Everyone can benefit from cutting back on their expenses. Fewer expenses means more money to spend the way you want! For us, that’s more money for farm animals and gardening. For you, it might be buying that new toy. But regardless of your goals, anyone can make these small changes and free up more of their money today.
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For me personally, transitioning to homestead life means eventually leaving my full-time job and moving to farm income. This is a more unreliable income. And for a girl who’s always had a traditional 9-5 desk job, it’s a big jump that has me a little nervous. But early on, there were a few simple steps I took to get control of my finances and prepare for homestead life.
And again, even if you’re not a homesteader, who doesn’t want to keep more money in their pocket?
First, I had to figure out my cost of living, and right away, I could see that I needed to trim some fat.
Read more about how I started a budget & figured out my expenses here.
Below are the steps I took to cut back my daily expenses. A few changed to my bills and habits allowed me to start saving more money for the future. Hopefully, there are some new ideas in here for you so that you can make the changes necessary to meet your goals.
Make Changes to Your Bills
This includes tv & music streaming services, Amazon Prime, Costco, gym memberships, massage memberships, cable fees, gaming memberships, magazine subscriptions, etc. Look at how much you’re using each service and compare that to the cost. Is it really something you need? Or just something you want?
Change Auto Insurance Provider
When I first got auto insurance, many moons ago, I was young & dumb. Plus, there weren’t the same options that are available today. I just picked the insurance company that my parents used and figured that was good enough.
And though I never received bad service, I also never really made a claim and I was paying WAY too much. I researched my options and switched to a much cheaper provider. Now I’m paying less than half of what I was paying before and I still feel confident in my coverage.
Change Phone Company or Plan
When I started this exercise, I had an expensive carrier with an expensive plan, for no reason. I shopped around and took a look at how much data I use each month. Do I really need an “unlimited” plan? Turns out I don’t!
Especially if I take small precautions like downloading Netflix episodes in advance, over wi-fi, if I know I’m going to watch them on the ferry ride home.
I made the switch to Google Fi, which is a phone service provider through Google. It’s a $20 base rate and $10/GB of data, so my bill stays relatively small.
Learn more about Google Fi here.
Move to Save on Rent
Now, this wasn’t necessarily something I did in the efforts to prepare my finances for homesteading, but it is something I’ve done. When I lost my job many years ago, I moved from my expensive apartment to renting a room in a house. It cut my rent by like 60% and allowed me to stretch my savings further while I searched for work.
Housing is expensive. And though it may not be ideal, it may be worth it to commute a little further for a huge break in rent. Get to know some people. Rent a room in a house. It can save you a ton of money.
Learn to Mend & Fix Things
In this day and age, we’re always so quick to replace things when they break down or get worn out. That didn’t use to be the case!
Start your own little homesteading project by learning to mend & fix things. There’s a hole in your leggings? Stitch it up! The lawnmower broke down? Repair it!
I can’t tell you how many new skills we’ve learned just for the sake of saving money and it shows. Those costs add up quicker than you’d think, especially the big-ticket items.
Barter with Friends & Neighbors
You’d be amazed by people’s hidden skills. Chat up your friends and neighbors to see what they need.
Can you offer them homegrown produce for the use of their power tool?
Or trade a crocheted item for homemade soap?
We’ve been part of an official barter group in the past and it was so much fun. Now we’re getting to know our neighbors and have already seen a chance to trade veggies for oyster shells that will provide calcium for our chickens. Get creative!
Make Things for Your Pets
You’d be amazed at how many DIY pet toys are out there these days. Instead of buying your fluffy friend a new toy, try making it!
All of our dog’s treats are also homemade. I love saving the money and knowing what he’s consuming. I’m hoping to eventually start also making his food someday, but that may be a ways off. I’ve even dabbled in making treats for the cat, though he’s much pickier.
Read more about our dog’s favorite homemade peanut butter & banana dog treats here.
Also check out our recipe for special anise dog treats, which are the catnip equivalent for dogs.
Change Your Grocery Store
For our first few years together, we shopped at Safeway because it was the closest grocery store. Turns out, there were much cheaper options available.
Now I don’t support Walmart. Though, for this exercise, you can’t argue with their prices. For us, the happy medium was Winco. In fact, now that we’ve moved, we still drive 45 minutes to the closest Winco in Bremerton.
Because it’s farther away, we just limit our trips. We’ve worked up to only going shopping once a month, but we’re working toward once every two months.
Pack Breakfast & Lunch
Back in the day, I was spending $6 every morning for breakfast and anywhere from $10 to $30 every day for lunch. I bet you can imagine how that’d start adding up!
I have saved an astronomical amount of money by packing breakfast & lunch.
Does it take time to prepare? Yes.
Is it totally worth it? A resounding yes.
Pro Tip: If you plan ahead and make dinners that have purposeful leftovers (like cooking four chicken breasts instead of two), it takes away a lot of the burden.
And that leads me into….
Become a Better Cook
These days, when we feel like going out, we play a little game.
“If we were to go out, where would we go?”
If the answer is Olive Garden, maybe we have Italian. If I want a more specific dish from that restaurant? Guess what? There are a million copycat recipes out there for dishes from big chain restaurants.
The other day we made spot-on Olive Garden Fettucine (which has more butter & cream in it than I care to admit). Pair that with a green salad and the Olive Garden dressing I picked up at the grocery store and it was practically a date night out.
We’ve learned how to make good Mexican, German, Italian, French, Swedish, Thai, Chinese, and bar food. We’re a walking, talking restaurant and it’s saved us so much money.
Grow Your Own Food & Plan Menus Around It
Not only will this save you money, but your body and taste buds will thank you. Make a list of your favorite fruits, vegetables, and herbs…and grow them yourself!
Pro Tip: When starting your garden, only grow things you know you’ll eat. We’ve dabbled in growing things that are more exotic to us, like kohlrabi and fennel. And though they’re a fun experiment, we found ourselves scrambling to figure out how to use them. For a true cost-cutting measure, grow your basics like tomatoes, basil, pepper, cucumbers, lettuce, cilantro, and zucchini, just to name a few.
Read more about our top plants for beginner gardeners here.
Eat More Grains, More Produce, & Less Meat
Let’s face it, meat is expensive! In fact, it’s usually our highest cost at the grocery store. The best way you mitigate this (short of raising your own animals for meat) is to cut back on consumption.
We’ve recently upped our grain intake and fallen in love with quinoa. We also stopped our bad habit of deciding dinner around what kind of meat we wanted to eat that night. It’s really starting to show on our grocery bill.
Try meatless nights and focus on using the produce from your own garden. If you’re not growing your own, buy local and eat seasonally. Things that are local and in-season will be more affordable than that avocado in the middle of winter.
There You Have It!
Never stop brainstorming ways you can cut costs. There are a million little things I could list that have saved us money, but each situation is unique.
If you start a budget today, you’ll be able to track your spending habits and figure out where you can trim some fat.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to no longer be living paycheck to paycheck. I want that for you too! So, as a parting note, here’s my bonus round of additional small ways I cut costs.
- Walk or use transit instead of using gas & paid parking lots
- Work from home a few days a week (if you can)
- Invite friends over to hang out instead of spending money at a bar
- Find free-ish ways to have fun like fishing, hiking, hunting
- Join Facebook groups based around giving items away & see what pops up
- Focus on paying off debt because the interest will kill you
If you’ve tried any of our other financial tips, we’d really love to hear from you! Send us an email or leave a comment below the money-saving idea you tried. You can also comment on our Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter pages.