Updated: Jun 24, 2021
For many of us, reaching our FIRE goals means saving money. Any money saved in one area of our lives, is money that can be contributed to our FIRE principal.
It can be hard sometimes to know where to find savings. Here are three things in your life that you can evaluate to find some savings:
It feels like nowadays, there is a subscription for everything. TV shows and movies, music, software, books, cable tv, cell phones, gift boxes full of snacks or dog toys...the list can be endless.
Make a list of the subscriptions that you're currently paying for. Review the list and carefully consider if you really NEED the subscription, or not. Kicking back with a favorite show, or having your favorite music at your fingertips is awesome, so we're not saying cancel them all. Just consider carefully are you getting your money's worth for the monthly subscription?
Netflix, Crave, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Brit Box, HBO, Disney +, Apple, the list is endless. Do you need them all? Which ones do you watch the most?
We have an Apple subscription, as well as Amazon Prime and Netflix. We used to have Crave and Disney+ as well, but cancelled them because we realized we really were only watching one or two shows on each.
This saved us $21/mo, $252/yr.
Television subscriptions can be pricey! We used to pay around $100/mo for our cable service. We had the same realization. Between our streaming services, and free platforms like YouTube, we really weren't watching that much TV. There are only so many hours in a day...
We cancelled our cable, and saved $100/mo, $1200/yr.
Many cable providers have apps that allow you to watch the latest episodes of a show for free - we take advantage of this to catch up on the few "must watch" tv shows we have.
There may be ways to optimize your cell phone plan. We used to pay for a pretty high monthly data plan, but realized that we were using WiFi the majority of the time. We downgraded our plan to fit our needs, and saved $20/mo, $240/yr.
We had an active subscription for audiobooks through Audible. However, we were simply not using it, and there were many unused credits sitting in the account. We canceled the subscription, saving $15/mo, $180/yr.
Many libraries have programs where you can borrow audio or e-books for free, and we also found that podcasts were a great free alternative to audiobooks.
Have you ever signed up for a free trial and forgotten to cancel it? We're definitely guilty. Be sure to review your credit card and bank statements and cancel subscriptions that you're absolutely not using.
Our total savings on subscriptions: $156/mo, $1,872/yr.
Have a look at your own subscriptions to see if you can find savings.
Something we all need to live is food (totally surprising, I know). This also is an area where we can make small changes and save 5-25% without really changing our day to day habits. Lots of pantry staples can be switched out for generics, or can be purchased in bulk. Buying pantry stock items when they're on sale is also a great idea. If you're going to use the item anyways, you may as well pay less!
There are lots of generic food items where the quality is the same as the brand name - canned vegetables, sauces, pasta and rice are a few items that come to mind. That being said, there are a couple of things that I just won't buy generic because I like the original (generic chocolate hazelnut spread just isn't Nutella). As in anything FIRE, find your sweet spot. If there's a type of food you love, then get the brand name. Switch to generic where it makes sense for you.
Here are the cost savings from purchasing the generic instead of brand name version of a few of our pantry essentials (prices from our local store):
Sparkling Water - $1 per box
Black Beans - $1.20 per can
Butter - $0.90 per block
Peanut Butter - $1.70 per jar
Ice Cream - $2.70 per container
Rice $1.80 per bag
Total Savings $9.30
This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. Many generic food products are available for a lower price. Now imagine saving $1 or more for each item that you're buying. Over a year of grocery shopping, that can really add up.
Sales and Savings
When things are on sale, stock up! I mean, buy a few, but not more than what you're actually going to use. We eat lots of pasta, so when pasta goes on sale (3 for $5), you can bet I'll be buying about six boxes. Think about what you use most often when cooking, and look for when it's on sale, and take the opportunity to grab a few extras.
Another great place to save is on more expensive items, like meats, cheeses and cleaning products. Our store will sometimes have specials where they sell frozen chickens for a good price, so I'll buy two, as they can be used to make different meals.
Cleaning products like laundry detergents or dish soap, same thing. If there's a special on, I'll buy two or three bottles at the cheaper price.
Keep an eye out for what's on special, and if it's something you'll be using anyways, consider stocking up to take advantage of the savings. But again, be mindful of what your sweet spot is. You don't need a year's worth of supplies, but if you have room to store one or two, and you'll use it anyways, go ahead and take advantage of the savings.
Clothing is another item which we all need, however in the past few years I have realized how much money can be saved by being more mindful of what items are being purchased, and by buying higher quality items.
In lots of cases, quality is going to be better than quantity. In the past, I loved buying cheap, fast fashion items thinking that I was saving money. A $20 pair of shoes seems much better than a $50 one up front. What I didn't realize, was that I was having to replace the cheap shoes pretty often as they got worn out, and the more expensive shoes lasted way longer in comparison. In the long run, the cheap shoes were actually costing me more!
When purchasing clothing, also consider if an item will have multiple uses. Can you pair a sweater with many different outfits, or is it only going to work with that one pair of pants and shoes? If the item is not going to be multi purpose, maybe reconsider. Perhaps the money can be better spent on a more versatile item, or perhaps the money doesn't need to be spent at all?
Hopefully this list is able to spark some ideas where you can look for savings. Remember, you should still enjoy yourself. Saving doesn't mean cut back on everything, it means evaluate where you can get the most bang for your buck.