What about the simple things, though? Those little things that most anyone would consider doing to save a few dollars?
Here are five simple things we've found that work for us and can save you $175 a month or more, too:
1. Plan out your meals. This includes writing out plans for the week's meals, three meals a day, for five days of the week (we eat leftovers and/or eat out the other two days). Planning your dinners in advance is the key to saving on your grocery bill. Breakfasts can be easy, such as cereal or eggs; lunches are usually leftovers or a sandwich. Consider what you have on hand and what the week's sales are, then make a detailed shopping list and stick to it. This saves us a minimum of $25 per week, or $100 a month.
2. Integrate a meatless meal twice a week, or at least go nearly meatless. Make a spaghetti dish using finely chopped veggies rather than ground beef, or use only 1/2 lb beef if you normally use 1 lb. Make a stew your family already loves, but use less meat than usual. This saves us about $5 a week, or $20 a month, not to mention the health benefits we gain.
3. Negotiate your internet bill. We made a phone call to our ISP and kindly explained to them that, while we love their service, they no longer fit our budget. We then asked if there was anything they could do, or if they had any special offers we could take advantage of. They quickly found a way to reduce our monthly bill in an effort to keep our business. This simple phone call now saves us $10 a month.
4. Remove the extras from your landline. Since we didn't want to go without a landline and depend only on our cell phone, we figured we could at least get rid of all the extra services that our landline provider offered us: caller i.d., call waiting, etc. This saves us at least $10 a month.
5. Cancel cable and those late night trips to the video store. Why pay the high price for cable when you don't usually have the time to watch it anyway? Choosing Netflix over cable allows us not only to receive movies in the mail for a fraction of the cost, but also allows us to watch movies, documentaries, and popular television shows instantly from our computer. For last minute urges to watch a movie that may not be available instantly on Netflix, we make a quick jaunt to a nearby Redbox and get the movie for only $1. Or, if there's a big game that you just can't miss, head over to a friend or family member's house and watch it with them; it's better to have the company, anyway! This saves us about $35 a month.
In total, these small adjustments save us more than $175 a month, or over $2100 a year. They require no big sacrifices on our part and help enable us to live below our means. I love what I once heard Dave Ramsey say, "Live like no one else so you can give like no one else." To me, that not only means to give in a financial sense, but also to be able to give precious time; time to my family, time to my children, time to others, by enabling me to be home.
What are some simple things you do to save? I'd love to hear your ideas!