Many of us are broke when we get married (and often that does not change for some time). That was certainly the case for my wife and me.
We had almost nothing the day before our wedding. We received some presents and cash along with several gift cards at our wedding reception, but that did not make us millionaires. We both worked that summer like slaves; I worked as a roofer and my wife painted part of my parents’ house. We saved as much money as we could.
Then we ventured off to school.
Rent, utilities, food, gas, insurance, tuition, books, class fees… It just kept coming. We decided then that we needed to be as frugal as possible. Along the way we learned a few things that others can use too.
Here are eight tips for saving money that we learned when we were broke, newlywed college students. By the way, while these tips speak to a specific time in our marriage they work for people in every stage of life:
- Stop eating out.We did eat out occasionally but we had to cut back severely. Eating out adds up quickly. I suspect that most newlyweds would save between $30 and $100 a month if they stopped eating out entirely.
- If you are still in school, buy your textbooks online. My first semester at Southern Virginia University, I bought my books in the campus bookstore and spent over $500. The next semester I bought all of my books online and spent about $200. See if you can buy them used, and your savings might be greater.
- Walk or ride a bike. My wife and I lived about half a mile from campus when we were first married but drove to the school a couple of times a day. Our gas costs started adding up, so we began walking and the expenditure was reduced by almost half. We also benefited from the exercise.
- Make menus before grocery shopping. If you go to the grocery store without planning ahead, you will end up buying a lot more than you actually need. Plus you may end up without the things you do need. Make a list and then stick to it. Your checking account will look much better this way.
- Eat before you go grocery shopping. That’s right, eat. Make sure you’re not hungry. When you go to the store hungry, you are tempted to purchase more food than you actually need (even if you have a list), and that food will probably be more expensive “fun” foods that are not in the budget.
- Create a simple monthly budget. This does not have to be difficult. If you want ,you can use one of the many free online budgeting tools like mint.com or download an Excel template from Microsoft’s website. The reason a budget works is because it gives you boundaries and helps you understand what you are doing with your money.
- Buy a pair of hair clippers. You can get them at Wal-Mart for about $15. Then ask your wife, or ask your husband, to cut your hair. The first time my wife cut my hair it was very “memorable,” but she learned quickly and cuts my hair to this day. This simple thing saved us between $15 and $20 a month. Now with a bunch of kids, it saves us probably $50 a month or more. That’s nearly $600 a year!
- Two Degrees. That's right, two degrees…or more. Adjusting the temperature in your home by just a few degrees can make a huge difference in your utilities bills.In the summer raise the temperature a couple of degrees. In the winter lower it. We keep our thermostat at a cool 67 degrees in the winter and a warm 75 degrees in the summer. It isn't exactly where we would prefer it to be but it saves us money.
As hard as it can sometimes seem, spending less is possible and without too much effort. You just need to be creative and exercise a little bit of discipline.
Tyson Cooper is the editor-in-chief of uplifting-love.com, a blog dedicated to helping marriages be as happy as they can be. He has a master’s degree in business from Liberty University and a bachelor’s degree from Southern Virginia University.