January 17, 2014

eight ways to save money in 2014

Anyone who has known me for long will probably be surprised by this post. Although my family is fairly frugal, I have never been the wisest person when it comes to money. But the silly (stupid?) combination of moving to one of the most expensive North American cities, grad school, and having a baby have forced me to embrace a healthier financial lifestyle. Plus, my husband's apparently insatiable appetite for education means we are probably looking at another 4-7 years of the grad school lifestyle. Here are some concepts that have helped us a ton:

1. Track your spending (duh ). How can you know how much you can spend if you don't know how much you have? We use mint.com to track our spending and set budgets. It's pretty much the best and simplest thing I have found. We are terrible at tracking ourselves and this is almost a no-brainier technique.

2. Embrace homemade. Thanks to Pinterest and the resurgence of DIY lately, this is pretty simple and in fashion. If you can cook, a homemade meal is almost always going to save you money. Bake your birthday cakes. Sew your curtains. Make your own peanut butter, almond milk, salad dressing, bed frame, liquid soap... Whatever you find inspiration in! Homemade and hand-made things are often higher quality and more memorable than store-bought.

3. Keep your home company-ready (whatever that means for you). That way you can have a friend over for tea instead of going out, or entertain visiting family instead of spending money at a nice restaurant. 

4. Live in the smallest space you can realistically function in. Smaller= less rent or morgage to pay. Smaller= less space to fill up with stuff. I'm frequently saved from making an extraneous purchase when I realize it will just add to the clutter in my home.

5. Decide what's worth a pretty penny to you, and spend your dough there. For me, it's travel. For Nate, it's tech. We would rather wear second hand clothes and have these things as part of our lifestyle.

6. Buy in bulk, but only if you won't consume it faster. When we first moved to Vancouver, land of expensive meat and dairy, we started making trips to Costco in Washington state to 'save money'. We soon found that having that much food on hand just meant we ate it more often than we normally would. Now we shop sales here, and eat less meat and dairy (except for this month). Our exception? Household items. I would bet you're not going to clean house more often because you have plenty of cleaning supplies stashed away. And if you do, I say more power to you.

7. Sometimes you have to spend to save. If you realize after tracking your spending that you give a third of your income to Starbucks, it's time to buy an espresso machine and become your own barista. Another place this is quite true is items around the house- if you could possibly foresee having a need for an item for the rest of your life, spend a bit more now for something high quality that you love. Ikea dishes just break and then you have to spend more later.

8. Know thyself. If you're apt to overspend occasion when you see that thing you must have, or your favorite band comes to town, or you just want a fancy meal out on occasion, then factor that in. Frugal isn't always fun, so leaving room for occasional irresponsibility is actually really responsible.

What would you add to this list?

Xo Katie

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