Katelyn and I have been talking about money quite a bit and this week, we decided we were going to share with you some ways to save money in order to have the freedom to be creative. Katelyn took a lot of my ideas- the downside of posting the second blog each week. And of having a friend who pretty much reads your mind. I am going to tell you a few more things I have personally done to lower my expenses while still allowing myself to have a life. So as I have done previously, I am going to add on to Katelyn’s last post.
Figure out what your budget is
As Katelyn mentioned, you have to start with knowing how much you actually have to spend. So make a budget. There are so many ways to do this- an excel spreadsheet, a notebook or bullet journal, the envelope system. And probably a bunch of other cutesy ways can be found on Pinterest. Something to think about when you’re starting- is your paycheck always the same or does it vary each pay cycle? Tyler is salaried but my hours varied, meaning our overall monthly income varies. When I created our budget, I went through my paystubs for the last six months and calculated it off of my lowest paycheck. That way if I worked less hours one month, we wouldn’t have to worry about it. And then I have my 1/3 rule. Anything that we bring in over our monthly budget gets divided into thirds and dispersed into savings, giving, and fun. The same goes with certain bills that fluctuate each month. Gas prices go up, our electric bill is higher in the summer, etc. So our budget is based on the highest each has been and anything left over- you guessed it- 1/3 rule. And don’t forget to budget in for fun things and random expenses. Don’t budget without a dining out/entertainment allowance because…well, let’s be real. And don’t forget these things that don’t necessarily happen each month- pet expenses (anyone else ever had an unexpected vet visit? ugh), car registration and emissions tests, birthdays and holidays.
I couldn’t agree more with Katelyn here. If you take the time to plan, you will save so much money. And stress down the line. I don’t have much to add here. I love planning, planners, lists, office supplies and all the organizational things.
If you aren’t the planning type- don’t worry about it. Not everyone has that type of personality. And that is totally fine. If you try it and it doesn’t work for you, try something else. Or just enjoy the fact that you aren’t as OCD and high strung as I am.
Katelyn already gave you a fantastic list of things you can do to save money. I’m just going to mention a few that I have personally done.
*Michael’s: Katelyn mentioned cartwheel but there are other apps that can save you money. I LOVE the Michael’s app because there are always coupons on there. There is always a 40% off one item, so if there is a more expensive item that is cheaper this way than amazon, I’m all about it.
*No interest credit cards: BE CAREFUL with these. They are amazing but if you aren’t good with credit cards (aka you can’t pay off the balance or control yourself- STAY AWAY). Tyler and I use these when we need to make a bigger purchase but don’t have the cash on hand. For example, you can often get 18 month no finance cards at places like Best Buy or Home Depot. We did this when I started Seminary and needed a new laptop. We just divided the total by 18 months and paid it off before the “no interest” period ended. Just beware that if you don’t pay them off in time, you pay interest on the original total, not your new balance. Bonus- they raise your credit score if you make the payments each month.
*Cash back cards: SEE ABOVE WARNING! I would highly recommend getting a cash back credit card if you can stick to your budget and pay off your statement balance each month. Then you aren’t paying interest and you are literally earning free money. I’ve done this since November of 2011 and I have earned $933 in FREE money. We just charge everything that we would normally have to pay for anyway- gas, groceries, certain bills, date nights- and pay it off each month. Guys, that’s a free $200 every year!
*Lower your overall interest: If you have student or car loans, or a mortgage, I would suggest looking into refinancing. Tyler and I did this because our credit has gone up over the years and we saved $70 a month on his car plus all the additional savings in interest. We also pay about $13 a month in additional principal to our mortgage. (And yes, I chose this amount extra just to make an even number. I told you- OCD.) This doesn’t seem like much but over the course of our 30 year note, we will save THOUSANDS of dollars. You can also find credit cards where you can switch existing balances to a new card and have a year no interest. If you have the ability to pay off your balance in 12 months, you won’t have to pay all that additional interest that makes it so hard to get to 0!
*Shop around: Even if you’ve had your insurance for years, take the time to look around. My friend B told me that she switched her car insurance and saves $400 a year for the same coverage. Awesome.
Find cheap things to do
Katelyn already mentioned the best things to do for free (or nearly free). And I listed some on my blog about dating your spouse. So I won’t beat you over the head with it. Just know that we actually do these things! Just today I went to an amazing street fair in one of my favorite neighborhoods. I love things like this because you can literally spend as much or as little as you want. Yes, the food can be pricey but just decide how much you want to spend, bring only that amount in cash, and when you’re out- oh well. Plus, you can usually get free stuff. Besides free samples, you can get a few other things too. Today I got coupons for free (local and delicious) pizza, a glass of kombucha at a cultured tap room (what?! I can’t wait for that), an appetizer and drink at a pub, and a paint-n-sip class. I also got a free 20 minute massage. Not one of those quick neck massages you see in the mall- a legit massage. Seriously, find the local festivals and fairs. Go to a farmer’s market where there is always amazing stuff and usually you can get samples. Plus, you have the opportunity to support other creatives who are selling what they love to make.