Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
DanO and I are on a no-frills budget.
Great, here she goes again.
No, but really. We have our student loan debt in our cross-hairs and we have decided to stop living a lifestyle that pretends we don’t have debt. Paying off those loans is our number one financial objective right now and as a result we have changed a lot of things around here. Some of the changes have been so easy that I insist you try them, too. For example:
– Price check your monthly payments. It seems silly to have a bidding war with the garbage company, but one morning I decided to do it. I made a handful of phone calls while the boys were eating breakfast and what do you know? Next year we will save $7 a month, or $84 overall. Given that it took me less than an hour to do, I’d call that a good hourly rate. We have also switched life insurance companies and looked into our internet costs, too (but decided not to switch).
– Make an “approved purchases” list. At whatever store it is that you find yourself justifying impulse purchases (you know the one) make – as in write down in pen – a list of the items that you do need to buy at that store and then don’t buy anything not on the list. We have done this for Costco because everything there seems like such! a! great! price! and all then suddenly we were coming home with ground beef, eggs, and a toilet. (True story. Toilet in our ground floor bathroom? Costco.) For you it might be Target or Amazon (not a store, but you get me) or Walgreens.
– Rethink where you buy it. I don’t do the extreme couponing thing, but simple store changes have saved us a good amount of money already. We now shop at Aldi for the vast majority of our groceries, ThredUp is the source of most of our boys’ clothes, and Target has been replaced by the Dollar Store.
The Dollar Store?
Yes. The Dollar Store, y’all. I have come to love it.
It is amazing what swearing off Target can do for the budget. That place has a seemingly magical ability to make me want want WANT and need need NEED! On occasion I would take the boys there just to swing by the in-store Starbucks and blow an hour (O, and about $50).
Now when I feel The Bullseye’s pull, the boys and I grab a 5 dollar bill, hop in the car, and go blow it at the Dollar Store. Seriously, even $5 feels like a shopping spree there, and it was eye-opening to see the kinds of things they carry that I always assumed I needed to hit up Target in order to purchase (e.g. toothbrushes and paste). And just in case you are unfamiliar, everything at the Dollar store is… wait for it… a dollar (or less, sometimes).
Now that I know I can buy them for $1, I cannot justify buying the following things anywhere else:
- gift bags, tissue paper, wrapping paper, ribbon
- kitchen utensils (spatula, cookie cutters, ice cream scoops, cookie sheets)
- kitchen wash cloths and rags
- bleach and ammonia
- toothpaste and toothbrushes (name brand!)
- hair binders, bobby pins, headbands
- coloring books and crayons
- tea lights and candles
- office supplies (envelopes, manilla folders, paper clips, etc.)
- small storage (non-food tupperwares and bins)
Believe me, I realize that a cookie sheet from the Dollar Store is not going to be of the same caliber as one from Bed Bath and Beyond, but seeing as how the caliber of my cookie sheets falls actually quite low on my priorities list, I’ll take the $7 in savings over a name-brand cookie sheet any day. If you are a cookie aficionado and a dollar store cookie sheet won’t do, I totally get it. I’m just not, so the Dollar Store fits my purposes fine.
We have goals for our debt in 2012 (namely paying off and extra $__,000 of it) and I am confident these little changes will help us get there.
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How do you pinch your pennies?