This past year has seen a lot of change in my life and one of those changes has been living on about half of the income I’ve been accustomed to in the past several years. After we bought our house last August, we knew that more of our income would go to renovating our home than any home we’ve had before. We also knew our travel would look different for the couple of years we’d be living here. We knew this house flip (we live in our homes for a couple years, fixing them up while here and then sell) would be our biggest yet and we took it on knowing that it would change a lot in our lives. I also put a large percentage of my income profit from my business into the down payment for our house, knowing I’ll get it back when we sell down the road.
Then in December last year, the college I had been teaching at part time closed, ending that stream of income and I decided to coincide that closing with a new chapter, my macaron bakery! Starting a new business this year has definitely lowered the amount of income I had been having coming in for several years before.
All this to say, I’ve had to take a hard look at my expenses this past year to see where my money was going and how I could save even more money on half as much salary to still live the way I want to. I realized that there are a lot of ways to save money and be more strategic about where our money ends up going. Basically, I wanted to figure out a way to still travel and do stuff we wanted to, all while living on less money. And in an effort to help someone else come up with ideas to save money for travel, here are 5 concrete ways to save money that I’ve made part of my financial routine and have seen great results from!
1. Hair + Beauty Costs
One of the first things I cut from my budget was the money spent on hair cuts and colors, as well as beauty costs like lotions and makeup and items I didn’t really need. I realized earlier this year how much was really being spent on these items, like the cost of a haircut and the upkeep costs of keeping my hair colored darker than my natural color and cut them back dramatically. I went back to my natural hair color which requires no maintenance, I changed my monthly haircut routine to every other month and cut out all other beauty expenses that don’t include my daily used items. This alone saved me hundreds of dollars and for the year, will probably add up to $600-$800 in total.
2. Eating Out vs. Eating at Home
This item was a huge money saver for us personally and one that we found could make a huge impact on our budget and how much we could save from changing habits. Nick and I love food and we love a great meal. We also live in Portland which is a huge foodie city with amazing restaurants. And after we moved to a new neighborhood last Summer, we wanted to taste what our new area had to offer so we were eating out a lot. This year we really started taking a look at those costs and even with cutting back, we still allow ourselves to eat out, we just have made it less frequent. We still do one nice dinner out a month and several lower-key nights or lunches out, but for the most part we eat at home for dinners as many times a week as we can.
I love to cook so this wasn’t much of a struggle and I even buy organic meats and vegetables and it still saves so much money! We figure this can easily save us upwards of $800 per month if we really focus on it and make an effort.
Another aspect of this is to utilize loyalties and coupons with your local grocery store. We shop at Fred Meyer here in Portland and I get tons of coupons from them that I use weekly. Sometimes I’ll leave with at least $10-$15 off my grocery bill. And on that same note, I never spend more than $100 per week on food at the grocery store for 5-6 meals plus lunches for myself. It really doesn’t cost that much if you’re strategic with making a list and really sticking to it, not buying extras.
3. Selling Unused Items + Living with Less
Those that know me, know that I love Craigslist. I sell anything and everything on Craigslist. Furniture we no longer use? Camera gear that hasn’t gotten used in a year? Kitchen items that I clean out? I’ve sold it all on the website. The best advice I have for getting the most out of Craigslist is to list your items for low prices and to be patient. I find a lot of people think their stuff is worth more than it is but if you list it for the right price, you’ll sell it faster and have the cash you want instead of an old item that never gets sold. Then be patient, sometimes I list items for 3 or 4 weeks in a row and wait for someone to buy it. Very few items I list don’t sell. I’ve also had great success with listing free items on Craigslist for items that I can’t haul away myself or items that require more work than I want to put in.
Another aspect of this part of saving and making extra money from what you already have is to sell clothes that you don’t need. I do a closet clean out about every other month and anything I haven’t worn in that time (other than seasonal items) gets sold. I take my clothes to my two favorite resale spots in Portland: Buffalo Express and Crossroads. I start at one and whatever they don’t take, I cross the road and take the remaining items to the other shop. Usually, almost everything gets bought by the end of this exercise and I end up with cash in my pocket from clothes that weren’t getting worn anyways.
And the final part of this item is learning to live with less. I’m pretty minimalist by regular standards but in my experience, everyone has way more than they actually need to live. I fully believe in living with less and not collecting “stuff” just to have “stuff.” I believe in buying quality, so I’ve invested in good quality furniture over the years but I don’t generally buy just to buy. If you can change your habits to not buy random things consistently, it really starts to add up on how much you’re saving.
4. Cable + Streaming Services
For years we’ve toyed with cutting our cable and we finally did it in June of this year. We pay for high speed internet through Comcast and then have CBS All Access, Netflix and Hulu and are able to get pretty much everything we had on cable. Anything not available on those services, we buy on iTunes (often using gift cards) and we still figure we will save about $500 per year by cutting cable.
It’s also worth noting that with streaming services, it’s easy to get carried away and have so many of them that you end up not saving more than you would on cable. Be sure to only pay for the ones you use regularly and when you don’t have a show running on one of them, cancel it and save for a few months. I did this regularly with HBO Now over the past several years. I would only pay monthly for it when Game of Thrones was on and then I’d cancel it for the rest of the year. That $15 per month would have really added up for the 8+ months a year when I wasn’t watching something on the platform. I actually wish I would have done this with Hulu over this past Summer as we didn’t really watch anything on there while most TV shows weren’t airing but as we just started this whole scenario in June, I wasn’t sure on what we’d watch or not. But next Summer, I’ll definitely cancel streaming services over the Summer that we don’t use and start them back up in September when all of our shows come back.
5. Utilizing Time Away to Save Money
Another great way to save and make money at the same time is to utilize time you may be away from home. This Summer we had several trips that we were away for, whether for personal travel, work travel or visiting family, we always turn off our AC/heat when we’re gone. A week away without the AC running at all in our house, saves us so much money so don’t forget to turn it off before you leave.
We also always save money ahead of time for the cost of what we’ll need when we’re traveling. The nice part of this is that when you get back, you have a week’s worth of money in your bank account that you didn’t use while traveling. Try to save what you’ll need while you’re away months ahead of time and you’ll have a nice little bucket of cash when you get home!
Another great way to utilize saving and making a little extra cash is if you travel for work. During work trips, utilize meals that your company pays for and if you’re driving, be sure to cash out on the miles you drive through your company that they are required to pay you for. A few days away on a work trip can save you a bunch of money that you’d be paying if you were at home, so take advantage!
Bonus : Take a Good Look at your Car and Gas Usage
One thing that doesn’t affect Nick and I too much but does affect a lot of people is your car and the cost of gas. I drive a Mini Cooper which take hardly any gas and that I only drive a few times a week. And Nick drives a 6 year old Mazda SUV that gets good gas mileage and he’s not driving very far to get to work every day. But it’s important to look at your cars and the gas usage to see if you can cut back there as well. If you’re driving long distances every day, maybe your car isn’t great for that or maybe you can cut back on how much you drive and walk more places? There is a ton of money to be saved in this category so take a look at your individual requirements and see where you might be able to cut cost for your car and gas costs.