We are still very much frugal works in progress, but here are some easy things we’ve done! If we can do it, you can do it too!
1. We always make our coffee at home and bring it with us.
2. We pack our lunches and snacks.
3. Condensed trips to save fuel. Grocery shopping mostly happens when I’m already out now, rather than a special trip on its own.
4. Moved away from meat at every dinner and red meat every week. We are mostly sticking to chicken, eggs and beans for our protein. It’s cheaper and as a bonus, we’re losing weight too!
5. Installed a thermostat with a timer, so we can keep the heat lower when no one is home, without having to remember to turn it down when we leave. I was forever failing at turning down the heat before.
6. Embraced “do it ourselves!” Yardwork, cleaning, minor electrical/plumbing/home repairs – ALL US BABY!
7. Started brewing our own beer. It started as a fun experiment for Mr. PoniesandFIRE, but now we are majorly cutting back on purchasing alcohol, as he’s getting pretty good at brewing his own. I hate IPAs and I even like his latest IPA…
8. Made trades. I exchanged services for a client in my side hustle for a bunch of their son’s outgrown toys and ended up with a bunch of Thomas and Brio trains sets that PoniesandFIREjr was desperate for without spending any money out of pocket.
9. Stopped the bottled water habit. Seriously, why were we buying something we can get for free?
10. Reduced out Dish service to the basics (and are considering cutting it completely).
11. Make a meal plan and follow it! We waste so much less food this way and buy less too.
12. Haircuts at home! I cut my own and PoniesandFIREjr’s. Mr. PoniesandFIRE does his own with clippers. None of us look like disaster.
13. Embrace free family activities, like hiking in our local parks.
14. Regularly bring back the “returnables” for cash. I know not every state has this option.
15. Gardening! PoniesandFIREjr is way more likely to eat a veggie that he’s helped grow and pick himself. Saving money and actually eating our veggies= win win!
16. Unplug unused electronics to reduce phantom power usage. I used to just leave my cell phone charger plugged in all the time, but no more!
17. Check used sources (FB marketplace, craigslist, thrift stores) before buying something new.
18. Eliminate impulse buys by making it a family rule to discuss and wait on any medium or large purchases. Often we decide just not to get the thing.
19. Time purchases to our advantage. We order our propane for heat in the middle of summer when the demand and therefore, the price, are at their lowest. Same with our wood pellets.
20. Ask for cash discounts on things like car repairs or our propane and wood pellets. The worse that will happen is someone will say no, but often we hear “yes!”
21. It’s rare that we drink anything besides milk, coffee or water (or homemade beer), but if we have lemonade or juice at home, we dilute it with water. Tastes less sugary, lasts twice as long and better for you!
22. Use dish towels and rags rather than paper towels. This one we still struggle with, but are getting in better habits.
23. Air dry all year long! I find our clothes last longer and this one definitely saves on the electricity bill. With the pellet stove running in the winter, the air in the house is dry, so things dry quickly too!
24. Simplify beauty routine. I use less makeup, do my own nails (rarely), eyebrows, etc. Saves me time (hello extra sleep) and saves money. Again, not looking like a mess, but also not spending excess on fancy foundation and blush every few months.
25. Mentally embraced the idea that time is more important than things. I would rather have memories of spending time together as a family doing simple things at home, over the latest gadget or a bunch of new clothes. When this clicked, it became way easier to tell myself no.
If there is one thing that following the snowball method of the Dave Ramsey plan taught us, it’s that small changes can quickly snowball into an avalanche over time. When we were in the thick of baby step 2, nothing in our budget was above discussion and possibly cutting. Nothing was off limits, if it could save us money.
Now that we are shooting for 2025 FIRE, we are returning to that mindset.
Here are a few easy changes we have implemented in the last few weeks:
1. Reduced DISH. We were paying around $93/month and we called, reduced our plan and are at $75/month now. Savings: $18/month or $216 per year
2. Aldi’s! Our town JUST got an Aldi’s a few months ago and we are hooked. We were spending probably around $150 per week in household items, dog and cat supplies and groceries. We are averaging $115 per week now, just by switching grocery stores and sticking to a meal plan. Savings: $140/month or $1,680 per year
3. Reducing heat. We heat primarily through a pellet stove. Our house is 2800 square feet and over 100 years old, so not super-efficient. We also have propane. We typically keep our thermostat at 65 degrees and our pellet stove at one down from the highest setting. Now that we are at the end of winter (said slightly tongue in cheek as we got 6” of snow last night), we are dropping the thermostat to 64 degrees and the pellet stove down one more level. Savings: To be determined
4. Unplugging. Our electric bill averages around $120-$130/month in the winter. A good chunk of this obviously comes from our pellet stove which runs 24/7 in the winter, as the auger is electric driven. That being said, we have never been great at unplugging unused items (cell phone chargers, coffee pots, toasters, microwaves, etc). Our new mission is to unplug electric items not in use and see if that makes a discernable difference. Savings: To be determined
5. No more bottled water. I know it’s a waste of plastic and money, but every day, I bring a bottle of water with me and recycle the bottle after. I can easily fill a glass of water at work, so there is no reason for this waste. Savings: $0.50/day or $130 per year
These small changes are not going to change us into overnight millionaires. However, even if reducing the heat and unplugging devices saves us NOTHING, the other three changes will save us over $2,000 per year, with very little effort on our part. Over the next seven years, (a.k.a. - our goal timeline for reaching FIRE), that’s $14,000! Not an insignificant number at all.
It doesn’t stop there, either. If we use that $2,000 effectively, by either reducing debt or investing, it grows further!