How many times have you thought of tracking, planning, and budgeting your expenses? We had thought about it many times. In the last few years, we have really started to figure out the areas where we can cut expenses without major changes in lifestyle. Speaking of lifestyle — priorities have shifted in the last few years. Boosting a college fund for the little one by cutting some expenses is of higher priority than the short term excitement of owning and holding the latest version of iPhone. Speaking of the latest iPhone … you know how it is. The latest iPhone is exciting till it gets its first scratch. So, why rush getting hold of it? Saving for college fund is more exciting, at least for now.
This post lists a number of feasible money saving tips. There are some Amazon affiliate links in this post. We will receive an incentive if you use the Amazon affiliate links to purchase anything with no extra cost from your side.
Save by using AliExpress
We buy from Amazon and local stores all the times like everyone. If we are not in a rush, we sometimes prefer a few other places for our online shopping. Two Chinese sites caught our attention lately — www.aliexpress.com and www.alibaba.com.
Alibaba and Aliexpress have a wide variety. You can think of them as Amazon or eBay of China. Alibaba is more like a wholesale place. I haven’t yet purchased anything from Alibaba because of bulk purchase requirements for almost all items. Aliexpress, on the other hand, is more on the retail direction. I purchase from Aliexpress when I do not have any time constraint. It may even take a month to receive the purchased item.
Almost everything is very cheap at AliExpress or Alibaba. I have seen items selling for $10 at local stores being sold for $4 or even less on AliExpress. Most items are shipped from China, when you buy from AliExpress. It is something like buying Chinese products directly from China instead of purchasing them from local markets.
For small items, there are free shipping options. Free shipping may take 20 days to 30 days or even longer. I do not order large items from AliExpress. I am just afraid that the item may get damaged during the long travel. My suggestion is — give Aliexpress a try, starting with some small items. You might find it useful in saving a lot on your online purchases.
My experience regarding Aliexpress purchases:
I started with small purchases — $1, $2, or $3 toys. Some sellers are very fast in shipping items. Some may take time. You may find that some items are not well described on the product pages. Since English is not the first language of most of the sellers on AliExpress, you might find information on some product pages confusing.
I have not yet purchased anything worth more than $6. That is because I haven’t needed anything yet that is worth more than $6 for which I am willing to wait a month. I am planning to do some apparel shopping on AliExpress, which is going to be more than $6 but much cheaper than the local market. Moreover, AliExpress seems to have a lot of variety.
Do some things yourself
There are many things a family can do. A few items are as follows.
As long as the pest is not something like a snake, we do our own pest control. In the first year after we moved to this house, we hired a professional pest control to make sure that bugs behave. The people from pest control suggested that they must spray the house every month because of the scorpions in the nearby desert. We have seen scorpions around and we are afraid of them, especially given that there is a little one at home.
After one year of spending $70 every month for a bug control service, we started to think if we could do it ourself. Yes, we can. There are some good brands for home pest control on Amazon, as well as at local stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Walmart.
We have been using ORTHO Home Defense Insect Killer for around eight months. It has a battery operated power wand, which makes spraying easy by replacing hand pumping.
ORTHO is defending the house well. We generally create a barrier by spraying it on the perimeter outdoor and indoor every four to six weeks. We haven’t seen the scorpions around in last six months. Yeah … no more paying $70 every month ($850 per year) to the pest control company.
Landscaping and irrigation
Friends and neighbors have paid tens of thousands in backyard landscaping. Landscaping seems a little more expensive here in El Paso than in the East Coast. While we are not super frugal, the thought of paying ten thousand dollars to landscapers makes us zombies.
You might have noticed that we trenched our backyard to install irrigation lines ourselves, installed PVC and poly pipes, setup our sprinkler system, and ran drip lines to water our garden plants.
We grew grass from seeds in our backyard. It could easily take close to a thousand if we purchased patches of real grass to cover the backyard.
Interior paint is something that every family can do easily and have a lot of fun. This is an activity that is affordable and doable without much skill, given that the family members have the time to do it.
Do whatever you think is doable and go beyond
From interior decoration to sealing leaks, irrigation to coating a flat roof, plumbing to fixing your car — do whatever you think is feasible and doable. Try to learn a few skills. Nowadays, we do not need apprenticeship to learn a skill. If we want to teach ourselves some skills, many masters are waiting on Youtube channels to teach us things for free.
Save by paying more of your credit card debt
If you have a credit card debt and you are paying the minimum monthly payment, you are paying a huge amount of interest. Credit card interests vary from 15% to to even 30%, sometimes depending on the credit score of the card owner. Moving the balance to a lower interest rate credit card is an option, if an application for a new credit card with lower interest rate is approved. Then plan to pay off the debt with consistent installments that are larger than the minimum monthly due. While paying off the debt of a credit card, for regular purchases, use a debit card or cash or another credit card that you pay off fully every month. This will ensure that the debt is not increasing.
An example scenario
If someone has a credit card debt of $5,000 and the interest rate (APR) is 20%, then monthly interest will be $83.83 in the first month. Minimum payment is generally 2% to 5% of balance plus the interest, assuming that there is no other fee. With 2% payment of the balance plus the interest, the minimum payment becomes $5,000×0.02+$83.83=$183.83 in the first month. Note that this payment of $183.83 will only reduce the balance by $100 (2% of $5,000).
With the monthly minimum payment, the credit card holder will pay $1,973.43 in a year. The balance at the end of the year will be $4,003. That is, cumulative total monthly payments of $1,973.43 will reduce the balance by $997 only in a year. 🙁 Pay credit card debt as early as possible to save the extra payments.
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Watch movies at home, lesser at theaters
Is your family watching too many movies at theatre? I know it is hard to resist watching Wonder Woman, Jumanji, or Justice League on large screens at theatre. Well … these are exceptions. Overall, you can cut down watching movies at theatre. Watch more movies at home. Amazon Video and Redbox are cheaper options.
Shop frozen and refrigeration items based on how much empty space you have in your refrigerator
For a long time, we found that our refrigerator is overstuffed. A little bit planning on what items are left and what items are necessary for the coming week can save some money and reduce wastage. Make a rule like — buy nothing unless the freezer part is less than half full. If there are usable vegetables in the refrigerator, make sure to consume the vegetable first and then bring more fresh vegetables.
Save your vegetables
Sometimes, I cut vegetable into small pieces, pack them in ziplock bags, and freeze them. Zucchini, squash, green bean, okra are good candidates for freezing. I freeze them because I know that they will stay at the bottom of the vegetable rack of the refrigerator unnoticed and mold will grow on them. I even freeze chopped chili pepper and Jalapeño.
Use coupons, deals, and promo codes
Amazon Gold Box Deals provides all “Today’s Deals”. Albertsons, Kroger, Walmart — all of them have weekly or biweekly coupons. Take a quick look at the coupon booklet before going to shop in any of these stores. Sometimes, these coupons are available with their apps. Use the apps if you do not like to keep coupon booklets that are dumped in your mailbox.
Figure out items that you will purchase from wholesalers
Buying in bulk from Costco or Sam’s Club saves a lot. That is correct but think about the two-pack muffin cakes containing 12 large muffins from Costco — we tried them a few times but were never able to finish them on time.
For a small family like ours, purchasing perishable items in bulk does not always save money. Items like kitchen towel, toilet paper, rice, wheat, cooking oil, frozen fish and meat, laundry detergent, dishwasher tablets are worth buying in bulk, given that closets and the refrigerator have enough empty space to store these items.
Figure out the cheapest transportation
If you live in a big city, you have plenty of transportation options. It is sometimes cheaper and convenient to use the public transportation compared to driving a car. Purchasing transportation passes is like doing a bulk purchase. Monthly passes are cheaper than purchasing tickets for each trip.
If parking near your workplace is expensive, consider parking in a train station and riding the train to get to your work.
Transportation is something that depends on the family setting. It is a complex formula based on school location, workplace locations of parents, work schedule, school drop off and pick up time, and many other items that only the family members know. Minimize the transportation cost keeping safety and convenience of your family in mind.
Become a one-car family, if possible
Public transportations of many towns are not that developed as in big cities. Many families have two or more cars in smaller towns (and also in big cities). Sometimes it is possible to use just one car, especially if work schedule of everyone in the family, work and school locations, and school pickup/drop-off schedules permit. Having just one car saves a lot — it saves tax, gas, and the price of the extra car itself.
Ditch landline and cable or satellite TV
Sorry … we are not big into televisions let alone cable or satellite TV. Moreover, in this era of Amazon Prime/Amazon Video , it is easy to watch any season of most of the series in one sitting, if you just have an internet connection. Alternatives are Hulu and Netflix. If you want (or need) to watch ESPN or other news live, Sling TV is a good web-based option that does not need the cable. However, you will have to pay for the subscriptions.
There is not much need of a landline nowadays given that there are multiple cellphones in most homes. You may think of a landline only if the reception of your cellphone is not good in your area. Even in that case, you can purchase a cell phone signal booster. You can even save the money required to purchase a signal booster if you have a wi-fi at home.
Check your cell phone plan. Are you paying too much for your data?
If your workplace and your home has wifi connections, you might not need a big data plan with your cellphone. A monthly saving of $10 would make it a total saving of $120 per year just from the data plan.
Do not always go for the latest phones when you extend your contract with your career. Earlier versions are sometimes given free with a plan. This will save you hundreds. I am fine with sacrificing the excitement of the latest version. I am happy with iPhone 6s, if the plan includes it without the extra bill.
Eat out less frequently — Cook more at home
Are you eating out almost everyday, especially your lunch? Welcome to the club. For a long time, we ate out during lunch. It is easier to eat lunch out because we do not have to cook and pack before we leave for work in the morning. After realizing how much we had been spending, we started to plan for weekly meals.
We cook during the weekend — freeze and refrigerate them. If you cook and bring your lunch from home, you will be able to save hundreds every month. Eat out less and cook at home — that is the way to save several thousand dollars every year.
Use more library books
If your family members are bookworms (like our little one … well … and somewhat like us), you can save a lot by growing a habit of going to the library and borrowing books. You can also buy used books from thrift stores. Used books in thrift stores are pretty inexpensive. Even if family members are not bookworms, growing a habit of reading is a great culture. This habit fosters child development.
More staycation than vacation
While vacationing far away from home is exciting, the expenses for a family travel is sometimes so big that cutting just one family travel can save a lot. Staycation is an alternative to a family vacation. Visiting local attractions within a day’s drive during the staycation is no less exciting than a vacation. Frequent vacationers can reduce a few trips, become staycationers at that time, and save thousands per year.
It is you who knows what is the best for your family. Which sectors are redundant and expensive, what items are wasted, where is a little room for savings — no one can answer these questions better than you. Figure out the blackholes of expenses of your family and save. A small saving each month now will give you the extra mileage in the long run.