Hi everyone! I am so excited to be back today with another post in the Apartment Living series! You can find some of the previous posts in this series here or here. Since living in a rented home provides a unique experience with finances, I thought today I’d share some of my favorite tips for saving money and staying on budget.
When you first think about saving money, a normal gut reaction is to go immediately to cutting corners, and denying yourself things you’d otherwise like to have, in the interest of saving money. That’s how I used to look at it. But now, I try to make budgeting a positive experience for myself. This is because the more I enjoy doing it, the more I will stick to any budgeting plans I make for myself, and the more money I will save.
Instead of seeing it as ‘these are all the things I’m denying myself because I have to save money’, I try to look at it differently. I prefer to think ‘I’m resisting this impulse buy, because I would much rather put the money towards saving up for that other thing I’d much rather have’. For example, would I rather spend $30 on this shirt I really don’t need (even if it is adorable), or would I rather put that money into savings so I can buy a nice house in the future? Instead of denying myself a shirt I want, I am rewarding myself by getting one step closer to a real goal of mine.
So with that mindset, here are some of the way I like to cut down on costs, so I can save money for things that truly matter to me.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase one of the products I recommend using these links, I will make a teeny, tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps keep Label Me Merrit running 🙂
Say no to cable
The first major way we save money on our bills, is by eliminating a cable bill completely. I have lived without cable in my apartment for four years, and I couldn’t be happier with this decision. With average cable bills easily being over $100 a month, I am a-okay with not having to pay that. And before you start thinking that we’re just one of those families who doesn’t watch TV, so good for us but this wouldn’t work for you, let me stop you right there. We watch TV. In fact, we probably watch more TV than we should. We just don’t watch it on cable.
We have a Netflix account, and so we watch a lot of our shows through our Wii on the TV. This does mean that we have to wait for seasons to finish airing before we have access to them, but I actually like it that way… makes for excellent binge watching nights ;). Any shows that we just cannot wait on, and must watch as they come out, we stream online. Not having access to cable also cuts out the time waster of channel surfing, when there’s really nothing you actually want to watch on. Don’t lie, we’ve all done it. I have honestly never once felt like I was “missing out” because we don’t have cable, and it is our one saving technique I am most proud of, and that saves us the most money consistently.
Make home cooked meals
Aside from the health benefits, cooking your own meals at home, rather than eating out all the time, is a great way to keep your wallet healthy as well. Even a relatively cheap meal out (like Qdoba) can total $15 for two people. Spending that amount even twice a week adds up to an average of $130 a month, or over $1,500 a year! That is insane!
Spending money on food has been a long time pet peeve of mine, since you’re left with nothing to show for your expense. However, I like good food as much as the next person, so we try to find delicious recipes that we can make at home for cheap. With things such as Google and Pinterest at our fingertips, finding cheap, easy and healthy recipes has truly never been easier. There are countless blogs and resources out there dedicated to creating and sharing tips, tricks and recipes for saving money on food. (Food bloggers link up your yummy and cheap recipes in the comments below so we can all get some great ideas!)
Plan for leftovers
Going along with the above tip, planning meals to include leftovers is another great way to really stretch your food budget. When writing out our meal plan each week, Melissa and I usually try to plan at least two meals that will be good as leftovers. This means that with just 2 meals, over 50% of our week is covered. By incorporating leftovers into our plan, we save on groceries by shopping for 5 meals a week instead of seven.
Another great way to use leftovers is by cooking in bulk, and freezing portions to use for future meals. We love having freezer meals as “insurance” policies in case we have a particularly crazy night, or Melissa just really doesn’t feel like cooking dinner. This also keeps us from just ordering food on nights like that, we can simply thaw out and cook a premade homemade meal. Easy peasy!
Make your own coffee
I know, I know. No one wants to hear they should give up their Starbucks. But before you start throwing things as me, hear me out. A $3 cup of coffee before work each day will run you $780 a year. That is a seriously chunk of change. You could get a seriously nice coffee maker for half that amount, which will last you for years!
I do make my own coffee each morning at home (I use a Keurig and a reusable cup). However, I love to treat myself on the weekend to a nice caramel latte. Even my once a week treat to myself costs me about $250 a year. I’m not loving that number, but lattes make me happy ;). Hey, nobody’s perfect!
Shop deals and use coupons
How could I write a post about saving money without mentioning sales and coupons! This is the oldest trick in the book for saving money, but this is also the area I am most weary of relying on. At the end of the day, sales and coupons are marketing tactics. Companies hold sales and send out coupons in order to increase sales. For you to successfully and regularly use these tools to save yourself money, you have to know what you’re doing.
I am definitely not an extreme couponer nor a sales expert. While I have nothing but extreme respect and awe for those who can get $200 of groceries for 5 cents, I just don’t have the dedication required for that type of shopping. I do however, try to use coupons and shop the sales smartly to save myself a little here and there. I only buy something if I would buy it anyways (regardless of whether or not I had a coupon/it was on sale). If I’m buying something just because it’s on sale, I am actually spending more money than I would have without the promotion.
What I try to do is stock up on things I regularly buy when they are on sale. This means I can stock up on an item I know we eat regularly, and would be buying anyways, but at a cheaper price. I also try to hold onto coupons I may come across for items I regularly buy, but I’m not as dedicated to working with coupons, as they’re usually more trouble that they’re worth for me.
I will be the first to admit that I am a brand name snob when it comes to food. I like my name brand cereal, and soda, and chips and everything. And for the longest time I absolutely refused to even give generics a try. After a lot of persuading, Melissa finally convinced me to start giving generic brands a chance. You know what changed my mind? Turns out those grocery store brands are the EXACT SAME as name brand foods.
Apparently, a lot of grocery store brand food is either made by the brand name companies, or made using the same recipe. Essentially it’s the same food, just in different packaging and being sold at a lower price point. Since learning this, I have been slowly trying out generic alternatives for some of my name brand favorites. There are definitely certain things I won’t compromise on, but I’m definitely willing to bend a little on less important products, in the interest of saving money.
I hope I’ve got those money saving wheels churning for you. There is no right or wrong way to save money, just what works for you and your family. Start thinking about where you spend your money, and where you’d like to cut back. Once you found the areas you’re overspending in, start brainstorming ideas for reducing the amount. With a little creativity and dedication, you’re budget will be something you’re proud of, rather than something you run and hide from whenever it’s brought up!
Let me know you’re favorite money saving tip in the comments below!
If you like this post, you might also like: