Being a single mum on a single income after being in a dual income family is definitely very different (even with sharing Grace’s costs with my ex). After the separation, I sat down and worked out where I could save some money to help bring my expenses down and save a bit of money. These money saving tips are, for the most part, common sense and things that I’m sure you’ve heard before but a reminder of some ways to save money can alwys be helpful.
It’s always good to take stock of your finances and spending every now and then so if you’re looking to save some money I’ve gathered some money saving tips that I’ve used either now or in the past.
Hopefully they can help you if you’re looking to re-evaluate your money situation or just need a reminder of some ways that you can save money for something fun (like a holiday).
1. Stop drinking takeaway coffee or takeaway drinks
Or if you can’t stop, at least cut-down. Spending $4 or $5 every day (or multiple times a day!) adds up very quickly. If you can, take some tea to work and drink that instead of getting a takeaway coffee. Make getting a coffee at work a special treat and do it once in a while instead of everyday and you’ll soon be cutting down on a lot of additional expenses. If you do get a takeaway coffee, are sure you get it in a reusable cup (I love my Keep Cup) as a lot of places will offer a discount for using your own cup too.
2. Stop drinking bottled water
There are many reasons to stop drinking bottled water, cutting down on single use plastic being chief among them, but it is also a massive waste of money to be buying bottled water. Buy a reusable drink bottle (preferably a stainless steel one) and carry it with you all the time to cut down on unnecessary purchases of bottled water. Along the same lines, if you’re at a restaurant ask for tap water rather than bottled water.
3. Check your bank fees
I’m with ING for my banking and because they don’t have physical branches (or ATMs) they refund any ATM charges. So I never get charged for using another banks ATM which is awesome (especially when ATM charges are $2 or $2.50 each time you use them!). The big 4 banks have announced that they will stop charging ATM fees which is great. The other thing to check for is your interest rate and annual fee on your credit card and any annual fees for your everyday banking account. It’s always worth checking into to see if you can get a better deal or pay fewer fees at least. (Also, ahem, if you wanted to sign up to ING and used the code NQI741 we’d both get $100. Just saying…)
4. Shop around for insurance and utilities
Have you heard of the ‘lazy tax’? It’s the extra money you ended up paying for not shopping around and finding the best deal. I recently saved $200 on my car insurance and $15 a month on my health insurance as well as getting a better deal on my internet and electricity/gas by shopping around. It’s fairly straightforward to get some quotes online and you can always try calling your existing provider with your competitive quotes to see if they will be able to match them.
5. Pack your lunch
Buying lunch every day at work is expensive (not to mention usually unhealthy!) so packing your lunch is an easy way of cutting down on your expenses. You’ll easily save upwards of $50 a week by packing your own lunch and being a little organised on the weekend or in the morning is well worth it for the savings you’ll make. Which brings me to my next point…
6. Meal planning
I’ve talked about how and why I meal plan before and it’s so important to do if you want to save money and cut down on food wastage. Only buying exactly what you need from a list means that you won’t be tempted by extra things at the supermarket or buy things that you don’t have an intention for and end up not being used. It will allow you to be organised and keeps you from over spending on groceries.
7. Be flexible with your shopping list
While sticking to a list is important when you’re shopping, if you’re trying to save a bit of money you can be flexible in how you use your list. If you can substitute cheaper veggies or protein when you are choosing your produce rather than rigidly sticking to a certain type of vegetable or meat then you’ll be able to make some easy savings and still be able to create the same type of meal you originally planned.
8. Don’t buy food you won’t eat
If you know you’re not a fan of a certain type of food, don’t buy it in the hopes you’ll suddenly change your mind. It will only waste your money and create unnecessary food waste.
9. Make more ‘pantry’ meals
Try making meals from what you’ve got in your pantry/fridge/freezer before you go to the shops after a cursory glance in the fridge and claiming you’ve got nothing to eat.
10. Use rewards programs
Making use of rewards programs (whether that be credit card rewards programs, retail rewards or frequent flyer programs) is a way of getting something extra for your usual shopping habits. If you’re going to be shopping at a supermarket, or at a retail store you usually go to, you might as well be getting something in return for it! I have a Mecca membership so I get regular beauty boxes of products to try and free makeup sessions throughout the year. I also use Woolworths rewards points which also gives me a discount on fuel. I have my Woolworths points converted to Frequent Flyer points and use a credit card that gives me Frequent Flyer points as well. Again, something in return for my usual shopping habits!
11. Keep an eye out for discounts
Every time I see iTunes gift cards on sale I always buy one. Being an Apple user means that I’m always going to be using iTunes for something, whether that be apps or my Apple Music subscription so getting a discounted card that I can load onto my account means that these things are ultimately costing me less. (And yes, having an Apple Music subscription could be seen as a luxury that I could cut out but I do so love having so much music available to me all the time!). Most recently I picked up an iTunes gift card for 15% off so I bought a $100 card for $85! This also goes for gift cards like Wish gift cards for doing grocery shopping, and specials or discounts at stores I regularly shop at. Having an app like Stocard where I have all my loyalty cards saved is handy because it notifies me when there is a special offer on!
12. Look for dinner specials
If you’re fond of eating out, keep an eye out for dinner specials or invest in an Entertainment Book so that you’re not always paying full price for a meal out. In Canberra there are lots of places that have specials and I’ve started keeping a list of them for each day of the week so I always have an easy option to hand if I end up going out for dinner and want to save some money!
13. Be smart in your choice of drinks
When you’re out for drinks with friends try alternating your alcoholic drinks with a glass of water to stretch out the time between drinks (also good for your health!) and choose beer, wine or spirits over expensive cocktails.
14. Look for free (or cheap) activities in your city
I love the number of free activities there are happening around Canberra every weekend. I can go to lots of markets, fetes and tourist events around the city for free (or a couple of dollars) which is a great way to spend some time and see more of Canberra. I find events through Facebook and Instagram as well as sites like HerCanberra and Community Switch as well as Eventbrite and I’m sure there are similar ways for you to find events near where you live.
15. Rethink your social time
Suggest going for a walk with friends rather than catching up for a coffee or for lunch. It’ll be good to get some exercise while you chat with your friends and it’ll save some money by not buying food over your catch up. You could also start a ‘dinner club’ with friends. You could take turns having dinner at each person’s house each week or month where each person/couple brings an entree/main/dessert/drinks, similar to a pot-luck dinner but on a more regular and organised basis. You can even theme each night for a certain cuisine!
16. Make use of your local library
Books are one of my weaknesses and making use of the library (for both hard copy and e-books) is one way of reading new books without spending money on something I might only read once. When I went to Fiji I loaded up my iPad with e-books through the app Libby, which is a library of e-books and audiobooks that is connected to your library card. It was a great way to get some holiday reading done (and cut down on the amount of luggage I had to take). I do make a habit of purchasing non-fiction books as I love re-reading these but fiction books I’m going to read once (or maybe not even like) I am so happy to have a great resource like the library to embrace.
17. Embrace second-hand clothes
Start a clothes swap with friends, visit some local op-shops or search out some local fashion markets. Canberra has lots of fashion markets with good quality second-hand clothes and the re-use and recycle movement is gaining momentum all the time so I imagine that the number of second-hand clothing markets will only increase everywhere! (Also check out this post for even more reasons to embrace pre-loved clothes)
18. Make or grow your own food
If you want to and are able to you can try making your own food. I’m about to try my hand at making yoghurt and cheese to see how I go! You can also try growing your own food, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just start with a pot and some herbs! I love having my little herb garden and having fresh herbs to use in my cooking.
19. Make the most of memberships
Get a membership or annual pass for activities you do most often. This is especially great when you have kids! The cost of an annual pass is usually around 3 visits or so, which makes it really great value. I have a membership for the Canberra Zoo which breaks even at about 2.5 visits and is such a great option to have up my sleeve for days that Grace needs some distraction! It might be a bit of an initial outlay but it will save you money in the long term.
20. De-clutter and embrace minimalism
Decluttering and generally just having less stuff is a great way to save money. If you’re embracing minimalism you’ll be spending less money on ‘stuff’ to clutter up your home. By evaluating what you actually need (rather than what you want or think you need) you’ll have less clutter in your house (and have stuff to clean) as well less mental clutter and you will hopefully not clutter up your home with needless possessions again.
21. Sell some of your excess possessions
Once you’re done with your decluttering, sell some of the things you don’t need anymore to make a little bit of extra cash. You can sell things like appliances, clothes and furniture on eBay, Gumtree, or on a local buy swap and sell group on Facebook. It’s a little bit of work but you’ll get a return on your time investment with some cash!
22. Take care of your things
Replacing existing possessions can be expensive, so if you take care of your things (appliances, clothes, shoes, cars) they will last longer and save you money. Pay attention to the care instructions on your clothes to make them last. Get your shoes re-soled or re-heeled to extend their life. Get your car serviced and use the right kind of fuel. Regularly clean your appliances and make sure you remove things from your pockets before putting clothes in the washing machine. (And while I’m at it, don’t use fabric softener in your machine, it’ll just create a sludgy, mouldy build-up between the bowls, yuck!). Simple things like this can extend the life of your possessions and save you money in the long run.
23. Buy well (and where possible, buy once)
If you do have to buy something new, make it the best possible quality you can afford. (Note, best quality does not always mean most expensive). Do some research and find the best version that you can get of anything which will make it last longer and therefore be a better deal. A great quality pair of leather shoes that last for years but cost a bit more upfront are ultimately better value than replacing cheap shoes constantly because they fall apart after a short amount of wear. Same goes for good quality cookware, homewares, appliances and almost any purchase. Aim to buy well when you do have to buy!
24. Remove temptations
One of the biggest temptations in spending money is constantly seeing ads and marketing. Unsubscribe to marketing emails from stores and unfollow them on social media too if you need to! If you don’t know about new products or new sales then you are way less likely to actually spend money on them. Another aspect of this is just being aware of when you’re lusting after something because you’ve seen someone else with it. If you really want something you see, try adding it to a list and if you still want it after 30 days then you can buy it.
25. Read The Barefoot Investor
I read The Barefoot Investor at the end of last year before I got the settlement payout from my house and it completely changed my approach to what I did with the money and how I’m thinking about my money now. It’s a really great approach to managing your money and how to save on autopilot (which is the easiest way for me!). It is the one book I would totally recommend to anyone who wants to get on top of their money!
What is your favourite money saving tip?
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