Getting frugal is a major goal for me for 2009! You can add me to the list of ladies who are planning to SAHM soon.
We were already doing pretty well with the BIG stuff-- mortgage, gas, electricity and etc are reasonable/ under control. Our spending issues come from the smaller, debit-card stuff: $30 here, $50 there that add up so fast. So that's what I've been working on. The parts I've done really well with so far are mostly dietary, because our food budget was out. of. control. Now to people that have been living frugally already, these things are going to sound obvious and banal, but for me they're making a huge difference.
Almost every day so far this year, I've cooked dinner at home, with only three exceptions: two of those were long-planned, and the other, someone was treating us. I've been paying attention to food costs: figuring the cost per meal, watching how many servings we get from the various dishes I make, focusing on big, casserole- or soup/stew- type dishes that "stretch", rather than steak/ burgers/ pork chops meals that don't. A lot of extra meals have been added to the freezer!
I've totally changed the way I go grocery shopping. I used to go several times a week, and just get enough for a few meals. Now I plan my dinners out a week at a time and go to the store once a week, with a SHOPPING LIST. Amazing concept, right?
Going just once saves me a ton of time, frustration (since I go after work, the traffic is awful), and gas money. Speaking of gas money, I have a goal of one-tank-per-month, so far so good partly due to this. In the past few weeks, I've been trying coupons and shopping store specials, really looking at prices and bargains, stocking up during sales.
I've also been bringing my lunch to work, 90-95% of the time so far this year. Since my only other option is the overpriced student cafeteria here, it's saving me a lot of money. I bring dinner leftovers, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh fruit. I make sure to bring enough for a morning snack and an afternoon snack (give me a break, I'm preggers!) so that the temptation to get a candy bar or other expensive, unhealthy snack in the afternoon isn't as bad. I haven't been perfect with that, but a whole lot better than before.
This happened mostly on accident, but here's something else that is really helping me watch my money: I switched from using a debit card/ credit card to plain, green cash. What happened was, I lost my debit card the day before Christmas, and had a difficult time getting it replaced because I work for the bank
) So just to get by, I started withdrawing cash for groceries and etc, and found that it's so much easier for me to manage my $$! All of the monthly bills are done online, I get paid weekly, so I withdraw a percentage of my paycheck in cash every Friday, and use that for everything that isn't a bill-- groceries, coffee, whatever. See, before, I would use my debit card, but I was bad at "keeping track", so if I thought I was at risk for going negative, I'd whip the credit card out instead. Since I was pretty paranoid, that cc got used for a lot of stupid $5.00 Starbucks and etc. NOW, I know exactly what I have to spend, because it's either in my wallet or I don't have it-- perfect for someone who can't keep track to save her life! Haven't used the credit card at all.