Little Ways to Save Money

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Little ways can save you big money eventually.

Little Ways to Save Money (Frugal Friday) - Little ways can save you big money eventually.

I was chatting with a friend yesterday (also a mom of four boys) about grocery prices and what it takes to feed four TEENAGE BOYS. I’m almost there, and I’m feeling it. (I don’t know that boys always eat more than girls, but I think they are much more enthusiastic about their meals — and more vocal when there’s no meat or we’re out of milk. At least that’s what it looks like at our house.)

My friend commented that the convenience items, necessary for a busy season in her life, are what are killing the budget. It’s so true. Saving money takes work and time. And if you’re not able to DIY, it can cost you a pretty penny.

Years ago when we found ourselves in mega-debt, I had more time than money. That meant I had oodles of time to increase our income in littles ways: hawk our belongings on eBay, host a garage sale; and reduce expenses: clip coupons, shop the deals at TEN stores every week, and otherwise, do a multitude of small things that added up to big savings.

Saving money can be worth your time.

While I spent a ton of time — at least 4 to 6 hours every week clipping and organizing coupons, planning my shopping trips, and running around to the stores — the numbers crunched. It was work, but it was worth the time, since it helped us stay under budget and pay off our debts.

It helped that I lived in the suburbs where all ten of my stores were within a 2-mile radius of my home. The numbers might not have penciled out if I had lived somewhere else.

Today I don’t practice the same type of shopping. Due to different priorities for time and healthier ingredients, I shop at half the number of stores and don’t clip but a handful of coupons each week. But there are other areas of life where it does make financial sense for me to do some extra work.

Here are some recent examples where spending a little time resulted in financial rewards:

Little Ways to Save Money (Frugal Friday) - Little ways can save you big money eventually.

Making a quick dinner of pasta or grilled cheese (even when I’m tired) is cheaper and well worth my time in comparison to spending $25 to $50 on a take-out meal. There are plenty of meals to make even when “there’s nothing to eat”.

Taking the kids to the library is clearly cheaper than buying books. I know lots of voracious readers who don’t have library cards! Make use of the thing your tax dollars have already paid for.

Yesterday I took FishBoy13 shopping for pants. We chose Target over Old Navy for its better pricing. I had a handful of Target coupons in my purse. I took 60 seconds to scan through them and read them carefully. I had a $10 off a $35 purchase in there! It was a number of different departments, but I hadn’t read the coupon carefully enough to understand that it was good for our purchases that day. The extra minute it took to reread the coupon saved me $10.

Reading my receipt saves me money at least 10% of the time. I found out that my son had grabbed the expensive milk ($5/gallon) instead of the store brand. We were able to exchange it and essentially get an extra gallon of milk from the same amount of money. See first paragraph on feeding teenage boys.

Each of these instances took a little time or effort on my part. They took a little concentration and clever thinking. They took a little work. But, they were totally worth the time, especially when I wasn’t doing anything more important or lucrative. Ha!

Little drops of water fill a mighty ocean.

Little steps of frugality can make a difference in your bottom line, helping you to stay under budget and fight back debt.

A couple years ago, I wrote a lengthy series on small ways to save on almost everything. Visit these past posts for ideas on where you could be cutting costs more regularly:

  1. Gifts
  2. Vacation
  3. Groceries
  4. Birthdays
  5. Entertainment
  6. Baby Stuff
  7. Cars and Gas
  8. Clothing
  9. Home Improvements
  10. Household Expenses
  11. Christmas
  12. School Stuff

What money-saving steps are worth your time and effort?

Little Ways to Save Money (Frugal Friday) - Little ways can save you big money eventually.

This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link in the comments. But better yet, chat with us on today’s topic.

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  1. Right now my favorite way of saving money is to just make do with the food we have…as in not go shopping so the kids are forced to shop the freezers and pantry too. With multiple cooks in the house, it is not always easy to use up what we have instead of buy new stuff.

    The other, somewhat contradictory way we save money is that whenever anyone wants to make special food (as in restaurant replacement type) I always get them the ingredients. Knowing how to make chicken balls, spring rolls, fries, onion rings, and fancy cheese cakes is a huge deal, and will save enormous amounts of money down the road, although it is more expensive now. And, it is still a whole lot cheaper than eating restaurant food.

    By the way, don’t worry, after a while, teen boys eat less. I now eat as much as my 6’4″ 18 year old (and I’m only 10 pounds overweight).

  2. I’m constantly surprised by how much boys eat. My son is only 5, but I’m always impressed by the amount of food he is able to consume! It makes me nervous to think how much he’ll eat as he continues to grow! 🙂 We do tend to spend a bit more on high quality milk and organic produce, but I’ve found that cooking from scratch helps to offset those costs–and it’s so much better for us.
    I also have to agree with the library card comment. We frequent the library at least weekly and I’m always amazed when people complain about money, but buy copious amounts of books that could have been found for free at the library. I would definitely be at a loss without our library system!

    1. It makes me happy to hear people commenting on using their local libraries. I am a librarian and want to reinforce the idea that it is a great place to get books, as well as access to databases to do research of every kind, my library has all the latest movies and tv series that people can borrow for free, we subscribe to ebooks, Zinio ( free current and past issues of tons of great magazines), Hoopla, and a countless other resources that are free and fantastic. There is so much happening at the library it really is worth checking out.


      1. Thanks for the info, Tracy. We love our county library system. I’ve recently started using the inter-library loan system, and I love it.

      2. Overdrive is my favorite aspect of our library. When I was helping my father-in-law (in a different county) figure out his overdrive, I was surprised that they had different offerings. Overdrive access changes dependent on the library?

      1. I here you about the late fees. I work at the library and I still have late fees. We have a great program in December where you bring in a food donation for the local foodbank and the library waives a dollar off your fines for each item. I use this every year to pay off my fines.

        Yes overdrive is different at every library. Libriaries have to purchase licenses for each ebook, so the licenses one library buys would be different from another library depending on the clientile or how much money the library has to spend on ebooks. Overdrive does not let a library have access to all their material when you sign up with them, you have to purchase everything individually, and it is quite expensive. Also a lot of people think that if the the book is an electronic copy on overdrive then there is no limit to who can borrow the item, but this is not the case, just like we buy so many copies of a book for the library we buy a certain number of licenses for an item and that is all that can be borrowed. That said if you have your father-in-laws library card number you could borrow the material from his county library and vise versa he could borrow from yours with your card.


          1. Hi Jessica,

            I am not sure about the legal aspect. It would be the same as visiting your father-in-law and using his card to check out books for you. I know all libraries want to increase circulation because that determines how much funding they get. I guess the best thing would be to ask and see what the libraries response is. I know at my library our response would be that if your father-in-law is willing to take responsibility for the items he is borrowing for you then it is fine. Hope that helps.


  3. Going through the closet is one way I make a little money to buy new clothes. If I didn’t wear it at all the past season then it goes to the consignment shop or donation. Same with the kids. Husband we are working on :). I am going from full time work to part time work and have been off work the past 8 weeks for hip surgery so I have been watching every penny we spend.

      1. Thank you. I put off the surgery for about 6 months to see if I could heal it on my own. No such luck. I know you can relate to the hip pain! We are also using the experience to see if we can love on one income. I think it will work just fine 🙂

        1. Sorry to jump onto your thread but I just had hip surgery in November- delayed it for 11 months actually and so very glad that I got it fixed though- I feel so much better now. Did you have FAI/labral tear?

          1. I did have a labral tear. No so sure about if it was for the better. Progress is slow. Pain is still there, can’t get some muscles to work and others over work. It will be better in the long run. Right?? 🙂 Glad to hear from someone else who has had it!!

  4. I try to buy the majority of my daughter’s clothes from resale shops and off of FB garage sale sites. She is in size 2T which is a perfect age to get some really cute clothes still in near new condition at a fraction of the costs! It sometimes takes a little running around on my part to pick up the clothes, but in the end worth it if I’m paying 1/4 of the original price!

  5. Right now, expanding my garden is totally worth my time and effort. I can grow a large portion of our fruits and vegetables for significantly cheaper and nearly “organic” for very little out of pocket. Yes it does take some time and lots of effort with a huge learning curve, but the benefits far outweigh the cost. My garden provides so much more than just food; it provides emotional therapy, a way to teach my kids to work, a way to beautify my little corner of the world, and the blessing of seeing first hand how God provides for our needs. I love my little patch of dirt.

    You made some great points about how little things add up to be big things. I always need that reminder. Unfortunately I’ve discovered my pre-teen girl can out-eat her father (and doesn’t gain a pound, where does it all go?). Three little boys following means I need to get my act together so I can feed them all. Thanks for the tips!

    Some of our frugal accomplishments for the week:

  6. Thanks for the tips. I just looked at the gift ideas in your link list, but I’ll look through others, too. I think I do some of the things you mention, mostly. I will very rarely eat out anymore, even at fast food when I’m hungry because I know I can eat something simple when I get home. When I go placed with my son, I always bring snacks and a lunch for us so we won’t need to stop and pay to eat. I make cheap meals even when groceries are low–like you said, pasta, grilled cheese, etc. My cheap meals are usually those as well as pancakes, French toast, or eggs and toast. I buy big loaves of French bread, slice them and freeze them so French toast or garlic bread are almost always possible even when groceries are low. Another thing I do is make extra dinner and freeze it in lunch portions, so we always have food and don’t need to buy much in the way of lunch supplies.

    Thanks for your blog. I’ve been putting some of your ideas into practice the past few months. I definitely kept your money-saving and other tips in mind at Christmas. Recently, we started having family movie night, and I took some of your movie suggestions, such as Swiss Family Robinson. I also found 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea which my son loved (I can’t recall if that was one of yours, but searching for Swiss Family…led me to that one, too. Speaking of that, I have found great deals on movies at Big Lots. You have to go through a lot of movies, but I found two good family movies for $5 each.

    1. I know that we’ve seen 20,000LUTS, but I don’t remember it standing out as a fave. We also didn’t own it and thus watch it five million times. That could be why. Ha! Glad you found some good movies! That is so fun.

  7. I’m extremely disappointed to see the truncated feeds. Your two blogs have long been some of my favorite and most useful, but I read blogs exclusively through feed readers (and usually on mobile devices) and have found time and time again that a truncated feed is useless to me. No matter how much I liked the blog to begin with, I always end up unsubscribing within a few weeks.
    Maybe I’ll see some posts on Pinterest or something.

    1. I can totally understand your disappointment. It’s not a decision I made lightly. I did a ton of research and talked to many people about it before coming to the conclusion I did.

      I can’t honestly “break the rule” once I know about it. I run giveaways differently than most bloggers do because I took the time (and spent the money on an attorney) to make sure I was complying with FTC guidelines.

      If I find an honest work-around, I will do so. In the meantime, I’ll be restructuring my pinterest boards to make it easier to find helpful posts. If there are other things I can do to make content easier for you to access, I’m happy to do that.

  8. Not going out to eat very much & using the library are 2 of my favorite ways to save money. Our library has Kindle books and audiobooks that you can check out from your computer with your library card. This is very convenient for us. Sometimes just stopping to think is a money saver- do I need this? Where would I put it? etc.

  9. I had to comment – the truncated feeds do annoy me, but I was pleased to read your thoughtful note in my reader about the reason behind it, and I will continue to read. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to tell me so. I appreciate your support. I’ll be putting a lot of time into 1. Making posts “worth the extra click” and 2. Making it easy to access helpful content. I welcome any suggestions you have on either point.

  10. Yard sales are one of the biggest ways we save money. I go with a friend almost every Friday in the spring and fall. She drives and I navigate. We pack lunches and stay out until we run out of sale or the kids come home from school. I get most of the kids and my clothes for $1/each. I also buy things we need for the house for a fraction of the cost and they are in great condition. My son has recently been interested in rollerblading and I bought a pair of rollerblades today for $3. If you have patience, you can find almost anything at yard sales.

  11. Hi Jessica,
    I was wondering about the truncated posts. I am glad you explained it. I don’t like them either, but now that I know the reason I will “put up with it” . LOL! I do enjoy and learn a lot from you, so I will keep reading both of your blogs.
    Thanks for all the hard work you put it them-it definitely shows!

  12. We have two sons and raised two nephews also. I have found that all these ideas are great. The thing I use still to this day and the boys are all long gone and raised, is I write down when I don’t buy something. You know you just have to have something or other and it almost consumes me with all the reasons I need new carpet or I have to go to a certain concert. If I really want to and can afford it, I do. But many times I just write down that $$$ amount and I no longer want it. We were going to add on to our house, Prices were up because of house sales etc. We got an estimate and thought about it. I wrote the 61000.00 price down. and waited…. We had a better idea and paid about 47000.00 just a few years later…..! Now I’m thinking about some travel….