“A penny saved is a penny earned.” Everyone has heard this famous saying, but not everyone can truly appreciate what this means. How hard is it for you to make $50 at your job? If you work for $8/hr you would have to work at least a full 8 hour day to make that money. But, if you could save $50 a month on your grocery bill by spending an hour online looking at sales ads and cutting coupons, wouldn’t that mean you just made $50 per hour? YES!!
In today’s economy it is not uncommon for families to be struggling with the loss or reduction of a job either by one parent or both. So how can you get by? I am not going to tell you it’s easy, that would be lying. Nor would I tell you that every situation is the same. I would however like to tell you how I did it and how we still do it.
Let’s look first at your entertainment expenses. These would be expenses such as cable or satellite TV, going to the movies, streaming online movies, sports tickets or any other expense which gives you entertainment. Now I am not saying you have to give up your TV and turn your electricity off, although it could drastically cut your expenses. For example, my satellite TV bill was nearly $40 for the most inexpensive package they offered. My in-laws pay nearly $100!! That’s nearly 13 hours at an $8 / hr job!! But there are ways to save money. Online services such as HuluPlus, or Netflix offer a great lineup of popular TV shows and movies at a fraction of the cost of cable, usually less than $10. You can watch them on the family computer or stream them through many compatible devices. Also, most network stations stream the latest episodes of their shows for free on their websites as well.
Another expense we were able to minimize drastically was our transportation expenses. How much does the average car cost these days? $15,000? $25,000? More? What are your car payments? My car payment is 0 dollars. Seriously. I bought a 2000 Impala with 160,000 miles for $1800. My payments are 0. Well you might say “yeah, but you have to spend more money to maintain a vehicle that old”, and you may be right. However, I haven’t spent more than usual yet on it, and I haven’t made any more payments on it.
Let’s compare using the typical math. Let’s say you have bought a brand new car for $20,000. Not a fancy car, just new. You put $2000.00 down and your APR is %3.9. Your monthly payments for that car are $328.85. Now, you still have scheduled maintenance such as oil changes. Your annual payment for that car in the first year is $5946.20 plus any scheduled maintenance and insurance. It would be $2000 less for subsequent years because you wouldn’t count the down payment.
My payment for the first year is $1800.00 plus scheduled maintenance and insurance. That’s a savings of $4146.00 the first year and $2146 each subsequent years. Sure I will more than likely have additional unscheduled maintenance costs but very unlikely would they be greater than $2000.00. If they were it would be time to buy another $1800.00 dollar car. If you have two cars with similar stats described here, this advice could save you over $600.00 per month, not to mention the lower car insurance premiums because your used car is worth much less than a new car.
You can save money on your electric bill as well; not necessarily life changing money but some savings nonetheless. Did you realize that many electrical devices in your home use electricity even when they are turned off? Items such as computers, TVs, stereos, video games and many other things use a very small but real amount of electricity even when you are not using them. We use a surge protector to plug all of the devices in our entertainment center into. That way, before we go to bed we just turn off the switch and thus the power to all of the devices. It probably only saves a couple of dollars a month, but it’s still a savings.
It’s also possible to save money at the grocery store each month. Obviously you can use traditional coupons, but not so obviously many grocery stores offer online deals for customers who hold their stores shoppers cards. In addition, many of these stores offer e-coupons that can be loaded directly onto your shopper loyalty card completely eliminating the need to carry handfuls of coupons through the store.
There are numerous articles and blogs available to help you save a few dollars to many, many dollars on your grocery bill. It is well worth the research and time to potentially save a significant amount on your grocery expenses.
It is important to realize that living frugally isn’t easy, but it can be done. You have to really think about your priorities and not be afraid to make the hard choices. My family of four has survived on a budget of $1500 a month for the last two years. I know the decisions we have made now will make us more secure in the future when I finally graduate from college and get a good paying position in a career I love. And if I don’t get the job I want right away, we can still get by.