It's no secret, we love to travel, and traveling can get expensive, especially when you take a vacation with the family. We try to take as many trips as the wallet allows. We are not rich, nor we have a secret stash of money under our mattress.... We budget our money rigorously, so we can do what we love the most; making memories around the world. We have gathered some tips and ideas to help you also save up, and whether it is for travel or anything else you love, we hope you find these tips helpful.
1. TURN OFF THAT LIGHT.
I'm starting with the less obvious, most misunderstood way to save. It might not sound like a lot, but turning off lights and appliances that are not being used can save you some in your monthly electrical bill, especially if you are still using incandescent light bulbs. IF you are still using those, consider switching to CFL or LED bulbs. I promise you'll see the difference in lighting and savings. While regular incandescent bulbs use 60 or more watts, CFL and LED are energy efficient and only use 10-18 watts (and LED bulbs can last up to 20 years!) saving you lots of money a year if you add up all the bulbs in your house. Do the same thing when you are brushing your teeth or showering... turn the water off when not in use. Save money and help preserve our earth!
2. DON'T BE TEMPTED TO WINDOW SHOP.
I know, I know. This one is hard. For instance, I just love to go to stores like Target or Walmart or the mall to walk around and look at goods. Sometimes I do it because I have time to spare, but 9 times out of 10 I end up buying something I don't even need. Even if it's something small, if you don't need it, don't buy it and save that money!
3. MAKE A LIST
My friends will tell you, I like lists. I make a list for everything, and over time, I've come to learn that this actually saves me time and in many instances, money. Going to the store when it's only absolutely necessary was discussed above, but when you go, make a list. Only get the items on your list. For example, you can always make a schedule of recipes for the week (there's another list) and make your shopping list for the items you will need to have all your meals. Also, another good tip is to buy your non-perishables at whole-sale stores. You may pay a little more up front, but will end up saving money in the long run. Oh and before I forget, do not grocery shop while you are hungry! Your list will go to waste if your hungry stomach is demanding your brain to void the list and grab every edible item there is. True story.
4. LEARN HOW TO COUPON
If you have the extra time, couponing is a great way to save on your groceries and toiletries. It takes time and dedication, but you can get many things for a few cents and even free when you find a good deal. But beware! with this method, you will be tempted to buy things on sale that you do not need or that you will never use! It's happened to me, and to many people I know. Grocery stores have modified their rules on coupons over the years to prevent people from getting dozens of the same item at once, but there are always ways around it. Don't be tempted! If you want to learn the art of couponing you can check many websites that will teach you step by step how to do it and will give you a list (love lists lol) of deals by grocery store. I use www.southernsavers.com and coupons.com for my coupons and information. Using Groupons for amazing deals on restaurants (on special occasions or when you travel) and other services and items is a great way to save some money when you find the right product (but as always, don't forget to read the small print to avoid misunderstandings).
5. COOK AT HOME
Unless it's a special occasion, cook all your meals and don't eat out. I think this is what saves us the most money. Note, that this also includes your morning coffee...and nobody loves a good cup of Starbucks more than me! I make my own coffee each morning and pack my left overs for lunch that day. Each member of your family can do the same and save. Just think. The average cup of fancy coffee is $4-$5 (if not more), the average lunch including a drink could be $10-$15. So if you visit the coffee shop and eat your lunch out every work day, you are spending about $75 a week (in the low end of price), plus your weekly groceries for the meals you do cook at home. If you and your spouse have the same habits, you are spending $150/week. I'm sure you can do math, but just to reiterate that is $600 a month that you can be putting towards your dream vacation. -** see some ideas for delicious easy recipes***
6. BEING FRUGAL IS NOT BEING CHEAP!
Maybe it is because I'm not super techie, but I don't need the latest Iphone every time a new one comes out, or every apple device that actually does the same thing than the other (talking about iphone, ipad, iwatch...same thing, different size). Me personally, I only need a good laptop, a reliable phone, and a good camera (for our field of work). If you don't work with technology or computers, why spend hundreds on stuff you don't really need?
I also, like most women, like to dress well. I don't like fancy clothes, but I do like for things to look nice. That's totally OK. BUT I have no need to buy a $300+ purse or $200+ shoes when I can get what I need for less than half that price. Well, if someone wants to gift it to me, I gladly accept it, but I'd rather save my money to go see the world. Material things are just that, material that the brand makes you believe you need. Let me tell you a secret... you don't need that, but you do need to take vacations.
7. NAILS, HAIR, AND OTHER NON-ESSENTIALS
For years I would spend $150 or more getting my hair done every few weeks, or $30+ every couple of weeks getting my nails done. That adds up, quickly. One day, I wanted to take a trip out of town (before we started traveling often) and my husband informed me that we couldn't afford it that month. Fine, I thought; no big deal. But the more I thought about it, the more I envisioned myself with my toes in the sand for the weekend. I also had a hair appointment scheduled for that week, so I made a deal with hubby. I canceled my hair and nail appointment, and voila! extra money to get out of town! This doesn't mean that I wanted to look like a slob, so, eventually taught myself how to fix my hair and do my own nails. Doing your own nails is especially easy when you take your time. I also learned how to give myself a hair trim and how to color my own hair (although this is still a work in process, it has worked pretty well so far). I understand that this is not something everyone can do, but it's a big saver if you are able to learn to fix your own hair and nails. This also applies to hubby's hair and children's hair. I became our little family hair dresser.
8. BARGAIN WITH THE CABLE AND CELLPHONE COMPANIES
You see a great deal for cable/satellite TV. You call them, and set everything up. You are happy for a short period of time, and suddenly, one day, you open your monthly statement and your rate has doubled. You all know this story because it happens to everyone. What I do: call them up and bargain. Before I do this, I do my research and I make sure to have their competitors comparable rates and offers on hand. That way I can subtlety throw in there their competitor's current offer to get a reaction. If you have paid your bill on time and don't call every month with a bogus complaint (yeah, they won't help you if you are a bad client), they will give you a deal. I do this every 6-12 months with each company (cable, internet, cell)- basically when they increase my bill- and that way I keep my rates stable. If they don't want to reduce or change my plan, I will switch to whoever gives me a good rate.
Another good idea (if you are not a super obsessed TV show fan like sometimes we can be) is to cancel your cable or satellite all together and just get a streaming provider like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon to watch your shows and movies. Also, most network channels offer their last 5 episodes of popular shows for free streaming online, if you must have certain shows. There is a big difference in $120+ Cable bill and a $20 streaming provider a month. If you can survive without live TV and DVR, cancel your cable, stream your shows, and save that money.
9. HAVE A YARD SALE
I know this is not something you can do every week, but at least once a year have a big yard sale with all your old stuff. Clean out your closet, the kids's old toys, and all the "junk" accumulated in the garage and sell it out. You can also sell your stuff on craigslist or offerup.com. Some thrift stores will buy used clothes and toys if it's in good condition for a reasonable amount. Do this once in a while to clean out your house, and make extra travel money. You can also consider donating your gently used clothes, toys, and household items to your local womens shelter for extra good Karma.
10. SAVE A PENNY
Always be on the look out for bargains, deals, and best prices when it comes to buying the things you need. Make a list of things you want (not need) and set a separate budget for those. It's OK to give yourself a gift once in a while, but budget your expenses. For things you need (food, clothes, toiletries) find ways to get good quality things for less. Visit farmer's markets for fresh produce, buy wholesale when possible, and shop at specialty stores that offer organic products for less. I find that stores like TraderJoe's carry many items for way less than the chain stores simply because they are not the commercial brands that we are used to. I also shop at Aldi's and similar stores in the area. Save a penny if you have one to spare. You would be surprised on how much you can save little by little.
We are always open to other suggestions and ideas on how to save. Whether it's to travel or to buy something you really want, how do you budget your money?