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10 ways we save bling

March 4, 2009

bling_21I had a conversation with a buddy of mine this week about how obeying the Biblical command to stay out of debt and give is about as counter-cultural as anything else we can do.  When we live lives like this it shows that our treasure is God, not stuff, and it keeps us from being slaves to money by being in debt.  So, here are 10 ways that Jana and I have tried to save bling… 

  1. We’ve never had cable.
  2. We didn’t have in-home internet (even dial-up) for about a year.
  3. We buy almost all of our clothes used.  Plato’s Closet and Clothing Xchange are our friends.
  4. We each get $50/month fun money and don’t go over.  This is for things like eating out individually, buying anything fun (movies, iTunes songs, clothing, etc.), and going out with friends, etc.  For the first few years of our marriage it was $25/month.
  5. We haven’t owned a house yet.  While this is important financially, we haven’t been able to afford it and be safe yet.  In Mt. Washington we had a small condo even though I had a full-time job with a good salary for my age.
  6. We budget how much money we’ll spend eating out each month and say “No” if we’ve spent the budget.  Some of you have been the recipient of our “No’s”.  Please forgive us!
  7. Jana shops for all the groceries we can get at Aldi, a discount grocery store that’s all off-brand.  I do, however, require name brand cheeses.
  8. Our dates are either free, cheap, or budgeted.  We’ve taken drives, gone to free museums, split a drink at Starbucks, or looked at dogs in pet stores.  All fun.  All less than $5.
  9. We do either free, cheap, or saved-up-for vacations.  Our first two vacations were coming to my parents’ house in Franklin when they were out of town and a “Staycation” during which we locked ourselves up in our condo and rented movies.  The other two we’ve been on were both to places we could stay for free and that had kitchens so we could cook most meals to save money.
  10. We buy used cars… and not nice ones.  While I love my ’02 Nissan Sentra, it’s not going to win any awards.  Jana’s Chevy Malibu was a HUGE wedding present from her parents and is probably the nicest car we’ll ever own.

Keep the ideas coming.  Without pointing the finger at ways other people spend money, how has your household pinched pennies?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue permalink
    March 4, 2009 8:32 pm

    99 cent day at Goodwill on Wednesdays is great! I have found many great buys for all four of us. (In fact, I was there this morning and brought home something for everyone – 3 items for me!) I love the dollar room at Like New Consignment too (on Walnut Street in Spring Hill). I couldn’t tell you the last time I bought any clothing items at a “real” store……just shoes. (This is also a great way to find items for Room In The Inn. I try to pick up one or two items each week when I’m in.) Goodwill also has half price day the first Saturday of every month where everything in the store is half off……so check it out this Saturday.

    I wash the van myself……rarely do I go thru the car wash. (But I love the new $3 car wash in Spring Hill with free vaccums for the times I’m too lazy.)

    Mondays is mini Monday at the Jersey Mike’s in Spring Hill. For $5 you can get a mini sandwich, chips and a drink….that’s my day to treat myself to lunch.

    I rarely buy books at a bookstore, full price or on sale. (Sorry you Lifeway employees). I find them at the library, garage sales, Goodwill or trading with friends and relatives.

    I’ve had to buy very few plants or shrubs for the yard – most have been given to me when my sister or neighbors are dividing up their garden.

    We have been blessed with friends giving us hand-me-downs for Jenna…..and we pay it forward by passing on to a neighbor.

    We usually go to $5 movies at the movie theater in Columbia. ($5 between 4-6 p.m. any day.)

    Yard sales!!!

    When the kids were younger we traded off kid sitting with other friends so we didn’t have to pay a sitter.

  2. Lora permalink
    March 4, 2009 9:31 pm

    CASH! That is the best way to buy anything. I have an envelope for food, Dana’s school lunch, Jaxie’s food, and when I am working, a “fun” envelope for myself. My fun envelope allows me to buy things for myself which is usually lunch!

    When Dana and I do go out to dinner, we try to go somewhere where the portions are large and spit. Sambolis comes to mind.

    I have not had a credit card in I don’t know how long. At least five years and it makes a difference when you pay cash for things.

    Josh…you can get something at Starbucks for $5???? A Grande Tall water perhaps???

    • josh permalink
      March 5, 2009 1:25 pm

      They don’t call it “FiveBucks” for nothing, do they? I usually get a short coffee in a tall cup for $1.62… which is still a lot for a cup of normal coffee!

  3. shelley permalink
    March 4, 2009 11:25 pm

    love the “staycation” idea! that’s awesome!!

    we live on a shoestring too — wish we’d had the wisdom & forethought in our 20s that you & Jana have! you were either raised well or listened to wisdom along the way. debt takes a long time to dig out of!

    ways to save? I’ve learned to play the grocery game & love-love-love saving $$, esp @Publix. Today at Kroger I spent $20 but saved $30!! cool!!

    we pretty much don’t buy the kids stuff except on b-days & Christmas. since we only watch PBS (oh, and Idol!!), the kids don’t see commercials to know what they’re missing!! =) if they have an event to attend, we have them pay 1/2. last summer, that included one week of a summer camp or program.

    goodwill. consignment sales & 2nd-hand-stores.

    Craigslist & ebay (2 great vehicles), Amazon used & Freecycle.

    we stay home & eat @home. (a lot!) =)

    keep sharing ideas–I love it!

  4. Becky permalink
    March 5, 2009 12:21 am

    We do some that have already been mentioned but could certainly be doing more.

    One way for a large family to save even when eating out is for everyone to order water…you’d be surprised how much soft drinks can add to your bill.

    We also try to split meals with the younger kids since they don’t usually eat much anyway.

    Kids eat free nights are GREAT!!

    Pray about major purchases and wait at least 24 hours or more.

    CASH!!! I do use a debit card sometimes but it helps to see the amount immediately subtracted from our total.

    We have found with a large family we are somtimes not able to stay in one hotel room so when we can we take the camper along. I know that even having the camper is a luxury, but we have used it to save money and take cheaper vacations.

    LOVE getting hand-me-downs from others and will be passing ours along whenever we’re finally finished having kids of our own.

    Get rid of your junk…we once paid for part of a vacation with yard sale earnings!

    If you can do it yourself then do so….help others as well and trade off on what you know.

    My next goal is to get rid of cable and do SkyAngel…still a variety of channels for only $15 a month and it is supposedly much “safer” for the family.

    Can’t wait to read more from others!!

  5. Sue permalink
    March 5, 2009 8:38 am

    $1 movie rentals from Redbox.

  6. March 5, 2009 9:58 am

    Tithe. I’m not on board with the “you give lots and God gives you lots more” theology. But I have noticed that those who do all they can to make a living (no matter if they’re going through a bad stretch and making little or are on a roll and the money is flowing like a river), give at least a tenth to God’s church, and give generously with a joyful heart are blessed by God. He meets their needs. And I’ve noticed that those who throw a ten in the plate and pride themselves in season tickets to sporting events, paying for vacations rather than giving to God through the church, have nice homes and nicer cars, buy the latest gadgets and play golf every week, tend to struggle to make ends meet.

    The best way to save money is to give it to God through the church.

    A few words from God:

    2 Cor. 9:6-7
    Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

    By the way, the focus here is not our having the freedom to decide how much to give. The Bible has already pointed out a tenth is just the beginning. The focus is being a “cheerful giver.” Also… We are only reluctant or feel someone is compelling us to give if we are not already tithing. Our excuse cannot be that I was reluctant and someone compelled me so I cannot be a “cheerful giver” so I’m not suppose to give until I feel good about it.

    Matthew 6:1-4
    “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
    “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    I LOVE IT when God rewards me for doing something that is expected of me alreay. It’s like going to work every day, doing an average day’s work, and then receiving a major bonus every week for just being a normal employee.

  7. Jana Howerton permalink
    March 5, 2009 10:40 am

    So many great ideas!
    I love learning new ways to saving money.

    I agree with Lora; you’ve got to love the cash system. It’s works well for us, and we know exactly how much we’re spending each month.

    Another thing that really helped us is when we got married we paid off student loans as fast as we could, so we didn’t have to pay high interest on them. Luckily we didn’t have many, so we paid them off quickly.

    We also saved up for the Nissan and paid cash for it so we wouldn’t have car payments.

    These things weren’t easy things to do, but we just cut back in other places.

    Dad, (a.k.a The Navigator) I so agree with you. I remember when Josh and I first got married, and we had hardly any money to our names. There were some months we wondered how we were going to pull things off, but we always tithed and God never let us go hungry and we were always able to pay our bills. We learned so much about being obedient and trusting God during those times.

    Sue, is everything on sale for 99 cents at Goodwill on Wednesdays? I was surprised at how nice the Spring Hill Goodwill is.

  8. March 5, 2009 11:17 am

    @ Shelley, I need to sit down with you sometime and learn the grocery game. I’ve been trying to make a practice of clipping coupons, but I’m still not understanding how some people can go to the store and spend $50 on $100 worth of food (unless it’s Aldi’s! And I shop there too, when I can!)

    I also get most of the kids’ clothes at thrift stores. I usually just go at the beginning of every new season just to get fillers for what they already have and bigger sizes if they need it. And I try to go after a weekend because they have good selection then.
    And I used to buy shoes at the thrift store, but lately haven’t been able to find very many shoes for the kids.

    If you can, make your own cleaning products. laundry detergent. all purpose cleaners, wood cleaners, etc.

    No cable

    Rent until you can afford to own. Which means no debt (I grit my teeth saying this because we are still working on this!)

    Don’t buy it until you can afford it. If that means the couch is held up by a pot for two more years, then so be it.

    Plan your meals before going to the grocery store.
    Have a list before you go to the grocery store and stick to it.

    If anyone is better than novice at sewing, and is open to teaching, I am trying to learn right now in order to save on clothing, curtains, blankets, etc by making and mending things.

    In the winter, the kids have a lot less physical activity, so they bathe every other night instead of every night. This saves on our water. We won’t be able to do this when it gets warm!

    Buying things off season. Christmas trees in January are cheap!

    Craigslist and Deal Detectives.

    Freezing meals and eat at home as often as possible. If you can prepare two meals, serve one and freeze the other, and do this for a week, you’ll have a stash of ready to eat meals to use whenever you’re on the go. And you’ll have no excuse to eat out!

    Baked Goods and homemade gifts for extended family members during holidays and birthdays are a saver, if you have the time. Sometimes it’s a matter of, do I give my time and energy to the children and home or towards making gifts for family members. Sometimes, this may mean that your family members get a card (and a hug) instead of a gift at all.

    Some of this is just finding ways to steward what we have. Another aspect of this is faith. Do we trust that God will provide for our needs, and are we stewarding well what He’s given us? I’ll admit that I struggle with this. That is why we have scripture around our house. It’s to remind me of His provision and goodness when I’m so forgetful! Romans 8:32 says,
    “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” And He really does give us all that we need to do His Kingdom work. That doesn’t mean that it won’t be hard sometimes. We also keep a list around the house of things we are thankful for that God has provided. It is a reminder when we start to feel like we need or want for something.

  9. March 5, 2009 2:21 pm

    Buy everything you can online. We bought an unreasonable amount of stuff on last year, most of which was tax-free with free shipping.

    Also, check sites like for coupon codes before you buy anything online 🙂

  10. Seth Massa permalink
    March 6, 2009 2:46 pm

    One random way that my tattoo artist told me was to never spend $1 bills. It also helps with dieting. Whenever you use a $10 meal on something that is $5 and any amount of cents–you have to save the 4-$1 bills you get for change. It also means no trips to vending machines for snacks (you’ll have to plan all your snacks ahead of time when you make a grocery store run).

    Coupons are also wonderful (between now and March 9 arby’s has a coupon for a free sandwich if you buy a drink–full meal for $1.50–then you have to save the 3-$1 bills of change you get).

  11. tasha permalink
    March 6, 2009 6:30 pm

    Fabulous ideas, you all! We do most of them as well. We are BIG coupon clippers and price-matchers (I can generally save $5-$15 each trip to Wal-Mart on coupon clipping alone!).

    We use an excel sheet to plan ahead and track our spending, so that every dollar spent has a “box” — if there’s no box, then it doesn’t get bought.

    We save for everything to avoid financing and credit cards.

    Almost all of our clothes are hand-me downs, thrift store goodies, and Ebay (I LOVE LOVE Ebay for clothes!).

    We also plan our dinners a month in advance so I only buy what I need to cook. I cook 5-6 nights a week; if I don’t cook, then Theo (da hubby) cooks, which may mean grilled cheeses or cream of wheat, but we don’t have to eat out. In fact, we don’t even have a dine-out budget.

    We are currently trying to sell a home in west Tennessee while we rent a home in Spring Hill, so I need all the penny-pinching ideas we can get. We’re not debt-free yet, but we’re working hard to be. (dern those student loans!) 🙂

    tasha brown

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