How I Save Money

I’ve admittedly always been more of a natural spender, and my sister was born a saver. I’ve always admired that about her!

In recent years, I’ve slowly been working to improve my habits and achieve goals for our family, such as purchasing our first investment properties and paying for two adoptions in cash we saved up.

New habits that help me save money: 

Know what I am saving for. One important key I’ve found, for my own personality type, is to always know what I am saving for. Before I had my goals written down, I found it difficult to motivate myself to add to our savings account. But I noticed a huge change when I started to keep track of my financial goals on paper. I make little charts for different things we’re saving up for (like our adoptions) and color in a section each time I add money to our savings account. This also helps me to visualize how long it will take to save up and if I’ll need to take other actions to achieve that goal.

Make short-term goals like limiting eating out for the month. Short-term goals help us save a lot of money without feeling much discomfort. For example, recently we were saving for our last few adoption payments (the big ones!) and so we made a goal to only eat out once a week and to only make coffee at home. These seemingly small actions add up over a month or a few months. Seven dollars a day saved from a Starbucks run is over $200 a month. Dinners with cocktails (and babysitters lol) add up even faster!

I’ve been making coffee at home for months now, trying to save money, and I honestly love the ritual of it now so much I probably will just keep doing it because it’s more fun.

Do a shopping freeze. I love shopping, but I had benefitted so much from taking shopping freezes. This year, I am taking kind of an extreme one by only buying used clothing. I do save a lot of money, but I also think it’s good for my mind. Being constantly in a shopping mindset is not healthy. That’s more obvious than ever to me now as I’ve had a little break from it. Instead of scrolling shopping websites at night, I scroll Pinterest for ideas and recipes. It feels good. I don’t miss it. And it’s great saving a lot of money we can use for more important priorities.

Go through your online banking (or credit card statement) and highlight everything you can cut out. If you haven’t tried this lately, it’s a game changer! Each time I go through our online banking, I find subscriptions we can cancel and things we can cut out or minimize. A lot of the time it’s things we won’t even miss!

Make a list of free ideas. My daughter and I go to the library every Saturday now. Anytime I want a book, I go on the library website and reserve it. It’s saving us money, but it’s also something that’s entertaining and a positive part of our week every week. Make a list of things you can do that don’t cost money.

Plan ahead and research purchases. In the past, I have been the worst about impulse purchasing, but recently I’ve learned that I am so much happier with what I buy when I take the time to research it in depth and read reviews. This kind of planning can also lead to finding the best deal, which can shave hundreds or even thousands of dollars off major purchases.

Return things. I used to always forget to return things and it was a HUGE waste of money. Now I return everything I don’t use within a week to two weeks. I can see that I’m easily saving hundreds of dollars a month just by returning. It’s crazy not to!

Find easy ways to earn extra money. When I am saving up for something, I will often sell things I’m not using to earn extra money toward the purchase. I sell all my nice clothing that I’m done with on Poshmark or Depop. I also sell furniture we’re no longer using on Facebook Marketplace. It’s an easy way to earn extra money without much effort. I do all my closet sales during Nova’s weekend naps. It doesn’t take much time at all.

Keep track on paper and always do the math. Try adding up how much you would save by not eating out for a month or going on a shopping freeze for a season. The math will help you confirm whether it’s worth it to you to make that sacrifice! Tracking your goals on paper will help you stay motivated as you get closer to your goal!

I hope this post was helpful to some! If you’re a natural saver, I’m so jealous. I wish I was! But at least I can give some hope to people who aren’t natural savers—you can do it! xx – Elsie

Credit//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
Note: This post is pre-scheduled. I am currently on my maternity leave with baby Marigold (!!!!!!!), so if I don’t respond to your comment, don’t worry, someone else on our team will. I am so grateful for the opportunity to take a little time to bond with our new baby. But I left a bunch of posts in the drafts for you to enjoy while I’m away. See you on the other side! xx
  • I really love this post! Especially the part about always having a shopping mindset and changing that. Being able to purchase or pay for big expenses is so much more gratifying than all the little unnecessary purchases! Your daughters have so much more value than coffee habits and cute clothes. For us it’s financial piece of mind that makes more sense than always buying newest or trendier things. Especially from a blogger standpoint, it’s nice to see a post saying you don’t have to buy everything – you can be content and spend on necessary things.

  • Such good advice! Tracking financial goals is a really good one. It’s helpful to see things from a different perspective–watching savings slowly build instead of the immediate gratification of buying something. Another way to save is to subscribe to newsletters of retailers you like so you’ll know when they are having a sale.

  • You are right on the money, literally. Thank you for pointing out realistic things to do and not just some glossy inventory that doesn’t apply to all. I have found now that I am older, I wish someone had told me in my early 20s and 30s to be aggressive about saving for retirement. It comes by so fast that doing catch up is very hard. This is what I am drilling into my 19 year old now, save, save, save. When you look back, you honestly do not need a lot of the things you bought in your life. Because another thing that happens when you get older, the minimal side kicks in and you start realizing how unimportant material things are, really! Thank you and good luck with your goals and all the new ones that will come.

  • These are all awesome tips that our family has done throughout the year as well! We’ve saved over $5,000 in savings just by being more mindful, ending subscriptions we weren’t using, cutting out eating out, and just knowing what our long and short term goals are! It’s amazing what you can do when you get on the same page as your partner to hold you accountable!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  • i am really loving all your maternity leave posts!! i love keeping track of my finances on paper – separate saving categories, how much i’m spending on food, etc – i find it really fun and cathartic. my favorite tip is spending freezes and finding free things to enjoy doing – i compiled a list of free ways to treat yo’self here: https://tps-steph.blogspot.com/2019/05/0037-25-ways-to-treat-yo-self.html
    they’re my self-care, my entertainment, inspiration, etc, etc. for over a year i’ve been thrift shopping only and likewise don’t miss shopping at all – i’ll still wander stores in search of ideas/silhouettes but the urge to buy is gone. also, not drinking is huge – that adds up fast and i’ve saved so much since i stopped a couple of months ago

  • This post is one of my favorites in a while. I alternate between saving and spending so I get how easy it is to spend more without even realizing. A lot of what’s on the Internet encourages us to SPEND! So this is refreshing. I’m a big fan of the library, too, and one of my favorite things to do is have a picnic at the park with my kids. There’s a lot of happiness to be had without a ton of cash spent.

  • I’ve always been a thrifty/savings-oriented person, and now that we live in a fixer upper in a city with a really high cost of living and two little kids, it’s even more important to us to save! My top two tips: 1. MEAL PLAN. Seriously, it saves so much money, and wastes so much less food, if you know what you’re eating for the week and buy exactly what you will actually use. 2. Assess what you’re actually spending by tracking all (and I mean ALL) your purchases for at least a month. It’s really easy to lose track of where your money goes – we’ve been tracking all our spending since we got married over seven years ago, and found out things like at one point my husband was spending upwards of $40/month on snacks because he worked long, odd hours and had a long commute. One trip to Costco for bulk snacks and we were saving all that money.

  • Thank you for all the great reminders. I have so many nice things to give or sell. I have never heard of Facebook marketplace? Thanks.

  • This is such a great post and a much needed refresher – I’m very similar and especially with the birth of our first kiddo, trying to implement a lot of the things you talk about here! I was raised with some pretty terrible money habits so it’s taken a long time (and patience from my much more money-minded hubby) to reverse those impulses and reframe how I shop etc.

    • I totally get what you’re saying Anna. However, it took Elsie years to establish a successful business and now she’s a very thoughtful and successful entrepreneur who has earned every penny from the amount of work she puts into it. I think we should all strive for that lifestyle. I’m certainly nowhere near it but I could be closer if I tweaked my life habits a little more and take more time for professional development to market myself more. I’m so used to not having money that I get in a mindset that if I have any extra at all, I should spend it because it’s going to be gone soon – which isn’t accurate or healthy.

  • I LOVE the idea of going through on line banking/credit card statements to see what can be cut out. I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for the great ideas!

  • These are great tips! I’ve recently learned so many great tips from thebudgetmom.com and it’s been a total game changer. She has similar methods, such as visual charts for savings goals, but takes it to a whole other level. Highly recommend her to everyone I meet because she seriously changed my life.

  • I have always been pretty good at saving but i do find it more challenging with a family, there are simply too many little expensive. I think these tips will be really helpful in planning and monitoring my finances better. It also helps to shop around for the best deals but one really important tip is not to get too carried away with the sales. There seems to be constant sales on these days to entice us to part with our cash but its only a bargain if you need the item in the first place. Thanks for all these fab tips, i will definitely be implementing them.

  • I really loved this! I read a lot of blogs and the buy this on amazon post fatigue is real. Financial awareness is so important! Great value to share with your kids too. Easy to get sucked into materialism.

  • These are such great ideas! I will totally be adopting some. Thank you for sharing.

  • As a librarian, I particularly LOVE that using the library is one of the ways that you meet your financial goals!! Let me know if I can help find some great books for you and your family <3

  • I always laugh at the long lines winding around a chain coffee shop drive through – all the way out into a highway. Just think how much money these people are spending on substandard coffee when you could make a heck of a good brew at home. Being smart about our money allowed us to pay our home off early, drive great vehicles, and trips to Ireland and Italy, and retire at 57!

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