If I’m being honest, 2018 was an expensive one. Between baby food, diapers, wipes, new clothes for Owen every few months, higher grocery bills, childcare and all the extra coffee shop and lunches I ate while I was out of the house working really added up.
One of my focuses in the new year is to reduce my monthly costs. Just before the new year, I tallied up all the things that we have to have—think groceries, daycare, gym membership (technically I don’t need this, but it’s important to me), and bills and set a monthly limit for myself. My credit card, the Capital One Venture card, also has a spending tracker so I can easily keep tabs on my spending each billing cycle which is coming in super handy!
I know some months will still be higher than others, but keeping myself aware has been super helpful so far this month!
1. Automate your savings
Every month have a specified amount get automatically drafted into your savings or investment account. This way you’ll never have to think about it and you won’t miss it as much if it’s automatically drafted.
It’s also great if you can put a chunk into an investment account because it’ll be working much harder for you than it would just sitting in a savings account. I know most banks do that and it’s such a good way to set yourself up for a good financial future.
2. Change the Thermostat
In our last apartment, we had a Nest and we loved it! We don’t have one anymore, but I now realize how handy they really are in saying you money on your heating and cooling bill. This is especially handy if you live somewhere with extreme climates.
We saved a lot in our last place simply because the Nest learned our habits and would change automatically during the week and at night—something I typically forget to do on my own. If it’s in the budget, I highly recommend getting one!
3. Quit Your Coffee Shop Stops
Make coffee at home. I love my Nespresso machine and milk frother, plus I think it makes a better cappuccino or latte than I can get at most coffee shops (exception for Heritage—they make an amazing decaf almond capp!). A regular (tall) Starbucks latte is $2.95 for and that’s not including extra flavorings or milk substitutes (I drink almond milk).
If you’re going every work day for a month, that adds up to about $60. I buy my Nespresso pods in bulk on Amazon and it breaks down to about $.68 cents per cup plus about $.24 cents/per latte if you break the cost of my jug of almond milk down! It’s easy to see that even little purchases like this can add up quickly!
4. Choose BYOB Restaurants
Alcohol is one of the most expensive parts about any dinner out! Restaurants make most of their money from booze, so you shouldn’t be surprised to find that the same bottle of wine that you buy at dinner is 1/2 to a 1/3 of the cost at the liquor store down the street.
Chicago has a bunch of great BYOB restaurants that have amazing food, and we totally take advantage. Of course, this is all when I’m not pregnant!
5. Buy Generic
We typically do our grocery shopping at Whole Foods. I actually love Trader Joe’s, but I can never get everything I need and it drives me nuts that I have to go to two stores, so we usually just go to one. I was super pumped that Amazon bought them and that select items have lower prices and Prime specials!
It’s still pricey, but high-quality food is really important to me, so it’s an area that I don’t mind spending a little more. That being said, we do end up buying a lot of their organic 365 brand products. I already know everything is meets Whole Foods’ standards, but the prices are considerably cheaper!
6. It’s Okay to Say No
When you’re feeling strapped for cash, it can be hard to turn down plans with your friends, but sometimes it’s what you need to do. You can always suggest a plan that doesn’t require a lot of money—a picnic, bike ride or free outdoor concert or movie (Chicago has lots of these in the summer). But, know your limits and don’t be afraid to say no to take better care of your needs.
7. Pay off your Credit Card Every Month
I’m a big fan of credit cards, because I love the rewards they offer! But, I only have one. Having one makes it easy to keep track of everything and makes me aware of how much I’m spending every month vs. if I had those expenses spread out over 5 cards. When your expenses are spread out over multiple cards, it doesn’t seem like you’ve spent as much, ya know?
My advice is to do your research on which credit card is best for you and your family. Plenty of cards offer cash back on specific purchases, individual airline miles or other travel perks (my personal favorite!). Making yourself pay off your credit card each month will keep you from going into debt and also keep you from spending more than you actually have.
Your credit score will thank you and when it comes time to buy that house or car, it’ll be much easier!
8. Pay Attention
Weekly check-ins to make sure you haven’t splurged or are getting close to your monthly budget. If you can’t remember, set a weekly alarm in your phone. If you spent more than you meant to, plan ahead for the next week so that you can cut back on some costs.
I always find this is a great time to really dig into our pantry and freezer and see what kind of meals I can whip up based off what we have left!
What little habits help save you and your family money each month?