I started this website to help other professionals take control of their money, their careers and their lives. One way to be in control of your money is to SAVE more of it. Obvious, I know, but a lot of us are not consciously and intentionally saving enough of our money.
After paying off $98,500 of debt in 3.5 years (law school student loan debt and a luxury vehicle debt), I continue to find ways to save money and not pay regular price. As a result of my debt repayment journey, I’m always looking for ways to save more of the money that I work so hard for.
But – I haven’t always been this way. I used to think that once I became a lawyer, I deserved to drive a fancy car, live in a million dollar home, have Louis Vuitton handbags and at least one pair of Louboutin shoes (those red bottom soled shoes).
And, when I became a lawyer, I slowly started to accumulate those things that I thought I deserved for working so hard and for getting to where I was in life. Although they gave me immediate gratification, the pleasure and joy from those things was short lived. I also found that after buying the expensive wallet or fancy suit, I forgot that I even bought it or the pleasure feeling had long faded away.
However, what was even better than me buying expensive things for myself, was when Mr. OYP would buy them for me (I don’t always have to be an independent woman!). But, that’s all in the past now. Ever since Mr. OYP’s “A-ha” moment and our commitment to financial independence, I now get informal (and sometimes formal) “money dates” instead of him buying me Prada handbags (each with a $3,000+ price tag) and diamond earrings.
Money dates are not as glamourous as handbags, but they do let us see:
- where our money is going (because we can look back at our spending for the month),
- where our money should be going (e.g. saving and investing for the next month) and
- motivate us to continue pursuing financial independence.
I’d be lying though if I said I didn’t miss getting expensive gifts from Mr. OYP or buying expensive accessories for myself. But, overall, the “new” feeling is fleeting and short-lived compared to the feeling I get when I see my investments grow. It excites me more to see my investments grow, especially when I am beating Mr. OYP in our investment competition.
As we continue on our path towards financial independence (which I characterize as saving enough money so that I can say NO to things I don’t want to do), we have compiled some money saving tips that you can start today:
1. Start a money saving challenge or competition with your partner, a family member or a friend. Or, make saving money a game.
Since Mr. OYP is the financially savvy one (and he knows it), he is constantly looking for ways to make ME want to save money and invest. So, what did he do? He preyed on my competitive side and made me a bet. The first person to invest the next $100,000 has to buy the other person a bottle of wine or a case of beer. Mr. OYP knows how much I LOVE to be the WINNER and how much I don’t like spending money on a bottle of wine that’s more than $14, so what better way to motivate me?! Make it a competition.
Episode #53 “Financial Freedom Lessons with Scott & Mindy” of Bigger Pockets Money discusses this idea of doing a money savings challenge. The challenge they talk about on this episode is every month trying to spend less and less money. If you are competitive or a challenge motivates you, start a money saving challenge, game or competition today.
2. Don’t buy note paper/ scratch paper ever again.
If you’re like me and have random thoughts running in your mind a mile a minute, then you need note paper in all sizes so you can write down all your thoughts and not forget them. I suggest making your own collection of scrap note paper:
3. Freeze your milk.
If you’re going to be away and your milk is going to expire before you get back, freeze your milk. Don’t throw it away. Never heard of this before? Well, it’s true; you can freeze milk and thaw it when you get back and use it.
4. Recycle your containers for a refund.
If you live in a province or state where you’re able to get a monetary refund for your bottles (e.g. milk containers, water bottles, wine and beer bottles), recycle them for a refund. When we return our bottles, we get about $40 every couple months.
5. Pack some of the toiletries, coffee and stationary (pens, paper, envelops) in your suitcase.
Staying at a hotel? While you’re there, pack some of the toiletries, coffee and stationary (pens, paper, envelops) in your suitcase. Take some shampoo, conditioner and body wash and use it when you get back home. This could save you a couple days or maybe even a week of having to buy these products. It could also be used to fill the gap when you are out of your favourite products you usually purchase, or for house guests that you have over. If you get to stay at a fancy hotel, take extra – and don’t forget to take the mouth wash, loofa and shower caps!
6. Unplug electronics when they are not in use.
Don’t leave phone chargers plugged in when you’re not home or your phone is not being charged. Unplug your TV, when no one is watching it. Unplug your Apple TV, if you have it. Unplug your printer, when it’s not in use. Unplug your microwave, when you go away for a short or long period of time. Unplug lamps that are not in use. Unplug laptops and tablets not being charged.
7. Take some pantry and home staples from your parents.
My parents live in a different city than I do, so when I visit them, I help myself (after asking my mom first) to random things I need. After a Costco run, they have 18 rolls of paper towel, so I help myself to 1 or 3. They have 4 jars of tomato sauce, so I take 1. They have 2 large tubs of honey, so I take 1.
All these little purchases add up, and my mom doesn’t mind when I take a couple of these things. But, I should note that my dad is going to be SO MAD if he finds out that I am encouraging other grown adults to do this. He has threatened on numerous occasions to come to my place and fill his suitcase with my stuff – the only thing stopping him from doing that is that my parents don’t actually come visit me, so there’s a small chance of that happening [sad face 🙁 ].
8. Don’t be embarrassed or hesitant to accept “hand-me downs”.
Be the opposite. Accept them with open arms.
Usually, there is nothing wrong with “hand me downs”, which I am defining as used items (e.g. blankets, sheets, dishes, coffee makers, lamps, etc.). Rather, the used item has become a “hand me down” because someone has bought something new to replace it. There’s nothing wrong with accepting used items from family and friends, except, I think, when you’re just accumulating JUNK. That said, you can also sell the “hand me down”. If you don’t want the used item, think about whether it has any monetary value and maybe you can sell it for cash.
We have accumulated half the furniture in our place, by saying “yes” to used items.
9. Organize and participate in a clothing swap party.
A clothing swap party is a gathering of women who sip on wine and exchange clothes. Well, women, who hopefully work in a similar work environment to each other, bring over gently used formal and business casual work attire that no longer fits them, that they just don’t wear or have never worn.
How does it work? Check out this post on How to Host a Swap Party. This post talks about swapping more than clothes, but it talks about how to host one and how to manage the swap.
The idea is at the end of the night, each person leaves with as many items as they brought. It’s a win-win for everyone who attends (I guess that is if everyone brings relatively the same quality of clothing items). I have not hosted a clothing exchange (I take my clothes to Goodwill), but I heard about this from a girlfriend and think it’s GENIUS. Despite me referring only women, men could also do this.
I also noticed the other day, while I was reading the local newspaper, that there was a community clothing swap. So, check to see if there is a local clothing swap in town that you can attend – you don’t have to host anyone and they were offering free snacks to whoever attended!
10. Use less.
11. Always start with the position that you MUST buy it USED.
Whenever you want to buy something or think you need something, your first choice should be finding it and buying it used. We’re camping this summer, so I will be looking for a tent and mosquito shelter on Kijiji just in time for the summer. Buying used can save so much money AND you don’t have to pay tax! (I hate paying tax.)
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12. Hang your clothes to dry.
I hang my athletic clothes to dry, as well as my nylons, blouses and jeans – usually after a couple minutes in the dryer. Don’t use the dryer unless you have to.
If you do have to use the dryer, shake out the clothes before you throw them in. This way, the dryer doesn’t have to “work so hard” to dry and will dry the clothes faster, meaning less time with the dryer on and more change in your pocket.
13. Take care of your stuff (clothing, shoes, furniture, etc.) so you don’t have to buy and replace them as often.
Make your stuff last longer than they usually do by taking extra good care of them. For example, I take extra care of my handbags by wiping them down every couple months with leather cleaner wipes. I keep my heels smelling nice but putting dryer sheets in the shoes, so they stay fresh. This way they will last longer and you will have to replace them less often.
14. Don’t window shop. Don’t browse in a store.
It’s so tempting to want to window shop and browse in shops, but the problem is that as soon as you see something you like or that you think you deserve or want, your brain will start to find ways to convince you that you need to buy it (at least I find). Avoid the temptation all together by not looking in the windows and not browsing. If you need to buy something in a store, get in and get out asap before you get caught by the sales table right before the checkout!
15. Don’t buy your significant other gifts on Valentine’s day or at Christmas.
Save the money that you would spend on each other and instead, spend time together or do something nice for them. In my opinion, Valentine’s day is overrated.
Mr. OYP and I used to buy gifts for each other for birthdays, but each year as we earned more money, the gifts got more and more expensive and we would try to match or outdo each other’s gifts (including the cost of the gift). I think that was because we felt like we had to “out do” last year’s gift – or at least, I felt that way. Thankfully, before it could get out of hand, Mr. OYP had his “A-ha” moment.
Even more though, the gift giving also got out of control with my immediate family. I am still working on trying to control the gift giving situation there. While I was in law school, I told my parents that I was on a strict budget and gifts would be small. They were okay with that, but when I became a lawyer, there was an EXPECTATION (I felt) that I had to gift expensive gifts. That has gone on for several years and every year, I have increased the amount I spend on my immediate family. Why though? Because I’m a lawyer and make good money?! Well, I am no longer okay with that reasoning and am working on planting seeds with my family so that we only gift exchange with one other person and do stocking stuffers. It’s not only the money that excites me, it’s also the unnecessary stress around Christmas time where I am harassing people for gift ideas, making the Christmas list, figuring out if I can find the gift online and if not, running around the city to buy it and then making use it will all fit into my suitcase. I digress, but the point is to also get your family on board so gift giving is cost efficient and less stressful.
16. Reuse whenever you can.
Reuse things like aluminum foil, plastic bags, Ziploc bags so you can either buy less of them or not buy them at all.
17. Listen to podcasts on personal finance.
When I am doing laundry or washing dishes, for example, rather than listening to music (unless I just can’t listen to people talk, which happens sometimes) I listen to a personal finance podcast. I do it to remind myself and reinforce the importance of saving money, investing, and being in control of my money and my life. This way, I also avoid listening to commercials that are encouraging listeners to buy more STUFF. Sometimes, even if I am half paying attention, I get brilliant ideas – like the motivation I needed to just “start” this website.
My favourite podcasts are:
18. Buy calendars and Christmas cards when they are on sale.
In February, you can find calendars and Christmas cards for at least 50% off. As you might know, I LOVE planning and organizing, so a wall calendar is a must in the house. I ONLY by them when they are on sale.
19. Change the lightbulbs in your place to energy efficient bulbs.
Make sure that all the lightbulbs in your place are energy efficient to save money on your energy bill. Although there is an up-front cost (of having to buy the bulbs), there will be savings in the end.
20. Save energy. Weatherstrip your doors.
Weatherstrip your doors to save energy. By weatherstripping your doors, less heat will escape from your house and you’ll save money on your next energy bill.