I understand that this post doesn’t interest all of my readers, and if that is you, please go ahead and scroll past this post. No hard feelings. If you on the other hand for some reason are interested in saving some money here and there, without giving up quality of life, continue reading. As you probably know, my goal is to have a small homestead and live a more self sustainable life. In different ways I have been working towards that goal for several years, slowly becoming more self reliant. I’ve learned about gardening, animal husbandry, self defence, ranch work, taking care of a property, and living off grid. Through the years I’ve bought a couple properties, but none of them felt like the right place to invest the rest of my life in. Because that is what I want to do with my homestead. I want to plant fruit trees, and berry bushes, and build permanent raised beds, and a large greenhouse for year round gardening for me and my daughter (and generations to come, if there is an interest.) That homestead is what I picture in my head when I make my choices. At the moment I lease a place that suits us perfectly, it is located in the area where I want to be, and I am planning on living here until I can either pay cash for a place of my own, or at least have most of the money cash. I do not like being in debt. I have a good job, but I want to keep the expenses low. I’ve put together a list of things that helps me (a single mom) put money aside every month.
Budget – Have the whole family on board – Long and short term goals
Everything starts with a budget. Write down all your monthly expenses, starting with the ones you can’t change right away; housing, transportation, food, etc. Think about if there is any changes you want to enforce when it comes to other expenses, and why. (Maybe I want to quit some automatically renewing subscriptions? Do I really need cable TV?) Arrange a conversation with the whole family and talk about where you are financially as a family, and where you want to be, and how to get there. You need to decide which blocks of expenses that you have every month (that you want/need to keep,) and a certain amount of money every month that you will dedicate to each block (for example food X$/month, rent/mortgage X$/month, phones/internet X$/month, transportation X$/month. You get it.) This might not be done in one night. I update my budget every 3-6 months, maybe there aren’t any big changes needed, but usually some. My daughter wants us so badly to have a dog again. I love animals, especially dogs and horses, but I do not want to get any animals until we live in a house we own. For my daughter that is the motivation she needs to do her part (usually meaning not complaining, eating the food I serve, and not beg for all the toys her friends have.)
Shopping list; weekly/monthly shopping, I’ve noticed that I spend less money on groceries if I follow a shopping list strictly when I shop. I have an ongoing shopping list on my phone, and for my little family of two it is enough to do one big grocery shopping every three weeks. We sometimes add more fresh fruit and vegetables in between, if we don’t have any ourselves in our garden. I find that for us it is worth it to do all the grocery shopping online. The delivery fee is low, and it is easier to not make any spontaneous shopping, compared to physically being at the store going through the aisles. That helps me to stay within the budget I’d set up. It’s rather convenient as well. Previously when I lived really far out in remote places I’ve done my shopping in person once a month, and that worked as well.
Live within your means, if I don’t have the money, I don’t buy it. Period. (I have not always had that mindset, but it does wonders for my peace of mind.)
Savings account, no matter how small amount you are able to budget to you savings account every month have an account, budget money there every month and do not touch it. Show you family how it grows every months, that is great motivation!
Learn to cook from scratch, cut eating out and getting food delivered, saving that for special occasions only. It makes it a lot more special if you don’t do it so often! I’m on staycation now, but when I work I usually cook big batches of food in the weekends, and prepare healthy meals for the weekdays.
Bake your own bread, it’s not that hard and saves tons of money every month. Anyone can learn the basics.
Stock up on dry goods, flour/lentils/beans/rice etc. If you had too for some reason, you and your family could survive on this for months. It takes very little space, and stored the right way it lasts for decades.
Grow a vegetable garden, start practicing right away. There is a learning curve, but you can flatten that curve a lot by asking locals that already garden what they grow and what tricks that works in your area. With a garden you’ll always have food around. Some vegetables are annuals (tomatoes/squash/cucumber pictured below) that needs to be planted every year, others are perennials (figs/rhubarb pictured below) that you plant once and then they keep on giving for many years.
Learn canning and drying food, this allows you to preserve your harvest and make it last longer.
Forage for food in your area, in many places it is allowed to pick berries, mushroom, fruit, herbs, salad greens, edible flowers etc. for free in the forest. Check the local laws.
Purchase bigger quantities (within your budget) when food/hygiene/cleaning items you actually use are on sale.
Staycation, or a working vacation. A staycation is when you are staying in your own area, near home when it’s vacation time. Like most of us will do this year due to the virus. Workaway is a site where you can plan a working vacation anywhere in the world, only paying for the ticket there. You pay a yearly membership for the site, and get access to more than 40 000 hosts. You choose the hosts you want to contact, and hosts can contact you via the site (if you make a profile.) I’ve used the site many times, and most hosts usually want you to work 3-5 hours/day, 5days/week towards food and a place to sleep. Giving you plenty of time to explore a new area and relax as well. Some hosts only want to host one person at a time, while others prefer couples, and some are OK with families. I have helped host families with their children, farm animals, photography/building websites, and horses. This have made traveling extensively with my daughter possible for me, and I’ve made lifelong friends along the way. It is also a great way to learn new skills, or share your skills with someone else, usually both. My plan for this summer before Covid-19 was to spend one month in Iceland doing this. With all the craziness going on I’ll save that for another year. A staycation, or a working vacation can be very rewarding, and doesn’t cost a lot.
Hang dry laundry to save on electricity and your clothes (the wear and tear are significantly less compared to using a dryer.)
Use public transportation when possible, ride your bike, or walk. In our area we have excellent public transportation. Yes, it is not as convenient as driving your own car, but it does help the environment, and help you save money. I could have a car, but I choose not to at the moment, because it will get me to my goal of purchasing a homestead a lot faster. If you ride your bike and walk when you can, you are making your carbon footprint smaller, and get that important exercise at the same time.
Compare insurances/cellphone/internet companies etc, and pay only for what you need.
Sell things you don’t need (I go through all my things twice a year and sell things I haven’t used.)
Plan ahead when possible. I prefer quality clothing/shoes/equipment that last a long time, instead of buying the cheapest available. For example a timeless quality winter jacket and shoes that lasts several seasons. I know now (June) what I will need to get before next winter, and in August/September when last seasons items are on sale, before the new seasons stuff comes in, I’ll get quality items from last season for a fraction of the cost.
Before Covid-19 I did enjoy thrift store shopping, and yard sales. I think that second hand shopping is an excellent way of getting some household items. I also use online thrift stores for books I want to add to my library, otherwise I go to the library for reading materials. Craigslist is fabulous for finding things you need (in Sweden we have Blocket that is like Craigslist in the US.) I used Craigslist almost every week when I lived in the US, bartering produce with others.
Learn new skills so that you are able to do more things yourself and don’t have to pay others to do them for you (change oil/tires, basic home maintenance, sewing, yard work etc.)
Eat healthy and exercise to lower medical bills.
Take the time to practice gratitude, surprisingly when your general attitude is gratitude you seem to “need” less stuff. Other frugal things in my life that might not be everyone’s cup of tea; I do not have a TV, I do not wear make-up (unless it is a very special occasion,) and I make my own cleaning detergent (vinegar/water/lavender essential oil.) I hope you find my tips helpful. I’m by no means a financial adviser, this is just what works for me. I’m very interested in hearing if you want to add something to the list.
PS. I recently updated my About Page, feel free to check it out 😉