In this post you’ll find the 12 habits we have adapted in our home to save money and make more of it! Money doesn’t buy happiness, but financial security and awareness can decrease stress, help you live a healthy lifestyle, and teach you self control.
1. Have open discussions with your spouse or partner about finances
Money can be a sore topic for many people, and a strain on relationships. Talking openly about money builds trust and establishes unity. Before my husband and I were married, we had a long conversation about money. We talked about how money was treated in our homes growing up, what our personal relationship with money was, and what our financial goals were for the future. We also talked about our own personal spending habits and what we each viewed as important to spend money on (I will talk more about this in tip #2). Everyone comes from different backgrounds and handles money in different ways. It is important to express your money background to your spouse/whoever you will be sharing finances with. Opening up about your past, present, and future hopes with money allows you to get on the same page with each other, not be blindsided by spending/saving habits or money behaviors, and create similar expectations and goals you can work on together!
2. Establish money spending priorities
Take time to evaluate your life and decide what is MOST important to you. Is where you are putting your money reflecting those priorities?
Now I know there are financial necessities (bills, rent or mortgage, student loans, car payments, etc.) But outside of those things, where are you spending the rest of your money?
Priorities will be different for everyone and that is okay! There is no one “right” way to spend money. What is important to one person may be a complete waste to another, but identifying what these priorities are for you will allow you to make deliberate choices in your spending to support the things that matter most to you. You will also be able to save more money by weeding out the things you didn’t realize were sucking up money that you didn’t even care about.
If you share finances with a spouse or partner, it is essential to have a priorities conversation so you can support each other. Most likely you may have a few priorities that are the same, and some that are different. You will then need to figure out how to compromise by supporting each others’ priorities without spreading the money too thin in different directions.
I remember the first time my husband and I had a money priorities conversation when we were engaged. I told him that health was something I really valued. It was important to me that we used money on things such as healthier grocery items and gym memberships. The healthier groceries was definitely not at the top of my husband’s priority list then, but it has become something we are both passionate about and something we both see as a valuable investment. Because we decided health was a priority for our family, we have had to decrease spending money in other areas of our lives so we can use that money to support our healthy lifestyle.
3. Don’t buy every “healthy” product on the market
Yes, I know I just said that health was one of our money priorities, but that doesn’t mean we can afford the “best” or “healthiest” options 100% of the time. We do our best to swap out ingredients and products in our home for healthier and cleaner options, but I do not get overwhelmed or feel guilty if I’m not doing it 100% perfect.
I encourage you to pace yourself in your health journey. Step by step I have swapped out foods in our home for better options. I also decided which products I care most about being higher quality and don’t worry about everything else being “perfect.” Pick ONE grocery item or food group you want to improve, but don’t overhaul your whole fridge and pantry all at once. That’s stressful and expensive.
Suggested First Steps:
- Start buying more fruits and vegetables.
- Transition your grains to whole grain/100% whole wheat.
- Swap out processed snacks and food with whole food options.
- Buy organic animal products or products that have these labels: grass fed and finished, no hormones added, no antibiotics ever, no nitrates/nitrites.
4. Be selective on monthly subscriptions
Monthly memberships or subscriptions may seem like small payments that don’t make a big difference, but if you have subscribed to too many of these, those small payments can add up to quite a bit of money annually.
Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are still paying for products or services we don’t use that often (or ever)! Take a look at your memberships and subscriptions and ask yourself if they are necessary. Also look to see if you have any overlapping services that you pay for monthly (i.e., more than one subscription to music, video streaming, etc.).
5. Cook from Home
Eating out can get expensive really fast and may also contribute to weight gain. When eating out, it is hard to avoid saturated and trans fats, control your portions, and eat whole unprocessed foods when eating out.
Cooking from home is a great habit to develop and will have a big impact in the food culture in your home, plus it will save you money!
6. Budget and track your expenses
Do you know where your money is going? At the end of every month do you know how much money you have spent? And better yet, do you know what you spent it on? Out of all the money habits that have helped our finances, tracking every transaction we make has made the BIGGEST difference on our spending and saving.
We manually record every transaction right after we make it in a shared google sheets document. Daily we watch the numbers change and adjust our spending based on those numbers instead of looking at our spending only at the end of the month (or year). By the end of the month, it’s too late to change spending behaviors for the month; what’s done is done.
Do you have a way to keep track of your expenses? If not, contact me by sending me an email with the words “Free Budget Spreadsheet.” I will then send you a FREE monthly budget log and instructions on how to use it. Diligently tracking your spending will improve your saving.
How should I start a budget?
When I work with clients whose finances are out of balance or causing them stress in their life, the first thing we do is work on their budget. I invite them to look at all of their bills and expenses for a previous month and sum up all the money that was spent. Then they look at what that money was spent on and separate it into categories, such as: groceries, dates, utilities and bills, gas/commuting, rent, maintenance, miscellaneous, vacations, etc. Once you have identified what categories you spend your money on, then ask yourself if you are spending money anywhere else that isn’t necessary or doesn’t help you reach your goals. Also ask yourself if the amounts you spent in your selected categories are amounts you would like to continue to spend, or if you can cut back in any category..
7. Maintain spending habits even when income increases
Everyone has a “spending sweet spot.” This is the amount of money you need to spend a month to meet all your needs, and a few wants. One way to guarantee savings is to maintain a constant spending level, even when your income increases. It can be really tempting when you make more money (i.e., bonus, raise, tax return, gift, etc.) to instantly start spending more, but if you have found your spending sweet spot that you can happily live on, then continue to spend at that amount despite increases in income. That’s when you’ll see the savings account really grow. Sometimes an increase in income is needed to match increased spending to pay off debts, etc., but otherwise try hard to exercise self control with spending even with excess income.
With that said I firmly believe that for optimal health, life should be fun and filled with things you enjoy and that make you happy. Don’t live so frugally that you miss out on making memories or doing things that make you happy. On the other hand, don’t give in to every single want, desire, or flashy new thing that comes your way either. Finding the “sweet spot” may take some time and will be different for everyone.
8. Have fun frugally or for free
There are lots of ways you can entertain yourself without having to spend lots of money. Check out my post Fun, Free, and Frugal Date Ideas for lots of fun ideas for dates and activities with your family.
9. Treat your Credit Cards like Debit Cards
Instead of using cash or debit cards, we only use credit cards. Spending with credit cards can be beneficial to earn points/rewards and also to build your credit score. On the flip side, spending with credit cards can be dangerous for someone who does not keep track of their expenses using a budget because it is so easy to spend money on credit cards. As much as possible, pay off your credit card balances in full every month to avoid accruing credit card debt. Most credit cards have the option to enroll in automatic monthly payments, and if you elect to do this and opt to pay the full credit balance each month, you won’t have to worry about remembering to make your payments. The key to benefitting from the perks of credit cards without running the risk of credit card debt is simple: spend less than you earn.
I know there are situations where relying on credit for purchases beyond your current means is necessary (especially in times of unemployment), but when possible, using credit cards only to the extent you can pay them off is ideal for saving money and making more of it.
10. Online Banks vs. Traditional Banks
Growing up my family always used Wells Fargo as our bank, but the last few years my husband and I have transitioned to using an online bank. Online banks offer much higher savings rates than traditional banks. This is mainly due to the lower costs online banks experience by not operating physical banks (like leasing, electrical, security, and other costs). While online banks don’t have physical branches where you can walk in to withdraw money, many ATMs will still allow you to withdraw money from and deposit money to your online bank.
Examples: Traditional banks earn you roughly 0.0-0.1% interest annually. Online banks earn you roughly 1.0-2.0% interest annually. Therefore, if you start the year with $1,000 in the bank, at the end of the year you would earn up to $1.00 in interest from a traditional bank and $10.00-$20.00 from an online bank. If you start the year with $10,000 in the bank, at the end of the year a traditional bank would earn you up to $10.00 in interest, while an online bank would earn you $100.00-$200.00 in interest.
Switching to an online bank is a great way to earn interest from money that sits. Online banks to consider: Ally, Synchrony, and Marcus by Goldman Sachs.
11. Cut back on utilities and bills
Try to use less water
- Shorter showers
- When you brush your teeth or wash your hands, shave or wash dishes, turn off the water instead of letting it run
- Wear extra layers indoors and turn down your heat in the winter
Saving on electricity
- Unplugging unused appliances
- Being conservative with heating
12. Practice Charity
Giving money has to do more with your mindset than it does with how much you have. Learning to be charitable even when it is hard or when you feel like you don’t have enough will help create habits of giving. Our human nature is to be selfish. If you don’t give when it is a sacrifice, it is likely you also won’t give when you have more to give. Creating charitable habits, even if it’s only a few dollars, will change your mindset around money and yourself in positive ways. You will feel good about serving others, and this will improve your self worth, your gratitude, and your perspective.
This hasn’t always come easy to me, but as we have made it a point to be charitable in small ways throughout our early marriage, I feel less self-centered, more hopeful, more appreciation for what I do have, and more love for others and myself.
Which step are you going to try first? Let me know how it goes!