I’ve always been cheap. Not entirely sure where I got my thriftiness, but I have embraced it. When I found my husband, friends remarked that I’d found the only person on earth cheaper than I am. Together we are one thrifty duo. Thriftiness (and advanced degrees) has afforded us an enviable lifestyle. Since I’m genuinely curious about how other people live, here are a few things we, as thrifty people, do.
1.We eat at Home.
Starting things out pretty easy with this one. Growing up, my family went out to eat. All. The. Time. As an adult, I’ve made the conscious decision to cook the majority of our meals at home. Though cooking at home didn’t start because of my thriftiness, eating at home does save us a lot of money. It is a fun challenge to learn how to prepare our favorite foods. My husband has perfected pizza and even taught himself to smoke meat! We’re at a point where the food we make tastes better than food we could get at a restaurant.
2. We bargain shop.
Knowing what things cost can save you a considerable amount of money. It amazes me when people are unaware of the cost of a gallon of milk or a dozen eggs. If I weren’t aware of what sale prices at my preferred grocery store (Aldi) were, I would be much more likely to pick up produce/milk/eggs when I’m in close proximity to other grocery stores. I know, though, that if I wait and make one trip to Aldi I will be able to stretch our grocery budget.
3. We’re not afraid to buy secondhand.
I’ve written about my love for thrift stores, and I absolutely love thrifting. But my husband and I also know when to look on Craigslist or ebay for big ticket items. My husband has some expensive hobbies (photography, golfing, guitars, etc.) and has been able to get some AMAZING deals on Craigslist. He’s also had success selling the equipment he no longer wants/needs on the site for what he initially paid for the items (sometimes even making a good profit).
Several years ago I got fed up with my purses wearing out all the time and decided to invest in a brown, a black, and a tan quality, leather purse. This was while I was still in grad school and we weren’t exactly rolling in dough. So I figured out the specific bags I wanted and followed the search on ebay until I found each $300+ bag, in new condition, for under $100. Not only did I save money on the price of the item, but I haven’t bought a single purse since then which has also saved a considerable amount of money.
Finding quality is key when buying secondhand. There are lots of cheap products, but buying a quality product at a good price will save you money upfront and in the long run.
4. We spend less than we earn.
Not gonna lie, we don’t follow a strict budget (gasp!). However, I have automated withdraw set up so at the beginning of each month approximately 25% of my take-home pay is transferred to savings. My husband’s pay varies, so our loose budget is based only on my income. His paycheck goes towards reducing debt or increasing savings.
5. We pay down debt aggressively.
Grad school wasn’t cheap. My husband and I met when we were graduate students and we left grad school with our fair share of student loan debt. Luckily, I was on scholarship that paid all but fees for my classes and my husband was able to get a few small scholarships while in school so our loans were manageable. However, seeing the amount owed each month gave me a near heart-attack, so we made the decision in our first year post-grad school with real incomes to live like we did in grad school and allocate the rest of our money to pay down loans. Roughly a year and a half later we were free of that debt.
Obviously, income and expenses can fluctuate, but when we have extra money it goes toward paying down whatever debt we have.
6. We use credit cards responsibly.
Many Dave Ramsey followers are quick to talk about the evils of credit cards. However, the credit cards we use earn 2-5% back on all purchases. If I’m buying groceries any way, and I know I will pay off the balance each month, why would I skip out on this cash back?
7. We use what we have.
It is easy to accumulate lots of stuff. Every so often it is good to evaluate what you have and make sure you’re using it. Typically, we have a designated space (or box) to put items things we no longer use. It takes us a while to accumulate a full donation box, which gives us time to evaluate if we actually use the item or not.
You might be wondering how this saves money. Being aware of what we use keeps us from buying items we know won’t get used. If I know I donated a similar item 6 months ago – I’m not likely to buy another one. Also, if an item has a resale value, we sell it on ebay or craigslist.
8. We take things back.
To the store that is. When something I buy doesn’t work out, I take it back. If my kids’ toy deflates regularly, I take it back. If I cut into a watermelon that is rotten, I take it back. There is no reason to hang on to junk if it isn’t meeting your expectations. If you have the receipts it is super easy. Heck, nowadays most stores are able to look up purchase information by rewards card or credit card so if you’ve misplaced your receipt you can still return things.
9. We check receipts.
You’ve likely seen people at the end of the checkout counter looking over their receipts. You might think that is an old-person thing to do or that it takes too much time. Wrong. I can’t tell you the number of times an item was scanned twice, a coupon didn’t scan, or the sale price wasn’t correct. If I wait until I’m at the car to look over the receipt I have to haul my two kids back in the store with me, so it is more efficient to find a non-trafficked spot and look over my receipt.
10. We anticipate future needs.
I love shopping sale racks, but most of what is on sale racks is out of (or going out of) season. This is terrible, right? No way! I know my kids will be larger this fall than they are right now and they’ll be even bigger next summer. Because I anticipate what they’ll need for the next few seasons I can get them much nicer clothes/shoes/coats than I would be able to afford otherwise. I wrote all about my strategies for buying kids’ clothes here.
Anticipating future needs works for much more than clothing. Recently Sams Club changed their k-cup packaging. So their 80 count boxes of Organic Breakfast Blend were under $20. Though I’m a big fan of reusable k-cups, I know school is starting back up and the convenience of traditional k-cups is hard to beat, so we picked up a couple of boxes that should last us for 6 months or so. When we see something on clearance (or if there is a great sale/coupon stack) that we know we use, we stock up.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all things thrifty people do, but it is a start. What money saving tips would you add to this list?