Whether you need to save more money or spend less, or not, no one likes to spend money unnecessarily. As a stay-home, work from home mother who is married to a creative (writer, actor, filmmaker) staying within budget has become a major priority for us. And it probably took me too long to figure out where we were spending money unnecessarily or areas we could easily cut to save quite a bit. In case you haven’t made these changes yourself, I thought I would share how I saved our family over $2000 last year by doing just these three things:
Getting rid of cable.
This was the biggest money saver for us. We had our internet and cable bundled with only the basic set of 30 or so channels. We did sometimes have HBO or Showtime but only when there was an active promotion (like free for 6 months or $5 a month) and sometimes we would get a movie OnDemand since we never go out to movies anymore. But on average, our bill was $190-$200 a month. Which to me just seemed ridiculous. I’m kicking myself that we didn’t get rid of cable years ago, but sometimes it takes a while to rid yourself of things you are used to. Here’s how we got rid of cable and never looked back, and how you can too:
- Get a streaming device. We’re an apple household, so AppleTV just made sense for us. I can’t speak to the Amazon Fire or Roku but I’ve heard good things about all of them. If you have an Amazon Prime membership you can stream a lot of Amazon Video content for free. If that is the case, the Amazon Fire might be a great choice (this is what we would have done if not for our reliance on iTunes already.)
- Sign up for Netflix if you haven’t already. We also subscribed to Hulu and use both a lot. Between the two, we have plenty of programing to watch and don’t really miss any shows. Most network tv that we did watch we can see the next day on Hulu.
- If you have a friend that still has cable, maybe they’ll let you use their subscription to stream online. We use our friend’s HBO Go Subscription to watch things there as well.
- If there are any absolute must-watch shows that you can’t find on Netflix, Hulu, etc. you can buy a season pass on iTunes to watch on AppleTV. We only do this with The Walking Dead. If you end up doing it with a bunch of shows, you were better off keeping cable.
We still needed internet and after a lot of research on what was available to us, it made sense to keep our internet with our cable company and keep a basic tv plan (the main network channels: CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and PBS). We no longer have a DVR (this was the hardest thing to get used to — no pausing a show on those channels, but again, most of the shows are on Hulu next day), just a basic cable box and high speed internet, which costs $50 a month. Add our $8 Hulu and $7 Netflix subscriptions (plus $30 for the entire season of The Walking Dead), and we’re saving around $125 a month from cutting cable alone. We only have one tv, but use wifi with our iPads, iPhones, desktop and laptop, and AppleTV with no issue, thanks to our wifi set up (read more about how much I love our eero for wifi here.) The only downside is that I don’t usually get to watch the evening news (bedtime for the kiddos) and my husband misses a lot of sports. But he wasn’t a fan of watching DVR’d sports anyways, and ESPN has an AppleTV app so he can see the highlights for free.
Buying Stuff on Amazon Through Subscribe and Save
- Diapers & Wipes: I have two kids in diapers (both regular and nighttime) and our diapers and wipes bill is rough. The best deal I’ve found for us is on Amazon. Using Subscribe & Save for both is so convenient and saves a few dollars (which adds up with so many diapers!)
- Baby Food: With three kids I really couldn’t keep up with making baby food myself. I couldn’t even keep up with buying it at the grocery store! And it was getting so expensive (Quincy likes to eat. A lot!). I checked Amazon and it saved me a couple dollars to buy a 12 pack of Earth’s Best jars there than at the store. And even more with coupons and subscribe and save.
- Laundry detergent This is quite a bit cheaper here than at my Target.
- Dishwasher detergent pods: Again, much cheaper for me than Target or my supermarket.
- Vitamins & Supplements: I buy my pre-natals, protein powder, Natural Calm magnesium supplement, probiotics, etc. all much cheaper on Amazon.
- Garbage Bags
- Toilet Paper
- Disinfecting Wipes: We go through tons of these and I often donate some to my son’s class at school as well. So much cheaper in a bundle on Amazon.
- Books: Anytime we’re at a bookstore I check the price there vs. Amazon using the app on my phone. Amazon is cheaper most of the time. I will add the book to my cart right away and save it until I have a need or buy it and save it for when the kids have earned a reward or treat.
- Toiletries & Feminine Products: Things like toothbrushes, deodorant, tampons, and bars of soap are also more affordable in our subscribe and save list.
When I’m at a store and want to check to see where I would get the best buy I use the Amazon app to scan barcodes and check prices. If it’s cheaper at Amazon then I put it in my cart right away or add it to my wishlist for later. You can also get great deals on Amazon Pantry, and if you are a Prime member and buy 5 qualifying items (and it is easy to do if you are ordering your essentials here) then it is free shipping!
Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping Only Once a Week
I haven’t been as great about meal planning as I have wanted to be this last year. I didn’t so much “plan meals” as I did figure out what things to have stocked up that were affordable and that everyone would eat. I had to be on a dairy-free diet most of this last year due to breastfeeding a baby with dairy sensitivities, and the kids went through a picky stage. Trying to plan meals for each one of us was too hard. But in the last three months I’ve been slowly getting a handle on meal planning and it has already made a huge impact on our budget.
I’m working on a whole meal planning post, but just a few tips to get you started:
- Go on Pinterest and start a Meal Planning board for yourself. Pin recipes that you like and want to try. I look for one pan/one pot recipes; things I can make in my slow cooker, and variations of things I know my family likes — like a new way to cook chicken and veggies. You can follow my Meal Planning board for ideas. I keep it realistic. I know I’m not going to make something that takes hours (unless that means hours in the slow cooker). It needs to be simple, healthy (or healthy-ish), and tasty.
- Make a master grocery list on your cell phone — I use my ‘notes’. Create a list of your essentials that you buy every time you go to the store: Milk, eggs, yogurt, fruit & veggies, etc. Then on top of that, make a list of snacks, sides, stuff you pack in lunches, etc. This is stuff you often buy in bulk and don’t necessarily need every trip, so you can quickly check the list to see what you need before you shop. Finally, as you run out of something, add it to the top of that list. Like: toothpaste, paper towels, garlic salt. Delete it as you buy it so you know you don’t need it next time. I even have a “Trader Joe’s list” and a “Ralph’s list”. I buy most things at Trader Joe’s, but also usually go to Ralph’s once a week for a few things that Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry.
- Buy a dry erase board to make a master calendar. Hang it in your kitchen and plan meals. I love the flexibility of the dry erase, allowing me to make changes if I run out of time or we have more leftovers than expected.
- Set an “eating out” limit and stick to it. We do one lunch and one dinner (usually take-out) a week, although we often switch to two lunches and no dinners.
- Only go grocery shopping once a week. If you run out of an essential like milk or bananas (the two biggest essentials in my house) you can run in for just those couple of things. But no big trips more than once. This forces you to only buy what you eat and eat what you have before buying more.
- Use apps and coupons when you can. Cartwheel is awesome for Target shopping. I get coupons in the mail for my supermarket. I use a rewards card. These are easy ways to save at checkout.
I’m by no means a budget expert. In fact, I’m not frugal by nature at all. That’s why I thought I would share some ways I’ve learned to cut costs in case there are more of you like me looking to save more money on family expenses.
What are your biggest tips or tricks for cutting costs and saving money?
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