Basic Financial Fitness: Real Ways to Save Money

Saving money on things we buy takes more than just the tips you see in internet articles. You know the ones. The articles I'm talking about always say the same things: "Bring your lunch from home", and "Skip the coffee store latte". But what about people that already do that? I very rarely eat out, especially at lunchtime, and I always brew & drink my own coffee from home. So how, then, do I save money on a weekly, or even daily, basis? Now, this list isn't comprehensive, so if you don't see something on here, don't panic. Also, your list doesn't need to look like this either. You make your own list, mine is just a guide. Feel free to leave comments with your ideas. How do you save money?

Real Ways to Save Money

Cooking from Scratch

One surefire way to save money, something most of us already know or have heard, is to cook and bake at home. It's not only cheaper, but it's more wholesome and leftovers are a must for work lunches. Below are the staples I keep around, generally, and with them, I can make about anything I need or want.

1. Dry goods: I always have certain dry good staples on hand. These include, but are not limited to: flour (more than one kind), sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cornmeal, yeast, pancake mix, a few kinds of beans, lentils, vital wheat gluten, oats, various grains (like rice, barley, & quinoa), pasta, TVP, nutritional yeast, nuts, and spices. 

2. Canned and liquid goods: Tomato paste, tomato sauce, coconut milk, shelf soy milk, beans, a few fruits and veggies (I prefer fresh or frozen, but I keep some canned ones around for lean times), soy sauce, vinegar, syrup, oil (typically olive, canola, & coconut), and mushrooms.

3. Fresh items: Potatoes, onions, garlic, greens, and seasonal fruits and veggies.

Now, with these staples, I can pretty much cook about anything I need such as seitan, pie crusts, casseroles, bread, cookies, main dishes, side dishes, and various salads. Cooking at home saves you a ton of money. Trust me on this. You can take leftovers for lunch at work, and your co-workers will be envious! If you're one of those people that don't think they can cook, well, you can. You just need to learn how...and learn you should. If you don't know where to start, I recommend this cookbook and this one to get you started. 

Another benefit of cooking your own food? It's much healthier. You skip all the processed crap, preservatives, and the bevy of sodium that plague "easy" foods. 

The Art of Staying In

Going out is fun. It's nice to get out and do things like "normal" people, and I mean, we earn it, right? We work hard so we should get to play hard too! Well, yes, but within reason. Going out costs money...a lot of money. It really does. For my birthday once, my friends and I went out to one of our favorite restaurants, had a beer at a new brewery in town, then hit up one of our favorite bars for a few more drinks. Total cost for my night out: $157.18. 

Truthfully, that's how much I spend for two week's worth of groceries. Was it worth it? Yes, it absolutely was because it was my birthday and therefore a special occasion. I don't mind spending money like that once in a while - I did save for it in advance - and it makes it all the more special because it happens occasionally. 

Not only does going out cost a pretty penny, but most people like to look nice when they go out, so they spend more on a variety of clothes to go out in. Me, I have work clothes, everyday clothes, and nice clothes that rarely get worn. (more on that in a bit)

If you really want to save money, then staying in as opposed to going out is a much better option. There are plenty of things you can do that cost nothing or very little. But, if you do want to get out and do things, there are ways to do that on the cheap as well. I wrote a previous post about this very topic, so read through it to find suggestions.

Buying Second-Hand

Buying second-hand is always a surefire way to save money. I can tell you, with no embarrassment on my part, that I have purchased all of my furniture (with the exception of beds, and even then, I bought a used one at a garage sale once) at either thrift stores, garage sales, or hand-me-downs. I got two nice, matching, nearly-new chairs at a thrift store for my living room that cost me a total of $27.00. A similar chair, new, would cost anywhere from $200-500, depending on where you found it. Here's a list of things that I buy second-hand frequently.

  • Furniture
  • Household decor
  • Clothing
  • Halloween costumes
  • Appliances
  • Dishes
  • Pots and pans
  • Cookware
  • Board games
  • Curtains
  • Rugs
  • Blankets
  • Accessories
If you have a small, limited budget, or are just starting out on your own, picking up items for your home is the way to go. Also, if you like new clothes but don't have the budget for it - and you have the patience to carefully sift through miles of clothes - then you can find absolute gems! 

Another item you can purchase second-hand - and again this must be done with lots of patience and research - are vehicles. Cars already cost a bunch in terms of maintenance, so why spend a ton on a new one? I bought a decade-old used car three years ago for a quarter of what a new car would have cost me and it's been a reliable vehicle. I did my research though, so make sure you do the same.

So, there you have it: my tips on real ways to save money. Sure, it takes more work than if you had plenty of disposable income, but these are ways of learning valuable skills as well as save money. This isn't comprehensive by any means, either, so if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments. If I get enough suggestions, I will write up a part two for this.


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