How We Saved $4000.00 on Our First International Vacation

In October, my husband and I took our very first international trip to Greece.  It was the trip of a lifetime – and that is really an understatement – but as you can imagine, it was also expensive.  I am happy to report, though expensive, it did not break our bank account. In fact, we saved a ton.  How did we do that? 1. We saved for it and paid it all in cash.  Unlike many Americans, we did not return from our trip with debt. 2. We used our super-saving-ninja skills to get our expenses down as much as possible. That’s what we are going to talk about today.

The bulk of our savings came from a handful of choices we made.  First, we flew out of Tijuana, rather than the San Diego Airport.  We did not pay for the bulk of our meals.  Lastly, just about everything else we did was free.

The purpose of the trip was to attend a Chautauqua.  If you were like me one year ago, you had no clue what that means. Is it like a Chewbacca?  No, not even close – though that would have been a cool gathering too, I am sure.  I’ve explained our Chautauqua experience in an upcoming post, if you are interested to know what the heck one is.  (Urban Dictionary, a bit salty sarcastic, is of no assistance on this one.)

$2000.00

The first area we saved was on our plane tickets.  Having never travelled internationally before I had NO IDEA how expensive plane tickets were.  When I first started watching them, I could not believe my eyes.  They ranged anywhere between $2000.00 and $5000.00 a piece and that was for economy.  At that point, I had already bought our tickets for the Chautauqua so I was already past the point of no return. The only flexibility we had was our departure city.

I knew of a friend that flew out of Tijuana all the time, with her children, so I had to assume she felt it was safe. So, out of curiosity, I looked….I was SHOCKED at the difference.  The difference was big enough that it really was not an option.  We were already embarking on an international adventure, so why not add one more adventure to the mix. By flying out of Tijuana, we saved about $2000.00 on our tickets.  Not a bad way to start an adventure. I will be writing on that experience as well in case you’re wondering what that was like.

It’s also important to note, flight prices vary based on a number of factors besides destination.  For instance, if I you were to look up the prices to fly to Thessaloniki in March of next year they would be less than $1000 and it would have been cheaper to fly out of San Diego as opposed to Tijuana.

TIP #1 – Research your flights before deciding your destination as well as date of travel.  You can save hundreds, thousands, by having a bit of flexibility and adventuresome spirit.

SUPER SAVER TIP #2 – If you don’t want to pay anything for your flights, then there are several resources available on how to do that with travel rewards via credit card hacking.  The guys over at Travel Miles 101 have that covered.

Meals $1000 

Meals while traveling can be a budget buster.  In the past, one of the ways we have minimized our meal expense was to book at a hotel with at least a refrigerator, but preferable a kitchen. When we travel with the kids, this is almost non-negotiable.

This trip we packed non-perishable snacks; lots of nuts, cheese crisps, granola bars, and dried fruit. It kept us satisfied in between our flights and other periods we were in between meals.

Finally, as part of our package, meals were included.  This was huge.  We received 3 delicious meals at our five-star resort every day.  These varied between buffet style and plated meals.  We were able to both indulge in traditional Greek food, as well as dishes prepared by a master chef. They were divine.

Look for experience packages that include meals in your travels.  This one thing will save you additional hundreds of dollars, maybe more, depending on how many people you are traveling with.

TIP #3 – Get a package that includes meals (though be careful and analyze whether that makes sense.  Sometimes it doesn’t)

TIP #4 – Pack your own food and snacks.

TIP #5 – Get a room that has a kitchen and/or a refrigerator.

EXCURSIONS and MISCELLANEOUS SPENDING $1000.00

Another benefit of purchasing an experience package is that a couple of our excursions as well as transportation were paid for.  We were able to enjoy a walking tour of Thessaloniki as well as a tour of the museums at the foot of Mount Olympus and a bus tour up the mountain.  This also allowed us precious time to spend with our fellow travelers and get to know them better while seeing thousands of years of history.

Others in our trip hiked and went in to town to explore.  Also free.

Curtis and I opted to simply enjoy the resort on the days there were no excursions.  We were on vacation to relax and enjoy ourselves.  Reading a book, overlooking an infinity pool that expands over the Aegean Sea is how I would describe paradise.  It was enough for me.  And Free.

Don’t forget to look for coupons or other discounts for excursions.  There are so many ways to save, if you are intentional about it.

TIP #6 – Prepay for Excursions.

TIP #7 – USE COUPONS!

Curtis and I left for Greece with a spending budget.  Because of the intentionality of our spending, we came home with two-thirds of that budget unspent.  A much better position to be in than coming home with debt. Pre-FIRE movement, we would have come home from a trip having to rearrange our budget to account for our over-spending as well as work for months to pay off our credit cards.  To not have the stress of coming home to that?  It’s priceless.

How have you been able to save on your travel expenses?  We’d love to hear it.

Love and Prosperity

Your GirlFIday

 

**Photo by Alex Antoniadis on Unsplash

 

Advertisements

5 Grocery Shopping Rules to Save You $1,000.00

5 Rules to Save at the Grocery Store

5 Grocery Shopping Rules to Save you a $1000.00

Two times in our lives we have had reality smack us in the face when it came to realizing how much money a month we were spending on food.  The first time was when we first discovered Dave Ramsey years and years ago, and the second time was last year when we discovered the FIRE Community (Financial Independence/Retire Early). I thought I had it all together when it came to our food budget.  I knew all the rules.  I used to lead Financial Peace classes for Goodness Sake!  I was careful about our spending.  When we made the commitment last year to begin saving for retirement I didn’t know where we were going to  get the extra money to do so.  So, I began cutting expenses wherever I could.  Imagine my shock when I took a good hard look at our banks statements and realized we were actually spending more than double what we had budgeted every month for food.  Whoopsie-doodle…..life had certainly crept back up on us and we didn’t even realize it.

We went back to the basics and reacquainted ourselves with several rules that had helped us in the past.  They work.   And if all used together are an almost fool-proof way to “find” extra money in your own budget. Get out your pen and paper and commit them to memory.

  1. DETERMINE HOW MUCH YOU HAVE TO SPEND

Your food budget is one of the best areas you can cut expenses to make room in your budget for savings.  Don’t believe me? Take a look back at your own bank statements. Go back three months and see how much money you spent on food. (Seriously, do that – like right now) Did you look?  Are you shocked?  OK.  So, now you are ready to really get to work.

Commit to eating at home and sticking to the budget you have set for yourself.  You won’t find anyone here telling you to live on “beans and rice” (although delicious, if you ask me).  So be realistic, while at the same time make an honest effort to cut back and meal plan wisely. If you normally were spending $1,000.00, try cutting that back to $600.00.  See if you can do it.  If not add a little back in.  If that was too easy, then cut back some more.  Then take those savings and either supercharge your debt repayment and/or your retirement accounts.

In our house, we typically have two major shopping “hauls” a month.  On these trips, I try to get most everything we need for two weeks at a time.  We have a large family – so two times a month works better for us.  You may be able to extend this to just one large trip a month.  We then have one or two smaller trips in between to replenish things like fresh fruits and vegetables.

  1. USE CASH

Studies have shown that people spend more when they use a credit or debit card when they shop.  My suggestion for you, especially if you are just beginning your financial independence journey, is to use cash when you shop for groceries.  You will spend less.  Spending less is the goal – so anything you can do to achieve your objective is preferred.  Once the cash is gone – it’s gone and you are done shopping.

I have one caveat.  IF you are disciplined with credit cards and are diligent about paying them off every month – using your credit card is a good way to collect lots of different types of rewards points.  However, this also means that you should still stick to the budget.  If you hit your pre-determined amount to spend for groceries, it is time to stop shopping.

TIP:  A lesson I learned from my mom is to keep a “tally” as you shop.  On one-side I have my list and on another I keep a running ledger on how much I am spending.  I round up to the nearest quarter.  This gives me an automatic cushion for taxes on non-food products and makes it easy to do the math as I am shopping.

  1. SHOP FROM A LIST

Contrary to popular belief, shopping is not a recreational sport. From this day forward, all shopping is a planned event. (GASP!) Whaaaaaaat! Yes, it’s true, there will be no last-minute excursions to the store. And definitely no stopping by the grocery store “for a few things” unless you are armed with two things, a list and money left in your food budget.

Heading into a store with no plan is like heading into a jungle without a guide and with no protection. You are vulnerable. A store, any store, whether it be a clothing store, a hardware store, or a grocery store, has one purpose – to sell you STUFF. To separate you from the money in your bank account. They go to extreme lengths to do it. But let’s be frank, it’s really not all that hard to do right? I’m guilty of it. Stopping by the store to get “one” thing that is just a few bucks but, somehow, I leave with 25 items and spend $100.00. How the heck does that happen? Because you are not as good at the sport of shopping as the retailer. But you can be.

  1. STICK TO THE LIST

If it’s not on the list, it does not go into your cart. Impulse buys will wreak havoc on your food budget.  This is an exercise in two things.  First, it helps create discipline, and Second, it helps you get better about planning.  Of course, if it’s an absolute necessity – you get it – but you still stick to the budget.

  1. DO NOT PAY FULL PRICE, IF AT ALL POSSIBLE.

Not everyone is a fan of couponing.  We are all busy. I get it.  It takes time to collect them, then match them with ads, cut them out, keep them organized, not let them expire etc… So, if you ARE a couponer – you get mad respect from me! My husband and I used to coupon regularly, and even taught others how to do it, but when we moved to Southern California, it became more difficult.  Also, several stores eliminated their “double coupons” which really made couponing worth it and then, Walmart stopped price matching.  Which totally sucked! T.V. shows like, “Extreme Couponing”, likely ruined it for the rest of us. Ruiners!
Keep your grocer ads nearby when you are making your shopping list. Scan them and look for savings on staples like meat, milk, fruits and vegetables.  Then, plan your meals around what is on sale.  Also stock up.  A stand-up freezer to stock up on sale items is something to consider.

This step may add a tiny bit of time to your shopping but in the long run the savings is totally worth it.

  1. OTHER RULES OF THE ROAD.
    • Eat before you leave the house – if you shop hungry you are far more likely to impulse buy.
    • Do not shop with children. This can be difficult especially if you have little ones.  However, I urge you to find a way to shop without them.  Try going after they go to bed or after a spouse/partner gets home.  Swap with a friend.  Then do the same for them.  Shoppers tend to spend more when they have children with them.  The little crumb-catchers want all the things and can be relentless.
    • Shop the perimeter of the store. Try to avoid going down every aisle.  The foods in the middle are more often processed and less healthy. Processed food may last longer but by eating more fresh and whole foods, you will live a healthier life and realize long-term savings in reduced medical expenses.
    • Consider the dollar store for some items. For instance, our local dollar store carries the same bread we would normally purchase at the grocery store for anywhere between $2.50 and $3.00.  By purchasing them at the dollar store, I save $1.50 a loaf at a minimum.  When we buy bread at the dollar store we purchase multiple loaves at a time (sometimes 10 or more) and freeze them until we need them.  By doing it this way, we can save between $10.00-$20.00 every time we go.  That’s real dollars – and those savings add up.

There you have it.  Now you are armed with a plan that will help you add real dollars back into your budget.  If you stick with the plan, these savings can super-charge your savings goals.

I am almost embarrassed to tell you that when we took a good look at our food spending, we were wasting over $1,000.00 a month on groceries and eating out.  $1,000.00!  It’s insane.  But we don’t realize how quickly a trip here and there, a trip through the drive-thru because we are exhausted, or lunch out with friends multiple times a month adds up.  You do not have to deprive yourself – that’s not what this exercise is about.  It IS about setting a goal to save and finding a way to do it with the resources you have.  By shopping intentionally, you can easily put hundreds back into your wallet and that should make you very happy!

Happy shopping…er…I mean savings!

Love and Prosperity,

Your Girl.FI.day

Friday Night Under Five – Tangy and a Touch of Sweet Coleslaw

Friday Night Under Five Coleslaw

Tangy and a Touch of Sweet Coleslaw

Several years ago, I decided to make shredded barbecue pork sandwiches.  The recipe called for the pork to be topped with coleslaw.  I HATED coleslaw growing up.  I thought the soupy-milky stuff my grandpa got from KFC (It was still called Kentucky Fried Chicken then) was how coleslaw was supposed to taste.  NO THANK YOU. Blegh.

Well, the picture of the sandwich with the coleslaw looked so pretty and delicious.  I decided to take a stab at the recipe.  I ended up making a few modifications.  I tasted it and was pretty darn proud of myself.  What had I been missing for all these years?  The trick is in the vinegar.  I forget why I used rice vinegar instead of cider now – but it really is the difference. You’ll see.

It’s even Honey Bear (HB for short) approved.  As I was preparing it, I stopped HB as he was walking through the kitchen, and shoved a spoonful in his mouth.  If my husband gives something a thumbs-up – it’s a keeper.  And this received two thumbs way up.  The whole bowl was gone that night.  I think we even made it a couple more times that week.  Even my little ones chow down on this slaw. Have you ever heard of kids liking coleslaw? It’s almost miraculous.

So here it is…it’s pretty simple.  It is delicious on pork sandwiches and type of taco.  I especially like it on fish tacos or sofritas. Its, drip all over your hands while you are eating it, good.

Tangy and a Touch Sweet Coleslaw

(if you use vegan mayo – this can also be a vegan recipe)

1 bag of shredded tri-color coleslaw mix (the package with just the veggies – not the one with the dressing included)

Sauce:

½ to 1 cup mayonnaise (we use a vegan mayo) (I don’t like a whole lot of mayo, so I will start with ½ cup and add more if it needs it.)

salt to taste

black pepper to taste (I am very generous with the black pepper)

1-2 tsp. celery seed (or if celery salt – omit the salt above)

2-3 TBSP rice vinegar

1-2 tsp. sugar (or stevia)

Mix all the sauce ingredients together with a whisk and taste.  Add more seasoning if you like.

Pour sauce over coleslaw and toss to coat.  (If you don’t feel it is creamy enough for your liking you can add a little more mayo here.)

Serve immediately.  (You can refrigerate for a little bit – while you are preparing other dishes, but I would not leave it in for too long so it doesn’t get soggy and wilted.) You want the cabbage to have a little bit of crunch.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as we do.

Love and Prosperity, 

Your GirlFIday

Aldi Meal Challenge – Week 2

Aldi Challenge Week 2

Well, we have one week of this challenge under our belt and I have to say, it was a GREAT success.  We stuck to the plan. We even had enough left-overs from some of the meals to have for lunches the next day.  #WINNING

This week, we did much better at shopping and adjusting the menu if we needed to while in the store.  There were still just a small handful of items that we had to get elsewhere, but we left money for them to stay within our $75.00 budget. We spent only spent $67.46. at ALDI.  Less than $75.00 YA’ALL!  – that works out to about $1.20 a meal for each of the eight of us.  Nice!

Lots of yummy options on this week’s menu.  You will notice I try to pick meal options that can either use either a meat (even though we don’t eat it), fish, or easily modified to be vegetarian/vegan.

This week was also Valentine’s Day and my birthday.  So, I decided to celebrate both on the same day so we could have one larger splurge meal as opposed to stretching that between two days.

Meal 1:  Salmon with Pasta (tossed with olive oil, lemon, garlic, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, olives, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.) You can also add feta cheese to the pasta or parmesan.  Green salad with halved cherry tomatoes.  (Omit the fish and cheese for a hearty vegan dinner.)

Meal 2: Sofritas Tacos (recipe here), with coleslaw (check back on Friday for my recipe) and roasted zucchini and squash cut lengthwise. Side of black beans and steamed white rice.

Meal 3:  Shrimp skewers with vegan “alfredo” pasta, green veggie of your choice (we had frozen broccoli and cauliflower on hand)

Meal 4: Breakfast.  Vegan pancakes, fried potatoes, eggs and turkey bacon (for my omnivores in the family.) Fresh fruit. (To make the pancakes vegan, we use almond milk and an egg substitute and add in vegan chocolate chips – SO GOOD.)

Meal 5:  Personal Pizzas (this is usually our Friday meal – this is how we make them.  But you can make your own dough too or buy frozen dough)

Meal 6: Veggie burgers, chips, salsa, hot-dogs (for the little ones), green salad

Meal 7:  Corn and Potato Chowder with Shrimp (omit the shrimp to make this vegan.  We use veggie broth and unsweetened almond milk, or an almond milk soup base.)

 

I have tried to include as many recipes as a can.  But generally, if I don’t know how to make something I google it and then modify it to my liking.  It’s rare I follow a recipe to the letter (I suppose that is my internal rebel shining through.)

My coleslaw recipe is EXCELLENT with the sofritas  – and this is coming from a person who will not eat anyone else’s coleslaw. That’s coming up on the next Friday Under Five.  Put it on your calendar.  (wink)

I hope you enjoy this weeks meal plan and have fun trying to get your food budget as low as possible while still enjoying healthy and delicious food.  Because if it’s not healthy or delicious, what’s the point?

Love and Prosperity, 

You girl.FI.day

Aldi Meal Challenge – Week 1

7 Meals for $75.00 for our family of eight.

Aldi Challenge Week 1 PINTEREST

In one of the FIRE groups I am in (if you don’t know what FIRE means – it stands for Financial Independence/Retire Early and it really is “a thing.”) everyone was RAVING about this store called ALDI for really great prices on groceries.  Always looking to tame my grocery budget, I’m like, “what’s an ALDI and where do I get one?”  I learned they are mostly on the East Coast.  Extreme Sadness. 

To maximize our grocery budget, I generally have a plan of action.  Loosely it is this.  2 large shopping hauls a month and maybe one small one a week if we forgot something or produce has gone bad.  On the big shopping days, I hit four stores, typically in this order.  The 99 Cent Store, Costco, then Sprouts for produce and lastly Walmart for whatever else I could not get at the other store and because they (usually) have the best prices on household goods like laundry soap, deodorant, dryer sheets…etc. The stores are all within a few miles of each other, so even though it is a pain to get in and out of my car 4 times, the savings I get by doing it this way saves us hundreds throughout the year.

Well, to my surprise I did a search on the interwebs for ALDI and was pleased as a peach to learn one was opening 5 miles away!  SCORE!  My daughter and I were so excited to go try it out.  For those who don’t know about ALDI, it is a very “bare-bones” store; it will not have everything you need – but it will have most of it.  There will not be name brands, but off brands, but still excellent quality.  You will need a quarter to release your shopping cart from the other shopping carts (but don’t fret – you will get it back) and you will also need to bag your own groceries at a counter adjacent to the cash registers.  Tip: Don’t try to take the cart sitting there with the cashier without giving her an empty.  She might not like that very much.  (You’ll understand when you go there.)  I am happy to report, it really was worth all the hype!  They have an excellent selection.  The only thing that it was lacking was vegan options.  It had a few, but not a whole lot.  Over-all two thumbs up!

After finding Grocery Heaven (I “heard” that’s what ALDI’s goes by) – I stumbled upon several Pinterest ALDI food challenges.  I am ALWAYS down for a challenge.  But even more, I am ALWAYS down to see how I can trim this food budget for our family of 8!

All of the challenges were for smaller families.  So, I am here to fill that void.  I know many of you have large families like us and are always looking for ways to optimize your budget.

SO….the next four weeks I will be posting our challenge.  My daughter and I will be creating a  seven day/seven dinner meal-plan for our family of eight for under $75.00.

DISCLAIMER:  I am going to rat on myself here….initially, this was going to be a $50.00 challenge; however, that proved really difficult – especially for a family of eight.  But also, we do not eat meat – only seafood and shellfish which is, by far, more expensive by the pound then chicken, pork or beef.  HOWEVER, I will be attempting to get it as far under as I can.  I am also confident that if your family is smaller than ours and you either eat meat or use 100% vegan protein alternatives, you should be able to get this to around $50.00.

Here goes…

WEEK ONE DINNERS:

DAY ONE: Shrimp seasoned with lime and spices, pineapple/avocado salsa, refried beans, cilantro/lime rice, corn tortillas. (If you wanted this to be Vegan, you could sub out the shrimp for roasted peppers and/or grilled squash cut lengthwise.)

DAY TWO: Grilled tilapia, with roasted red potatoes and yellow/green squash.

DAY THREE:  Crock-pot chili with “meatless” crumbles over baked potatoes.  Shredded cheese and sour cream as optional toppings. (you can sub in ground turkey or beef to the chili.  See my recipe here.)

DAY FOUR: Shrimp and noodle chow mien with stir fry vegetables over Basmati rice. (You could sub in chicken)

DAY FIVE: Personal Pizzas

DAY SIX: Veggie Burgers with green salad.

DAY SEVEN:  “Garbage” Stew (I will explain below!)

Note: Normally,  I do not include in the budget, rice, spices or oils.  Also, there were a couple of items that were not at ALDI’s so I had to get them at Walmart.  For Next week’s challenge, I will modify the menu if ALDI does not have the item. (I also happened to be out of rice, this week, so it is on this receipt, but normally would not be and accounts for the items purchased at Walmart.)

Also, if you have a well-stocked pantry (see what I suggest here) many of the items on this receipt are unnecessary.  

The items purchased at Wal-Mart were:

  • Pita bread $2.00
  • Chow-mien noodle $2.00

Below is a picture of the receipt:

Aldi receipt

Now, about that stew….

One of the best soups we make in this house we call “Garbage Stew” – don’t let the name scare you away.  It got its name because it is made with the left-overs for the week that did not get eaten.  If they don’t get eaten they find their way to the garbage.  Trust me when I tell you, there is just something about putting all of these foods together – it doesn’t matter what it is – that comes out delicious!   To make it, follow these  simple directions:

Empty your left-overs into the crock pot.  (If you don’t think something would be appetizing in your soup – just leave it out – easy peasy).  If you have meat, chop it up into bite sized pieces and put them in.  Then add a few canned, dry or frozen goods to it (you should already have these in your pantry/fridge…still don’t know what I mean? – Well, here it is again.)  I usually add a can or two of diced tomatoes, maybe some vegetable broth, corn and/or beans, frozen mixed veggies….just be creative.  Then several spices.  If you are going to add dry noodles, add them during the last 30 minutes., otherwise they will get super soggy.  For rice, I typically will cook the rice separately and simply serve the stew over rice.  That way it does not get over done.

So, even though, adding ALDI into the mix will mean a trip to a fifth store on shopping days, I am hoping to see an even bigger dent in my grocery budget.  More savings means more money invested, which all means Momma gets her beach house sooner!

I look forward to updating out challenge next week!  See you there.

Love and Prosperity, 

Your Girl-FI-day

 

Friday Night Under Five

Tuna Casserole PINTEREST.png

If you had told me as a kid that one of my absolute favorite go-to cheap, hearty, one-pot, comfort-food dishes was tuna-casserole?  My eyes would have rolled into the back of my teased-out Aquanet head of hair.

But, alas, it is.  I don’t even know how the Hubbs and I first put tuna casserole in our rotation, it’s been so long.

It is creamy-deliciousness-stick-to-your-ribs GOODNESS.

Now, I haven’t had this in about a year because of the whole plant-based lifestyle, but I still make it for the kids and sadly watch as they eat it. Just because I try to avoid dairy does not mean I still don’t appreciate how GOOD it tastes.

I haven’t quite figured out how to make a non-dairy substitute for this.  But, we have a really great mac-n-cheese recipe, so maybe one of these days I will see if I can turn it into a dairy free version (we still eat fish occasionally.)

TUNA-CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

  • 1 box whole wheat elbow noodles
  • 1 or 2 cans of tuna depending on the size of your family and how much tuna you like in it
  • 1 or 2 cans of cream of mushroom (see above with the tuna…)
  • 1 can of peas
  • ½ of a 16 oz. container of sour cream
  • 1-2 heaping TBS of mayonnaise (this is the trick to keep it from not being dry)
  • 2-3 large handfuls of shredded cheese*** (we use the 4-cheese blend bag from Costco)
  • extra- cheese to top
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Optional: Regular potato chips to crumple on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large cast iron pot (I like the heavy ceramic coated pot) cook macaroni until almost tender and drain. Then return to the still hot pot and combine all the ingredients except the extra cheese, peas and chips.

Take a taste.  If you need more salt and pepper, add it now.

Once it is all stirred and creamy, then add in the peas and gentle stir in.  You don’t want to mush them.

Cook in the oven until heated all the way through and cheese is melty.  (Usually about 30 minutes)

During the last  5 minutes add cheese to the top and crumble the chips over the cheese and finish cooking.

Even my pickiest of eaters, Jake, whose favorite thing to eat is plain white rice, will demolish a bowl of tuna casserole.  It ain’t pretty – but it IS DELICIOUS!

Six Ways to Save $1200.00 This Month

6 ways to save 1200 this month PINTEREST

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

For years, I felt behind the ball with our savings.  Regrettably, I stuck by several beliefs that contributed to accumulating a negative net-worth well into our forties.  One of them was that we should not save while we still had debt (which is sound advice in most instances – with some exceptions – and we fell into one of those exceptions).  The other was that we could not “afford” to save.  We were living paycheck to paycheck and just couldn’t see how we could make saving work.  Ultimately we turned those beliefs on their head and instead of believing we couldn’t do it – we worked really hard to figure out how we could.  Ultimately, we discovered there are only three ways  to do it, 1.  reduce/eliminate fixed expenses, 2. reduce discretionary spending,  or 3. increase income.

Today we are going to look at six simple ways we reduced or eliminated some of our fixed expenses.  In total, this put $1200.00 back into our budget and increased our annual savings total by $14,000.00.

  1. Cutting the Cord

We did it.  We cut cable.  Well, what we really did was kept the Internet and only the local stations.  But, just this switch saved us about $120.00 a month.

We purchased a couple used Amazon Fire-sticks on Offer-up and then we subscribed to a couple of services like Hulu and Netflix; we already had Amazon Prime.  With the three of these together, we have not missed cable one bit.  We have actually expanded our options and have watched some really great programs we might not have watched otherwise.

Hubbs still is able to watch most of the sports he wants through a combination of local channels and streaming apps on his devices. Hubbs is happy – so is Momma.

  1. Cancelling Water Delivery Service

A  couple of years ago, I felt extremely guilty about all the plastic water bottles we were using in our household.  With a family of 8 and multiple athletes, we were  going through bottles like crazy AND spending a small fortune!  So, in an effort to curb my guilt, I signed up for bottled water service.  The rental of the cooler was insignificant, but the jugs and the delivery was starting to total over $100.00 a month.

So, I found a cooler on Offer-Up for $50.00.  We bought a couple of jugs and fill them up on the weekends for about $1.25 each.  HUGE savings.  And the water is cold and tastes no different in our re-usable shaker bottles.

  1. Cancelling Our House-keeper

Not gonna lie….this one still hurts.  It hurt extra this morning when I was scrubbing dirty hand-prints and grease off of my white cabinets and fingerprints off of all the stainless-steel appliances.  Do these people not see there is perfectly good hand-soap and paper towels on the counter right there beside the sink?  And when a fur-ball the size of an armadillo scurries across the floor, I have to stop myself from speed-dialing our former housekeeper.  Then I remember what we are trying to achieve and this was an expense that was costing us about $400.00 a month.  That is some serious cash.  Our housekeeper was amazing and there is just something about coming home to a fresh and clean home…She always seems to do a better job than we do.  Instead, we all pitch in as a family, even the Littles (they have gotten really good at cleaning the baseboards), no one gets a red-shirt on Team Mays.  It doesn’t take all that long and we still get the fresh smell of Fabuloso afterwards.  Maybe when we hit a positive net worth I will consider adding this one back in, out of all of them, this one pains me.

  1. Cell-Phones

Because we are stuck in a contract, we have not been able to seriously cut our cell phone bill, but we have been able to cut it by $45.00. $25.00 of it was by taking off services we were not using.  The other $20.00 was by paying off one of the devices.  We have a few more devices we are going to attack one at a time and once the contract is up, we will consider switching providers, though we are a bit wary about this.

I travel for business through the desert between Arizona and California and with another provider that promised service as good as Verizon – it was simply not true.  I lost service as soon as I left the city.   We will cross that bridge when we get to it.

If you do not have special considerations like we do, there are a ton of really great options out there that will save you a lot of money.

  1. Cancelling Gym Memberships

If you use the gym regularly, I won’t be mad at ya’ if you keep this one.  But if you are not – then just cancel it!  If you are ready to commit to a healthier life style, there are plenty of ways you can do this for free (or close to it).  Walking, running, hiking, biking…Be creative – get outside. This one saved us about $150.00 a month….twice.

  1. Extra-Curriculars

But..but…but…my kids NEED to be in gymnastics, t-ball, soccer, piano-lesson and karate….NO.  No, they don’t.  I know this is probably going to be an unpopular one, but you need to hear it.  ALL of us parents need to hear it.  We are over-involving our kids anyway.  This last generation of kids is SUPER-STRESSED out and it’s because of US!  Chances are your kid is NOT going to be the next NBA or NFL star.  So why are they competing to the extent that they are? Do sports and other extra-curriculars help with scholarships?  Yes.  Am I saying sports are not good for kids? No.  We are a family of athletes.  Sports and other extra-curriculars offer so much more than that.  We love sports!  What I am saying is that your kids don’t need to be involved in EVERYTHING.  They also don’t need to be in competitive soccer at age 5.  Put these things on hold until you have your spending and savings under control and you have money in the bank.

Here is the truth – If you are living paycheck to paycheck – these are expenses you cannot afford.  Instead, if you must, put them in a recreation league…it will save you thousands in a year.  We cut Karate – and saved $375.00 a month.  Instead we put one boy in basketball and another in tumbling at a local church’s rec league.  It was cheap and the boys are, most of all, having fun while learning the foundations.

NOW YOU PICK!  

Can you make the same cuts?  Are there others?  Take a look at your bank account, what fixed monthly expenses do you have that you can either reduce or eliminate entirely….

With these six easy cuts, we are saving almost $1200.00 a month!!! WOW. That’s a big number and each expense alone was not killing us.  But a cut here…and another there…it adds up.  $1200 a month is $14,000 a year.  NO KIDDING!  How would It make you feel to have $14,400 growing in an investment account – every year?

If you think you can’t afford to save, take me up on a challenge.  Go through every expense you have on a monthly basis and ask both, can I reduce this expense or can I cut it and see how much you can save?   Prove me wrong.

Love and Prosperity, 

Your GirlFIday