Author Topic: What tools do you use to save money?  (Read 5450 times)

grizbiz

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What tools do you use to save money?
« on: August 28, 2014, 09:39:52 AM »
Hi all,

I'm making the big move tomorrow (out of my parents house at 23...) and my goal is to save money so I can allocate more money to my hobbies. What are some tools are useful for this?

Right now I am only using Mint.com for budgeting and for tracking spending. Are there any good meal planner sites out there? Or a site that helps you plan meals using manufacturer coupons?

What tools do you use to save money?

starguru

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2014, 09:43:14 AM »
I just set up automated withdrawals and investing.  That way money is saved right out of my checking account.   Cant (easily) spend money if its locked up in an index fund.

ketchup

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2014, 10:47:49 AM »
Mint.com is a great one.  It'd be a pain to juggle all my accounts without it.

For meal planning and grocery shopping, I'd say your main weapons are learning how to cook if you don't already, stocking up when shelf-stable (or freezable if you have the freezer space) items are on sale, and actually planning out your meals.

Couponing to me seems to be a lot of effort for not a great return, and the bulk of the coupons seem to be for junk nobody needs anyway.

"Shopping the sales" can be good, but for me at least, stocking up is more worthwhile than planning meals around sales.  If canned tomatoes go on super-mega-sale, I'll buy as many as will fit in the pantry.  If green bell peppers are on sale for 1.49/lb vs the normal 1.99/lb, I might incorporate a few more peppers into our meals during the week, but it doesn't do a whole lot for the bottom line.  They can be more helpful for side dish ingredients.  If green beans go on sale, we're having green beans with dinner a few nights this week.

One thing you can recognize though is when things are in season/local.  That's when produce tends to be both the cheapest and the best-tasting.  Last-week's apples from Michigan are better and cheaper than last month's apples from New Zealand (speaking as someone in the American midwest).

Then of course there's the basics: don't buy "snacks" or any small prepackaged anything (including the infamous $9/lb pre-sliced watermelon).  Just buy ingredients for your meals.

Cook triple your portion size, and freeze the excess to save for a lazy day when you don't want to cook.  Obviously this apples only to dishes where this is appropriate (chili freezes better than a medium-rare steak with steamed broccoli, etc).

Kaspian

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2014, 11:39:29 AM »
There's one small tool that I use and can recommend... I often buy food on sale.  So, faced with things like onions, lentils, rice, random meat, etc., I'm not sure what exactly to do with some of combinations.  (Or I get bored and run out of ideas for new dishes.)  I use http://www.SuperCook.com/.  You just click on ingredients you have in your fridge or cupboard and it starts to build a list of dish recipes you can make with what you have. Very handy!!

spruce

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2014, 01:43:31 PM »
Budgetbytes.com is great for cheap meals. Our meal planning is simple - take a piece of scrap paper, write out the dinners for Mon. - Sat. (we usually shop on Sunday), write down all the things we need for those meals and breakfast. Lunches are almost always leftovers from the night before. Go to the store, and buy ONLY WHAT IS ON YOUR LIST. It can be hard to resist the urge to buy yummy-looking things, but we save money and eat a lot better with this system. Usually one or two meals are new recipes, and the rest are easy favorites. We buy staples like meat, rice, beans, toilet paper, etc at Costco, but you need space to store those quantities. Coupon clipping has never seemed worth the time.

I also highly recommend YNAB. I was skeptical at first, but it's a truly valuable tool to budget wisely. I have used Mint for years and still do to track total net worth, but the budgeting feature there is useless.

rocksinmyhead

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2014, 01:51:36 PM »
re. meal planning and being efficient, I have a notebook in Evernote that I've saved a ton of recipes off the internet (I love food blogs and budget bytes is great!) if a particular item is on sale that week I buy a bunch of it, and if I have trouble thinking of how to use it I just search "chicken" or "red peppers" or whatever in Evernote to find recipes that use it. (I also have tags on recipes for things like "weeknight," "slow cooker," "vegetarian," etc.)

other than that Mint is pretty much all I use!

legrandice

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2014, 04:20:54 PM »
So I clicked on this because of the "tools".  I  guess my ideas of tools are a bit different as I was looking forward to what took kit you were going to pick up at home depot!

thedayisbrave

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2014, 05:11:45 PM »
I'm one of those who enjoys doing my numbers manually.  I've found that some of the sites don't accurately categorize things - some people are fine with that - but it drives me batty.  I oddly enjoy updating my spreadsheets (nerd alert)!

Heard great things about Personal Capital.  I love the interface and it takes maybe 10 minutes at most to set up. 

Other than that, I think the greatest financial/money-saving "tool" at your disposal is the local public library.  Go and check out as many personal finance and investing books as you can carry and read them all, wash, rinse, repeat.  Pretty soon you'll be the one answering the questions :)

Gone Fishing

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2014, 05:34:06 PM »
Chainsaw and splitting maul.   Between the two of them they save me $1000+ in heating bills.
Rifle puts a couple hundred lbs of meat on the table each year.
Shovel, hoe, and pitchfork put several hundred dollars worth of produce in the kitchen.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2014, 05:37:35 PM by So Close »

Jacana

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2014, 06:42:52 PM »
Congrats! Cozi has a free recipe/meal planner/shopping list website, and YNAB is good for budgeting. And most grocery stores post sales and coupons on their websites these days. Wegman's app/website is amazing if you have one nearby. But, trying to come up with complete optimized meal plans using coupons/websites and following a different recipe every night can be overwhelming when you are just starting out on your own. Maybe focus on one part to start, like which meat is on sale that week.

My advice: Try asking older relatives and friends (especially those whose cooking you really like) for one favorite cheap easy dinner idea that's easy to modify and ask them to teach you to make it. And I don't mean the complicated type that you find in cookbooks or have on holidays, I mean every day cooking that's easily modified to ingredients on hand. Like recipes for rice dishes, curries, veggie hash, ground meat, chicken, canned tuna, soup, etc. Collect ideas that sound good, and slowly build up your own 'cookbook' of fast easy meals with simple ingredient lists stored up in Cozi or Evernote or wherever.

Learn how to make a few of these really really well and memorize the basic pantry ingredients required. Stock those key ingredients when they go on sale or buy in bulk. Pick two or three a week that share similar ingredients, make a plan and shopping list from that (check your pantry first!), adding meat that is on sale and produce in season (or frozen in winter). Make lots, and you'll only have to cook a few times a week (make enough for lunch too). As you get better at cooking, add more recipes to your collection.

For example, tonight's dinner: rice with onion, garlic, red pepper, frozen peas and carrots, chickpeas, and one chicken sausage cut into pieces. 1 pot. Now I have enough rice for tomorrow's lunch and dinner, plus I didn't even use up any of the above ingredients so they can be used in Saturday's dinner and beyond. And it could have easily been any number of other combinations of bean, vegetable, and meat.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2014, 06:42:59 PM »
Chainsaw and splitting maul.   Between the two of them they save me $1000+ in heating bills.
Rifle puts a couple hundred lbs of meat on the table each year.
Shovel, hoe, and pitchfork put several hundred dollars worth of produce in the kitchen.
Rats, beat me to it.  I was going to say "a good wrench set and socket set." Toss in an impact wrench for stuck bolts, and you can do all your own car work.

dz1087

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2014, 08:12:42 PM »
Well, I'm military and deploy a lot so this may not help every body out, but it sure helps when you have varying amounts of money coming in every month.

We have direct deposit.  I made my savings account my primary account and give myself an allotment every month (I also changed my pay to monthly) of a set amount to my checking account.  Out of that amount comes all bills and living expenses.  This never changes.  When I deploy, all my tax-free pay, and benefits automatically go into my savings account.  This has kept me from having to actively save over the years and it works great for me.

horsepoor

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2014, 09:39:42 PM »
So I clicked on this because of the "tools".  I  guess my ideas of tools are a bit different as I was looking forward to what took kit you were going to pick up at home depot!

I was thinking along the same lines.  Cordless drill, circular saw, hammer, screw drivers...

Really, your living situation will dictate the most useful tools.  Low rent and utilities, and minimal commute (preferably bikable/walkable) and cook your own meals, don't go out for beers too much, and you should be golden!

Oh yeah - Craigslist is a great tool for outfitting your house with pretty much whatever you might need in terms of furniture and appliances,  for housewares, check out the thrift store, and check the dollar store for things like cleaning supplies.

financialforager

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2014, 01:54:24 PM »
Don't pay for cable. Get an over the air antenna. If you can, start a vegetable garden with some raised beds or containers. Learn to cook your own food. Manage your own money. You can go to the library and get free books on how to learn some of this stuff. Hope this helps.

Bateaux

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2014, 06:12:16 AM »
Pay yourself first.  Fund the 401k, fund the Roth IRA,  fund the education accounts, set up all bills to pay automatically,  fund the emergency kitty if needed, if you have additional investment accounts fund them as well.  If after all that there is anything left you get to play with the money.
Just make paying down debt top priority.   Never use debt again if possible and make automatic payments to your investments. Don't use the emergency fund unless you have to.   Reward yourself with the jingle left over.  Too much sacrifice leads to boredom and frustration. Don't fret over going out once in a while if the money is there.   Enjoy a drink with friends. You can even buy that special something you've had your eye on.  It's a long haul and you've gotta have fun along the way.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2014, 06:17:03 AM by Bateauxdriver »

FunkyStickman

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2014, 07:41:15 AM »
I married an extremely frugal woman. She keeps me from spending *any* money, especially for things I want.

;)

theadvicist

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Re: What tools do you use to save money?
« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2014, 08:22:50 AM »
I second the YNAB recommendation, it has done wonders for my net worth (along with the priceless bonus of leading me to MMM!).

I am a big fan of buying groceries that are on the final day of their use-by date, and therefore much reduced in store. I just go and buy whatever has been marked down and make a meal around that. I have never, in all my years, got a bad piece of meat of fish ('bad' as in 'off). I think supermarkets build in a lot of tolerance on their dates (in fact, I ignore dates on everything except meat and fish, really). Vegetables are off when they are off, not when some date passes on a calendar that was marked on a packet. That is a very artificial way of telling if something is off. If in doubt, sniff it!

Also, the best tool for me is ebay. We would like a new TV (our current one was free from a non-mustachian friend who was upgrading to a flat screen in 2008. To save space (wow, it's huge), we'd like a flatscreen at some point. I will be very happy to pick up a 32" one from some muppet on Ebay who paid a fortune for it, and now 'needs' a 42". I love it when other people pay the depreciation for me :)

Everything that you decide you want (not need) wait. Wait some more. If you still want it in a few months, and can afford it, try to buy it used.