t mean a significant drop in services enjoyed, just more money in our pockets.

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Netflix subscription we still were paying for but barely using.  While we love Netflix, and like receiving movies in the mail, after looking at it logically we realized Netflix wasn’t a cost efficient entertainment option for us.  We were only getting a couple of movies a month and we could save money just by getting them at our local Redbox for $1.

We had also considered doing Netflix streaming at one point, but Amazon Prime now also has a streaming service which is just as good or better – and we’re paying for Amazon Prime already. That service is only $79/year or about $6.58/month, and we get other extras along with that subscription like free 2 day shipping.  So we cut the Netflix and saved about $95.88/year.

Dropping Our Landline For VOIP Service

I’ve been trying to get my wife to drop the home phone for some time, but she’s always insisted that she liked having a landline that she could talk on and didn’t want to use only cell phone service.  Add to that the fact that our home security system needed a landline to function correctly, and we’ve never even considered stopping the landline service.  We recently, however, discovered that there are other options for security service that don’t require a landline, so that meant if we could find a suitable replacement for the home phone we could cancel our $43/month phone bill.

Shortly thereafter I discovered a VOIP home phone service called Ooma that allows you to have a home phone with no costs beyond taxes and 911 service charges.  After buying the initial equipment at $140, we’ll only be paying $4.53/month for our home phone service.   So we’ll be saving money about 4 months after canceling our landline.  I set up our Ooma Telo home phone device a couple of weeks ago now and after an initial hiccup with some dropped phone calls (which apparently was due to our Internet provider not Ooma), it’s been working great for the past couple of weeks.  So canceling our home phone means we could also get rid of that $43/month phone bill and save $321.64 the first year, and $461.64 each additional year (after factoring in equipment and new service costs).

Save Hundreds By Asking For A Discount

Another place that we saved money this year was in the services that we didn’t drop.  Within the past couple of weeks I’ve called both Internet and TV providers and gotten reductions in our monthly bills just by asking.

Getting A Discount On TV Service

First, I called our provider for TV service, Dish Network.  We had a 2 year contract with Dish Network and that initial contract expired this past month.  While I could have cancelled the service and probably saved more by switching to another provider, I didn’t want to deal with the hassle right now as we’re hoping to be moving in the next few months. When we move we’ll switch to a new provider and get a new customer discount.   In the meantime I just called and asked to get a discount of some sort so that we could stay with the service.

I’ve called Dish Network and succeeded in getting a slight rate reduction in the past, and this time it was about the same story. I called and was able to get a $5 drop in my monthly rate for 12 months after saying we were considering canceling service.  So if we do end up staying with them that will mean a savings of $60/year.

Getting A Discount On Internet Service

After we dropped our landline (see above), we kept our DSL internet service after checking around and finding that while service elsewhere might be slightly cheaper, we’d have to either buy or lease a new modem almost negating any savings we might see.  Before our landline cancellation went through I called and confirmed our Internet service would continue uninterrupted, and while I was on the line I asked to see if they could find a way to reduce my rate.  After checking around the rep said that we currently had a special “price for life” guarantee on our account, but that if we dropped that feature we’d end up paying like $4 or $5 less per month for service.

After we ported our phone number to Ooma and our phone was cancelled I called back and asked about getting that rate reduction on our monthly internet service.

This time the rep was even more helpful, and she was able to find a deal for long time customers that meant our rate would go from $46.99/month to $24.99/month for one year, and we’d get the same level of service that we currently have.  I could have increased our speed as well for the same price, but our modem wasn’t compatible and I didn’t want to buy or lease a new one.  I went ahead with the deal and that means we’ll enjoy savings 0f $263.90/year, just by asking!

Save Hundreds By Getting Quotes On New Services

The other big area that we’ve saved money in the past few months was by shopping around and getting quotes on new homeowners and auto insurance.  While I thought that my premiums were a bit high, especially on my homeowners insurance, I didn’t know just how high they were.  In the past I had saved over $1000 on my auto insurance, and I was about to find similar savings on our homeowner’s policy.

Getting New Insurance Coverage

We shopped around for new homeowner’s insurance using the quote engine that I have on this site.  After getting quotes from about 5 or 6 companies we weren’t seeing the rates that we wanted. After working with a final insurance broker we found through the quote engine, she was able to find us a savings of almost $844/year when we switched our homeowner’s and auto policies. Not only that but our level of coverage would increase!  To use the quote tracker spreadsheet that we used and to get your own quote check out the full homeowner’s insurance switching article.

This isn’t the first time we’ve saved on insurance.  A few years ago we saved almost $1100 by switching!

Almost $1600 In Yearly Savings

After our blitz of cost cutting we’ve been able to save our household $1585.42/year, or $132.12/month.  That’s a nice chunk of change that could be put to better use elsewhere.  What would you use that money for? For us right now we’re putting all savings towards a house down payment.

What did it take to get these savings?  Nothing more than a little bit of time and research, and then a few phone calls.  We dropped some services, asked for discounts on others and got quotes for new service for still others.  The small amount of work that it took was well worth it in the end.

How about you, have you tried cutting your monthly bills recently? Share your successes in the comments!

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Source: biblemoneymatters.com

6 Extreme Ways To Save Money

Whether you have high expenses, debt to pay off, or you’re just a penny pincher, there are many ways you can save money.

You likely already do plenty of them like cook from scratch, shop with coupons, combine your errands while driving, compare prices, and keep your expenses lower than your income, etc.

However, there are plenty of more extreme ways to save money.

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side income, you can also make money by selling the things you find in the garbage.

Become Homesteaders

If you want to live a certain way and eat a certain way, you may consider becoming homesteaders and living off the land.

There are plenty of bloggers and YouTubers who document this lifestyle.  One woman, due to health issues, had to eat gluten free and all organic.  This led to an exorbitant grocery bill every month for her family of seven, so she and her husband decided to move to the country and become homesteaders.

Now, she farms, cans, gleans and routinely spends less than $200 a month on groceries.

While some of these extreme frugal strategies aren’t for everyone, if you embrace them, they can save you thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars.

Do you utilize any of these extreme frugal practices?  If so, which ones?  Which ones are too extreme for you?

Source: biblemoneymatters.com