I've wanted to do a post like this for a while - so I'm finally sitting down and typing it up because I think it'll supply a lot of great, and helpful, information to anyone looking to minimize their life and save money.
I used to buy stuff constantly - food, clothing, coffee, etc. I haven't always been a "smart shopper" or "bargain hunter" but since Jack came along, I've really changed my ways. Now, that doesn't mean I don't buy stuff - oh, I do. But I shop smart, find great deals, and like to think I have a few tips and tricks up my sleeve.
Lets start a few months back. I realized how much "stuff" we had that was just sitting in storage, or that we really didn't need to hold onto (think extra home decor, clothing, furniture not being used, etc). It was all just collecting dust - especially the millions of clothes I had in storage that I was never going to wear again - some things from my pre-HA days, and even just tons of clothing that I didn't want to wear anymore (like my super baggy clothes I wore to hide my evolving body when I was gaining weight in hopes of getting pregnant - no shame in my body now #selflove). I joined tons of BST (buy, sell, trade) Facebook groups in my area, started posting things and somehow had TONS of replies and people interested in buying. I would guess that we've made over $1,000 in the last few months, selling things through those groups.
Now - switching gears a little bit - lets talk about clothes. My style and body confidence has changed so much over the year, and I still love to buy clothes (if not more so now). My husband has his video games, I like to buy clothing. #noshame. I have done, in a sense, a "swap" and really reinvented my style over the last few months. I've bought tons of new clothing, and really cut down on whats in my closet. Only focusing on key pieces. Honestly, if you look in my closet and my bedroom dresser - what you see is everything I own (besides Maternity clothing in storage). I loved minimizing my stuff and using the money I made from selling, to buy new pieces.
Family and Kid "Stuff". So this post may seem all over the place, but I promise i'm putting things into an organized bullet point list soon. Anyways, when Jack was born - we weren't sure what we were going to need, what brands we'd like, how much money we were going to be spending each month or how much we would be accumulating. First off, babies are expensive. Second, you really don't NEED that much. We started minimizing and getting rid of baby things we didn't use with Jack and probably won't with our second (no, i'm not pregnant). We were so lucky to have been gifted and passed down tons of clothing and toys for him, but in all honesty - we had too much. Jack doesn't need a million toys.
When it comes to food and activities, we've also changed our habits and really have learned how to stretch the dollar. We still eat really well, and I probably will ALWAYS buy more food than we need, but oh well. However, I have learned better ways of spending and stretching the food we purchase, as well as treats for myself. #becausecoffee This also includes family activities we will go out and do - like the State Parks, Farmers Markets and free-Zoo!!
Picture of us on our Fathers Day hike at a State Park!
My top tips regarding de-cluttering and organizing:
- Figure out what you REALLY need. If you're looking at starting to cut down, go through drawers, cabinets, closets, storage. Set aside things you never use or feel as if you can live without.
- Have a rummage sale, donate, join local BST groups, etc. to find others that want your stuff. One persons trash is another persons treasure!
- Use the money made to either buy new clothes if you're looking to revamp your wardrobe, buy groceries, or put into savings. Side note: We are very fortunate to have a great income base at the Phelan household and don't necessarily need to make anymore money through selling our things - but its fun to sell our unused/gently used things and get new things we need (again, like food/diapers, etc).
My top tips regarding smart shopping and saving money:
- Shop the sales. If you're going to local stores, check for coupons, sales, etc. even before going out. Make a list and know what you're going to buy and stick to it.
- Shop consignment. I found a local consignment store a few weeks back (no idea how I didn't know it existed) and its seriously life changing. I took a bunch of my old clothing there and made $80 on the spot, then was able to buy new (pre-owned) tops and dresses at amazing deals. For example, I got a few dresses that were between $8-10 (Gap, Old Navy, etc) and some tops that ran about $5-10 (J.Crew, LOFT, etc). All great quality, and now I have new staple pieces in my closet.
- Buy online if/when you can. Amazon Prime, anyone? Holy smokes, not only is it convenient but we find such better deals for household staples through Prime. Sure, there is a yearly fee but it pays for itself with how much we use it. I promise. Also - check your favorite stores for Flash Sales or Holiday Deals (ex. There was a Memorial Day sale on OldNavy.com - I also had $40 of OldNavy cash I could use at that time. I got $150 worth of clothes for $55. #win)
- Access free/cheap local activities. We purchased a State Park pass this year, it was $28. One trip to the park is $7 and we've already gone 3 times in the last month. It pays for itself. Our local zoo is free, and I took Jack there last month (pictured above). Free, I mean.... #yesplease. Its beautiful out this time of year, and Farmers Markets are in full swing - those are a free, fun, activity and outing for you and your family! Plus, you can support local by purchasing items while there. Also - don't forget to take advantage of local playgrounds or trails in your area!
- Buy food in bulk. Costco. Need I say more? I mean, I will... We go through so many fruits, veggies, meat, bread, milk, etc. at our house. The bulk items we can get at Costco are amazing and we save so much money! We do have a small deep freezer in our garage which is nice for space and we usually have that stocked with bread, giant bags of frozen veggies, and chicken breasts. Our Costco membership pays for itself.
- Target Red Card (Debit, gives you 5% discount on everything) and Cartwheel App. I'll go through the Cartwheel app before shopping, take a look at what food deals they may be having, and if it's worth it. Usually, it is. We get extra discounts on tons of food items like milk, cheese, and sometimes they even have major promotions for GF foods like Udis. Ex. They had a 50% off Udis GF Tortillas, so I stocked up. They do a lot of discounts on Target brand items, too - and we get generic or store brand items as much as we can, well, because #savings.
- ALSO ALSO ALSO - BABY STUFF at Target. Red card and Cartwheel are awesome already, but I know you Moms out there know about the "spend $100 on baby items get a $25 giftcard". When this discount comes up, I basically freak out. I've taken advantage of it everytime its been available this last year. When we started Jack on formula, this was a godsend. Also, #diapers. Last time this deal happened, I bought as many Target brand diapers (the Up&Up brand works so great for us!) and wipes until I reached $100. Now i'm stocked on diapers for a few more weeks and I had that $25 giftcard to use on my groceries I get from there.
- Clothing: Old Navy, Target, Consignment and Instagram shops with awesome deals. I NEVER EVER pay full price for a piece of clothing, nor would I want to. Rummage sales are also a great way to find things for kiddos! I find over 20 pairs of shoes, a few weeks ago during a rummage sale weekend, that should get Jack through the next few years. I paid $50. For 20 pairs.
- Food & Treats. Alright, I know this is alot of information but I have so many things I've been doing lately that have really taught me how to stretch the dollar - but not feel like we're missing out on anything or depriving myself/ourselves of things we want.
- COFFEE. No secret that i love coffee. Especially iced coffee. Going to places like Starbucks can really add up over time. Sure, i'll treat myself to an Iced Almond Milk Latte every now and then, but spending $4 on a drink isn't ideal. What I do now is purchase a jug of Iced Coffee (Starbucks, Califia Farms or Stok brands are my fave) that run about $4. I keep that in my fridge during the week, add a splash of creamer, almond milk or whole milk - and voila. Iced Coffee. I get about 5-6 (sometimes more) drinks out of those containers, and they'll usually last a week. Now, if i'm out and about and want an iced coffee STAT - I hit up places like McDonalds (iced coffee, no liquid sugar and light cream) or Kwik Trip (Cold Brew with cream) and that runs me about $1.50. Its not a daily thing, but i've found those ways of "better" coffee purchasing that saves me a lot of money!
- MILK. We just transitioned Jack to whole milk, which means our fridge is always stocked. That being said, I do love my plain Coffee Mate creamer in my morning coffee, or iced coffees - but I decided to stop purchasing that which will save about $3/week, and i'll just put some whole milk in my coffee instead. Also saves on fridge space, so thats a plus.
- MEAL PLANNING. Every Sunday I fill out a little dry erase board on our fridge that goes over what we're going to eat throughout the week. I, first off, look through our cabinets, fridge, and freezer to see what we have and/or what we need. I try to plan around whats in the house at that time, and how we can stretch items we have. Ex. I'll make a large batch of rice in the Instant Pot (GET ONE NOW!) and another large batch of plain chicken breasts. We'll use that for a few days in a variety of meals... Chicken Teriyaki Bowls w/Veggies, Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches w/roasted veggies, Rice and Veggie Cheese Bowls, Chicken and Avocado Quesadillas, etc. If ingredients pop up that I don't have, i'll run to Target to pick them up but i've found that by doing this meal planning, I've cut down on unnecessary spending and we haven't been wasting much food at all.
- Amazon Prime, Hulu, PBS Kids. We don't have cable. We have Amazon Prime (which allows us to have access to tons of shows/movies), Hulu, and our Roku which connects us to the PBS kids app with shows like Daniel Tiger, Sesame Street and Little Einstein that Jack watches. We don't need cable, and honestly haven't had it for years.
- Google Fi. We don't have a home phone and solely use our cell phones. We switched over to Google Fi a few months back and it was the best decision ever. Our monthly bill runs around $60 (thats for BOTH of our cell phones).. thats it.
Ok. PHEW. That was a lot of information, and props to you if you made it through. I hope you found some helpful information and inspiration on ways you, too, can save money, shop smarter and minimize your "stuff".
If you have any specific ways that you save - please share below!