Tales from the Wallet: What’s the Best Change You’ve Made to Save More Money?

The Little Changes That Save MoneyWhat are some of the best changes that you’ve made to save more money? For some people it might be curbing your Starbucks habit; for others it might be something like learning about double coupon days. But I’d love to focus our discussion today on what you’ve CHANGED about your strategy (versus what you never did or what you’ve always done). (Pictured: Brahmin Croc Embossed Leather Continental Wallet, available for $155 at Nordstrom.)

For me, one of the biggest changes I’ve made in recent years was to start stocking up during sales at the drugstore and grocery store, instead of buying items only when I needed them. I first tried doing this when I was first out of college and writing articles on how to save money for Family Circle magazine — there were a ton of coupon tips that just did not work in NYC. (There are no double coupon days here, and you can’t even get that many coupons from the Sunday papers.) I just felt like my store bills were higher because I would buy stuff I didn’t need or didn’t use, and all for a $.30 “savings” because I had a coupon. Another friend of mine (who started her career working for Woman’s Day) spent hours making an elaborate spreadsheet with an average cost per count” for every single thing she bought — and I figured, if I can’t put hours into it, why even put a second into it?

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Ten years later, though, I found myself noticing store sales — like when CVS or the local grocery store would mark things down. Now I take a loop around the entire store whenever I can, and if things are on a “good” sale then I’ll stock up. My rules are that I have to know I’ll use it by the expiration date (usually because I’ve used that same brand forever, or because it’s something generic that I don’t care about) and I have to be able to store it somewhere (which can be tricky in a cramped NYC apartment). And I do keep a small spreadsheet of some of the best prices (usually broken down to a “per count” price) that I can refer to when standing in the store. I also try to take a loop around Cleveland drugstores when I get home because the prices are so much lower — I’ve come back to NYC with as many as ten packages of Glide floss because it was $2 cheaper in Cleveland. I also take advantage of Amazon’s “Subscribe and Save” program for a lot of things because — compared to NYC prices — it does tend to be substantial savings. Am I saving thousands of dollars? Probably not. But I’m sure I’m saving a few hundred every year, and every little bit helps.  (I’m at a point now where it hurts a bit to pay full price for something because I ran out and need it right then!)

Readers, what is the best CHANGE that you’ve made to save more money? Is there anything that you tried to change and decided to stop, either because it was too hard, you didn’t like the change, or because you weren’t saving money?

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  1. I started cold-brewing one large batch of iced coffee for the week the weekend prior. (I adapted this NY Times recipe to my own taste preferences: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/dining/276drex.html) It saves me time in my always-rushed mornings since I don’t have to stop for coffee on the way to work or get up early enough to brew it that morning — plus I save lots of money by doing this in bulk! I generally prefer iced coffee to hot, but I do sometimes warm up a cup of the stuff on mornings I feel differently. :)

    • I switched from shopping at large Grocery Stores to shopping at Aldi for 90% of my groceries. Where I used to spend upwards of $150-175 a week, now I spend $75, maybe $100 every two months. Unbelievable! They sell name brand products under the European label, and so they can sell it for half the price.

  2. Anne Shirley :

    I stopped driving to work. Public transit takes about 10 minutes longer, but I can read on the train. Gave my car to my parents and now borrow it occasionally. Monthly savings: $475. Parking was so expensive!

    • I did the same. I actually get there faster because my vanpool takes the HOV lane and knows secret routes for every traffic jam situation AND I save a ton of money.

  3. I only go to the supermarket once a month to stock up on soy milk, soup, pasta, etc. In between I only shop for fresh produce at small, independent stores (green grocer, butcher, etc). I find I spend a lot less on things like sweets, chips, (soft) drinks, and pre-prepared stuff: the more luxurious products that aren’t all that good for you.
    When I went to the supermarket every few days, I always bought extras I didn’t need, so I recon this saves quite some money. Doesn’t save much time though, since I still have to hit the stores every few days for perishables (lettuce, meat, etc).

    • Counter-intuitively, shopping at Whole Foods has saved me a bit in grocery money. I started going there because the produce was so much better. Because they don’t carry a lot of processed foods, I find I make fewer impulse buys. I also try harder to finish what I buy, because their prices are a bit higher on some things. Milk is cheaper, though.

    • Good for you! Recently I started doing my “main” shopping of the week at the farmers’ market, and then sticking exactly to my list of a few grocery store items to fill in the edges. Not sure yet how this is going to work when the weather gets cooler and the farmers’ market closes, but it seems to have stuck for the summer, at least. Any tips for a relative newbie to this approach?

      • I’ve found that regularly patronizing the same farmers helps. We buy from the same ones every week and they often throw in tons of free produce. Also, we are flexible in our meal plan and have enough recipes memorized so that if we see a great deal (last week we found heirloom tomatoes for $1 a pound) we can modify our meal plan for the week to take advantage of the deal.

      • I have a similar method that I also recently established (farmers market once a week for the “big haul”, another smaller grocery run during the week to tide me over). Not sure what I’m going to do when the market’s season is over… I’m sort of dreading it.

  4. Earlier in my student days, I had very little storage space, so I got into the habit of not buying routine household items in bulk, and kept it up even though my husband and I bought a house with plenty of storage space. Problem is, then I would run out of something and be so busy that I’d buy it somewhere close by and usually expensive, often making a stop just for that (and impulse buying a few other items along the way).

    Now I stock up on the staples we always use at Target or Costco once every month or two, and when I’m getting low in stock (like, when I *start* the last tube of toothpaste), it goes back on the list for the next trip. I always told myself that I was paying for the convenience of not making a trip out to Target, but really, I was paying for my own lack of planning on something that was entirely predictable.

  5. anon in tejas :

    thread jack.

    how do you all answer your phone?

    I have a secretary that answers for me, and she routes the calls that I want to take to me after announcing. I am a little flumoxed at how best to answer the phone. I used to answer: “Hi this is FIRST NAME.” However, this has really resulted in a lot of people then referring to me as FIRST NAME in all further communication. I refer to people as Ms. LAST NAME or Mr. LAST NAME and am somewhat required to do so. I feel that my standard phone answer is a little too casual for that communication expectation.

    Also, if this complicates things… my name is FIRST NAME LAST NAME-LAST NAME, which is ethnic, long and difficult to spell.


    • Motoko Kusanagi :

      I always answer with Hello This is Motoko Kusanagi. If I had a hyphenated last name, I’d still follow this format, eg Hello This is Motoko Kusanagi-Smith.

    • If I answer it directly, “Good morning/afternoon, this is First Name Last Name” If it transfers from my assistant, “This is First Name” I am careful to always use the honorarium with certain parties (Dr, Judge, Reverend, etc.) unless explicitly told not to. I don’t really care if people refer to me by my first name though and don’t expect it to be tit for tat. Do you want them to use your last name in verbal communication as well as written? If so, I would use first and last when answering the phone, signing emails, etc.

    • If a call is transferred from my secretary, I pick up the phone “Patti Smith”, no hello or hi or anything. If I pick up directly, it’s “Hello Patti Smith”. Easy-peasy!

    • TO lawyer :

      I answer the phone: First Name Last Name. I’m younger and I think I have a youngish sounding voice so I try to sound serious when I answer the phone in hopes that it makes me sound older/competent (i.e. I’m sick of people asking to speak to the lawyer on the file…)

    • In my job (as an attorney in the court system) I am required to refer to people by their last name only, and I expect attorneys to refer to me by my last name. In every interaction, be it the phone or in-person, I introduce myself or call myself “Ms. Jones.” Introducing myself or calling myself with both names, i.e. “Jane Jones,” resulted in a lot of people calling me by my first name only, and then I would have to correct them (I used to say, “Actually, everyone calls me Ms. Jones”), which was awkward. Introducing myself as “Ms. Jones” took quite a while to get used to. However, now that I’m used to it, I nearly always introduce myself to other professionals that way. For instance, if I am meeting a doctor (as a patient) for the first time, I introduce myself as Ms. Jones, since there is no reason for my doctor to call me “Jane” while I all my doctor “Dr. Smith.” I prefer it!

      • Anonymous :

        Wow, really? That would come across to me as more than a little pretentious.

      • Yesterday I went to a new doctor and he introduced himself to me as Dan. I didn’t think any less of him.

        • Maybe I’m overly sensitive on this, so YMMV, but from observation in my field (medical/mental health) it seems like a) more women do this than men; b) there’s rarely negative consequences with patients; but c) there are subtle negative consequences with colleagues and administrators. If Dr. Anna Smith often introduces herself as “Anna” and Dr. Bob Jones always introduces himself as “Dr. Jones”, others are going to more often use those names (e.g., “Let’s bring in Anna and Dr. Jones on this meeting.”) One person being referred to by Firstname and another by Dr. Lastname creates an impression of differing status. Not exactly what I’m going for professionally. And I still think women have to work a little bit harder to get the same respect and authority men do, so I believe in using language that doesn’t undermine others’ sense of me as a professional.

          I make a definitive point of referring to all MD or PhD colleagues as Dr. So-and-so in any meetings or conversations with colleagues, and I expect the same. In private individual conversation, first names are fine — it’s more wanting to convey the public respect. And I certainly have a number of long-standing patients who refer to me by first name (or Dr. Firstname), and I’m fine with that. In fact,I think breaking down some of the differing status between doc and patient can really make people feel more comfortable and improve patient care… but that’s another story.

    • “Bluejay Lastname speaking.”

      I read in some career advice book (NGDGTCO?) that it’s more authoritative to answer with one’s full name rather than one’s first name. If I know who’s calling, then I just say “This is Bluejay.”

      • I do this. Otherwise, I feel like I’m saying too many words that the other person just won’t remember anyways.

    • lucy stone :

      I am technically supposed to answer my phone “Hello, this is Assistant City Attorney Lucy Stone” but that takes too long. We have caller ID so if I know the caller I’ll pick it up and greet them by name, otherwise I usually just say “Lucy Stone” or “Attorney Stone.”

    • “CompanyName, this is FirstName”. No one uses last names in my field or at my company.

    • Anonymous :

      I just say “first name last name” when I pick up my phone, unless I can see that it’s from someone I know well, in which case I say “This is first name.”

    • I usually answer “This is Firstname Lastname”

      Unless the call is from a friend rather than a client or attorney, in which case I’ll usually just say “hello”

    • I struggled with this when I recently changed jobs. I now work in the government sector, with a lot of military service members, and I wanted to keep as professional as possible. My title is “Special Investigator,” so if I were to answer the phone with my title (analogous Doctor or military rank), I’d have to stumble over “Special Investigator Lastname,” and risk sounding/feeling pretentious, not professional. I decided that I don’t care if people call me by my first name (although most of the time people have enough respect for my position that they don’t), so I answer with an appropriate time of day greeting and my first name: “Good morning, this is Trista.” FWIW, I only have contact with people one to three times, and then never contact them again. Half the time I feel like they don’t even know me long enough to know my name.

      If you expect to be referred to as Ms. Lastname-Lastname, then answer the phone with that, or drop the name all together and just go with a greeting. Find out who your secretary is transferring, and say “Hello, Ms. Smith, how are you today?” This implies a last-name relationship that the other party should stick to. If you are asked for your name, give the whole thing, even if it is a mouthful.

  6. I found I was buying too many “good deals” on things that I didn’t really need or wouldn’t be able to use, like Groupons or clothes from online shopping since I was tempted by all the emails in my inbox. I setup a filter within Gmail to send all of the “Daily Deals” and shopping coupons to a folder within Gmail. I only go in there now when I’m intentionally looking for a coupon code for something I actually need to buy (example – back to school clothes for my son, went looking for my Lands End coupon codes). If there is a really good Groupon or deal for something I regularly use, my sister or one of my other friends let me know about it, but overall that way I’m not tempted by seeing so many deals every day reminding me to buy buy buy!

    Another change I made for my second pregnancy was to skip maternity clothes as long as possible and just buy 1 & 2 sizes up, mainly from a local secondhand store. It took me almost 2 years after my first to get back in my “regular” size and I wound up having to buy a lot of clothes in order to go back to work after my 6 week maternity leave when none of my regular clothes fit but I couldn’t bring myself to wear maternity clothes to work postpartum. My son is 10 months old now and I’m still wearing a lot of the 1 size up clothes for a lot less money than a maternity wardrobe plus a new 1 size up wardrobe. I am plus sized and carry wide plus don’t have to get dressed up for work at all, so YMMV.

    • Ditto on the emails. This may sound shocking but the best way I’ve saved money is by not buying stuff. Who would’ve thought? It started off as something I had to teach myself to save up for a huge trip and now it’s natural. I cannot be bothered to actually purchase something. I don’t browse in stores and I don’t browse online.

      I also let things run out/get destroyed before purchasing. Being allergic to everything has helped in the beauty/skincare spending. I have to update a few items in my wardrobe and thought of hunting for them makes me crawl under my desk.

      • totally agreed.

        Ignorance is bliss for my wallet. Once I unsubscribed to store email lists, daily deals, etc etc, I found myself browsing/finding items MUCH less often. (And I know I can count on you all, or an IRL friend, to alert me to Bloomie’s friends and family and such.)

        what was that old saying, make it do, wear it out, use it up or go without? Although I’m definitely less than “strict” about this with my work wardrobe, I definitely abide by it for household goods — I mend torn linens, wear ratty old sweatpants for housework, use old washcloths as cleaning rags, mush bars of soap together when they get so small that they’d otherwise get lost in the soap dish and dissolve, and spray the shower into my shampoo bottle to get that last wash out of it. I hate spending unnecessary money on “boring” things when I can use it for our down payment fund or a vacation!

        a change I’ve recently made is that now that we are student-loan FREE, we are pretending that portion of the paycheck still no longer exists. That’s $2500/month (plus bonuses) split between retirement, new house and newly established 529 plans for future kiddos. One of my biggest fears w/r/t Biglaw was the “golden handcuffs” so we are trying very hard to be used to living on an income that is 2/3 of what we actually bring home now. So far I’m feeling very good about resisting “ducking into jcrew just to see” and instead watching our various savings targets grow!

    • I do the same thing with the gmail filter – love it.

      • Same here. Gmail filters have prevented so many spur of the moment purchases… out of sight, out of mind!

    • I also do the email filter! I love it because I’m an addicted online shopper – just so much more convenient than shlepping around to stores all day on the weekends when I’d rather be outside or with friends enjoying my time. But having the dedicated email filter brings back a little of the “browsing” feeling to shopping which can often be lost when you’re shopping mainly online. Plus it narrows your focus to sales and deals.

      I also go rid of my car. I live in SF so I would have had to pay $218 (my monthly payment at the time I sold it), parking at my house ($280), parking at my work ($175), insurance (let’s just round to $100/mo), gas (I have no idea what that is now – $120/mo?) – so that’s $893 without even talking about maintenance, upkeep or annual reg fees. All told it’d probably even out to around $1000/mo in savings just by skipping out on that and using public transportation ($64/mo unlimited), taxis in emergencies and zipcar ($60/mo + hourly fees, gas and insurance included) when needed.

  7. Refinancing the mortgage. (Sometimes it’s the big things, you know?)

    • karenpadi :

      This. Although I used a re-fi in a really backwards way. I re-fi’ed from a 30-year to a 15-year. Lower interest rate but I pay $500 more per month for my house. I sleep better at night knowing that I am growing equity faster and won’t be in debt until I retire.

      My savings goals stayed the same so I’ve pruned $500 from my random expenses every month to up my savings. I didn’t think it was possible (especially because I didn’t cut things like my housekeeper, trainer, or massage therapy) but it’s working!

    • I agree with you about the big things. Since I started looking at coupons, or CVS extra bucks, etc. I find that I actually spend more money there than I used to before. It has helped to make a few big changes instead (paying myself first, pretending I still have a car payment), etc.

  8. anon in tejas :

    here’s a short list of the major things that we do as a couple:

    — carpool to work with partner. saves on time (carpool lane), gas, and parking costs.
    — cut out netflix (we bought a blue ray player and use a lot of amazon instant instead)
    — refied our mortgage (through cost co with really good closing costs)
    — changed our car insurance/home insurance to go through costco. huge huge huge savings here
    — buy all our meats and cheese in bulk (and stock on other staples)
    — meal plan for our meals

    here’s a list of what I do as an individual
    — take my lunch 4 days a week. eat out 1 time a week. I’ll make exceptions for business lunches, networking, etc. But this is the goal I shoot for. If I do all 5 in the office, I’ll reward myself with something small
    — sbux only once a week. I have a Tuesday habit. I am not in Court, and in the office all day long. I will walk and get starbucks to break up the day.
    — yoga only through groupons. I consider it a luxury expense, so I only use it when I can get a good deal.

  9. When gas prices first hit $4/gal. a few years ago, my husband and I started car pooling to work. At first I felt trapped downtown, but I realized that I could go get my husband’s car if I ever needed it during the day. We also grew to really like that daily time together in the car. So even when gas went down, we continued to car pool.

  10. After my start date was deferred late in my 3L year, I became compulsively frugal and it has stuck even though I now work in biglaw. Here are some things my family does:
    -no cable, we watch tv on the web
    -cook all food at home, from scratch if possible (e.g., buy dry beans and cook in the pressure cooker, make bread and pizza dough) (we like to cook, so this isn’t unpleasant) (but we do go out to fancy restaurants to celebrate special occasions)
    -grow herbs and some vegetables
    -plan meals around food that is in the fridge and needs to be used before going bad
    -learn which grocery stores/farmers markets have the best prices for items we buy frequently
    -don’t use heat or A/C (only possible because I live in an area with a temperate climate)
    -learned to wash most of my “dry clean” clothes myself
    -joined the library and stopped buying books
    -use public transportation
    -adopt a hair style that requires less frequent maintenance while still looking professional and appropriate (so I go to the salon 2 to 3 times per year rather than every 6-8 weeks as my previous hairstyle required)
    -do my own nails, with occasional (2-3 times per year) visit to the nail salon when I feel like they are too out of control for me to handle
    -right-sized insurance policies to eliminate unnecessary coverage (e.g., when we recently moved we learned that our renters policy provides moving insurance so we avoided spending $800 for separate moving insurance)
    -use the free gym in my office building
    -gave up caffeine
    -try to combine vacations with business trips (e.g., I tagged along with my husband to a conference in Europe, so his airfare and the hotel were paid for and we only had to pay for my airfare.)
    -buy used when possible and resell when you are done (we’ve broken even on baby hardware this way, while getting some really nice stuff, like a Bob stroller for $125 and a PB crib for $100)
    -paid off student loans (because where else was I going to get a 7.9% return on the money?)

    My weakness remains beauty products. I’ve tried to transition to drug store brands, but I ones that everyone else seems to like don’t work for me.

    • a passion for fashion :

      Interesting re the beauty products. In july of this year, I committed to NOT buying ANY beauty products and hair products that i could not get from the drug store/target, for a whole year. So far so good. I had tons of stuff already that i am using up and when it si gone, ill make a trip to target to get some new stuff.

    • I think we must come from the same family :)

      I do a lot of the same things:
      -Bring my lunch to work daily (for the cost of 5 lunches at $7-8 a pop, I can buy groceries for lunch and dinner for a week and a half!)
      -Buy staples in the largest bulk size I can fit in my apartment (so, not quite Costco size… someday)
      -Buy produce in season (still working on this one, as sometimes I just really want __ veggie or fruit)
      -Do my own nails, eyebrows, etc.
      -Borrow ebooks from the library instead of buying them (usually requires waiting a few weeks for bestsellers, but that’s not the end of the world)
      -Don’t run heat or A/C unless absolutely necessary (mostly the former for fear of pipes freezing… never run at night)
      -Buy drugstore goods during sales (and stock up on face wash, lotion, etc. during trips home – everything is so much cheaper outside big cities!)

    • “gave up caffeine” – O.


      How do you live?

      • It sucked a lot at first. Honestly, Diet Coke was harder than coffee. Now, I don’t even miss it, though I will use it in dire situations (e.g., midnight filings). I start my day with a workout and that gives me a good energy boost.

  11. *Automated 15% our our joint income right into savings account so we don’t even see it.

    *DH and I both get fixed percentage of our take-home paychecks (after 401K, insurance, taxes, HSA contributions) as “allowance.” I’m newly married and was afraid that I would miss the freedom to splurge on an item without judgment. However, I was splurging a lot, and realized that i didn’t have much to show for it! It makes me feel better about myself, actually! I love clothing, so don’t do as many lunches, for example because I don’t want to use all my allowance!

    *buy generic. Store brand groceries are identical in quality, in my experience! Meijer, Kroger, and Target brands are pretty great.

    *I refuse to pay retail–i need at least a 30% coupon to buy something marked at full price. (AT, Banana, Talbots are always having some 30 or 40% off sale–on the days that they’re not, I just refuse to buy!)

    *click through Upromise and use upromise credit card when making online purchases. 5-10% of purchase goes back to Sallie Mae student loans, and there’s pretty much always a code for shipping. Drugstore.com for essentials is pretty great.

  12. Library books! I’m addicted. In NYC, the NYPL recently redesigned their web interface and they have an iphone (and prob android too) app. It’s really good and easy to use, so whenever I see or think of a book I want to read, I immediately request it from the NYPL. So it keeps track of my reading list, and sends me an email when the book is ready for pickup at my local library a few blocks away. I’ve gotten lots of new releases with only a few weeks’ wait, both hardback and Kindle formats. Sometimes the wait is longer, but it’s a random treat to have forgotten all about a book I wanted to read and then get an email from the library telling me to come pick it up!

    • I *so* need to start going to the library. As previously disclosed on this site, I have a book ownership problem (i.e. I need to own *all* the books). Prior to university, I used to go to the library all the time. I need to revert to that habit. It would save me a ton of money. At the moment, I am ashamed to say, I don’t even have a current library card.

      • Backgrounder :

        THIS is me. I have a Kindle-book-buying problem. Especially when the CPL has many of the titles I musthavenow

    • downstream :

      me and you are two peas in one pod. LOVE the NYPL and LOVE their new website and android app

    • My local library has a great app, too. They’ve also added a lot of neat stuff to their website. I can keep a reading list online, pay my fines (boo) and renew books, and even better, get email alerts 3 days before my book is due so I stop incurring fines. And the main branch is 2 blocks from my office.

  13. My husband and I both set very aggressive savings goals and we take the money out as soon as we get our paychecks and move it to a separate savings account. Our goal was more than twice what we had been saving before, which seemed nearly impossible. But once we made the commitment to take it out of our accounts, our spending adjusted pretty quickly. Not having the money in our checking accounts means not spending it!

  14. 2/3 attorney :

    Wow – I picked up the featured wallet (I use it as a wristlet, it even fits my phone) on a whim at a consignment store a few weeks ago for $25. I just thought it was pretty, I had no idea it retailed for that much! So, yay, surprise savings!

    • Awesome find. Love this wallet, and would love it harder if it had the crest of Slytherin on it.

      • +1. I always find myself associating the distinctive color combos with the HP houses…

  15. long term lurker :

    I have some food staples like certain soups I like, and things in the pantry like tomato sauce, but I learned for two busy people its best to buy just what you need for the meal in terms of meat and produce. I used to try to buy i.e. 4 chicken breasts and freeze 2, but H and I are too lazy to thaw things out and they end up mired in the freezer, wasted. Ditto freezing leftovers… we just don’t eat them. For some buying food in bulk and cooking ahead will work, but it doesn’t for us. I buy just what we need and we eat it and don’t waste. The trick is to make the money-saving tips work for your particular life.

    • I laughed when I read this — I spent the first two+ years my H and I lived together trying to get him to eat leftovers, since we were both so busy. Didn’t work, period, and we used to wind up throwing out very sad-looking leftovers as result. What does work for us, though, is chopping/prepping all vegetables and fresh food right away after grocery shopping. It’s much quicker and easier to cook after work if all the ingredients are ready to go. No leftovers, but only one big prep session each week.

    • This. I tend to stock up on dry goods (pasta, rice, qinoa), but I usually buy meat and produce every other day. Otherwise, perfectly good food would go to wate. I drive past three grocery stores between work, gym and home, so it’s not really much extra hassle.

      I direct deposit part of my paycheck straight to a saving account with limited monthly transactions and automate 401k and investment contributions.

      I avoid going to Target, Wal-mart and big box stores like the plague. I don’t think I’ve ever walked out of one of those for under $50.

  16. karenpadi :

    Get a second estimate for work done around the house! Seriously. I’m planning to do some electrical work on the house. Electrician: $5100. General Contractor: $1250. Same work. Same out-of-pocket expenses.

    Build relationships with “regular” service providers and provide referrals for them (e.g., hair stylist, massage therapist, gym membership/trainer, housekeeper, gardener, car mechanic, etc). It doesn’t save money directly but, at least in my area, being a regular does eventually result in being “grandfathered” in when they have to raise their prices.

    Shop more at fewer businesses and get their credit card. For example, I decided to shop more at Target, including getting my groceries there. With the Target card, I get 5% cash back. It’s a pain because there isn’t a huge produce section in Target but I buy everything I can there and go to the farmers markets or another grocery store for the rest. I also just signed up for the Nordstrom card with my personal stylist (yay! love love love her). She helps me schedule my shopping on sale days and triple points days to maximize my credit card rewards. Plus, with the Nordie’s card, I get $100 or $200 in free alterations every year.

    Right now, I am trying to focus on buying fewer, but higher quality and well chosen, items that will last. Take my furniture. It’s all first-apartment-after-law-school quality, 4 moves in 4 years, and living with 2 clawed cats. Instead of trying to find furniture on my own, I’m thinking of having an Ethan Allen in-home consultant help me chose items. I’ll pay more but I have a feeling I’ll be happier with my selections and the furniture will last longer.

    Biggest money saver: firing the expensive personal trainer who wasn’t helping me with my goals and couldn’t work with my schedule. Started 100 push-ups Monday and starting Couch to 5k next week in my (free!) office gym.

    • My husband is an electrical contractor and I think you may want to rethink those “savings”, get a third estimate or at least some referrals from the general contractor on previous people he’s done electrical for. My husband is often called in to fix work a general contractor did – sometimes its just done sloppily, but sometimes its downright dangerous. Make sure your general contractor will be getting the appropriate permits, and compare the two estimates carefully to see what corners are being cut between the two jobs, or what is/isn’t included. It is true that there are some electricians out there who charge an outrageous amount for nothing special and there are definitely honest general contractors as well, but I would be really wary about what the difference is between those two jobs for such a big price difference.

      • karenpadi :

        Thanks! Both contractors said that the city doesn’t issue permits for this type of work–I am not a fan of unpermitted work. The general was referred to me by a friend who is pretty well connected in the home construction community–her ex-husband is a big house builder in the area and her ex-boyfriend is part of a family that owns the largest apartment complexes in the area. The same friend also referred me to my amazing housekeeper.

        • Good to hear you’ve found someone reputable & cheaper! I just get wary whenever I hear someone talk about the great deal they are getting from a general contractor or handyman – my husband has lost out on several jobs to the cheaper bidder, only to be called up later and be asked to fix something that the cheap person installed. I hope for the general public’s sake that this is an isolated slimy contracotr or two, but you never know. PSA for the day to the hive – you can always call your local building department yourself and ask if the work you are hiring someone to do requires a permit and inspection. You can also ask for a contracotrs license number and call the licensing board to make sure they are current or if their license is lapsed or suspended.

  17. Three things worked well for me when my husband and I were saving first for our house, and now for all of the *fun* projects that go along with a house:

    1. Setting up targeted savings accounts with ING and automatic transfers that happen right after payday.

    2. Keeping a list of everthing we buy every month, down to the penny. Basically every morning, I retype every transaction that shows up on our checking account and two credit cards into a spread sheet and keep a tally on how much we have spent so far and how much we have left that month. It takes about 5 minutes every morning, but keeps me honest about what I’m buying, how much it costs and whether it will leave us with enough for the rest of the month. I know I’m buying too many extra items when I go a few days without adding the new entries.

    3. Amazon Wish List. Before I buy anything non-essential I add it to the list and let it sit there for at least a few days. Way more often than not I end up changing my mind, finding something better, or forgetting about whatever it is I thought I wanted. This is especially true with cloths. If I had already bought it, I would be more likely to keep it even though it wasn’t perfect; getting some distance helps me consider it more critically, and I end up buying only the stuff I really love.

  18. Switching from Quicken to YNAB. It’s paid for itself a hundred times over. Additionally, changing my mindset and only buying things when I have saved enough to pay cash – clothes, cars, renovations, vacations – it feels wonderful to have “earned” a big purchase. (Did get a mortgage to buy a house though!)

    • Sugar Magnolia :


      • You Need A Budget. It’s a $60 download (though you can try it free for a month or so first). Agree that it’s been super helpful. I can’t convince my partner to actually follow the YNAB philosophy, but simply having a breakdown of where we spend our money has resulting in us cutting down on unecessary expenses without even trying. I try to update it once a week – takes less than 15 minutes once you’ve done it for a few months (and have all your categories set up) and it is super helpful for setting future financial goals (like savings or fun trips).

  19. Posting…to follow this thread for ideas.

  20. Yikes. I’m thinking some of my habits need an overhaul. As mamabear says, you usually have to choose 2 out of the 3: time, money or sanity. In the past few years, time and sanity have won, often.

    With pregnancy and postpartum weight gains and losses, I’ve spent a lot of money on clothes with not much to show for it. What’s helped is cutting down on online shopping by setting up a filter so all shopping emails automatically go into a folder. If I don’t see it in my inbox, I’m less likely to click on it and get sucked into a sale for stuff I don’t need.

    Is anyone else terrible at using coupons? I take the time to clip them, and then they get put away in an envelope that inevitably isn’t with me when I need it.

    • karenpadi :

      I agree: it usually is 2 of the 3: time, money, or sanity. My personal take: there are two types of problems: those that can be solved with time and those that can be solved with money (I guess I made sanity non-negotiable).

      I solve more problems with money than with time. I mostly regret it when I try to solve a problem with time but end up solving it with money because I screwed it up (e.g., taxes). I hardly regret the instances where I solved a problem using money when I could have invested a little time instead (e.g., having my mechanic change my car tires and battery when I could have gone to a cheaper battery or tire store).

  21. TO lawyer :

    A few things:
    1. I started bringing my lunch to work – I aim for 3-4 days a week. I usually cook something on Sundays or early in the week and put it into tupperware containers right away so all I have to do is grab a container in the morning.

    2. Bought a travel coffee mug and started making coffee at home. The office coffee is atrocious but I don’t really need to spend money on starbucks unless I feel like I really need a break or a treat (I think I’m down to about once a week instead of once a day at a minimum).

    3. When I cook, I try to plan my meals so I’ll buy a few things at the grocery store that can be used for multiple meals, so I’m cutting down on waste. I’m also not opposed to eating the same thing for lunches and dinners for a few days in a row so that helps. If I was, I think I’d make a few different items and freeze them so I could mix and match.

    4. Once I felt like I got my work wardrobe to a point where I had enough, I started making a list of the items I want or need. When I go shopping, I try to make sure what I’m looking for matches something on that list. I also try to only buy things at stores that have full refund policies so I can go home, try stuff on and look at it from all angles. Often, I end up returning more than half of what I bought (so its inefficient, but I still feel like I get to shop which helps).

    5. I have 2 savings accounts and have automatic deposit into both accounts of about 10% of my takehome (so 20% overall) on the day I get paid. Seeing my savings accounts “grow” before my eyes is making me think twice about spending unncessarily.

  22. I started to let men pay for my lunch and dinner. They want to and splitting the bill is something that is cumbersome.

    Men should be chivalrous and buy the meals.

    At the same time, it saves us money and we do other things anyway.

  23. I actually do the whole couponing thing. It is not the same as it was when Kat graduated college. Now, there are lots of printable coupons you can print and use when you need them and bloggers do the matchups with the sales and highlight the things that are free or at dirt cheap stock-up prices. Here in the DC area the grocery stores double and sometimes triple the values, but I do most of my coupon shopping at CVS. CVS’s are everywhere here in DC and there is one at the metro stop I get off at to go home from work. Every week I check the blogs and pick up the items that are free (after coupons and rewards). I used to subscribe to the Post, but now I just get my Sunday inserts from my family members who subscribe and return the favor to them with the occasional bag full of things I got for free from CVS (vitamins, baby care items, personal care items, etc.). I plan to donate a bunch of things to a shelter at Christmas this year, like maybe one half of the three year supply of shampoo and conditioner I’ve accumulated. For me couponing is a hobby and not a serious way to save money, but my year to date savings at CVS is $1800.

    • Any recommendations for specific websites? I have tried to do this but I never see coupons for things I actually plan to buy.

      • A lot of the blogs post the same matchups (identifying available coupons for items on sale). iheartcvs has matchups for cvs and a lot of info on their rewards program. hip2save, southernsavers, weusecoupons and others have deals for CVS and other stores. Printable coupons are on coupons dot com and occasionally on manufacturer websites.

    • Interesting that it’s worked out so well for you – in my area, CVS is actually a huge ripoff if you do the math. Their prices are inflated to account for the “savings” you get for using their card – while the smaller regional chain drugstore has the same product on the shelf for cheaper than the CVS price after the discount for using your card + buying 3, etc etc. For me the change I’ve made is not to look at the “you saved x” at the bottom of the receipt but rather to look for places that have lower shelf prices without all the gimmic & hoops.

      • Here in DC, the smaller are no cheaper than CVS. CVS’s rewards program is easy to use, so to me it isn’t a hassle.

    • Some of the other things I do to save money:
      -no pets. It would be nice to have one, but dog walking is thousands per year here.
      -driving the same car I paid off years ago.
      -I used to be tempted to take cabs here occasionally, but now I always take the metro unless I am going out at night.
      -limiting shopping at costco. Before, we bought produce quantities too large and things went bad. Now, we make a list and buy just those 6 or 7 things.

  24. My dad had 3 rules about going to the grocery store: (1) use coupons from the Sunday paper when possible (2) make a list, and (3) don’t go to the store hungry. The one thing I do in addition is I sit and review the store’s sales flyer ahead of time and use that to guide what’ll go into the list. There are somethings that I’ve accepted rarely go on sale (such as milk and non-seasonal produce), but there are somethings that can ALWAYS be bought on sale if you’re patient (seasonal produce, soda, pasta).
    One product that I love (particularly for buying meat products, as I’m not likely to use a whole package of chicken breasts in one sitting myself) are the vacuum seal freezer bags. I believe Ziploc and Reynolds both make versions of them. You have to buy a vacuum to suck the air out, but it’s great for storing individuals servings. That way if there’s a great deal on chicken/steak/fish/etc, I can still stock up with worrying about the meat getting freezer-burned or going bad.
    As for coupon/deal emails everyday, I just delete most of them without reading unless I know I’m looking to buy something and/or I’ve seen something I want but don’t want to pay retail.

    • Oh and I bring my lunch/eat in my office 4-5 times a week. I enjoy eatting out, but try to limit it to just one or two meals a week (both for financial and health reasons). The amount of money you could spend a week if you ate every lunch out is absurd and most of the food I bring or keep in my office is way healthier.

  25. a shout out to former partner, now in-house :

    Story about how [this site] plays out in my real life. On one of the earlier financial threads, someone asked about net worth, and former partner, now in-house posted how crucial it is to decide how much you want to have in savings before leaving biglaw/other high-paying job. I visited my hometown earlier this week and met up w/ several close friends, including one who works in biglaw.

    We got into a discussion about finances, and I mentioned that comment about savings. For most of us, that was a (very) long-term goal, one I can only think about after paying off my 6-figure student debt. I asked biglaw friend about her thoughts, and she very quietly mentioned how she has saved at least half of all paychecks. She’s a few years into biglaw, so I imagine her savings are well into the 6-figures. That discussion w/ her has got me thinking about aggressively paying down my own debt.

    So, former partner, now in-house, thank you for your sage advice!

    (BTW, Kat, I’m loving the new comments/redesign.)

    • Former Partner, Now In-House :

      Glad to know that I am not the only one who cites [this site] in real life conversations. Your friend is saving more than I did while in BigLaw, and it sounds as if both of you are on the right path. That money in the bank = freedom and choices.

      Good for you!

  26. I’m the one who created the aforementioned NYC grocery spreadsheet, and it saved me 30-50%. In NY it’s easy to walk to multiple stores after work and hit all the sales. Now I live in the ‘burbs, where the groceries are relatively cheap to begin with; I only stick to a couple of stores to cut down on gas/time, but with coupons and stock-up sales I can usually save 30% over the NY sale prices. (Yes, I made a second spreadsheet after I moved.)

    But that’s a relatively small part of my budget. I bring in my lunch, freezer-cook, cut the cable, buy things used, etc. and it all helps, but the big budget changes came from:
    – Refinancing my mortgage to an equivalent 15-year
    – Choosing to live in a suburban downtown near shopping and public transit — less need for cars
    – Paying myself first (this leads to dozens of different frugal behaviors that do add up)

    I use Mint to track my spending. I am also a big fan of the book “Your Money or Your Life.” Reading that might have made the biggest impact of all on how I think about money.

    • Chicago S :

      I am a big fan of “Your Money or Your Life”, I think really changes how you think about money and would highly recommend it.

  27. 1. Refinanced mortgage to lower rate and 15 years. I pay now $100 more than before ech month, which is barely noticeable. When my kids will be in college I’ll have my house paid off, so I SHOULD be able to help them out more than otherwise.
    2. Subscribed to The Fresh 20 meal planning service. I don’t work for them or anything, but it’s great. Now I don’t waste as much food and our dinners are better. $49 for a year’s worth of week long (5 dinner) meal plans for a family of 4. I spend less at the grocery store and don’t throw out nearly as much food as I used to.

  28. get. rid. of. cable. Cut that cord. We have rabbit ears and us Amazon Prime streaming for everything else. The $10 a month – our high water mark – on downloading shows and movies that aren’t available on Prime (which we use and abuse for shopping anyway) is so much less than the monthly cable bill!

    Costco. I am a Costco fiend.

    Menu planning. Exhibit A: I’ll make the chicken bones from last night’s jambalaya into stock for Sunday’s soup, and then freeze the jambalaya and soup in individual portions to take for lunches in the coming month.

    Refinancing. Especially if you can roll the fees into your principal.

    Getting rid of my personal credit card and using only our joint credit card . . . thereby becoming that much more accountable for my discretionary spending (read: clothes). I wasn’t hiding anything, per se — DH still saw the clothes packages coming to the house, and my personal card still got paid out of our joint checking – but it was still a little easier to fudge around the edges.

    • Oh – and DH rolled his student loans into a home equity line of credit that is at 2.5%.

    • Sugar Magnolia :

      I have never had cable, and really don’t feel an aching urge to get it. This confirms my suspicions about that decision.

  29. Groceries :

    How much a week do you think is an ok amount to spend on groceries?

    My hubby and I have wildly divergent ideas on how much is acceptable. I think that 2 people can subsist comfortably at around $75/week (by cooking most of our own food) but he doesn’t think twice about spending over $200/week especially if we get things like nice cheeses/dairy, breads, and meats. This is driving me nuts. What’s a reasonable amount?

    • I’m all over this thread. If you google “official usda food plan at home” you can see the USDA’s estimate based on four levels of food spending. We spend about $65 per week for two adults and a toddler, but we are vegetarian and cook everything from scratch, although our bill is higher than it might be because we buy organic.

    • Our food budget is $200/month and I generally have money left over at the end of the month.

      We do not buy processed foods and only eat meat about twice a week. I try to buy organic produce where possible. I am a fiend for fancy cheese but limit my purchases to one fancy cheese at a time (which tends to last two weeks). BF has fairly simple food tastes.

      We eat out once or twice per week, but that doesn’t come out of our grocery budget.

      What really helps us is only grocery shopping once per week and going to the store with a list.

    • Motoko Kusanagi :

      Probably ballpark $125-150 per week for two adults. This is breakfast, lunch and dinner. No processed foods – this is 90% fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, etc.

    • I live in NYC and try to eat organic but for two people we budget $120 a week.

    • harriet the spy :

      I don’t think there’s a magic number, because it’s about values. Your husband values nice bread and cheese and meat; you value having the cash instead of those things. I spend a lot of money on food, so I am sympathetic to your husband’s POV, but perhaps there’s a way to compromise (for example, what if you buy fancy cheese but cheap bread?)

    • Research, Not Law :

      When it was just husband and me, our grocery bill was about $600 / month. That was for mostly homemade from scratch, organics / free-range / small farm, imported cheese, etc

      An okay amount is whatever you decide is okay, really. You have to consider your budget and your food preferences. That said, you can decrease your costs of even higher-end groceries by meal planning and sticking to a list rather than browsing, buying bulk when your regulars are on sale, and figuring out which stores have the better price on your usual products.

    • Agree with others who say there’s no magic number. We budget $70/week for two adults and a toddler and that usually works out just fine. I cook a lot from scratch but will, for example, buy frozen oven fries or boxes of mac n cheese to round out the pantry.

    • This is also very dependent on where in thte country you live. In college in the southwest, I spent less than $50 a week on groceries for myself (3 meals/day, +snacks) but now in DC, its closer to $80-90 week for fewer meals per week at home because I eat out more. I would only worry about your spending on food if a) you were constantly throwing out large portions of uneaten food that went bad, or b) your can’t pay your grocery bills and afford other bills. In your case, you know which “luxury items” can be cut out or reduced should your families priorities ever change.

    • When I do the groceries for my husband and I (he eats lunch at work, I eat at home and we probably eat out for dinner once per week) it’s in the range of 75-85 per week. When he does the shopping, it’s more like $150, because he doesn’t plan and just buys whatever he feels like. I don’t mind so much, because figure if there’s more of what he likes at home, we’ll eat at home more often (which, even if you spend a lot on groceries, is generally cheaper than eating out).

    • Groceries :

      Thanks for all your thoughts on this! It makes me feel better to know that neither he nor I are totally freakish in our shopping habits. Now if I can just convince him to try leftovers…..

  30. SpaceMountain :

    Agree on the big things. I’d rather refinance my mortgage and live with one car, no cable TV, no cell phone data plan, etc., than clip coupons. I tried using coupons after watching this enthusiastic lady on a video explain it, but it was such a time suck. I work a lot of hours and even though I was saving money, it just wasn’t worth my time and I hated doing it.

  31. Divaliscious11 :

    Haven’t read everyone’s comments – looking forward, as I have recently made some longer plan decisions that will require some planning re-vamp but a few things I have done…

    1 – I like my Starbucks, but I now buy with my Starbucks card only, which has a budgeted amount on it and if my kids are with me, I may buy their drinks separately to get multiple transactions for towards my free drink;
    – I try hard to bring my lunch and/or at least snack
    – stuff my kids eat – I buy in bulk and pack individually for their lunch
    – My absolute, go to products? I buy/stock up whenever there is a sale
    – all my savings and investments come out before I do bills….

  32. I stopped putting a ton into my 401K and started putting the money into mutual funds. The logic was that capital gains is currently taxed at 15% while any money I withdraw (ultimately) from a 401K will probably be taxed at a higher rate. Obviously, changes in tax law will change the efficacy of this strategy.

    • Divaliscious11 :

      The only risk is that if something happens to you, the mutual fund money is not protected from bankruptcy or judgment unless it in a sheltered retirement vehicle. You can be required to liquidate a mutual fund but not a retirement account…..

    • That logic is not sound. You are not taking into account the tax advantages of the 401k.

      If you make $100 (gross income) that you want to invest, you can either put $100 into your 401k or earn it, pay taxes on it, and have, say, $60 left to put into your taxable invest account. If you’d invest the same way either way (say, in an S&P 500 fund), you’ll end up with more after-tax proceeds from the 401k than the from the taxable account. Roth 401ks and Roth IRAs will also be better than mutual funds in a non-retirement account.

      Now, there are other reasons you might want to fund non-retirement/non-tax-advantaged accounts before maxing out your 401k but definitely not for the reason you describe.

  33. I could probably do a lot more to save money, but honestly I dont think my habits are that bad and I like to not think about these things too much. A spreadsheet is not for me, much as I admire the organizational skills of anyone who has one.

    Since the topic is about what we’ve changed specifically, I’ll add this: I’ve started stocking up on (almost) no-cook dinners so that when I have a late night, I can just stick a frozen veggie lasagna in the oven instead of getting take-out that is neither cheap nor good for me. I like Trader Joe’s for this – not a fan most reg. store frozen food options. My go-tos are: the TJ veggie dumplings, the TJ multigrain frozen lasagna, and some of their stir-fry stuff. From the regular store, I like Mrs. T’s Pierogies (saute with onions and serve with sour cream). Similarly, when I make a big batch of soup, I usually stick a plastic container of it in the freezer for a later lunch/dinner.

    Like Kat, I also started stocking up on products I know I’ll use when I see them on sale. I don’t have space to buy a lot, but if I see my toothpaste on buy 1, get 1 free, etc., I’ll get it. We also go upstate a lot, and I always hit up the Target for drugstore basics when we’re there – it’s a lot cheaper than NY and sooooooo much selection! And I stopped buying cat food at the supermarket. It’s half price if I buy a lot at once at Petco (or the upstate Targets) so now I try to be disciplined and only get it 30 cans/time.

    I think it’s easier to save money though if you have some disposable income to begin with. Much as it makes sense to stock up on basics when you see a good sale, I remember being in school and it was just a lot easier to pay $1 for a can of cat food at the deli each day than it was to go to Target and spend $50 on 100 cans of cat food.

  34. harriet the spy :

    Is anyone else still having trouble seeing the beginning of comment threads post-redesign? It’s really hard for me to see where conversations start and end.

    • No, but the arrows on either side are driving me crazy, since the one on the left blocks the text of comments. Kat, can you fix this?

      • Katherine :

        I second the highlight of seeing the front of comment threads – would be awesome if comments could be more staggered to view threats from the original posts. Also, quick note for those using Chrome: cntrl + scrolling in and out can reduce the font size, enabling you to view more of the comment thread in the window (and not have to scroll continuously as you read).

    • hellskitchen :

      Me too. I like the indentations because they make it easy to see who’s replied to whom but it would be awesome if there was some way to distinguish between new conversations. I think in the old format it was simply more space between new conversations (compared to new replies) which made it easy. If that’s feasible in this format, that would be great

  35. Here are some recent switches that helped me cut costs:

    1.) Meal plan for the week: Include two dishes that can double as next day(s) lunch. For example, a pot of minestrone (total cost $15) can last for 1 dinner for two and 3 more lunches for me. Soups and veggie packed casseroles are great options.
    2.) Closet audit: Do a wardrobe audit at the end of summer and end of winter. Donate items that haven’t seen the light of day since the year before. Throw out items that are shabby. Make a list of essentials that need to be replaced and buy these online. Gets rid of the impulse shopping temptation with in-store purchasing! If you need that in-store fix, try consignment shops. Bought a Kate Spade shopper for $32 earlier this week. Only flaw: interior zipper handle is broken. I saved myself $200. I can live with the zipper.
    3.) Change your shoe style: I’ve switched to heels that need to be re-heeled less often. For example, wedges yes, stilettos no.

  36. Sydney Bristow :

    I think the big one for me was getting rid of cable. I actually don’t watch much tv anymore, but when I still did I could find almost anything I wanted on Netflix, Hulu, etc. I think I was paying about $60/ month for cable and dropped it about 3 years ago, so that is $2160 that I saved.

    The other big thing was tracking all of my spending and taking the time to set up a budget using YNAB software.

    The last thing was getting rid of my car and the associated car payments, insurance payments, and gas costs in exchange for a $104/month metrocard. Although I did that when I moved across the country to NYC and didn’t want to have a car here and my basic cost of living (rent, etc) went up so ultimately it probably balanced out.

  37. Blonde Lawyer :

    1. We give each other a discretionary spending allowance in a separate checking accounts with ING. Keeps the monthly waste spending down.

    2. I buy my cat’s insulin at rite aid so I quickly qualify for the 20% off all purchases for a year card. I try to buy whatever I can there for the discount, if their base price is the same as other stores.

    3. My husband and I bring our lunch 4 days/week.

    4. I called my student loan company to find out how much more I had to pay a month to get my 15 year loan paid in 10. I barely notice the difference.

    5. I keep a running list of things in my head that I want but don’t need quickly and buy when it is on sale.

    6. We have friends and family around the world so we vacation when there is cheap airfare and stay as house guests saving hotel, food and transportation costs.

    7. Our pets are on the Banfield plan. Both my pets are special needs and I have saved $4000 to date on the plan. If you have healthy pets you will probably just break even or spend more on the plan. For me, it obviously works.

    • Re #4 – I did something similar, although I didn’t have a specific plan. To simplify my budgeting, I rounded my payments up to the nearest $50 and just stuck with it. A couple years later, I realized I had shortened my repayment period by a few months.

  38. Don’t laugh, but my husband and I went to a modified version of the envelope system (taking out cash weekly or biweekly or monthly and dividing it into envelopes by category) at the beginning of this year and have NEVER looked back! We sat down and figured out our spending categories: house supplies, groceries, entertaining/dining out (which includes a babysitter), work-related spend (i.e. coworker birthdays, networking lunches), fun money for each of us, etc. We take cash out every other week and divide it into the envelopes accordingly. When we run out, we have to either borrow from another category, do without, or use “fun money” (our own allowance, also allotted biweekly) to pay.

    This has singlehandedly saved our budget and allowed us to get a really good, close look at what we spend every month. We don’t have envelopes for things we can’t splurge on — like drycleaning, gasoline, insurance payments, etc. We both try to be generally frugal in life but realize that on those things we’ll just pay what they cost.

  39. Cutting cable!

  40. Maine Associate :

    I cancelled cable and got an antenna.
    I got an Amazon Prime membership. I get free kindle downloads, free movies and 2 day shipping. The 2 day shipping keeps me from going to a big box store and potentially spending much more money on neat things I see.
    I buy staples in bulk at a warehouse store, like tp, turkey bacon, toothpaste, tissues, etc.
    I clip coupons and read the sale ads each week. I rarely buy anything for full price.
    Use mypoints(dot)com to earn points towards gift cards.
    Shop eBay and consignment shops for clothes.

  41. Here are the rules I live by…

    + Avoid recurring payments like the plague — I do not have: a landline, a gym membership, a television, Netflix or a smart phone. The only recurring monthly payments I have are rent, insurance, electricity & internet.
    + Try to buy large purchases used. None of the furniture in my home is new except for couch & mattress (not willing to buy these items used). (I am young and move around frequently so this one makes sense for me especially).
    + Never pay retail for clothes. May make exceptions for wardrobe staples (think black suit or a pair of jeans), but try to stick ot this rule even for those.
    + For wardrobe – I don’t buy a lot of casual clothes. I don’t really need casual clothes except on the weekends (and the occasional weekday night). Each season I tend to buy a few new items (which get heavier wear) that I mix and match with the items I already have. This probably wouldn’t work if I was really in to fashion, but I found that not only does save money, but it also makes dressing simpler.
    + Avoid outsourcing tasks — cleaning, laundry, manicure, eyebrows, etc. I could afford these things at my salary level, but I want to avoid the golden handcuffs!
    + Stretch the life of my electronics when possible. For example, I am not a techie person so I have had the same laptop for 5 years — I could update but it is not necessary.
    + Limit the frequency with which I eat out. My limit is not particulary low (about 4 to 5 times a week), but I have little free time and am not an excellent cook – so this takes effort for me.

  42. Jenna Rink :

    I have the majority of my fixed monthly bills set to come out of a secondary account. Every paycheck I deposit a set amount, and I have my car payment, insurance, student loans and credit cards all set to autobill from that account. It doesn’t really save money, but it makes my finances much less stressful. i used to have my car payment and insurance auto-bill from my primary checking and was always stressed out about whether my balance reflected those payments or not. Now I don’t have to worry about it. It’s also nice that all those bills are now paid automatically and i don’t have to worry about logging in to pay them every month.

    • +1 on this – I use this system as well, and its so much less stressful. It also keeps my primary bank account balances lower, so I don’t look at it and think “we have plenty of money, I can buy xxxxx”. Its a mind game, but it works for me!

  43. I’ve never had credit card debt, and when I only had one card, that was no big deal. But now, I have a couple of cards, with different due dates, and frankly, I also have a lot of other regularly recurring bills because life gets more complicated!

    What has helped me a lot is to keep a spreadsheet of my check register and to project out about a month so that I don’t over-spend on my credit card. In other words, I look how much I’ll have left in cash at the end of the month, add in paychecks, and predict expenses coming out of my checking account. Then I know how much I’ll have left to pay off the credit card, and that is the amount that I am allowed to spend in the current month.

    I used to just let myself make purchases so long as I didn’t go over-budget, and while a budget is definitely helpful, I needed another way to monitor cash flow. This helps a lot for months where I know I’m going to have a big charge on my credit card (like car insurance this month). That charge is totally within my budget, but since I’m watching my cashflow on my spreadsheet, I know how much I can charge on my credit card for the rest of the month and still be able to pay it off when due. It’s a little extra work (and dang is it painful in months where I have nothing left at the end of the month!), but it’s been really good to keep my spending down.

  44. We carpool to work which was a bit of an adjustment but now is working really well. We also grocery shop for the week over the weekend. I think one trip to the grocery store vs many saves money and we also then cook more at home rather than getting home

    A change I need to make is bringing my lunch to work. I used to be good about it before kids but now after two kids I’ve gotten lazy. It’s also so much healthier!

  45. Two things. My husband and I now car pool to work. It was a bit of an adjustment but saves on parking and gas. We also menu plan for the week and then grocery shop once. Going to the store only once saves as does having food at home and not eating out.

    I need to start bringing my lunch to work. Before kids I was really good about this but right now I eat lunch out all the time. Not only is it expensive but it is less healthy.

  46. I’m embarassed to admit that I started using polyvore to keep track of my new clothing purchases and the items already in my closet. I was home sick a couple of weeks ago and I went through and added most of the items in my wardrobe to my account. I have had to get a whole new wardrobe several times over the last 2 years with weight loss (yay!) and going from working in a semi-casual environment to working at home to working in a conservative environment. Therefore, my wardrobe was a bit of a mess. My work wardrobe consists of pencil skirts/dress pants and shirts+cardigans that can all mix and match for the most part. Putting together all of the possible combinations on polyvore really helped me to see that I have a practically endless number of outfits from the (relatively) few items that I already own. This has already kept me from buying anything else for work, even with the 25% off J. crew going on now! I also saw that a couple of new items that I had purchased didn’t really go with enough other items and are therefore getting returned!

    I also started putting together my favorite nonwork outfits that I wear regularly and trying out new combinations on polyvore that i will try in real life when I have time. It made me realize that I really have plenty of clothes but I felt that I didn’t because I had a significant gap in terms of fall/winter shoes to go with the majority of my pants. By buying two new pairs of shoes I can now get full use out of all the items that I already have, which will keep me from having that dreaded feeling of having nothing to wear.

    It can be a time consuming process as first, but it’s totally addictive and a fun site to play around with. It’s super useful for new outfit inspirations (well, ignoring the ones put together by 12-16 year old girls!), which is why I joined in the first place. Don’t judge! :)

  47. I’m trying to meal plan, which I think is saving us money.

    Honestly, I’m really working to get better in this (money) area, because I currently do not pay enough attention. I’m pretty sure it drives my husband nuts.

    One way that I have cut spending is that I am on a shopping ban/fast until January (when my personal spending budget should come out of the red.)

    Anyone have any advice on avoiding Starbucks? I go every morning, and it’s definitely adding up. I bought a Tassimo to try to make my own caramel macchiato at home…but I can’t get it right and continue to spend $4+ every morning.

  48. eastbaybanker :

    I am completely blown away by all this frugality! I figure time is money. I generally am willing to pay for convenience, from prepared foods at Whole Foods to the $10 early check in on Southwest so I don’t have to actually remember to log in and check in to my flight. I am making good progress towards my financial goals, and I would say I’m pretty financially responsible. But I would be completely miserable if I didn’t let myself spend $3 on coffee everyday.

    I guess I’m lucky to have a good job. I also don’t have kids and don’t plan to have kids. Maybe that’s the ultimate frugal decision–no children! I’ve read they cost $1 million to raise, from cradle to college degree.

    • Jenna Rink :

      I was totally blowing my food budget on a regular basis until I starting planning several coffees a week into the budget. I really love going out for coffee, and as long as I know I can still have that I find it much easier to stay on budget!

  49. I used to have a major Sephora habit….I signed up for one of the monthly sample box services (birchbox) and now get my new product fix that way. $75-100/month is now $10.

  50. Once a year, I use up all the canned/packaged/frozen foods in the kitchen before buying anything new. Usually have at least a month’s worth of food that looked good when I bought it, but has been sitting around since then. Saves a ton of money and discourages future bargain shopping for things I won’t eat.

  51. I stopped buying new fiction (the books that cost around $14 in paperback) and only check these out from the library. If I want to buy books (typically classics), I stick with the $2-3 books from used booksellers or 40 cent to $2 books from the thrift store. New fiction is borrowed only.

    I’ve started spending significant time thrift shopping. I don’t buy much, but I spend time at the thrift stores like I used to at regular retail shops. I found a lot of great things at super low thrift store prices. My last few suits (Theory, Banana, LOFT) have been no more than $15 a piece. I rarely buy retail anymore, and usually only for basics that are hard to thrift (like white tank tops or t-shirts) and more personal items (like socks and underwear).

    I’ve applied my sewing knowledge to my thrift store purchases, allowing my to make some minor (and not-so-minor) alterations to clothes when the fabric is beautiful but the cut isn’t totally modern.

    I started brewing French press coffee at home every morning with Starbucks beans that I buy in bulk from Costco. I love my coffee more than any I could purchase out, and this was a huge savings for me b/c I would go to Starbucks almost daily, but I didn’t like their coffee the way they brewed it – I always bought the $4-5 flavored latte.

    I never use the dryer. Clothes last longer and I use less electricity.

    I cut cable a few years ago and only watch Netflix, mostly streaming, but with the occasional dvd when something isn’t available streaming. I also watch my account closely and reduce the number of dvds per month when I’m not watching that many of them. I’ll bump it back up when I’m watching dvds more regularly.

    If I want to go out to a restaurant to go out to a restaurant, I will. If I want to go to a restaurant b/c I need to eat and don’t have food at home, I’ll get take out. I save by not tipping a waitress or delivery person, and by not buying a drink. This was more applicable when I lived in a neighborhood with lots of restaurants and had an empty fridge. Now, I live with my boyfriend in the suburbs and he cooks, so we often have food at home to eat (and no restaurants nearby).

    I’ll drive to the train rather than driving downtown. It doesn’t cost anything to park at the train, and the cost of public transportation is way less than downtown garage parking.

    Cut down my 2-glass-of-wine-a-night habit. Helps the wallet and the waistline.

  52. Some wonderful money tips here, thanks ladies.

    – Started cooking more indian food at home, comfort food I grew up with, cheap + healthy, use fresh organic produce. Cook everything from scratch, mostly veggies/whole grain/legumes.
    – cut cable, share netflix account with BF. Got a library card.
    – Avoid buying clothes at full price (especially Ann Taylor, BR, nordies). Buy stuff I know fits well when on sale (brooks brother non-iron shirts)
    – Got few splurge items – LV hand bag and Christian Louboutin black pumps 2-3 years ago, still look fabulous, satisfied my designer craving. Now spend only on few comfortable classic shoes, nothing too trendy.
    – I do get expensive skin care/makeup products but they last a long time and I use them daily, this is one place I never feel like skimping.
    – we get free catered lunch at work, and keep a box of cereal for breakfast, get coffee at work — I actually like it more than starbucks !
    – do my own nails.
    – use the work blackberry as the primary cell phone, don’t pay for an extra personal smart phone/contract data plan. I am required to carry the work phone at all times + personal use is allowed. Keep a back up copy of my personal contacts.
    – No car, live in a major city and use public transportation, deducted pre-tax from paycheck.
    – Still using a 3.5 year old cheap Dell laptop, runs just fine for browsing, watching movies, light games. Still can’t get myself to splurge on a sleek Mac Book Air. May be an ipad this Christmas :)

  53. Making coffee at home instead of grabbing it while I’m out really adds up.

    I drive an older car, and the gas mileage isn’t great, but it’s cheap to insure and it’s paid off. (If I lived in a state where gas was higher, this probably wouldn’t work as well.)

    I think someone mentioned never going to the grocery store hungry? That is sage advice, y’all.

    Ever since I cut my hair short, I go to Great Clips. They’re pretty good with short hair; at least the one near me is. So that’s $12 before tip for a haircut vs. $35.

  54. 1. We use our Discover card for most purchases, paying off the balance weekly. I like Discover’s rewards program and have used it to get gift cards for an ice cream maker, wedding presents, dinners out and refilling my Starbucks card.
    2. Starbucks card! I go 5 times per week with my work mentor to Starbucks. We get a nice walk, a chance to talk about whatever and I earn a free drink pretty quickly. I try to get brewed coffee and splurge on my free drink, but I don’t make myself crazy if I order a latte.
    3. Take advantage of BYO discounts. Starbucks gives you a $0.10 discount if you bring your own cup, grocery stores have bag discounts if you bring your own.
    4. I buy the name brand when I know it’s better. I’m very specific about buying name brand for orange juice, cereal and pasta sauce and have not found a comparable store brand. Talking yourself into buying food that you don’t want to eat and will go bad isn’t better than spending a few extra dollars on what you know you’ll eat.
    5. Don’t make yourself crazy. As awesome as it feels to save money and earn free stuff, it’s not worth making yourself crazy over a few dollars. Sometimes I buy a glass of wine with dinner even though I generally try not to because paying $9 for a glass of wine in a restaurant when I know I can buy the bottle for $15 at the liquor store down the street makes me a little crazy. Not so much that I don’t occasionally buy the glass, but I also try to ask myself if I $9 need the wine in that moment. When the answer is yes, I go for it!

  55. I took a long, hard look at my spending habits. Then I turned “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” into my motto. I learned how to shop for quality, not quantity, and how to be happy with what I had. Believe it or not, fashion bloggers helped teach me a lot of that! I began to see the beauty in a versatile, classic wardrobe.

    I’ve taken to buying books used where possible. New books are a treat, not a given. So much has already been written; there will be time to get around to what’s just come out. If I’m bored and looking for something to read, why not dig through Gutenberg’s archive? That’s free! We also got Netflix, which has saved us plenty in rental fees, plus I can actually access the obscure stuff I love. :)

    I don’t go to films but once a year. I keep dates simple. — I think “simple” is the key to not being broke right now. Simple and quality. If I use those as my guideposts, I don’t go far wrong.

  56. My first big change was creating a savings account at a bank other than my everyday bank. I send 10% of my paycheck there through direct deposit, and I rarely check that account, so right now I couldn’t even tell you how much is there. It’s been going since I changed jobs in May, and I don’t miss the money. My problem with savings is that if I see the money in my online banking, I *WILL* spend it. It’s my goal to make this percentage higher, but with consumer and student debt looming over my head… yeah, not yet.

    I also sold my one year old car. My new job gave me a company car with a personal use option and a paid gas card, and it’s half as much as the car payment each month, nevermind insurance and gas costs. While I lost a few hundred dollars from my break even point on the loan, I no longer have those expenses. Do I love the company car like I did the one I picked out on my own for the first time ever? No. And I’m sad about it. But it’s cheap.

    I started thinking about clothing purchases in terms of building an investment wardrobe, and not just wanting a new top because it’s on sale or whatever other reason. I upped the amount I was willing to spend on any item, such as $250 for a pair of leather boots versus $80 for a pair of faux (I’m still searching for the right pair on this!), but I know that the items I’m adding to my wardrobe are classics and will last through years of use.

    The last big change I had to make was that I stopped thinking of available credit on my Visa as money that I could spend. Just because the limit is X amount doesn’t mean I should spend it all, and that, for some reason, was hard for me to figure out.

    • Oh. I almost forgot. I started shopping at Wal-Mart. Ugh, I hate going there, but it’s 2 blocks from BF’s house, so it’s convenient (if I have 20 minutes to wait in line), and the prices on groceries and toiletries are outrageously cheaper than my preferred visits to Target. This also helps me spend less on cheap clothes, since I have less exposure!