The Money Stretcher -100 Tips to Save

And just like that, we are back in saving mode, all it took was a head of Nappa cabbage. It’s not like I didn’t notice it before, but like so many of us, I tried for a while not to think about it. That changed, when we paid $13.99 for a five-pound head of Nappa Cabbage, that’s when I hit the breaks hard. My husband, the brave man beside me on our life’s journey, as so often, didn’t know what hit him, even though he knows I can be impulsive, perhaps sometimes even a bit dramatic. I am female, what can I say?

It is all his fault anyway, he was the one who bought the cabbage because it was on THE LIST. I plan the meals, I study the flyers, I write our weekly shopping list (THE LIST) and he does the shopping. Saturday is our shopping day, I stay at home, either entertain myself with house cleaning, or I am in my workroom giving a class. The love of my life buys extra’s without my permission, forgets sometimes that we are only two people. “It was marked down, I bought them all,” and he proudly presents the five packages of ground lamb. It sure was a bargain but so often, the extras then take up most of the room in our freezer, and more than once did I have to ask our neighbors if I could park some of our frozen food temporarily in their freezer. That’s why we joke that he cannot buy any extras without my permission. He means too well.

I mix ground lamb with price-reduced ground turkey or chicken and cook the meat with onion and garlic. I store it in 1-lbs bags in the freezer, it is so much tastier than just regular ground beef and ultimately healthier. Quick and easy dinners have become my specialty. Cooking on a budget is something that I learned from an early age.

This year, our grocery budget has almost doubled, the gas prices have skyrocketed and our income stayed the same until I was forced to adjust my prices. At least I can and while it wasn’t something I planned, my customers understand. My supply costs have almost tripled. My hands were tight.

My husband’s income won’t be adjusted. He is close to retirement and he is still on light duty and not allowed to work more than forty hours as he did before his accident. Every week we get a small Workman’s comp check on top of his salary and what was meant to go strict into savings, is not put into the account to help cover our living.

Something had to give!

We have been victims of the last recession and I see the warning signs of a new recession everywhere. Even if I am wrong, are we willing to have less money than we had just a year ago -with the same income?

The answer is simple. We are not willing to lose money, savings, or profit -yet.

How do you save money?

The start is hard but then you adjust. The luxuries first, all the little things that make our lives so much easier and nicer, but are unnecessary. Memberships. If you still go to the gym but complain about grocery prices, now is the time to get your priorities straight.

Audible, streaming services, newspaper membership, and even my beloved NTY cooking subscription were axed within an hour. It added it up quickly.

We buy half of our groceries at a store that gives us fuel points, which we can use for up to 30 gallons, yet our car only holds 16 gallons. We bought three five-gallon canisters and filled them up as well when we filled up the car. A neighbor does that for years, why did we never think of it? We had $2,80 off per gallon, and the next fuel for the car is now waiting in our garage. Perhaps a bit inconvenient but so worth it.

I know how to save and live on a budget.

During the months when we were houseless (homeless) and the following two years afterward (2010-2012) I learned to use the MONEY STRETCHER -an invisible tool I made up to make our money last. If you have only a certain amount to spend, you better learn how to make it work. Luckily, the way we had been raised helped, and so did our willingness and stubbornness to make it work -somehow.

We all need a home, so we pay mortgage or rent, we need utilities and a way to commute back and forth to work. With rising gas prices and daily price increases and the ongoing price-gauging, I fear many of us will soon be in trouble financially. “Creditcards?” A good idea, but only if you pay them off every month. If you still owe money to them, now is a good time to pay back your debt. I recommend the 50-30-20 rule to be debt-free soon.

50% of your income is spent on rent/mortgage, utilities, and phone, car payments.
30% is spent on groceries, memberships, gas, and luxury items
20% of every paycheck is used to pay off your debt –no questions asked!

We are not in trouble but I am not in the mood to wait for another recession to hit me out of the blue, and neither am I willing to pay some of the newly inflated prices. I pretty much had it!

And so we decided to hit the SPENDING BREAK drastically. The higher gas prices, the ongoing price inclines, the product shrinking, and the price gauging forced us to do so. The word SAVING came up quickly and we both smiled. Been there, done that!

So over the next weeks, I will share my 100 tips on how to save money. I certainly didn’t invent saving, but if you are like me, you too have selective memory once in a while and I might be able to make you remember a trick or two, because, even though they say otherwise, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

My beloved Nappa Cabbage for $13.99

Use a budget book and record your expenses

Of course, in order to save money, you need to know what you’re actually spending your money on. A very helpful tool to determine this is the good old budget book. Whenever you spent money, you note that expense in your budget book, and at the end of the month, you have a good overview of your expenses and your ‘bad’ habits.

You can keep a household book in a classic way with pen and paper, or use modern tools such as Excel. Meanwhile, there are also many free apps in which you can record your expenses. Especially if you travel a lot, you can record all costs directly and promptly on your smartphone. Some are worth the price, like “My Budget Book” for $4.49. It can be quite an eye-opener.

Tip #1:

If you buy something, think about how long you would have to work for it. Also, take into account your commute to work and count on your net salary. If you find that you have to work 2 days for the new pants, you may think differently and decide to save the money.

A large take-out pizza delivery costs now around $25 without a tip. If you make $15/hr you will have to work 2 hrs for the pizza, is it really worth it? And if you still decide you want the pizza, wouldn’t it be cheaper to actually drive there and get it yourself? Many pizza places give you now a discount if you deliver yourself. Make your own pizza, it’s so much fun, and so much cheaper. Pizza is a flatbread with toppings, that has been sold by street vendors in Egypt, Italy, and Persia. It’s not an expensive dish to make!

20 thoughts on “The Money Stretcher -100 Tips to Save

  1. Great advice, Bridget! Especially your 50-30-20 rule. I rarely accumulate interest and pay off the credit card each month. I don’t spend more than I earned but with rising prices and I believe the US now in recession, Australia must also have to tighten its belt. Prices in the supermarket are out of control atm.
    As you say, we can live very frugally if we approach it differently. Like thinking how many hours of work, would that luxury item be.
    Simple home cooked meals from fresh fruit and vegetables are so much cheaper and more nutritious than home delivered boxes of veges or pre-prepared meals. (the price of cabbage and lettuce atm post floods notwithstanding). I am astonished that so many younger people don’t know how to cook and buy every meal out somewhere? I have never had the budge to afford that so I don’t miss it.
    Who can’t make their own pizza? Even if you buy a flatbread to start with and top it with veges and cheese. Simple. In fact, make up several and freeze them to make the fresh toppings last longer. Then just reheat!

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  2. I look forward to reading your tips. As far as us, we have no debt. And we work to keep it that way. If we don’t have the cash, we don’t buy it. We’ve cancelled travel plans because we had some big bills coming up and just wanted to be sure we wouldn’t have to touch savings. We limit eating out. We look for free entertainment. There are many things we don’t do or buy because they are not of value to us, and we don’t miss them. We also don’t drink or smoke. We also work to be as healthy as we can. We have one car,and we do fine with that. I track everything we spend. We saved for six years to buy our travel trailer with cash. We waste very little food. There are lots of things that can be done to control spending. People think little things don’t matter, but it all adds up. As you can tell, I enjoy this topic. 🙂 I look forward to your money saving posts!

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    • Betty, you are just perfect in almost every way. You are such a role model and so full of wisdom and experience. It almost makes me think you never did anything wrong. As for saving, some are smart as you are, some learn it the hard way. Have a great week and enjoy the rest of your vacation.

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      • Oh my! Please don’t say that! I have made many mistakes in my life. Who I am now took me 63 years, and even at that, I am far from perfect! Going through my divorce scared me as far as finances go. That’s when I decided it was very important to me to be financially secure. And that’s why to this day, I am frugal and careful. I don’t want any debt. I am fortunate that my husband and I are on the same team when it comes to money. I appreciate your comments, but please know, I struggle and have had my struggles like everyone else. We are home now, but just for a bit. I hope you have a great week ahead.

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  3. I can’t think of a specific example, but I do know from time to time how something sneaks into my shopping cart that I later discover was a ridiculous expense. We really do need to be more careful right now as my grocery bill is higher, too. We’ve had a lot of family entertaining this summer, with people passing through for special birthdays and a family reunion. The costs of being a gracious hostess have been more than I projected, and I’ve also been thinking about how can we not only put the brakes on the spending, but also maybe recoup some of the losses. I’m going to enjoy hearing about your strategies, Bridget. You are an excellent resource. Thank you! 😀

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  4. You are right about the price of groceries and fuel skyrocketing. I keep very close tabs on the groceries I purchase each week and have become adept at making them go further (or substituting ingredients in my head when faced with the horrendous price of something on my list) because my pension does not increase at all.

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