Three Ways I'm Reducing My Expenses with Basically No Effort

As I mention in my About Me, I’m not frugal, and I don’t try to cut corners in literally every possible way in my life. But I do waste money, and no matter how much money you make, it never hurts to make a conscious effort to spend less in some areas to have more for other areas! Today I’m discussing a few ways I’m turning a critical eye to my day-to-day activities to reduce spending and general waste. They're easy to implement and tailor to your own lives and spending habits.

Finishing Bath & Home Products I Have Before Buying New Ones

I’m not a huge impulse buyer. Like, I don’t come home from every shopping trip with random new makeup or nail polish that looked fun. But I have been known to experiment with shampoos and body washes. I remember reading a post a few years ago that suggested using all of the toiletries you currently have in your bathroom/shower before buying new ones. So for the past few months, I have been trying to do that as much as possible. This not only saves money, but it reduces waste, which was another reason I wanted to implement this in my life.

So what does it look like in practice?

Getting a little creative. I ran out of shaving cream, but I had a bottle of conditioner that I knew I was never going to use on my hair again. Ta-da! Turns out, conditioner works really well as shaving cream. I’ve been using that for quite awhile and I anticipate running out of conditioner shaving cream sometime this spring.  The matching shampoo was another thing I wasn’t planning to use on my hair. I often take hot baths when my muscles are sore, so instead of just sitting in regular hot water, I added the shampoo for a nice bubble bath! Tonight, I finished the shampoo and enjoyed probably 10 bubble baths along the way.

I typically save small/travel-sized toiletries for my travel, but I may use some of those next if I have an excess of certain items. I’ve also started checking that stash more diligently before mini-toiletry runs for big trips. An alternative would be stocking my gym bag with any extra toiletries I have that my gym doesn’t provide. Avoiding toting a full-size hairspray is always a win!

I may even extend this to kitchen, cleaning supplies and laundry detergent. Do you know how many partial bottles of Tide I have sitting on my washer? Use-before-buying-more challenges help you reduce clutter, spend less frivolously, and minimize wasting products that weren’t necessarily your favorite. It's good for your wallet and the environment. Can't beat that, right?

Stick To My Normal Grocery List (don't get creative, y'all)

I don’t know about y’all but new years always get my “let’s change my diet” juices flowing. Aside from my sweet tooth and love for queso and margaritas, I generally eat pretty well.  But when I go to the grocery store on a mission to “eliminate inefficiencies in my diet” and “eat more green things,” it can get a little out of hand. But while I recommend creativity when using up toiletries, I do not recommend it with your food purchasing.

Let me tell you a story. I have this bread I like. I’m very picky about bread, and this is 100% whole grain, so it’s not like I’m eating Wonderbread here. But I noticed on this particular shopping trip that it had like, 3g of added sugar per piece, or per 2 pieces or something, and that just WAS NOT HAPPENING. I spent 15 minutes in the bread aisle trying to find a bread with less sugar that I could use for all my bread needs. I found one that seemed like it would work, and I brought it home. But this bread was weird. It wasn’t my bread. That bread is sitting, wasting away, mostly uneaten, on my counter –next to the loaf of My Bread I purchased the next week at the store.  That’s $2-3 I’ll never get back. And a waste of good food!

The same applies to veggies/greens. I like vegetables, but I don’t like all of them, and I don’t buy/make certain ones on a regular basis. When I’m trying to get back in the habit of eating well, sometimes I’ll attack the produce aisle like I’m a contestant on Supermarket Sweep. Don’t like salad that much? NOT TODAY, SATAN! It’s salad’s time to shine on my plate, I’ll tell myself. I’ll stock up on 47 fresh fruits and veggies, which have no chance of being finished within the week because do you even know how long strawberries last? It’s less time than a ripe avocado, I’ll tell you that.  The mixed greens I bought on that same grocery trip? Wilting in the fridge. $4 lost, wasted greens.

I know this. I know it about myself, and what do I do? I continue making this mistake at least once a quarter in my grocery shopping. And here’s the thing. It comes from a good place. I do need to step up the variety in my diet in the produce department. But right now, what I really need is to (1) consistently eat at home, which means easy-prep meals, and (2) eat things that are good for me. What does that leave? My arsenal of go-to meals, veggies and prep styles, and so on.  Now is not the time to get creative. Now is the time to get cleaner in my eating and establish a habit. Branching out can happen at a later time when the baseline of eating at home feels more established.

What I’m saying is, don’t go to the grocery store and purchase a bunch of random, aspirational crap that you think will turn you into Julia Child, Jr. or whoever makes Jillian Michaels' Wheaties. Pick the most healthful, simple options in your typical shopping list, cut the “bad” ones as much as possible, and work a couple of new things in at a time. For me, canned green beans, frozen broccoli, and fresh asparagus are a perfectly fine veggie rotation at the moment. They get the job done with minimal effort, and they taste pretty darn good.  

If you, like me, stray too far from your normal shopping, either because of aspirational diet changes, poor planning, or out-of-control impulse spending, try this next time: make a list, stick to YOUR basics, whatever those are, and mindfully make desired diet changes over time. Otherwise you too will have moldy bread and wilty lettuce

Don’t Spend Any Money One Day Per Week

This is a classic spending challenge, but it’s one I like and it’s easy to modify to your own life. Spending freezes are often highly effective at reducing costs and/or helping you to realize what you do and don’t need in your life. I don’t do well with intense challenges – for example, I’m building from twice a week at the gym to 3 or 4, with the hope that I can average 3 times per week at the gym this year, and build to more in the coming years. Translating that to spending, I find it much easier to eliminate spending for one day out of each week than to stop spending on clothes for a month or everything but necessities for a year (s/o to Cait Flanders though – putting her book on my reading list. You go girl!).

So what does this look like and why does it lower spending and force you to evaluate things?

You have to plan ahead for your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bringing your lunch and snacks to work, making your own coffee in the morning, and eating dinner at home are all ways to tangibly reduce your monthly food spending, especially if you’re in a habit of always purchasing your lunch at work. I’m not the type of person who never goes to lunch with coworkers or never has to work through lunch when I expected to go home and make my lunch, so this is a good way to keep me from getting lazy and falling into the everyday habit of eating out.

I know that at least one day each week, I must prep food for the day. This also helps me use food I often waste because I don’t get to all the sandwich bread, for example (food waste is clearly a major improvement zone for me). I'm planning to write a review of how the spending challenges of my first few months have gone, and this will be part of it. I'm not sure how well I've succeeded so far. 

What are some ways you've tried to reduce wasteful spending in your everyday life? How well did they work for you? Share in the comments!