The Number One Best Way To Not Spend Money

A lot of times people think that the best way to improve their financial situation is to figure out how to make more money. I tend to go the opposite route and figure out how not to spend money.

But even with this saving money approach I have found that it is just too easy to think you need more than you do and to then start thinking in terms of more instead of less.

Let me tell you a little story about our grocery budget history…

When my husband and I first got married we sort of had an idea of what we wanted to spend and I shopped the sales with my bank card in hand. Inevitably I would spend more than our original grocery allotment, not because we were eating more or buying higher quality food, but because if I thought we had the money then I had no problem spending it.

Once we realized what was going on we moved to the envelope system. This is the best way, in my opinion, to budget when you have a set income. You simply make an overall budget, take each category and put it in a labeled envelope, and take your envelope to the store when you shop. That worked well for us.

About two years ago my husband said we needed to tighten the budget in order to save for our move off-grid. This was when food prices were really starting to go up and my two sons were starting to eat enough to really make a dent in our food budget. As the one responsible for sticking to the food budget through shopping and work in the kitchen I kind of thought it was impossible, and I tried to explain why.

He very wisely said “I think you’ll find that if you have less money to work with you’ll just figure out how to live on less.” And he was right. Somehow with higher food prices and growing boys we still managed to eat well and save money.

Now we live off-grid and our income is unpredictable since we both work from home as independent contractors. We still have a grocery budget in mind, but instead of being able to just take that money to the store with us and whittle it down over the course of the month, we work with whatever we might have that week. One week we might be able to stock up on staples and the next we might be prioritizing what is really needful when we only have a bill or two left in our wallet.

And you know what, we still have plenty to eat so long as we are willing to prepare the food ourselves and accept what God has given us from various sources.

So if you are working with a budget for groceries or something else I would encourage you to just take a bit off the top of what you think you need, put it into savings, and learn to live with what is left. I am guessing that once you realize you can live without that little extra wiggle room, you might figure out ways to save even more.

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  1. Juan says:

    Sometimes the best thing that one can do is try and reduce your budget by 25% for a couple months and see what happens. A sort of “trail by fire” may be the most effective way to truly start saving.

    • Claire says:

      Totally! Even going in smaller numbers — 5% this month — is another way to go. Allows you to see that tiny numbers don’t make a big difference, and over time those tiny numbers can get to bigger ones (like 30%)!

  2. Architect says:

    We put our usual purchases on a spreadsheet that we print out and take to the stores. On the spreadsheet, we list each item in the rows and the stores in the columns. For each cell, we have the per unit cost. Shopping with a spreadsheet, buying in bulk, looking for deals in the circulars and websites like this one, and using coupons we have been able to slash our grocery bill.

    We’ve also resorted to making food in bulk and freezing it instead of buying premade frozen meals which cost almost as much as eating out.

  3. Jen says:

    What do you mean by living “off-grid”?

  4. Nicole Hollenkamp says:

    How do you run electricity in your house. If you use the generator what to use to fuel it

    • Shannon says:

      Nicole – The only electricity we have comes from our solar panel system. Yep, they’re pricey up front, but six months in they are already worth it. We run a very small solar freezer/refrigerator, our internet and laptop, a couple of lights, and battery/cell phone chargers on it.

      We do not use a generator as we didn’t want to get into the cycle of having to buy gas for it and become dependent. A solar power system will need maintenance at some point, but we hope to be able to live without it someday as we build a more sustainable homestead.

  5. Gail says:

    Hello Shannon,
    How do you manage to keep your freezer/ refrigerator going when you have days of cloudy weather? Does it mean you have times when things defrost? Or do you not use your internet, phone charges and lights in those times? Whilst we live fairly sustainably, I would like to do more to save on energy costs. We use gas for cooking during summer and I cook on top of our wood heater in winter. You inspire me to try harder.
    Blessings Gail.
    p.s. My husband has just explained that the energy you make from your panels is stored in batteries, so you might run low on energy at times but more than likely not run completely out.

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