Many of you know that my natural living journey began a few years ago when we decided to get out of debt. That decision required us to be much more intentional about everything we did. It also helped that we had a big goal driving us – I wanted desperately to be a stay-at-home mom, but couldn’t until we did some serious work on our budget.
Soon after that life-changing decision, I found some excellent resources that helped me as I began slashing our budget. The number one resource was The Complete Tightwad Gazette, a book full of practical (and radical) tips for saving money. Read it. It’s awesome.
It was a glorious day when I knew that I didn’t have to go back to work again and that I could spend the entire day snuggling with my kids. Or rather, cleaning, but that’s a different story.
Today I want to share with you 60 ideas for saving money in your home. Some are pretty easy to implement. Others may sound crazy (it’s ok, I’m used to it). But I’ve tried all of them at least once in an effort to reduce our expenses.
60 money saving tips for the frugal family
1. Follow the Pantry Principle.
I have a simple list with everything we eat on it. And I only shop to restock those items. Here’s the list if you want to see it.
2. Cook from scratch.
Prepackaged “healthy” foods usually cost WAY more than it would to just buy the ingredients and make it yourself.
3. Menu plan before you shop.
Once a month or once a week, this way you’ll know how much you have to buy. It’ll save you from buying 5 pounds of cheese if you know you’ll only need 2. (I can’t fathom having to buy less than 10 pounds of cheese each month. :)) Here’s a great menu planning resource.
4. Don’t grocery shop unless you have 10 items on your list.
Frequent trips to the store usually equate to more money spent.
5. Grow lots of your own food.
Unless you have a black thumb like me. Then I suggest practicing on one or two plants before you go all out.
6. Keep it really, really simple.
See my list. And read this post. We don’t eat a huge variety of foods, but we eat well and get lots of veggies in our diet. And nothing comes out of a box.
7. Buy in bulk.
SO much stuff can be purchased in bulk, whether it’s at Costco or the bulk bins at other stores. (Use extra fabric to make a bunch of cloth bags or buy these so you don’t have to use plastic all the time at the bulk bins.)
8. Reuse bags.
At most stores you get $.05 off per reusable bag. Not much, but it’s a nice bonus for avoiding the plastic bags of doom.
Split bulk purchases with other families. Give some of your garden abundance. Build your community.
10. Turn your water heater off after you’ve used it in the morning.
After any showers, of course.
11. Strive for zero waste.
Use reusable bags and containers when you shop. Take reusable food storage boxes on those rare occasions you eat out. Stop junk mail from coming in. Get more inspiration from Bea.
12. Compost whatever is left.
Save food scraps and tear up bits of paper for a simple compost pile.
13. Lower/raise your thermostat.
This was really helpful in our old house. The low was at 65 and the high at 80. It made a big difference.
14. Dress in layers.
When it’s cold, bundle up and use blankets. That’s what sweaters and socks are for.
15. Take cool off showers.
In the summer, dress in light, flowy clothing and take short cool-off showers throughout the day. Apply peppermint essential oil to your chest and the back of your neck. Turns out you can survive without an air conditioner.
16. Give a family gift to charity.
Forego gifts to extended family and make a donation to a charity instead in their names.
17. Service projects.
Give the gift of your time and expertise. Especially if it’s baking or you love cleaning other peoples’ houses. 😉
18. Handmade goodness.
Now that you’ve found the time to be a crafty mama, make cool presents for your loved ones.
19. Give the gift of pre-owned stuff.
Ian has learned to do this and has gotten me some pretty cool stuff (that I needed, of course) at a really good price. My favorites were The Complete Tightwad Gazette bought used on Amazon and a cast iron Dutch oven he found at a yard sale.
20.Set a $5 limit.
21. Only “buy” for one person at Christmas.
And set a $5 limit or buy used or make something really cool.
22. Online public school.
We’ve used online schools, like Connections Academy, as a compromise (I wanted unschooling and Ian wanted the structured curriculum of a public school). I loved the free resources – books, materials, teacher but it wasn’t the best fit for us. It might be for you, though.
23. Free curriculum.
Now, we use a mix of different things, including ideas from this free Charlotte Mason curriculum. Update: we just started using Easy Peasy Homeschool, a free, Christian, online curriculum. I LOVE it and my kids do, too!
24. Take advantage of free classics.
Almost every book that was needed for the free curriculum is available free on Kindle because they’re old enough to be in the public domain. You don’t even need a Kindle to use them – you can download their free reading app and read on your computer, phone, etc. Here’s the link to the free classics.
25. Use the library.
It’s free. And awesome.
26. Use free websites like PBS Kids.
My oldest LOVES the Wild Kratts games and videos. I love that he can tell me so much stuff I didn’t know about animals.
27. Do preschool online for way less with ABC Mouse.
We used this with Isaac and now the girls and Isaiah are using it and loving it. Try it free for 30 days.
28. Kindle FreeTime
We use Kindle Fire tablets for school and my favorite feature is an app called Kindle FreeTime. My kids love that they can access tons of apps and videos, most of which are educational (I love that I can set time limits or block things). But my favorite part is the huge digital library that’s available. So. Many. Books.
Home Education for you
29. Read blogs on whatever topics inspire you.
There’s a plethora of amazing, free information out there.
30. Watch TED talks.
31. Listen to great podcasts.
Leave awesome comments for the creator.
32. Jump on free webinars and teleseminars.
33. Start an education fund and use it to attend a conference every year.
34. Enjoy the outdoors.
Hike, walk, swim, play together. Outside.
35. Family game night.
Swap games with other families every month if you get tired of what you’ve got.
36. Amazon Prime
Our computer is our TV so we stream movies with Amazon Prime. (Try it free for 30 days.) When we have time to watch movies. Or I use the free code I get once a month to get a movie at Redbox. Just remember to take it back on time so it stays free…
37. Dinner and a movie…at the same time.
We have a McMenamins nearby that offers this awesome luxury. Dinner is pretty inexpensive, movie admittance is $3 and they have our favorite beer. Win-win-win.
38. Ask a student or friend to make you an awesome dinner using ingredients you have on hand.
When my brother was in culinary school, we asked him to do this for our anniversary. Holy yum. We had a great time watching him prepare our meal (mahi mahi with mango salsa, seared scallops, honey tuilles with coconut milk ice cream) and chatted while he cleaned up.
39. Swap babysitting.
We swap child care (even overnight!) with our awesome friends a few times a month so we can go on kid-free dates.
40. Go festing.
As in festivals with free admission and music. Take your own food.
41. Enjoy free days.
Museums and zoos often have free admission days (here’s a great post on getting into museums for free). If you can handle the crowds, pack a picnic lunch and hit them up. Or consider saving up for a yearly membership. We found that it was cheaper to buy a membership to our favorite museum than to pay full admission more than once.
42. Buy simple, high-quality pieces that can be mixed and matched.
This requires a little planning, but when you do, you can make several cute outfits.
43. Thred Up.
Post your kids’ outgrown clothes here and for $5 plus shipping, get them some new stuff in the right size.
44. Naked Lady Party.
Tell your girlfriends to go through their closets and take out what they don’t want. Throw a part with some appetizers and wine and throw everything in a pile. You get to get rid of stuff you don’t need/can’t fit anymore and you can replace it for free. A Naked Baby Party would work, too, with kids’ clothing.
45. Project 333.
Choose 33 items of clothing to wear for 3 months. This includes accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
46. Buy gently used.
And if you can, get a quality brand that will last.
47. Wash (and dry) gently.
Read the washing instructions … and follow them. That lint you pull out of the dryer – it’s pieces of your clothing. Use a clothesline if you can.
48. Use a clothesline.
This is especially nice in the heat of summer when running the dryer will only add to the misery. They dry super fast.
49. DIY cleaning products.
My friends Matt and Betsy have a site with a lot of recipes for making your own cleaners.
50. LESS stuff.
51. Hand wash dishes.
Yes, I’ve noticed a difference in our bill. No, I don’t just let the water run while I rinse. Yes, it’s a great time to get some quality thinking done. Yes, Ian does it, too.
52. Ditch disposables.
Diapers, napkins, paper towels, throw away containers, paper plates, anything disposable should go. Even toilet paper if you’re brave. 😉 Reusable stuff works great, lasts a looooong time and can eventually be reused for something else when it’s past its prime for its original purpose.
Ride with a friend to work. Or see if you and a friend can swap turns taking kids to soccer.
54. Use your feet.
55. Public transit.
If it’s available.
56. One car.
If you can do this, you’ll save money on gas, maintenance and insurance.
57. Compare insurance.
Speaking of, make sure you’re getting a good deal by quickly comparing prices with other companies. If your car isn’t worth much, is more than ten years old and paid for, consider going down to the minimum coverage your state will allow.
58. Group trips together.
Try not to drive anywhere for just one thing. Run multiple errands on the same trip if you can.
59. Stay home more often.
This is a simple one that I’ll admit is hard for me.
60. Enlist your friends.
Before you go out and about, check with a friend or two to see if they need anything. Ask if they’ll do the same for you.
My challenge to you is to choose 5 items and begin implementing them now. Then let me know how they worked for you.