Now when it comes to saving money, I think changing your lifestyle is the hardest. It's easy to make a few phone calls and reduce your costs and to dedicate some time to cutting coupons but lifestyle changes? That requires a serious committment.
Honestly, had I not been raring to save money, I most likely would not have been motivated for such drastic changes either but desperate times call for desperat measures, folks. In my experience, it is much easier to make these changes slowly, especially if you have a family to acclimate. It will take time to get adjusted and the savings will add up eventually but you have to be willing to stick with it! I promise you will see a change.
The first major change we made was line drying clothes. I just adore the way that line dried clothes smell, especially sheets! For real, if I had the time I would wash my sheets daily and hang them on the line just so that I could climb in every night and sniff them until I was drunk with their freshness. When it comes to towels and jeans I still prefer to toss them in the dryer because I'd rather not leave scuff marks on my skin from drying off after a bath or walk around in my jeans all day without being able to bend my knees. It's not my style.
A friend of mine gave me a clothes line with wheel and my husband attached it to our house, right out of the bathroom window next to our washer and dryer. It stretches across our yard and is attached to a tree in the backyard. Luckily we have a pretty private back yard so we don't have to traumatize our neighbors with the sight of our underwear blowing in the wind. My husband complained about the aesthetics's of the line until he saw our monthly electric bill had dropped about $35-40.
I also found that it saved time for me because I didn't have to wait for my clothes in the dryer. In the summer, my clothes dry ridiculously fast. Plus, my whites have never been whiter because the sun bleaches them! !Tip: If you don't want your colors to bleach too, dry them hanging inside out! I could also have two loads drying at the same time. And if I was in a hurry I could put two loads on the line and one in the dryer!
It also pays to do your self-maintenance at home. We used to pay $150 every 6-8 weeks for haircuts for all five of us! It doesn't feel like much when it's $15 dollars at a time but it adds up. Mine was the most expensive at $80 every 6-8 weeks. I started looking around at ways to save money and found that I could reduce that to $30 by going with a different salon and opting out of having my hair washed or styled.
This was a hard process because I had a few REALLY bad haircuts before I found the right place but in the end I found a stylist I love and I can afford. I also started to color my own hair, give myself my own manicures and pedicures and pluck my eye brows. It's a luxury to do those things from time to time but it just didn't make financial sense to pay for that on a monthly basis anymore.
As for my husband and kids, I started cutting their hair. My husband and son are easy as I just buzz cut them with the #1 attachment on the hair trimmer and my son loves that I can give him a mohawk during the summer! I've also learned to cut my husband's hair longer with some trial and error. My oldest daughter has long hair so I just have to snip the ends and my youngest gets her bangs trimmed.
That took me a while to learn but I got the hang of it eventually. Just be willing to give it a try and have a sense of humor about it. Remember, it's hair, it'll all grow back if you make a mistake.
Another way we saved a little money was with our food. I went through my grocery list and found that there were a few items that although we loved, we didn't really need. For example, I was spending about $5 a week buying juice for the kids. Sure it's yummo but it's bad for their teeth, gives them empty calories and worse, encourages them to drink less water. I stopped buying it completely.
Now instead of a juice box in their bag lunches, they have a reusable bottle filled with water. Sure, I heard some whining for a while but they got over it. They now love to drink only water and milk and their dentist loves me!
My husband also started taking his lunch to work. This required some planning and serious changes on his part and there are still weeks when he doesn't do it but we found that when he does, we save $80 or more per month! That one was a real no-brainer and I can't believe he hadn't been doing that!
Another quick thing about food. It really does pay to compare prices and to think outside the box when it comes to groceries. I typically shop at about three grocery stores to get the best deals. I start with Stop-N-Shop and load up on their weekly specials and coupons. Then I go to Xpect Discounts. They have a ton of name brand items at reduced prices and they will also let you use coupons!
When it comes to certain foods, I always go to Aldi. If you haven't shopped there already, I urge you to give it a shot. Their produce isn't always the freshest so I dont' typically buy there but items like pretzels, crackers, milk (hormone free), peanut butter, cereal, canned tuna, yogurt, bagels and meats and cheeses are exceptionally good.
They are fresh and cost about half what you'd pay at other stores. It gives me an opportunity to keep my cupboards stocked up without paying too much. If you've never been there, remember to bring your re-usable bags with you and a quarter for the cart. You get your quarter back when you're done shopping.
We also instituted "meatless Mondays." It's heathly for our hearts as well as our wallets! The bottom line is that it costs less to make a meatless meal and while I'm not prepared to become a vegetarian, I'm willing to cut back a little. I've enjoyed trying out new recipes and saving about $15-20 a month in food costs.
When it came to shopping for clothes I had to get creative. I never spent a ton of money on clothes but shopping for three kids can get expensive, especially at the beginning of the school year. I became a faithful sale and coupon shopper. I found that I could save huge cash by buying online and combining sales with online coupon codes that you can usually get for free. You can often get stuff delivered to your local stores or buy in-store as well.
I also started sharing clothes with friends. There is one woman who has one son and as he grows out of his clothes she hands everything down to me. Thanks to her I only bought my son socks, underwear, shoes and a pair of pants last year.
I've also learned to shop at Goodwill. It takes time to go through the racks but many of those items are brand names and still have the tags attached! Plus, for every item you buy you earn points and get huge discounts on items that are already dirt cheap.
I love this option for my kids because they are so rough on clothes and it doesn't make sense to always buy brand new clothes at full price when I can get them significantly cheaper and in great condition. Plus, when they spill paint on themselves or roll in the dirt I'm really cool about it. That wouldn't be the case if I had bought them new!
I also learned that living greener means living cheaper. When we started composting, we found that we had less garbage and that we could eliminate trash service. Plus, we then had heaps of nutrient rich compost that we could add to our garden and we didn't have to pay for that anymore. We added that compost to our garden which yielded some wonderful produce that again saved us money.
By using energy efficient light bulbs we saved money. By turning down our thermostat we saved money. We also signed up for Freecycle.com. This is a website for people who are dedicated to keeping things out of the landfills. They post things they need or things they want to get rid of and if you want that item you respond. If you get it all you need to do is pick it up, it doesn't cost a thing. We've received clothes, dog food, furniture, basically anything I need I post it on freecycle first.
If nobody has it, then I go buy it...with a coupon! The Middletown Freecycle group if full of amazing and wonderful people who are dedicated to keeping trash out of our landfills! To check it out you can visit: FreecycleMiddletownCT@yahoogroups.com
It pays to pay attention. It's easy and convenient just to go to one store, one time and get everything done; however, that isn't how you save money. You save by comparing weekly ads, shopping at a variety of stores and taking advantages of sales, specials, coupons and discounts. Most recently, I've been using my coupons and loading up on the sale items at Stop-N-Shop that give you special discounts on gas.
So last week when the average cost of gas was $4.29, I only paid $3.55 per gallon because I had points on my S&S card. You can do this at other supermarkets too. Always get a store card and read up on their benefits. Some of the best deals come from unexpected places!
Overall, when it comes to changing your lifestyle to save money, it's all about being really present with every purchase you make. With all of the opportunities to save money, there is no reason at all you should ever pay retail. There is always a better way to save!