With a 100-year-old house that needed major updates, a baby, and significantly reduced working hours so that I can take care of my baby, I’ve definitely been feeling more strapped for cash lately. While I have never beenΒ aΒ spend-crazy kind of person, I have never been asΒ intentional with my purchases as I amΒ now. On top of the big movesΒ like refinancing our mortgage, investing in a mutual fund, establishing a college savings accountΒ for Oliver, staying in-network with our health insurance plan, and continuing to contribute to our 401Ks, here are 10 littleΒ things I’m doing to liveΒ more intentionally,Β save money, and spend more wisely this year (while still enjoying my life and notΒ feeling like a total cheapskate!):
1. Cutting Out Cable: We switchedΒ to basic cable and Netflix and have never looked back! Though I do miss my Food Network and HGTV shows, I think it’s better for me to be reading or resting. I did think it was pretty funny when my little brother thought my TV was broken when ESPN wouldn’t turnΒ on…
2. Renting Books and Cookbooks from the Library: I am a voracious reader ofΒ design books, parenting books, nutrition books, and cookbooks (*note to self: I need to read more novels!). Instead of buying them, I request themΒ online from my local library and walk with Oliver in the stroller to pick them up a few days later. If I’m renting a cookbook, I scan the recipes that I like and save the PDF on my computer or print it out for future reference. And ifΒ I ever find myself renting the same book over and over again, I’ll make note to purchase a hard copy of it in the future.
3. Making Home Decor Purchases with a Design Plan in Mind: Gone are the days ofΒ blacking out at Target or Homegoods and buying a throw pillow on a whim! Before buying ANYTHING for the house, and I mean anything as little as a soap dish or a wastebasket, I research the product and make sure it fits into my design plan for the room. I also don’t buy anything unless it makes my heart flutter. Same goes with craft projects. Lately I’ve been keeping a file of inspirational Photoshop collages for every room in my home so that I can stay on track with my vision for the space.Β So even if I do end up buying something more expensive or high-end, I’ll know that I’m getting it right the first time rather than making several mistakes that can add up in the long run. I’ll also continue to hunt for good-quality secondhand products on Craigslist, eBay, estate sales, and flea markets, but I’ll pass the item up if I literally have nowhere to put it in my house.
4. Not Going Out to Dinner (as often): This one is reallyΒ obvious but I feel like this is a tough oneΒ for people my age so it needs to be said.Β While we have never been the couple to go out to restaurants often and I have always loved cooking at home, there was definitely a time in our relationship (*cough cough: post-college years*) when we would go out to dinner on a whim if we weren’t excited about the items in our fridge. We haven’t gone out to dinner alone since Oliver was born, and now I suspect we’ll save dinners out for special occasions only like anniversaries and birthdays. In the meantime, I’m working on using up the ingredients in my pantry, cooking in bulk (see below), and entertaining at home.Β I will alwaysΒ love hosting dinner parties and consider them to be an important form of social interaction with the people I love, so I never regret the extra money spent on groceries needed to host a small get-together.
5.Β Cooking with Ingredients I Already Have: I’ve been using the app Wunderlist to make lists for nearly everything in my life, and recently I made a list of items that I have in my pantry, spice cabinet, and freezer that I need to use up. So if I see a beef stew recipe that calls for tomato paste, red wine, frozen peas, thyme, and chicken stock, and I happen to have all those items in my pantry or freezer, I’ll make that recipe first before making anything else.
6. Cooking Whole Chickens and Making My Own Stock: Purchasing a whole chicken is always cheaper than buying individual cut-up parts. And, it’s incredibly easy to make and more delicious to eat! I just throw it in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour with some butter, let it cool, shred the meat, and save the leftovers for adding to meals. Then I take the bones and skin and make my own stock in the slow cooker. Over time,Β the savings of the whole chicken versus the breasts or thighsΒ and the homemade stock versus the store-bought stock adds up!
7. Cooking Once in Bulk: Instead of making a “new” complicated recipe that serves two people every single night, lately I’ve been doubling one recipe that I likeΒ and cooking it once on a weekend night.Β Then we either eat the leftovers all week long or I’ll freeze half of it for another week. I really love the ideas for soups and stews in The Best Make Ahead Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. No matter what the dish is, I usually eat the leftovers on top of a bed of salad greens with EVOO and vinegar.
8. Cutting Back on Wine Purchases and Drinking Only on SpecialΒ Occasions: UGHHHHH this one is the hardest for meΒ because I love love LOVEΒ wine. NO sheesh I’m not a drunk, I just really enjoy a small glass of wine with dinner at the end of the dayΒ when Oliver is asleep. But, welp, wine can get SO expensive. Good wine is even more expensive, and I hate cheap wine. Maybe I should join a wine club? Does anyone have any recommendations? I love a dry Cabernet Sauvignon orΒ Pinot Noir.
9. Selling Unused Furniture, Clothing, and Baby Products on Craigslist orΒ eBay: If there was a TV show called “Purgers,” I’d be on it.Β I like to keep a tight inventory on the items in my basement, so I have aΒ “Sell on Craigslist or eBay” tab on my Wunderlist of the unused and unloved items in my home that might have value to another person.Β I have had nothing but pleasant experiences selling my items on Craigslist. Yeah it takes a little legwork but I don’t think there’s anythingΒ more satisfying than people coming to your door and giving you cash to take away your junk!
10. Cutting out the Purchase of New Home Cleaning Products:Β Cleaning products can get really expensive and I really don’t like using any harsh chemicals with Oliver as well asΒ my pup crawling all over the floor.Β There are a lot of ways that I can use a good ol’ box of baking soda and jug of vinegar, and I’ve pinned some ideas onto this board here.
Do you have anyΒ other spend-wise tips and tricks that you’d like to share?