The Little Red Owl

DIY ideas for home, health, & life

I am going to share some ways I save money on a day to day basis. These are my personal convictions and I understand everyone might not share my thoughts-that’s fine. We are here to learn from each other, share, and maybe guide. I do not want to sound judgmental or make anyone feel guilty for their life choices (Lord knows I have made some pretty bad ones and will do it again I’m sure). This is simply my path and I am sharing in a hope that it will help someone, motivate someone, or give someone a chuckle :)

Here we go:

1. No car payment: My husband and I both drive older, used cars and we carry no payments on either. In addition, our car insurance rates are much lower than someone that carries a loan or lease on a car and/or drives a new vehicle. We do have a fund in our budget for car maintenance and repairs, but honestly if you invest in a quality used car (which can be only $2000 if you are patient) -these maintenance and repair expenses should be no more than normal wear and tear. Both my husband and I feel our cars are very reliable and efficient.

2. No contract cell phones: I know-you’re thinking I am crazy and you could never do this-BUT…you can! And it’s awesome! The right plan depends largely on what you use your phone for and how much time you spend on it texting, talking, and using data (internet). For me Virgin Mobile was the way to go. I paid $80 for a new phone and monthly I pay $37 (this includes fees and taxes) for 300 talk minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited data at 3G speed. I know 300 talk minutes sounds small but it is the 23rd of the month and I have only used 45 of those 300-watch how much you do REALLY talk on your cell phone-you might be surprised. My husband barely ever uses his phone to talk and if needed he can always use mine, so he went with T-Mobile. He paid $175 for his phone outright (we did figure in the out of pocket phone cost into our budget when planning for this switch, we plan on having our phones for about 2 years and it does still come out cheaper monthly than if we went with a contract company and paid little to nothing for our phones-we also believe these phones to be better quality than the free phones contract companies give their customers). My husband pays $33 (this also includes fees and taxes) and gets unlimited text, 100 talk minutes, and unlimited data at 4G speed. Combined this is less expensive than our previous plan on Sprint which included: 500 texts each monthly, 700 minutes to split, data on 1 phone only, and a corporate 22% discount and no data on my phone. Not having a contract is such a relief. *note* I am in no way affiliated with any of the previously mentioned companies and I am receiving nothing for this post-these are my opinions and experiences only.

3. Grocery shopping: I do the majority of my grocery at Aldi. I love Aldi. My mother shopped here all throughout my childhood but when I moved to Indiana I stopped shopping there for some reason-temporary insanity I think! Since moving back to the Queen City I have rediscovered Aldi and thank goodness-it saves so much money! Some of you might be thinking that inexpensive food must be bad for you, must taste horrible, and could not be high quality-I am happy to tell you, at least at Aldi, you are not correct. I feed everyone that comes into my home Aldi food brand and everyone enjoys the food without questioning where it was purchased-even people who are convinced it tastes different than other, more expensive brands. I have also found that many (not all) Aldi product contain fewer chemicals and additives and have less ingredients overall. (Recently a family member was at Aldi and an employee of Aldi let it slip that name brand companies make most of their food, example: General Mills makes their cereal.)

What to expect: Aldi is able to keep prices low by not providing a lot of extra services-this is not to say they aren’t nice and helpful at the stores. You get your own cart by inserting a quarter and when you bring the cart back-you get your quarter back (I keep a quarter in the change drawer of my Honda). The store is organized but not laid out to “trap” you into buying things you do not need. It more looks like a warehouse. They also do not provide bags for your items, although you can snag boxes to carry your items. I take my own bags in an attempt to be green-so this works out fine (you can purchase bags at the store for around $.05 if needed). The cashier/stock workers do ring up your items when ready for purchase but they simple put them into your cart and you move to one of the counters to bag them yourself. The employees are very friendly and willing to help you locate items anytime. Aldi also carries a 100% double guarantee. This means if you are not satisfied with any item (including produce) just bring the receipt and/or the item back to the store-they will refund your money and give you a new item. Can’t beat that! I do also purchase toilet paper, tissues, and medication at the Dollar Tree-cannot beat the price and it’s good quality. The rest of my shopping is done at Meijer. If there is something I need/want that Aldi does not carry-Meijer is the next stop. We do also buy the majority of our meat at Meijer.

4. Food: Packing lunches, taking snacks and drinks when leaving the house, and planning for dinner. One of the ways many of us spend without recognizing it is when we are hungry. I am high maintenance when it comes to food so I know what I’m talking about :) To combat my hunger I often bring along a personal cup with ice water, almonds, m&m’s, and maybe some fruit. If I feel myself start to get hungry I simply eat a handful of almonds or m&m’s  and drink lots of water. I also plan out dinner meals for the week before I go grocery shopping (meal planning post coming soon) this way-even if I am too tired to think, I can whip up dinner in no time and have a delicious home cooked meal.  What are your food secrets?

5. Utilities: Luckily our rental home, though old, does have mostly new windows. This really does help with the electric and gas bills. We also keep our air conditioner set to 80degrees in the summer and our furnace at 66degrees in the winter. I am cold all the time but surprisingly in the winter 66 degrees isn’t too bad. I do use a blanket when I am lounging or watching TV but if I am mobile and doing stuff around my house-I keep warm just fine. 80 degrees can be a bit warm and/or stuffy in the summer time, but that’s when we turn on the fans. Luckily we have ceiling fans in all the bedrooms upstairs! Downstairs we have 2 osculating fans with remotes (yes, we are fancy) and they work to keep the heat at bay. We do use our dishwasher for most dishes (except leftover containers, coffee to go mugs, pot and pans, and anything wooden) I read somewhere once that using the dishwasher is actually more efficient than hand washing everything-I cannot confirm this nor can I remember when or where I read it-but I have clung to it :) We have a washing machine in our home and we do own a dryer but about 6 months ago it starting acting funny and I started line drying all my clothes (post on that coming soon). Now that I line dry-I don’t think I could go back to the dryer. It saves so much money, is relaxing, and I like the colors, feel, and shape of my clothes and towels. We also have a mini-frig for my husband’s “area” in the basement and a small 7.2 cubic foot freezer. The freezer allows us to make meals in bulk (to ensure we do not go out to eat when it isn’t planned), bulk up when something is on sale, and make our own ice cream! Yum!

6. Influences: Many of us, if not all, are influenced by TV, magazines, blogs :), and store displays more than we realize. For the year Husband and I were apart I did not have classic television-I watched Netflix or DVDs. I did not realize how awesome it was not be influenced by the media until Husband got here and hooked up our TV to channels. It was awful! I felt so bombarded and flooded with material goods and ideas from those I do not trust that I could not stand it-we unplugged the cord a day later. No more TV for us (we do watch Amazon instant, Netflix, Hulu, and massive amounts of DVD movies and TV shows-but we do not watch classic television with commercials). We are constantly told that what we have isn’t good enough-this is not true. I read here  that if you make $34,000.00 a year you are in the top 1% of the world-that will make you think.  If you struggle with spending on material items, decorative items (MINE), or clothes-stop going to those stores, stop watching things that tell you NEED these items, stop visit the blogs that depress you instead of inspiring you. I have found this to work wonders for me. I also ask myself: 1. Do I love it? 2. Where would I put it? and most importantly 3. Do I need it? Check your influences and put yourself to the challenge. You can do it!

7. Homemade (all throughout the home): There are a couple reasons why I am trying my hand at making all things homemade but honestly MONEY is at the top of the list. If environment and purity are important to you-there is little to choose from that is reasonably priced. Sure, there are more product out today that say natural but that means almost nothing in reality.  If you want to ensure you’re spending wisely and getting what you want-you need to make somethings  yourself. Here are some links to very cost efficient homemade items I make.

8. Shopping thrift stores: I love the thrift store. Whether your style is modern, vintage, quirky, or eccentric-you can find something! You can find name brands and also homemade clothes-the sky is the limit. The thing to remember with thrifting  is: it takes time, and you might not find something every time. Do not be discouraged. I buy most of my winter sweaters from the thrift store (right now I go to this one mostly) I have come away with 5 nice sweaters before for $15.00. Can’t beat that! Some people are grossed out by buying someone else’s clothes but trust me-it is totally fine. I take the clothes home and right away put them in the laundry-they come out fresh and ready to wear!

9. Inexpensive outings: You do not have to spend money to have a fun night out. Granted, this is easier in a big city-but the same applies anywhere. Go to a park with a great view, go scout out some original architecture in your city, walk along the river, do a homemade scavenger hunt with friends, Geo-cashing, parks often have free concerts and movies in the summer, libraries offer all kinds of programs-for adults and kids, have a photo shot with your friends or spouse, visit an antique mall and just LOOK, the list goes on. I made a master list of things to do when we get bored-that way-we are not scrambling for something to do-we just pull out the list and go from there.

Well, that’s my list of a few ways to save money. Let me know your secret for saving money and living within your means!


8 thoughts on “saving money

  1. Alicia H says:

    Great post, Amy! I’m totally with you on this stuff. In fact, right now I’m rocking an awesome boat-neck red and white striped shirt that was on the rack at St. Vinnie’s but brand new and only $2.50!

    About cars, I wish I would have followed this advice and stuck with our reliable older cars until we had enough money saved up to buy our newer used car out right. It’s three years later and we’re still paying on it.

    Regarding entertainment, I am constantly amazed by the wonderful things you can do for free (or nearly free): gorgeous parks, books, magazines and music at the library, taking walks, riding my bike, and a very cheap Netflix account. One tip I have in this area: when my family asks for my Christmas or birthday list, I always request an annual pass to my favorite state and county parks, the zoo which is nearby, and season tickets to the community theater. I use these all the time!

    1. Amy says:

      That’s a great idea. One year I did ask for a family trip to the zoo and I still remember how fun that was. Great tip!

  2. Jenn L says:

    this was a great post. can you send me a copy of your list of things to do when you are bored? i can let you know some ideas we have too :)

    1. Amy says:

      I can totally do that, I would love to hear your ideas too :)

  3. Grandma says:

    I forgot to mention anything about the mobil phones. We have Trac phones that of course are inexpensive. We buy the minutes from them by the year and they always will double the amount. So it is about the cheapest way I think. But of course the phones are not mobile phones.

  4. Grandma says:

    I knew I would like this post of yours as soon as I started reading it. It has always been my interest, to be a money aware person or something like that. But on the other hand it’s just being smart in the way you spend your money, that’s the bottom line.
    You mentioned how TV tries to influence people but also magazines do this also. I remember Betty H. saying she doesn’t subscribe to them because they make you feel like you need to have things like you see in the pictures. I have found this to be true. Years ago in the Enquirer there was a column about being wise in your money and household management. I looked forward to reading it every Wed. She even told how you could plan your weekly grocery list down to the desserts you had to almost the penny you would end up spending for the week. I used to cut out the columns but I don’t still have them today. Really, with the difference today, they wouldn’t all apply. It was in the ’50’s.
    I don’t think people today have the same outlook on spending, the way so many people eat out, for instance.
    I really enjoyed reading this blog.

    1. Amy says:

      Thx Grandma. I always enjoy reading your comments! I feel very blessed to have parents that taught me to be responsible and content with what I have. It is a daily battle to stay level-headed.

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