Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cutting Corners Like a Boss - And a Pantry Challenge

MFD and I like to have our vacations and weekends away. We also like to do home improvement projects. Well, we like to pay someone to do them. And then there's the normal bills: mortgage, other bills, insurance, gas, groceries, bills, taxes, dog care and food, etc. etc. 

Just like you, right? Most people have a lot of expenses and also a lot of dreams and desires: things to do and experience, places to go and see. The regular expenses and the dream expenses come out of the same pot unless you are Richie Rich. Do you kids know who Richie Rich is?

Since I'm the Hausfrau-In-Charge of both our financials and our household expenses, I do what I can to cut costs so we have the money for the things we WANT to do. I mean no one WANTS to pay bills with their money, but this is real life, not Fantasy Island.  

While we all do different things with our money - and it's not anyone else's business as long as you're  self sufficient - we could probably all stand to cut some corners. Here are some things I do regularly, not just when money is tight:

1. I bring my breakfast and lunch to work. I am not dropping $10 a day on lunch, which is what you end up spending downtown. Sweet Brown ain't got no time for $50/week on lunches when I can brown bag it. For those of you with math deficiencies like myself, that's $200/month I'm not spending.

2. I get coffee at work four days a week and treat myself on the fifth. That's $2-$4 a day that I'm saving, depending on if it's hot coffee or iced. If you average that out to $3/day, that's $48/month I'm not spending.

3. Grocery shopping: I can manage to pass four different grocery stores on the way home from work depending on which way I go, and two on the way home from the gym as well. I shop the sales if the price differentials are worth the time to go to a different store.

4. Ninety percent of my clothes and shoes are purchased on sale. I also try to use Groupons and coupons when available and appropriate - I won't use a coupon to buy something that wasn't on my list anyway.

5. If I do go to see a movie in the theater (rare), I got in the morning when it's the cheapest. And I bring my own snacks.

6. I take the train to work - $155/month versus $300/month for parking, then gas on top of that. 

7. We don't go out to eat weekly - we try to keep it to once a month. I'm a good cook and unless we're going out with friends for a little social, it's nicer to create a meal and eat at home. Plus I hate waiting at restaurants. When we do go out just the two of us, we try to hit a BYOB or limit it to one drink. Restaurant drink prices are ridiculous.

8. I get my books from the library.

9. I paint my own nails every week and get a manicure maybe once a quarter to clean them up. I grudgingly paint my toes sometimes but I definitely get a pedicure on a regular basis.

10. I follow our budget as best as I can and I don't mind being the person who says, "We don't have the money for that." No one ever wants to be that person, or to say to a friend, "Eh, can't afford to do that right now." I don't give a shit. We're not doing it if we can't do it or if it's going to make us uncomfortable financially.

Do I fail and splurge on things? Sure. We all do. I am weak for makeup that I buy and don't use. MFD buys lives in Candy Crush (not kidding!). I don't cut corners when it comes to my hair. I'm a brand whore for certain items. And I spend $2 most weeks to have fresh flowers in a vase by the front door. That $2 goes a long way in making me happy. It's all about balance and what works for you and your family.

I try to envision myself on the vacation I'm saving for, or sitting on the new deck we want to add on to the house. It makes not spending willy nilly easier.

How do you cut corners? 

Helene also did a post on this last week, so check her post out to get more tips on saving cash to do what you really want to do.

AND, I invite you to join me in a Pantry Challenge - I got this idea from my friend Kate during a Words with Friends game. I am going to go as long as I can - and that is at least three weeks - just using what's in my freezer, fridge and pantry. I'm allowed to buy produce, milk, cheese, and bread when mine runs out. I'll be reporting back in on this in about a month. I'm excited about this.

p.s. someone push me off the ledge into cancelling our cable and live-streaming.

Linking up with Lisette for Just Because


  1. Excellent advice. So many ways not to waste money and time.
    Headed to the dentist. Carpe diem, all!

    Love your MOMMA

  2. thanks for the shoutout!! and i paint my nails and do the same with coffee. it makes it seem more fun when you get it on fridays and it's kind of a treat.

  3. I could so do better with this if I was single. Although I am in charge of all the finances, I think I can be better about saving and cutting back. Online shopping and Target are my vices and I can avoid Target, unsubscribe to sale emails, etc. John likes to spend on going out...dinner, drinks, etc. We cut it down to eating out once per week (I am thoroughly impressed that you only go once a month) but I don't think I can get him to cut it down more than that.

    He is of the "I work hard I want to go out and enjoy myself" mentality and I am more of a homebody. Seriously one of the biggest challenges in our marriage.

    Also, our water bill is fucking outrageous for two people. Why? Because he takes 30 MINUTE LONG SHOWERS EVERY SINGLE DAMN DAY. Can you tell I am bitter about this?

    I would also love the pantry challenge but then I hear...we have no food...let's go out...there is nothing to eat.

    Clearly I need a divorce and the longest comment award goes to me!!

  4. Well, you know I'll be no help convincing you to cancel cable and live streaming. LOL

    We're having our windows cleaned this week, and we try to get that done twice a year. Some people may think that's a waste of money, but not to us. We have a ton of windows, many are hard to get to, and I'm not about to clean those bastards myself.

    I used to go out to lunch every single day, but now it's only maybe once every couple weeks.

  5. CUT YOUR CABLE! You do not need it! We took the leap in 2008 and it was hard...for about a week. We had netflix and hulu and both do the trick. Can I just sit down and watch my guilty pleasure of the Kardashians? No. But now when we sit down we are not mindlessly watching something just to watch, we are watching only what we WANT (with no commercials!) It is hard when everyone is watching GoT season three right now and we have to wait a few months for it to come out, but life goes on. It is so great--and it makes going to a hotel with cable and extra treat ;)

  6. (my pantry isn't so much a pantry as a corner cabinet, so that makes it easy too--no place to store a lot of packaged food). - Angie

  7. (continued...) Great ideas, Steph! I have never paid for cable, and never will. I have my Netflix account for $20/month. When you live in a neighborhood like mine, getting coffee in the morning is a social experience--meet your neighbors, connect with the community. Definitely worth the cost. :) (protecting my livelihood here!) Eliminate processed foods and eat lower on the food chain. It's healthier and way cheaper--shop the grocery store perimeter, or better yet, hit up the farmers markets in season and support local sustainable farmers at the same time. Have a backyard or enough space for pots? Grow herbs, tomatoes and leafy greens--most are super easy to grow. Cleaning products? Baking soda and vinegar--cheap and environmentally friendly. Live near public transportation? Share a car. Clothing--we have some great consignment shops around here too. :)

  8. I wish I was strong enough to cut cable, sometimes I just need the housewives fix. I don't think I'm ready, but I want to be - SO MUCH MONEY.

  9. What a great post! I wish I did better with spending/saving. Couponing is my big thing to save money. We don't go out to each too too much anymore, and when we do, most of the places are BYOB. Much cheaper!!

  10. Love your blog especially this post! I am going to have to take some notes because I can be bad about lunch out...thankfully it's usually Subway for the $4 meal deal so its not too pricey, but why do that when I can brown bag it?! That is still $20 a week!

    Have a great day!

  11. I've never had cable in my life (I'm not counting the free cable in the dorms) It's not the end of the world. My hubby and I are trying to do a freezer thing. I'm a stocker upper so when certain things go on sale i'll get more but we take forever to use them!

  12. I love this! And I'm like you... however I only go to the grocery store every 2 or 3 weeks. So we definetly try to make sure we use everything that we have in the freezer and in the pantry. I HATE it when something goes to waste... HATE it!!!

  13. We're so much alike! I do so many of these as well. Although I bring my breakfast to work, I'm guilty of buying my lunch most days. We don't have a microwave in my office and sandwiches and salads get boring pretty quickly.

    I'm all about sales and coupons though and rarely buy something if it isn't on sale. It's all about budgeting properly!

  14. AWESOME post!!! I definitely need to get better at just flat out saying "we don't have the money for that." The sad thing is, it's not usually other people trying to talk us into things, it's Isaiah and I trying to talk OURSELVES into buying something. It's hard owning a home that needs SO much work done, we end up spending a lot of money on little things to make it look better while we try and save for bigger projects (i.e. the entire house literally *needing* new flooring, since the last idiots who owned it put kitchen linoleum - dinged up, dingy, gross linoleum - in the ENTIRE house).

    We're really bad about eating out, too. If I've had a hard day at work the absolute last thing I want to do is cook, especially since we usually go home and work out right after work and by the time we're done with that it's 7-7:30 pm and I hate eating that late anyway, cooking just adds to the length of time before we can eat.

    Basically I need to budget better - both money and time ;)

  15. Karen Klein-SchafferApril 30, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    I'm definitely in on the Pantry Challenge. We need to defrost the freezer so the timing is perfect. Do you allow yourself to buy fresh fruits and veggies ?

    As far as what to do to save some cash, thanks to a pinterest pin, I've been making my own laundry detergent for about 6 months. I'm still mixing it using the $8 ingredients that I originally bought and I've saved a ton of money. Clothes are just as clean and it is so simple to make.

    I also shop mostly consignment and thrift for clothes. (and I consign where I shop so I basically shop for free). It's a fun challenge. I get a lot of bang for my buck. Also, no one else is wearing the exact same thing. I do this for myself and the kids.

    Great blog post. I always look forward to your insight and wit.

  16. Yes! I love the library as well, unless I know it's a book I'll want to reference over and over and highlight/underline, etc.
    And, I am so over doing stuff that we don't want to do out of obligation, especially when we'd rather put that money toward something else.
    Good tips!

  17. I could have written this post! Really. I do all of these things. I CANNOT stand spending money on coffee. I feel like I've been swindled. The only thing I don't do is take out library books, because I am so horrible at bringing them back on time. I seriously could go on a trip with the amount of fines I've paid over the years. I finally just gave up.

  18. I swear I commented on this already! Good luck on the Pantry Purge! I'm in the midsts of doing it with my beauty products but I am down to two bottles of face wash that I despise!

    Do I just suck it up and finish them until I can proudly throw away the empty bottle or do I treat myself to a new bottle of a trusted brand since I have been so successful in purging shampoos, conditioners, hotel soaps, old mascaras, bronzers etc.

    There is not one brand new beauty product in my house. Can't wait to restock!

  19. Coffee is the first thing I cut out too if I need to save. It's insane how much I spent last year at Caribou. I should own stock.

  20. I do a lot of the same things (except I don't drink coffee so replace that word with tea) in order to save money around these parts. Particularly the going out to eat thing. Working from home, it's so tempting to leave the house to get something to eat instead of cooking yet another meal but I do it because I'm saving for...well, I don't quite know what yet, but I'm saving.

    And I wish I could cancel cable. Actually, if it weren't for the husband and child, I would. I don't watch enough TV to warrant having cable and what I do watch, I can typically see online the next day.

    As a personal finance blogger, I love reading posts about money by non-PF bloggers. Posts like this are so much more human and, on top of that, I now I have idea for one or two of my own :)

  21. @Angie - If I lived near Mugshots, I'd make my coffee getting community thing too! As it is, I am surrounded by Dunkin Donuts and Starsucks in town, and I don't need to pay them $3 a day!

    @Karen, I want to replicate Gain scent in a do it yourself laundry detergent. I've been doing some research and when my two bottles are gone, I may take the plunge.
    As far as the Pantry Challenge, I am allowed to purchase fresh fruit and veggies weekly. I can also purchase bread, eggs, milk, creamer, and cheese - WHEN I RUN OUT, and not before then.

  22. Fantastic, and realistic advice! Thank you :-) I am having a tough time saving money and paying off debt. BUT all of the fun things will be worth it.

    I will still get pedicures though :-)

  23. Great tips! I've been trying to do several of those myself! #1 on my list is library books and swapping with othersinstead of buying them-they just collect dust anyway!

  24. I laughed so hard about the lives on Candy Crush. For coffee, I buy a gift card on the first of the month, and when it's gone, it's gone. That really helped with my coffee addiction.

  25. I think this is great and REALLY wish I could be more like you.....I am terrible with money...it's like I think it grows on friggin trees or something and we are not well off, rich people. I just have never been good a budgeting or managing money. Quite honestly, I suck at it. BUT you and Helene both are inspiring to get better about it.

  26. Great ideas! I am getting better at meal planning so we don't eat out as much, but it's still 2-3 times a week. EEKKS!! But I try to save where I can. Get TP, Laundry soap, other regulars in bulk at Sam's... ect. ect. Great ideas though! THanks for the reminder! I should redo the budget for summer...

  27. I do all of the above except for the train (not an option) and we don't set a limit on going out to eat. We don't go out more than 3-4 times/month, but I don't put a limit on it in case we do want to go more. I also don't feel bad about saying things aren't in the budget or that we don't feel like spending money on something, I.E. our friends want to go see Iron Man this weekend, but a) we rarely choose to spend money at the movies and b) they don't even want to see IMAX 3D. Why would I want to waste money going to a theater if we aren't even going to make it worthwhile?

  28. Great post! I need to curb my online shopping. I recently unsubscribed from all the daily deal websites and I'm cancelling Julep Maven. I'll still go to the parlor for mani/pedis, but I don't need 2 bottles of polish a month. That's just ridiculous! We really, really, really need to stop eating out. We're out and about so much that it's just the easiest thing to do, but we need to start packing snacks and lunches to take with us. I do a lot of library books too, but can't resist Kindle deals. The problem is, I have 30 that I haven't read yet! That has to stop.

  29. Karen Klein-SchafferMay 23, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    @Steph, let me know when you are ready to make the laundry detergent. It is so simple. There are many recipes out there, but, I make one that involves NO grating of soap bars. Love it.

    Our pantry challenge/clean out is ending week 3. Thanks for the great idea!! We've had some creative and delicious meals and have only had minimal trips to the store for milk, bread, veggies, and perishables. We're almost out of cereal! (GASP!!) The kids will have to start eating oatmeal for a bit. LOL>

    Love your blog. Keep inspiring.

  30. Karen - the only stuff I've bought so far is dairy, bread, produce, tea bags, and items for dishes to take to parties that people specifically requested. Going strong! I still don't need to buy meats for another week or two I don't think.

    I'll let you know when I'm out of Gain!


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