Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight


Home, Home on the Brain: Our Down Payment Saving Strategy

 

This past year has been all about SAVING MONEY. Because when you’re house-hunting in New York City, you need a whole lot of it.

I feel squeamish sharing the actual number in our joint savings right now, but we’ve both been pleasantly surprised by how much we’ve been able to stash away over the past year and a half or so. We got hitched in 2012 and went on three big trips in our first year of marriage (no regrets there!), so we really began saving in earnest in 2013.

We’re not extreme cheapskates and reusing toilet paper or anything nutty like that, but we’ve definitely made some good changes that were actually pretty simple, so I figured they were worth sharing here.

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Our general saving strategy:

We fall under the DINK category (double-income/ no kids) which puts us in a great position to save. Certain aspects of our lifestyle are also conducive to saving– we’re blessed with small appetites and below-market rent, and neither of us drinks (much) or smokes. We have no debt or student loans, we live within our means, we’re in good health, and we’re in a stage of our lives where we just have a very low overhead. We work very hard, and feel lucky that we are able to save.

We used to just split most of the bills down the middle and each put $500 in savings each month. A few months ago, we switched it around, and it seems to be working much better. Vin pays all bills (rent, all insurance, cable, cell phones). Food and most house-related purchases come out of my checking account but almost every dollar I make goes directly into our joint savings. Seeing the number go up and up in our savings has made cutting back in lots of ways not as difficult.

Here are some of the ways we’re keeping more of our cash:

 

FOOD:

-I cook homemade 95% of the time. Grocery shopping, food prepping and cooking takes more time and energy than ordering in/eating out, but for me, the cost savings and health benefits are well worth it. Almost all lunches are brought to work.

-If we’re not cooking at home, we’re actually going out. In a city built on Seamless, Vin and I never order takeout. If we’re going to skip cooking at home, we are going to have a real restaurant experience. I realize this is easier for us to stick to because we don’t have zeee babeez.

- I buy and make food that can streeeeeetch. Every Sunday I boil one whole organic chicken with tons of garlic, ginger, salt and pepper. I use the leftover broth for soups and other dishes, and whatever’s left gets frozen for another time. The chicken is used throughout the next few days on salads, sandwiches, in enchiladas, in soups or plain with avocado on top. I make my own almond milk, and am planning to dehydrate the pulp to make almond flour (that stuff is EXPENSIVE). Other cheap ingredients that give you more bang for your buck are lentils, dried beans, and cornmeal (for polenta, making crusts, cornbread).

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-Speaking of soups– start making ‘em! I end up making two simple soups a week with the broth leftover from my boiled chicken. I bought two Thermos food jars and we take them to work a few times a week. It makes packing lunch super simple, and very cost effective. You can make a ton of soup out of really cheap ingredients and freeze leftover portions.

-Reduced impulse buys– I really have been trying to stick to a list when grocery shopping, and making sure I buy ingredients that can be used in several meals over the week. I stopped buying $2 seltzer waters at work and just drink from the tap during the day, and Vin has cut out his hot cocoa runs (we’ll see what happens when he’s off the Whole30 though:).

-I always eat and cook fruits and veggies in order of when they’ll spoil-  Quick-to-wilt stuff like spinach, fresh herbs, lettuces, and berries get eaten early in the week, while hardier stuff like butternut squash, sweet potatoes and kale are eaten toward the end because they keep longer. I’ve been throwing out much less uneaten produce, which makes me feel good.

 

ENTERTAINMENT

-I just say ‘No’ a lot more often. If concert or movie tickets are thrown around for something that I’m not THAT into, I’m not going. I’ll always pony up for something I’m dying to do or see, but if I’m feeling “meh” about it, I’d rather hold onto the cash.

-We choose cheap thrills. If Vin and I want to get out of the house, we go out to a coffee shop instead of a restaurant. We can stay much longer and spend much less. It’s easy to hang out with friends and not spend a lot of money- take a walk with a cup of coffee. Done!

-We put a general moratorium on travel- This is admittedly one of the hardest rules to follow because we love to travel. I flew to Texas twice last year to visit family, but we had no other big trips in 2014. Vin’s recent trip to LA was a bargain because he flew on off times and stayed with a friend.

-We’re smarter about when we travel- We wanted to do something special for our anniversary, so we booked one night at a cool hotel in upstate New York- only a two-hour drive away. This hotel has a two-night minimum for weekend nights, so we booked Sunday night only, which was considerably cheaper. We drove up early Sunday and drove back Monday evening, which also helped us avoid traffic!

-We’ve been going potluck when entertaining. I love, love, love to entertain, but it definitely gets expensive. My birthday was a (free) picnic at Central Park, and our other hosting this past year was potluck. Our friends are generous and good cooks so it’s worked out well.

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SHOPPING HABITS

-I’ve stopped buying things just because they’re cheaper. This is hard for me, because I love a bargain. But I’ve started buying things I really want instead of settling for the cheapest option, with the assurance that because they’re higher quality I won’t have to replace them anytime soon. I’m finally subscribing to the notion of quality over quantity.

-I buy things that allow me to use other things better.  I always thought I had nothing to wear, but the real problem was that I didn’t have the right shoes to wear with my clothes! I recently bought three pairs of shoes from Zappos– short black boots, tall flat blat boots and black sneakers. These three pairs of shoes have effectively made me feel like I tripled my wardrobe because they go with everything! I’ve worn the boots exhaustively since purchasing them. (except when I’m wearing snow boots of course).

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-Replace items only when absolutely necessary. Unless it is unusable, falling-apart-at-the-seams or dangerous, nothing in this house is getting replaced until we move. I have wanted a new couch for years but refuse to buy one until we own our own place. Our car is 15 years old, and we’re not getting a new one until this one crumbles into pieces or bursts into flames. My computer is slow as molasses and the bottom is literally falling off, but it still works so it’s sticking around much longer.

-I barter or swap when able. My expensive hairdryer conked out last year. Rather than cough up the money to replace it, I reached out to my friend Crystal, who works as a beauty editor. I offered to take her out to dinner in exchange for a new dryer. The dryer she brought me was valued at $200, but I only ended up spending $45 and had a nice evening with a friend! My girlfriends are quick to swap books and household items too.

-Before you call the handyman, Youtube it. My husband’s kind of amazing. Anytime something breaks– the washer, the AC in his car, the flatscreen TV-  he hops on Youtube and makes an attempt to fix or replace something himself.  We’ve saved hundreds of dollars this way. My brother remodeled his entire house on his own from watching youtube videos!

-Just keep it simple. Don’t buy things unless you really, truly need them and will use them several times a week. How many handbags does one person need? How many lipsticks?

 

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

-Give glass a second life. I almost never buy new glass products, because it’s so easy to repurpose glass containers. Once the last bit of jam has been swiped onto toast, that little glass jar will be used for carrying smoothies to work. My favorite thing to upcycle are the glass candle holders from Bath and Body Works. Once the wick is gone and there’s only a bit more wax in the bottom, stick it in your freezer. After it hardens, take a knife and break up the wax until it falls out in large chunks. A little Palmolive and a sponge, and the whole thing wipes perfectly clean. I use them for candy dishes, flower vases, to corral loose jewelry, and to house my next candle.

-Make your own cleaning products. Scour Pinterest for homemade cleaning supply recipes. Most require stuff that’s super cheap, non-toxic and already in your home like vinegar and lemons. I still make my own homemade laundry detergent and haven’t bought a bottle of Tide in a year and a half. I bought the supplies for 10 bucks in early 2013, and still haven’t had to buy any new ones!!

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-We use every last drop, then we add water and make it go even further. When we buy toiletries and other household or beauty products,  I’m not buying a new one until every single drop of product is gone. One great way to use up that last bit of lipstick or concealer that gets buried in the tube is to scrape it out with a toothpick and pack it into a contact lens case. It’s great to have that tiny makeup compact for travel or your work drawer for quick touch-ups.

 

And because I’m always looking for new tips for saving, please share your best advice for keeping more of your cash! Add it to the comments, or share on my FB page.

 

 

 

Jenn P.

30-something psychotherapist. Loves cooking, hosting parties, exploring new places. Texan by birth. New Yorker by choice. Likes to tell little stories. Pull up a chair; I'll tell you one.

  • http://writemeg.com/ Meg
    So many great tips here! My husband and I are both pretty good savers, but I do notice that most of our money (aside from normal bills) goes toward food. We looooove to eat out, and I totally feel you on using your cash on an actual meal at a restaurant instead of pricey carry-out. When we bought the house, we instituted a one-dinner-a-week-out rule — and it’s worked out pretty well. We break it every now and then for special occasions, but we try to use our dinner out to meet up with family and friends to create more of an experience and memory. Cooking at home saves so much cash, it’s ridiculous. I’m getting better about bringing lunches instead of running out to Chick-Fil-A on my break, but it’s tough sometimes. Eventually I realized that I was craving an escape from my desk for an hour, not the fast food itself — so I eat lunch to my desk and treat myself to coffee at Starbucks or Panera with a book, which gives me the refresh I’m actually looking for. A $2 beverage vs. a $12 lunch = $10 savings every time! Yay!
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      Yes, yes yes to the whole needing to get away from the desk thing! That is a great tip and a way to refresh yourself without dropping money on a meal! I know you’re a great home cook, so you probably don’t need a lot of tips in that area:).
  • Vanessa
    Wow I loved these money saving tips! I think the area I can improve on is most definitely with food/eating out! Is your Sunday chicken recipe from pinterest too? Would love to learn how you make it! =D
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      No recipe required! I literally just cut all the skin off the chicken with kitchen shears, then boil it in water until it’s cooked through. You can throw in veggies like carrots and celery too. Look up any basic recipe for homemade broth and it should get the job done. I usually spend Sunday mornings doing food prep, so I can throw meals together quickly during the week.
      • Vanessa
        Nice! Will keep this in mind, thank you!:)