5o Ways to Declutter Your Life

simplicityOver the last several years, Dave and I have been focusing on simplifying our lives. From not buying stuff just to buy it to using what we have until it actually wears completely out to just enjoying each moment for the moment, we’re trying. Here’s 50 things we’re doing. I hope you’ll share more ideas with us!

[Tweet “50 ways to declutter your life and start living.”]

Get rid of Shoes and Clothes if:

  1. You haven’t worn it in the last 12 months
  2. You haven’t ever worn it but think you might someday
  3. You are keeping it because it might fit again someday
  4. You spent a lot of money on it, and even though you’re never going to wear it, you feel better not getting rid of it
  5. There are stains, holes, rips, tears, snags, etc.
  6. It’s outdated or out of style

Get rid of books if:

  1. You can get the book digitally
  2. You’ve already read the book
  3. You will never read the book
  4. The book has enough dust on it you can leave a fingerprint
  5. It’s a cookbook and you can look up the recipe online (or, like me, you don’t cook)

[Tweet “Out of clutter, find simplicity. – Albert Einstein.”]

Get rid of magazines and cancel subscriptions if:

  1. You haven’t read last month’s issue when this month arrives
  2. You have a stack of magazines you haven’t read
  3. You have boxes of magazines you store “just in case”
  4. You think the magazine will someday be valuable enough to sell
  5. You can get the subscription digitally

Get rid of home décor if:

  1. You don’t remember where you got it
  2. It has no intrinsic value
  3. It has no emotional value
  4. It has enough dust on it you can leave a fingerprint in it
  5. It no longer works with your current home fashion
  6. You don’t like it

Pay down debt by:

  1. Sleeping on it before making big purchases
  2. Paying more than the minimum payment on all credit accounts
  3. Not buying it – you don’t need it anyway
  4. Focusing on a single card to pay off (high interest or high balance), then using the money you save from that payment for the next card
  5. Not buying it if you don’t have the cash to pay for it
  6. Consolidating debt and closing credit cards

Reduce your monthly spending by:

  1. Skipping the morning latte and taking a cup of coffee with you to work
  2. Packing lunch instead of eating out
  3. Skipping the monthly trip to the hair salon and do it yourself
  4. Mani-pedis at home rather than at the salon
  5. Skipping the new outfit you think you need but really don’t; when you do buy, choose classic pieces that will last
  6. Using coupons at the grocery store
  7. Checking for discounts on purchases before checking out (my sister regularly saves 10-15% on purchases at department stores simply by checking her for coupons and sales offers while she’s in line to check out)
  8. Taking advantage of member benefits that give you discounts: AAA, AARP, American Legion, and others all offer travel, insurance, prescription, and other discounts that can save you money
  9. Renegotiating your monthly payments on everything. Our insurance company just tried to raise our rates on our car insurance (we don’t drive to work, put less than 10,000 miles on the car each year) by more than 20%. We called around, found similar coverage for less than we were paying before the increase and switched immediately.

Build savings by:

  1. Taking your extra change at the end of each week and put it in a change bucket in your closet
  2. Taking a set amount per week in cash and putting it in an envelope earmarked for whatever you’re saving for
  3. Paying down debt so that you have more disposable income to tuck away
  4. Maximizing employer-matched retirements
  5. Putting money in a Christmas account so that when the holidays come, you have cash to spend instead of credit
  6. Putting the money aside in a special account (or secret hiding place) every time you resist buying something you might otherwise have purchased.

Learn to embrace frugality by:

  1. Growing your own veggies and herbs
  2. Mowing your lawn with a push mower that doesn’t require gas, oil, or expensive maintenance
  3. Reusing and repurposing rather than throwing out
  4. Repairing rather than replacing
  5. Making do with what you have and being grateful for it
  6. Sharing what you do have with others; trade and barter rather than buy new
  7. Planning errands so that you make less trips and use less fuel

I’m inspired daily by Becoming Minimalist. If you’re looking to do more than just save a few dollars every month and really want to begin changing your mindset, start there.

How to Lower Your Weekly Spending

MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Jessica Watts

Lowering your overall spending begins by monitoring how much you spend in the short term. Creating weekly and even daily budgets will result in an overall reduction in your spending habits and an increase in your savings. By examining where you waste cash and taking actionable steps to start better habits, you can be on the road to saving money in no time. One of the main places where people spend cash on a daily basis is food. Here are three quick and easy tips to lowering your weekly spending on meals and getting your finances on track for the long haul.

penny pinching momsgetrealCut Coupons

You might think that only stay at home moms cut and use coupons, but these cost saving squares can add up to big savings for anyway. Free monthly circulars and grocery store mailings can offer a variety of different coupons that are catered to you based on your spending habits. You can also search online for coupons related to specific products. While each coupon only saves a few cents or dollars, over the course of your weekly meals you will notice a difference in your spending. By the end of the year, you may have saved hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Rethink Your Shopping List

Refine your shopping list to include only the essentials. When you cut back on even a few items you will see a difference in your long term budget. During your weekly grocery shopping trip, consider buying the store brand of your necessities instead of a name brand. You may be able to save at least a dollar on each item just by getting the store version of a food item, and the ingredients are usually similar or identical to the name brand you’re used to.

Plan Ahead

Make a weekly schedule with the meals you will prepare. Having a solid plan eliminates your need to eat out, which is usually far more expensive than preparing a meal at home. You can enjoy fresh produce and ingredients every night of the week by using your own groceries instead of getting food to go, and save eating out for special occasions. Make it a habit to sit down on Saturday and make a list of meals and shop for the ingredients. When you stick to it, you can avoid most mid-week grocery store trips and the need to purchase meals from restaurants. Planning also lets you send your kids to school with meals instead of having to pay for a meal plan in some cases.

Lowering weekly spending will ultimately lower your overall spending. By sticking to these few tips, you can create new habits for your family that allow for more saving and the ability to spend your extra cash elsewhere. Don’t feel guilty about splurging on a nice meal for a special occasion – changing your weekly budget doesn’t mean you can never indulge, just that it shouldn’t be done every day if you want to lower your expenses.

 

Jessica Watts is a finance expert. She loves writing about saving money on personal finance blogs. She recommends Sumo Coupon website for money saving tips and fascinating vouchers and coupons.

 

Membership Does Have Its Benefits for the Frugal

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

In my quest to keep my kids entertained for the summer I have been on a hunt for anything with the word FREE listed in the price.  Through the local arts council I have found the free Sunday in the Park series of musical performances, First Fridays downtown, Wednesday lunchtime music in Center City Park, and Monday & Wednesday morning Fitness by the Fountain.  All that here in Greensboro, NC, but I know that if you check with your local arts council you’ll find similar activities, many family friendly.

While FREE is my preferred method of entertainment, I like cheap, thrifty, and low cost, too.  However, sometimes I forget the big picture value of memberships due to the high up-front cost.  Recently as part of a summer gift for my kids, their grandparents gave us some money to purchase a family membership to our Natural Science Center.  I was very excited about this because the Natural Science Center has two floors of exhibits with exploration theaters, play areas, the Omnishere Theater,  Animal Discovery Zoological Park, and all manner of educational programs and workshops throughout the year.  I mean, best gift ever, right?  Well, let me tell you, this is the gift that keeps on giving!

I’ve never paid enough attention to the membership shpeel before to know this, but the old adage is true.  Membership does have its benefits. Other than newsletters and advance notice of special events, there is this little thing called reciprocal admission to affiliates.  I’m talking up to a 50% discount on admission to other zoological parks, discounts at gift shops and in some cases FREE admission, like in our case, to the NC Aquariums.  But the list includes over 300 science museums nationwide as well as other Association of Zoos & Aquariums accredited organizations.

Let me put it mathematically.  One trip to the Natural Science Center would currently cost my two kids and me $22.  A family membership for two adults and ALL the children in the household under 18 costs $70. (we got a $5 discount for being local residents – who knew).  If I take the kids just twice more the membership will more than have paid for itself, and that doesn’t even account for my husband if he wants to come along.  Now we can make plans to visit the NC Aquariums, and other museums that had previously been off our list of consideration this summer.

This is a total win!

Summer on a Budget

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

As the days seem to speed closer to the inevitable summer vacation, it’s time to start seeing what’s out there for cheap, if not free.  So to really kick off my summer as Mommy Activities Director I did the first thing that all mothers do, I asked my mommy friends for ideas.  After asking around, doing some on-line research and playing tourist of my area I came up with some great resources.

  • Movies: Many theaters offer special summer movies that range from $1 to $2.50; a few even offer free showings.  Many theaters offer a kids value pack of some kind with popcorn, drink and candy.
  • Public Library: Check with your public library and get a membership if you haven’t already.  Public libraries offer way more than book lending.  Many have story times, and other great programs throughout the year for both children and adults.
  • United Arts Council: By checking with your local arts council you can tap into all kinds of activities going on in your area with local museums and other cultural events throughout the year, like music in the park.
  • Community Bulletin Boards: These tend to exist in grocery stores, local coffee shops, and some local restaurants.  Among the business cards and various for-sale ads are often flyers for local fun events that are area specific.
  • Churches: Even if you don’t attend regularly or even at all, many churches host activities open to the public that are kid friendly.  Ticket prices tend to be low and the money goes to a good cause.

Depending on your location and proximity to major cities, you may be able to find more opportunities if you look.  These are just a few that seem to be universal for anyone in the continental U.S.

Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas

The holidays are coming, but they aren’t the only drain on your finances this time of year. Utility costs go up, too. Sometimes, it seems like the gifts people are buying are not ones that have a lot of thought put into them but simply allow another person to be checked off the list. It can be a real balancing act trying to buy gifts for everyone on your list while still making ends meet, but you can keep it meaningful and heartfelt without breaking the bank. Here are some frugal gift ideas that can help stretch your budget and give your loved ones gifts with meaning:

For Kids

  • Instead of buying another toy that will end up broken, give the gift of time. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, moms and dads can give the gift of special time doing something your child loves doing, from going to a movie to spending an afternoon bowling. Simply create a gift certificate the child can redeem.
  • Books or a magazine subscription. Not only is this the kind of gift that keeps giving, but you’re promoting brain power.

For Grandparents and other special relatives

  • If you have family members who seem to already have everything, give them something special like a family video, photo book, or photo calendar. You can make them using your home computer without needing a lot of technical skill.
  • Homemade Christmas ornaments that you and your children make together not only let you bond but provide gifts for family members that they’ll cherish for years to come.
  • If you have a couple with young children in your family, babysit! There’s no better gift.

Friends, Neighbors, Teachers

  • Rather than spend a lot of money trying to say thank you to everyone who touches your life, give them something more special: a tray of your famous fudge, or a book of your favorite family recipes.
  • Make homemade coupon books with coupons redeemable for free lawn raking or snow shoveling; offer to help grade papers for your child’s teacher. The gift of time is always precious.

The holidays aren’t about how much money you spend or how high you can get the limit on your credit card. It’s about taking that moment to let the people who touch our lives know how much we appreciate them. Let your gifts show them how you feel.