Investing in Being Broke- Tips to Save Money

by Emily Steers on 08/01/2012

After all the talk on this here blog about needing money for a house or a wedding, David and I have gone into full-on money crunch mode.

Time to add to the good ol’ change jar that lives in our bedroom shelves.

We’re thinking about what we have to do in order to stretch pennies. Some of the list is obvious: no more take out, less entertainment. Considering I get wine for free, no more bars and definitely no more craft beer at the grocery store for a little while. We have to search for bigger bargains when working on The By-Gone Bee; time to sell more of our crap on eBay and more old books on Amazon. Every little bit helps, you know?

But then there are the things we’re doing to “invest” in being broke. That whole “you gotta spend money to save make money” thing.

First up:

I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but it’s a set of nice Pyrex dishes, bought on Amazon for about $17. We actually didn’t have any casserole dishes with lids– which has limited a lot of our “bake ahead” meal planning and freezer meal goals.

We’re terrible about meal planning. I’ll get home to find half a box of quinoa, hot dogs and peanut butter in the house and there is seriously nothing you can make with that. We must, must, must get better about buying full meals– and even making them ahead of time and freezing them, so they can just be re-heated when we’re hungry.

The other aspect of that set of Pyrex dishes? I have GOT to stop going to work without a bagged lunch. I work in a ritzy, residential neighborhood, so there is no lunch to be had in commutable distance that costs less than $10 a head. Seriously– Starbucks is the cheapest food in the area. So, a few times a week when we don’t even have pb& j in the house? That’s $30 a week I should be saving in an account.

Things we won’t be doing without: high speed internet; our cars. David needs the internet for his work and even though it is pricey, it’s worth it. We won’t be becoming a one-car family anytime soon, either. We’re too paranoid about that!

I’ve got an automatic savings plan that transfers a little bit of money each week into a savings account I don’t touch. It’s not a lot, but it’s something.

And so– I’ve started a meal-planning Pinterest board that has gotten me kind of fired up about all of this “penny pinching” stuff. But I want to know:

What are YOUR big tips to save money?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Ada August 1, 2012 at 8:06 PM

Hmm, let’s see. Seeing as I also am currently invested in being broke, I must have some tips up my sleeve. I think the biggest thing that helps us save money (at least when it comes to food) and not be tempted to have a chest freezer stocked full of food. Honestly, the freezer usually holds enough food to feed us for more than a month if need be. I know that’s probably not possible for you if you don’t have a chest freezer, but having the raw ingredients in the freezer to be unthawed at the touch of microwave button is a huge help when Andy and I stumble in from work each evening, cranky and starving.

Shop just once a week (it’ll force you to form at least a loose meal plan for the week) and pay attention to the price per ounce when choosing which product to buy. I’m not a huge advocate of buying in bulk, but when I know I’m going to use something like, say, vinegar, it makes more sense to buy the 64 oz. container rather than 16 oz. one.

Use *all* of your produce. I try to perform fridge triage on a bi-weekly basis where I go through the fridge, searching for produce and other items that are on the verge of turning bad and make an immediate plan for how to use it. This process only takes about an hour of my time and it’s so much better than throwing away spoiled produce (aka, your money) out.

Make it yourself if it’s cheaper and you have the time. I make our bread, marinara sauce (portioned out and then frozen), and instead of buying canned beans (we use a ton of kidney, garbanzo, and pintos around these parts) I make up a big batch of dried beans in the crockpot and then freeze them in can-sized portions.

Always have the makings for an easy dinner on hand for the nights when you don’t want to cook.

Okay, this has basically turned into a blog post, so I’ll stop. Good luck!

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Gillian August 2, 2012 at 9:52 AM

Not getting cable for my new apartment was the best thing I could have done. My $25/month interview + $8/month Netflix + $8/month Hulu is the best plan ever.

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Judith August 2, 2012 at 6:41 PM

Way to go on the Pyrex! I remember registering for our set way back in 2005 and I’m pretty sure it was like $60 at least, and it only came with one lid! I really wish I had something riveting to add, but saving and budgeting are two things I need to work on as well. It’s always frustrating to cut back when you’re already living on a shoestring. :p

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Katelyn Benton August 5, 2012 at 3:37 PM

Max and I definitely got cheap living down to an art this past year. The most important investment we made was spending time committing to enjoying ourselves when we weren’t working. Here are some of our favorite, free (or mostly free) things that make us feel rich: Walking through the Venice canals on s Saturday morning with some coffee, a pier-to-pier walk from Venice to Santa Monica and back (4 miles round trip) with snacks in tow, hiking Temescal Canyon, having friends over to just hang out or maybe watch a movie, cooking delicious meals together, board games.

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emily August 6, 2012 at 10:22 AM

we used to go hiking every weekend, but we stopped once we started going to estate sales instead! i think david and i should start doing evening hikes, instead. keep the energy up a little better. i love these ideas!

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Mayor Gia August 6, 2012 at 4:29 PM

This is my first time stopping by…you get wine for free?! HOW?! I want.

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emily August 8, 2012 at 11:14 AM

hehehe. i’m one of the lucky few people who work for a wine writer. we get samples up the yin-yang and it’s all for FREE!

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Sinea August 6, 2012 at 6:31 PM

Find the LEAKS!
You need to identify the places where your money is sneaking away, undetected. Then, plug up the holes. In fact, your question inspires me so much that I think I’ll do a post on by site on just how to do this! Thanks Emily….you’ve inspired me. :)

…Sinea

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emily August 8, 2012 at 11:10 AM

hehehe. i use mint.com to track my spending– about 80% of all my money goes to rent or student loans! my biggest leaks are lunch at work… definitely something i have to cut back on!

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