I’m a notorious tight ass. Not the kind that tries to get away without paying my fair share of the bill or the person who drinks everyone else’s booze and never brings their own. I’m a tight ass in that I just don’t enjoy spending money. I never really have. I’d go on shopping days with girlfriends in high school and they’d spend all their weekly pocket money on CDs and trinkets and I’d just tuck my money away until I found something I really wanted.
I’m getting more and more discerning with what I spend my money on and I figured these tips would make a great blog post and help some people save money. These ideas won’t work for everyone but they’re a collection of things that have worked for me. Money can be awkward and boring and sometimes you just need a reminder of the simple things. You also sometimes need someone to give you permission to spend money on the things you like…. which is totally reasonable.
1. Cook simple food
Mr Smaggle and I eat in accordance with the Ketogenic eating style. We’ve been doing this for about a year and our grocery bill is a third what it used to be. We eat eggs, meat, vegetables and good fats and that’s it, he also eats small amounts of dairy like cheese and yogurt. We used to spend about $70 per week on gluten-free bread, wraps, pasta and other allergy substitutes but now that we eat grain free, we don’t buy anything like that anymore. The simpler your meals, the cheaper they will be. Herbs are expensive and packets of sauces and meal kits can really add up. We buy our vegetables and meat from a local market and we can get pretty much everything we need for the week for two of us for about $70 dollars all up and that’s what we used to spend on Mr Smaggle’s allergy free food alone.
2. Spend more money
Four pairs of cheap $50 shoes cost the same as one pair of $200 shoes but if you shop smart, the $200 shoes will last a lot longer than the four pairs of $50 shoes. Sometimes you need to spend more money to save money. For example, I used to buy cheap, plastic containers at the supermarket to keep my make-ahead meals in and I was constantly replacing them. Over the last year or two, I’ve slowly replaced them Pyrex glass containers and they’re lasting beautifully. Yes, they’re more expensive but I’d rather spent $15 on a container that’s going to last ten years than $3 on a container I have to replace every few years.
3. Go to the library
I love magazines but I can’t justify the cost and waste of them so whenever I want to get my magazine hit, I go to a library and binge flick through all the mags I love. Marie Claire, Vogue, InStyle. I still buy indie mags like Frankie and Smith Journal, but for the glossies, the library will do. I do buy books on my Kindle but I justify it as paying $9 (most popular Kindle books cost about that) for the convenience of not having to lug books around with me and I get to support an author. That’s $9 well spent in my book.
4. Borrow a dress instead of buying one
I’ve borrowed the same dress from my mate Nikki for at least three weddings and it’s always such a winner. It saves me so much time and money going shopping for something appropriate. Before you start shopping for something fancy, shop your own wardrobe or ask a mate if you can borrow something. It’s thrifty and environmentally friendly. Win.
5. Avoid eating in restaurants
This one will depend on where you live, as some people live in densely populated areas where they can eat out more cheaply than they can cook at home but most of the time, it’s cheaper to prepare your food at home. I grew up in a city where it’s expensive to eat out and even more expensive to get a cab home afterwards so I’ve grown up with this lounge room culture where my mates and I hang out at each other’s houses almost exclusively. I’m happy to have a meal out here and there and have a few drinks at the pub but I’d much rather bring a bottle of wine to a mate’s place and sit their couch. Cheaper and heaps more comfy.
6. Bargain with your utility provider
We moved house recently and really didn’t want to change service providers but we noticed a competitor had a much better deal, so we called our current provider and asked them to price match, gently hinting that we’d leave if they didn’t. They matched it without question and we didn’t even have the hassle of changing providers when we moved. If you’ve been with your current utility provider for years without checking the current rates and deals of competitors, give yourself that job to do this week. You could save yourself thousands of dollars just by making a phone call.
7. Check your internet and phone bill plans
Similarly, we both got new phones last year and checked our plans and we realised we were paying WAY more than we had to. We were each paying around $80 per month for 5Gb and we saw another plan on offer at a different provider for $100 per month for 30Gb that we can share. We were getting ripped off because we joined that plan ages ago and at the time it was the best one but we got lazy and didn’t check it. We’re now saving $60 per month and we get an extra 10Gb than we had before.
8. Make coffee at home or work
The price of takeaway coffee has officially reached the point where it’s a luxury item now. It’s almost impossible to get a cup for less than $4.50 and if you have five takeaway coffees per week for a full year that’s over $1000 a year spent on coffee. Doesn’t that sound like a ludicrous waste? If you love coffee and you’re happy to spend that money on it, go for it but if coffee is just a cup of something perky you throw back every morning, think about making it at home or at work instead and pocketing that cool grand for something you really want.
9. Avoid buying things in packets
Have you ever just bought fresh produce like vegetables, fruit and meat and been shocked at how cheap it all was? But by the time you throw in a bottle of soft drink, a packet of chips, some ‘healthy’ gourmet chocolate and some fancy little yogurts, you can easily double your grocery tally without even trying. You don’t have to totally give up packaged goods, just think about what you’re buying and why you’re buying it before you throw it in your trolley.
10. DIY your beauty treatments
Depending on your budget and needs you can make exceptions to this rule. For example, I have special needs hair, so I would never cut my own hair and I also won’t do my own eyebrow maintenance because it’s just far too easy to screw that up. I do all my own hair removal with an epilator though, I do my own manicures and pedicures and I even colour my own hair. I know there are some people out there who will need to allocate their beauty budget differently but DIY what you can and only pay the professionals when you really need too.
11. Pay off your credit card every single month
If you’re an adult who eventually wants to buy a house, you need a credit card to show that you know how to deal with money that doesn’t exist. That’s the only reason why I have one but I pay it off every single month and I won’t pay any interest on that credit card. Paying interest on credit cards is the biggest waste of money. Never buy what you can’t afford and keep that credit card balance at zero.
12. Say no
If you can’t afford it, say no. For example, I almost ever go to concerts, mainly because Cher and Madonna almost never come to Australia. I had a few people ask me to go to Taylor Swift and Beyonce and I like their music and it would be spectacular but unless I’m really frothing over an artist, I’m not going to shell out $200 for a ticket to their show. It’s totally fine to say no to those kinds of things. I’d rather pop my $200 in my savings account and watch some T Swift on YouTube.
13. Avoid buying gifts for people
I’ve been very slowly but surely removing myself from the present buying cycle. If I see a friend for their birthday, I’ll buy them a bottle of wine or something but I no longer spend full days looking for a present for someone and then freaking out and spending $50 on anything at the last minute. It’s such a waste of money. I’d rather buy a lovely bottle of wine and drink it with them. This means most people have stopped buying me gifts too, which is excellent because I definitely don’t need any more stuff.
14. Spend money where it counts
In this world we need to spend money to survive, that’s kind of how it works but it’s how you allocate that money that matters. For example, I pay $50 per week for my gym membership, which is a really expensive gym membership. I get quite a bit of judgement from people when they find out how much I pay to go to my gym but here are a few things to consider.
1. Most people join gyms and never go. So yes, $50 per week for a gym membership you’re not using is very expensive.
2. I go to the gym 5 to 6 times every single week and never less than 3 times. So on a bad week, it’s $16 per class and on a good week, it’s $8 per class, which is entirely reasonable considering rent, trainers, equipment and insurance all need to be paid for.
3. I fucking love my gym. It’s an F45 (most of them are brilliant, I’m just super lucky to have a really great one near me) and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted from a gym class. It’s 45 minutes, it’s different every day, it goes by super quickly and I get excellent results. Being in good physical condition also means I feel better, I sleep better and I’m more productive. It’s an investment in my whole wellbeing, not just a gimmicky expensive gym membership.
I’m not saying you need to join an F45 (although you should, they’re ace), I’m saying that if you pay $30 per week for a salsa class you love that lights you up inside, keep doing it. It’s money well spent. If you pay a few hundred dollars for a theatre subscription and you love every play you go to see, keep paying that money. Cut it down in areas where it doesn’t matter so you have the room to spend it on things you love.
15. Meal plan
For the first time in my adult life, I have a kitchen that isn’t a hallway, so I’ve gone to the dark side with my meal planning. I take it very seriously. Every Sunday I cook a big batch of chicken curry, caulirice, savoury mince and a frittata for our dinners and lunches for the coming week. I also make yogurt in my Easiyo and homemade whole egg mayo. The ingredients cost around $90 for a full weeks worth of food and at the end of the week, our fridge is empty, without a veggie drawer full of slimy lettuce we never got around to using. We recently bought a pressure cooker, which is like a slow cooker but fast (seriously they’re amazing) and it makes the best curries and casseroles. We just make a few meals on Sundays, pop them into portions for the week and we’re good to go.
16. Take your lunch to work
One I always find if I each lunch out it’s never quite as satisfying as wanted it to be and I usually have to buy an additional afternoon snack to keep myself sated. If I pack my lunch from home, I know how much I need to pack to keep myself full and I don’t have to buy an overpriced afternoon snack to make up for my disappointing lunch.
17. Never buy bottled water
It’s a massive waste of money and it’s terrible for the environment. I used to work in an office with a guy who would buy a bottle of water every lunchtime, bring it back to the work kitchen table and drink it, sitting in front a shelf full of glasses above a chilled, filtered water tap. Drove me bonkers. Just make sure a water bottle is a part of the everyday stuff you carry. Keys, phone, wallet, water bottle. Sorted.
18. Never buy bottled anything
I went on a bit of a waste-free bender last year and stopped buying bottled drinks. I’d buy a few bottles of kombucha, a few cans of Diet Coke and maybe an almond milk cold pressed coffee here and there. Not only was it really expensive, it was totally unnecessary. I’ll still occasionally have a Diet Coke or something but I’ve cut back on the daily purchases and it’s made a big difference to my wallet and my rubbish bin.
19. Pay your bill on time
Paying late fees is like setting money on fire. Put reminders in your phone to make sure you never miss a bill or better yet, just make sure that all bills are auto-paid out of your account that way you won’t get caught with late fees.
20. Regularly check your bank statements
Just check in once a month and make sure everything is up to scratch. You might be paying for a subscription service you no longer use or an automated payment might be going through that doesn’t need to go through anymore. It might also make you aware of other expenses you’re wasting money on like that $8 muffin you buy a few times per week or an online shop that gets $100 from you every few days when you’re bored at work.
21. Buy second hand
If I want to buy something, I always check Gumtree first. We’ve bought cameras, phones, computers, camping gear and even a treadmill off Gumtree.